Six Suggestions to Gently Introduce Tweenage Girls to Classic Novels
Mark Twain defined a classic novel as ‘something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.’ Often, what we think of as classics are those beautiful, matching sets of hardbound books which we receive as gifts and treasure carefully but never open. The first thing to remember is that these are books that people, through the ages, enjoyed enough to say to their children, ‘read this, I loved it.’
A classic is a book that might require an investment of time and effort. Sometimes they are slow starters, with what might seem an unreasonable chunk of pages being devoted to character development and back story. This is usually one of the reasons why they are ultimately so satisfying. Once you get to know and care about the characters, they can become as dear to you as real people.
It’s not unusual for readers to throw in the towel before the plot gets going at all and there is no greater challenge than forcing yourself to take up again a book you have put down out of boredom. Trust me, I know the feeling. I’m struck with a pang of guilt every time my gaze passes over the barely broken spine of Dr. Zhivago which I began, and abandoned, in 1992.
Fortunately, no-one expects you to begin with War and Peace. Reading the classics is something you can work up to, a little like training for a marathon. There have been some wonderful books released recently, specifically for younger readers, as introductions to the classics. These are a great place to discover why Jane Austen fans are obsessive about Mr. Darcy or exactly what is was about Little Women that made Joey Tribbiani cry. Then there are some more recent classics, shorter and written in less archaic language than Austen or Alcott.
The second thing to remember is that my list of classics need not necessarily be yours. The third is that you are not obliged to like every classic novel you read. Be brave. Explore. Make your own list of books that you would happily pass on to someone you love with the words, ‘read this, I loved it.’