One of my book groups (yes, I’m in several, who‘d have thought) has quite a democratic way of choosing the books we read. So do some of the others, but not quite so well organised. Every other month we pick a genre (and every other month we just go with general fiction) and then make a longlist… and then make a shortlist… and then vote on the title online… and finally we have a winner! By the time you read this, we’ll have discussed this month’s choice of Miss Hargreaves (now WHO do you think could have suggested this?) but I want to write about next month’s choice. The genre was ‘alternative worlds’ and the winning book is George Orwell’s 1984 – or, as I should say, Nineteen Eighty-four.
Which spawns two questions for you to answer. I read Nineteen Eighty-four when I was about 13, and it was the first ‘classic’ novel I read, excepting children’s classics. I don’t intend to launch into a discussion of what constitutes a classic, unless Frank Kermode is sitting in the back row, but I know that it felt different – like I’d entered a new world of reading. First question, then, is can you remember what the first ‘classic’ you read was? And what prompted you to choose this title?
Now, that was about a decade ago (and, if you’re doing the sums, yes – that means the supposedly futuristic-sounding Nineteen Eighty-four actually takes place a year before I was born). I haven’t re-read the book in that time, and I’m a little nervous… I thought, when I was 13, that the book was brilliant. Will I still think that? Having read a fair number of books since then (maybe around a thousand, which doesn’t seem like many at all, come to think of it) and having read quite a lot of classic novels, how will I react when I re-read my first? That’s the second question – have you re-read that first classic novel, and if so, what was the experience like?
I’m all ears – get commenting.