You will, no doubt, be aware that the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – 70 years on the throne – is fast-approaching. Your street might be having a party; perhaps you will enjoy commemorative events on the television, or in your local area. In all the excitement, let’s not forget literature – and the role that this will play in celebrating the monarch’s reign.
This is a celebratory event to showcase literature from across the Commonwealth countries. The list includes 10 books from each of the seven decades that Elizabeth II has been in power. This is fantastic – a way of recognising writers from across different countries and territories, promoting reading, and celebrating a momentous occasion. Here are my top seven Jubilee reads – one from each decade:
Decade 1: 1952-1961: A House for Mr Biswas – V.S.Naipaul (1961)
This classic novel follows Mr Biswas, a Trinidadian, who is desperate to buy a house of his own and escape his life’s misfortune. He is set on achieving independence – something that plagues him for a lot of his life. This is a worthy winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature – read it and see if you agree.
Decade 2: 1962-1971: Death of a Naturalist – poetry – Seamus Heaney (1966)
What a stunning collection of poetry! If the title poem isn’t enough to make you fearful of frogs for life, perhaps ‘Digging’ will make you pursue your dreams as a writer, like Heaney did, or feel the pathos of ‘Mid-Term Break’. Always a GCSE favourite, this collection will not disappoint.
Decade 3: 1972-1981: Who Do You Think You Are? – short stories – Alice Munro (1978)
If you have studied Munro’s ‘Night’ in the IGCSE English Language anthology, you would have heard of this wonderful Canadian writer before. Here, she takes readers to all aspects of life – often the most mundane and simplistic. Alice Munro is, quite simply, stunning, and she is a writer that you should get to know.
Decade 4: 1982-1991: The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985)
A television favourite for the last few years, The Handmaid’s Tale is dystopian fiction at its best. It may be creepy, it may be disturbing, but this is a great book to read – and often one on A-Level English Literature syllabuses. If you want to learn more about mysterious Gilead and follow Offred’s journey, get yourself a copy and read on.
Decade 5: 1992-2001: Life of Pi – Yann Martel (2001)
Theatre-lovers may have discovered the joys of London’s West End production – a show which has won many fans and many accolades. The book Life of Pi needs to be read – you will be on an exciting journey across the ocean with Pi and myriad creatures. It’s strange, it’s powerful, and it’s like nothing else you’ve read before.
Decade 6: 2002-2011: The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005)
A popular read for different ages, this is set in the late 1930s, in Nazi Germany. Liesel begins to steal books to cope with the horrific situation she has found herself in. With a narrator like no other, The Book Thief is a brilliant read about a young girl living through the Second World War.
Decade 7: 2012-2022: Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart (2020)
This novel won The Booker Prize – and rightly so. Here, you will learn about the life of Shuggie, a troubled boy who sets out to put things right in Agnes’, his mother’s, life. Douglas Stuart perfectly paints a picture of Glasgow in the early 1980s – a time that was difficult in so many ways.
So, that’s it – a good read for each decade of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I hope you find something here to whet your appetite! What more could you want for the long summer days that lie ahead?