I am currently in my first year of A-Level English Language and literature. For those of you unfamiliar with the British schooling system, A Levels are two year courses with exams at the end in the last two years of school. You generally turn 17 in the first year (Y12) and 18 in the second year (Y13) before going onto university.
Needless to say, I have read quite a few books in english over the years, as well as some for classical civilisation A Level which I am also currently doing. I do not remember every book I have done in class since I was 4 years old, and instead of looking things up or reminding myself what these books are about, I’m just going to state as many as I can remember and give a sentence or two on what I can remember. This post does contain spoilers, but not for any books released recently. In fact I don’t think there’s anything after the year 2000, which is kind of crazy. Without further ado, let’s begin.
A Level Texts
The Whitmore Weddings by Philip Larkin
The Whitmore Weddings by Philip Larkin are a collection of poems with themes such as disillusionment, looking back on your youth and bleakness. While I enjoy studying poetry and I appreciate the poetic devices Larkin employs, I often find the subjects of his poems quite tedious or repetitive.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is a story about a guy called Nick and the various rich and poor people he meets over a summer in New York in about the 1920s. There’s lots of rich people behaving badly and a mystery around who Gatsby actually is. I had a love-hate relationship with Nick, I liked his insights at some point and he isn’t a bad guy but I often found him hypocritical, passive or plain irritating.
The Bacchae by Euripides (English Translation)
I think The Bacchae is great. I’m quite biased, since I adore Ancient Greece and Greek mythology but it’s pretty awesome. The play follows Dionysus as he comes to the birthplace of his mother and punishes his family, particularly his cousin Pentheus, for not believing that he is a god. It is tragic but it’s also just really cool. I do love a good Bacchic ritual.
Oedipus the King by Sophocles (English Translation)
Oedipus the King is a play follows the story of Oedipus as he sets out to save his city from a plague by finding the murderer of the previous King. This story was a whole lot of wild, and I found Creon’s character in this play quite difficult to reconcile with the Creon I knew from Antigone. The ending is quite gruesome and mildly horrifying, but the story is never boring. I liked Oedipus and his wife’s marriage before… you know.
Frogs by Aristophanes (English Translation)
Frogs is an Ancient Greek comedy play and it’s not only quite funny but also incredibly random and very interesting, especially with all the references to contemporary events of the time. I’m not a fan of scatological humour like the Ancient Greeks (look it up) but Frogs is still great fun.
The Odyssey by Homer (English Translation)
The Odyssey is my favourite text I have studied so far in Classics. It’s pretty famous, but if you don’t know it follows the story of a hero called Odysseus as he attempts to return home after the war at Troy. I adore all the greek mythology contained in it, I love the story it tells and the refrains and the characters. Homer is truly an epic poet.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
The Woman in Black was my favourite of my GCSE texts, even after 3 years of studying it I still really enjoy it. It follows the story of Arthur Kipps as he recounts the events that traumatised him in his youth when he goes out to an isolated house in order to sort the accounts. It’s such a good traditional ghost story and even though I normally hate horror, the actual story is excellent.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Macbeth is another famous one. The play follows the story of Macbeth, who becomes the king of Scotland. There’s lots of questionable decisions and questionable morals. I really liked Lady Macbeth, who just does whatever she wants really and is very ambitious. Also the witches are great, just randomly appearing and messing things up. Considering the themes in Macbeth actually makes it better, especially the question of fate vs free will.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre. Not a fan of this one, I’m afraid. I know lots of people do like it, and the setting descriptions and plot are interesting, but once Rochester got involved I just went nope. Rochester is fifty shades of creepy and I wish Jane had ditched him. I liked all the different settings, especially Lowood, but I found Jane too passive as a narrator at times and as I said before, Rochester and Jane together makes me shudder.
Y7- Y9 Texts
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
At this point the texts are more distant in my memory, so these reviews are about to get vague. From what I can remember, this is a story about a horse and this boy. I think it’s the horse we follow but I honestly cannot remember. I’m pretty sure it was a good book though, despite my dislike of war. What I can remember is our school trip to see War Horse in the theatre. That was incredible, I highly recommend it.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
I don’t really remember much about studying this play, but I know the basic plot. There’s a storm and a ship is wrecked. Twins called Viola and Sebastian (I think) get washed up separately. Viola pretends to be her brother in order to get by. Viola ends up working for a lovesick Duke, and the lady he is in love with falls in love with Viola disguised as a boy. Not sure what Sebastian is doing all this time, but then he turns up and the lady thinks Sebastian is Viola and they end up together and Viola and the Duke end up together. It’s a cool story, and I like the movie based on it called She’s the Man.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
This play has several plots. The one of four lovers who are in a tangle. An argument between the fairy king and queen. A bunch of actors preparing for a play. The all end up bumping into each other at various points. It’s a good story and quite fun to act out. I think at one point in class we had to rewrite parts into modern settings and someone did a gangster version. That was funny.
The Tempest by William Shakespeare
My memories of this play are very, very vague. There’s a magician who lives on an island with his daughter, a sprite and a green guy? Some people get washed up and the daughter falls in love with someone? No idea what the actual plot is. Obviously I wasn’t impressed, though, or I would probably have more of an idea about this one.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Frankenstein is about a scientist who puts together a corpse out of random body parts then animates it with lightning. The creature then harasses him, and the scientist is very morally questionable. Some people might or might not die. This is quite a dark tale, as well as being quite sad. Sympathy is definitely for the monster, not Frankenstein himself.
Primary School Texts
Coming to England by Floella Benjamin
It’s definitely been a while and these are the only two texts I remember reading at primary school. I know we read others as a class, but I can’t for the life of me remember what they are. Coming to England has stuck in my memory, and even now I can remember scenes from the book clearly. The joy of Floella’s life in Trinidad, and the horrible racism she experienced in England as her parents worked their hardest to give Floella and her siblings a good life. It’s a really good book, and I recommend reading it whatever your age is.
The Wreck of Zanzibar by Michael Morpurgo
I honestly have no idea what happens in this book or what I thought of it. I just remembered the word Zanzibar.
And that concludes my mini review of all the books I’ve read at school and can remember! What books did you read at school? What did you think of them? Comment below or tell me on twitter, I think it’s fascinating how everyone studies different things.