It is that time of the year. Summer is definitely over and the “smell of the ripe earth“, as Rainer Maria Rilke would say, is upon us. Can you picture yourself sitting under a tree with a book in your hands and shower of leaves falling? Then, what book would it be? Somehow, I tend to think that some novels are more suited to be read in this season rather than others.
Poets and writers themselves have always drawn great inspirations from the autumnal scenery, from John Keats to George Eliot and many others, because colours usually become more vivid in the countryside and holidays are definitely over.
This short list is not a mere collection of titles which happen to be set in the autumnal season (actually, not all of them are), but rather a good combination which could well suit your mood in this season of change. Sometimes Autumn is, obviously, matched with melancholy and irrational thoughts but it can also be seen as dreamy as Spring, because it’s a period of transition. Before the winter kicks in and the cold winds stir the first Christmas thoughts, you might want to enjoy a few memorable classics. And if you happen not to have read any of the novels included in the following suggestions, then this is your ultimate top five!
- #5 – “Little Women” by Luisa May Alcott – There is more than one reason to mention this long time classic as the fifth in place to the Bright Old Oak’s list. Miss May Alcott seems to have been really fond of Thanksgiving, which always takes place on the fourth Thursday of November. 1881′s “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” is an evidence, as well as “Little Women” and its sequels. Moreover, reading about the adventures of the March sisters is like holding a diary, and the book gently throws us gently into a traditional atmosphere that always feels like home and warms the heart. Really recommended for Autumn evenings by the fire.
- #4 – “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury - On the other hand, if “Little Women” is not exactly your sort of genre, you might want to give horror and fantasy a chance. In other countries, this novel has been translated as “The Autumn People” which makes it even more appropriate for our short list. It tells of a traveling carnival which comes to town in the month of October. This read is more suitable to Autumn in the sense that it could well work as a Halloween type of book.
- #3 – “Persuasion” by Jane Austen - Jane Austen spoke of autumn as the “last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges” and paired the character of Anne with “that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness“. Here Autumn is not the mere setting of the novel and neither is it casually evoked in the plot. The English countryside serves as the perfect metaphor as it embodies the symbolism of Anne’s character and her interactions with other characters like Captain Wentworth. Perfect book to be read on a bench in a lovely English garden and definitely recommended for the dreamy side of Autumn.
- #2 – “The Painted Veil” by William Somerset Maugham - Not exactly a universally acclaimed novel or a classic eligible for the western canon of literature. However, it is one of Maugham’s most popular works and bears an intense and captivating plot. A high-class woman is torn between conventional marriage and passionate affair but everything changes when the tables are turned in an unexpected turn of events. Written in the 1920s, it embodies the decadence of the times and could turn into one of your favourite reads at this time of the year.
- #1 – “Jacob’s Room” by Virginia Woolf - “I enjoy the spring more than the autumn now. One does, I think, as one gets older“. What makes this novel a suggested read for this season? Well, it is very gloomy and its structure is even more evocative of such reaction from the reader. From different points of view, one finds out about the life of Jacob Flanders, a character based on Virginia’s brother Thoby Stephen, who died aged 26. Surely, the narrative style of Woolf is not the simplest and requires an effort of concentration. but yet, when one gets to the heart of the novel, one will be overwhelmed by emotions. Recommended for reading in the library or while traveling.