To circumvent the approaching monotony of homework assignments and busy work, or to expand your literary horizons, check out the following books, all of which transport audiences to different times and explore themes still relevant today.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Help serves as a wonderful mixture of easy reading and heavy subject matter, which lets you focus on the topic at hand rather than get bogged down in needlessly long passages.
Although the novel was released in 2009, it has received renewed media attention after the release of the movie version on Aug. 10. With this media crossover, there’s always the question of whether or not to read the book. In this case, the book is a must.
The story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi, and is written from the points of view of three different characters: Miss Skeeter, a young white woman taking a stand for “the help;” Aibileen, a housemaid who finds the courage to tell her story; and Minny, Aibileen’s sassy best friend who follows Aibileen’s lead to come out with the truth.
Stockett switches perspectives brilliantly, always making the reader hungry for more of each story as she paints a moving depiction of racism in the 1960s.
Queen Defiant by Anne O’Brien
Queen Defiant tells the story of
Eleanor of Aquitaine, a woman who lived in the 12th century and earned the title of Queen of both France and England in her lifetime.
If you’re a history buff, the first few pages reveal the potential the book holds: Family trees of the main historical figures that appear throughout the book and a map displaying the territories of France, Aquitaine and Anjou are sure to entice.
The rest of the story is interesting and
alluring as it maintains a steady pace. O’Brien does not try to whitewash Eleanor, nor does she portray her as unforgivable. Instead, Eleanor’s character is easy to identify with.
For example, Eleanor’s sex scenes are actually important to the plotline instead of serving as extraneous details simply to add length. In a story filled with adulterous relationships, a monk-like king and even the Second Crusade, how can you go wrong?
The best part of the novel is the truth behind it. O’Brien was a history teacher long before she was an author, so (one can hope) she did not deviate from the original history.
The September Society by Charles Finch
The September Society is the second in a series of mysteries by Charles Finch that tell the story of Detective Charles Lenox of London in the mid 1800s. A murder has occurred at Oxford, and Lenox must revisit his college years as he investigates the case.
Lenox is an interesting main character, if not the best detective in the world, but he admits to his shortcomings, and his relationship with neighbor Lady Jane is endearing. Finch fleshes out Lenox’s character outside of his being a detective, and also includes some history and fun facts.
The book contains some descriptions of Oxford that can be a bit long and seemingly irrelevant, but ultimately they don’t take away from the book’s integrity.
Finally, there are some certainly unexpected twists in the book, and although Finch’s book is not on the level of an Agatha Christie mystery, it’s certainly an enjoyable read.
It’s always nice to be transported to a different time, which The Help, Queen Defiant, and The September Society all allow readers to do.
So if you are looking for an escape from the tedium of schoolwork, or would simply love to learn more about another era, curl up with any one of these books and relax for an hour or two.