1984 – George Orwell

Winston Smith, a low-ranking worker, begins to doubt ‘the Party’. Hidden in his apartment, away from the glaring ‘telescreen’, he keeps a secret diary of his thoughts and frustration; he questions the power of the ominous ‘Big Brother’ and the manipulation and contortion of public opinion, history and truth. In his subtle rebellion, he finds Julia and together they fight against oppression from mass media control, government surveillance and totalitarianism.

In a world in which President Trump and his administration report falsehoods and lies, scrutinise research-led environmental data and place new research and development on hold, it is unsurprising that the novel’s notion of a terrifying and plausible dystopia speaks to so many. 1984 notably highlights despairing themes of a twisted, totalitarian world and the necessity to resist deceit and mass control. As one of the most influential works of fiction ever written, it is a powerful admonition.

 

 

 

 

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A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness/Siobhan Dowd

Just after midnight, a monster visits 13-year-old Conor. He isn’t scared, he’s had bigger things to worry about lately, his mother’s treatment being the biggest. He knows monsters are for babies and they aren’t real. But, this monster keeps coming back and he’s here for the truth.

At the heart of this novel are the bewildering parables of the monster – part yew tree, part giant – that only leave Conor with more questions and frustration. Interspersed with Conor’s heart-rending story, these tales evoke the dawning reality of his mother’s illness and living with his grandma. In this realistic and magical piece of work, the monster is a transcendent teacher, who illuminates the nature of loss and complexity of human emotion.

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Illustrations: Jim Kay

We Found a Hat – Jon Klassen

Two turtles come across a large white hat in the desert and in turn try it on. Agreeing that one hat is not enough for two of them, they decide to leave it behind and watch the sunset together.

Drawing on the shifting eyes, deadpan expressions and minimalist style of the earlier books in the ‘hat trilogy’ this three-part tale is the most stirring of all. Highlighting Klassen’s notable and charmingly wicked humour, in a deceptively simple story, We Found a Hat evokes sympathy, hilarity and questions of friendship. It is sure to please both children and adults.

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Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

Winning the Miss Blackpool competition is not enough for Barbara Parker, who dreams of fame and holds Lucille Ball as an idol; she navigates her innocent life from her hometown to London, in search of stardom. As she meets and charms a host of diverse characters, they share their goals, fight over conflicting feelings, and together, create a TV series.

Funny Girl is an insightful account of the lives of a delightful bunch. In their personal lives, jealousies, secret longings and uncertainties, their endearing and flawed qualities are revealed. Historical facts and photographs firmly establish the novel in 1960’s London. Through real-life politicians and events, advertisements and a cartoon strip, Hornby recreates an era.

 

Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

Twentysomething Jean Louise returns to Maycomb from New York City on her annual two week visit. As she readjusts to slow-paced Alabama life, she is faced with an aging Atticus, childhood recollections of Jem and the formidable scrutiny of her aunt Alexandra.

From her disillusions following the County Citizen’s Council meeting, the novel traces Jean Louise’s bittersweet return and her discovery of the abhorrent truths about her family and neighbours.

Go Set a Watchman depicts the civil rights tensions and political unrest in America’s Civil Rights era. In fleeting, vivid passages the divisions and prejudices between races, generations and states are captured.

While this novel is set 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird and was originally published as a sequel, it raises different questions, imparts unfamiliar characterisations and adds new meaning to an unforgettable classic.

The House of Spirits / La Casa de los Espíritus – Isabel Allende

Only the clairvoyant Clara and her otherworldly features can temper Esteban Trueba and his desires and political schemes. Their daughter, Blanca, utterly enrages him with her unwavering love and longing for a man Esteban forbids. Then there is Alba, his granddaughter and greatest joy, whose fiery ambition will lead the Truebas into a revolutionary future.

In a whimsical story of Latin melodrama, the personal and political passions and struggles of three generations of the Trueba family wind up in a turning point that finds them on opposing sides. Allende uncovers a family whose ties and contempt are deeper and more enduring than the political loyalty that came between them.

In a bizarre and exaggerated plot, the turbulent contention between capitalists, militarists and Marxists is intertwined with magical realism. Spanning over decades and lives in a world where there are green-haired women and horse-sized dogs, who love marmalade, The House of Spirits is a powerful and original story.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany

Life was never easy for Harry Potter and living in his shadow is not any different. The staring and pointing, the  rumours and legacy, make Hogwarts tiresome and unenjoyable for Albus.

While Harry contends with working life in London, at the Ministry of Magic, his youngest and most puzzling child encounters forces of darkness and ominous futures. In a time-twisting plot, tensions and knotty ramifications are the result of meddling journeys through time.

Based on an original story by J K Rowling, Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series. The script conjures together a balance between discernible Pottery and a new glimpse into a tenuous past. Thorne adds a deep level of maturity to the wizarding world, capturing teenage insecurities and family bonds; the story of his script is less about rewriting what has transpired and more about how events shaped the future.