We think that most bibliophiles would love to read the so-called classics of literature. But by and large, most people only slog their way through a handful and even those were at the barrel of a gun being pointed by your college lit professor.
Because let's face it, they ain't easy reads. Most were written in a different era with a different style of language that forces us to SLOW DOWN and digest what we're reading. Some were even translated from a foreign language first, making reading comprehension even tougher (damn you, Proust).
Books 'n Border Collies hates it when I do this....Lezlie loves Proust
And even then, it's easy to turn the last page muttering to yourself, "What the hell is all the fuss about?"
But here's the thing: we believe that reading the classics is an acquired skill. And a worthwhile one at that. Like any skill, however, it needs to be taught. Now if you were super-duper lucky, somewhere in your educational background you had a professor who taught you how to read classic literature.
If not, well, it's not all that difficult to teach yourself. The trick is BABY STEPS. That's right, start small. No need to run out and buy the biggest damned copy of War and Peace you can find.
There are plenty of other classic novels that are shorter, easier to digest and a much smarter way to start down the road of enjoying classic literature.
A suggestion? Well, since you ask....
The Return of the Soldier was written by author Rebecca West in 1918. Set in a English countryside manor house in 1916, this is the story of a soldier returning home from the front with shellshock and a peculiar case of amnesia.
The historical context is WWI, the war that changed wars as mankind knows them forever. Never before had the world seen war on such a huge scale. The devastation was without end -- remember, West wrote this in 1918 and the war was still raging with no end in sight. People like West had no reason to believe at this point that it would ever end and this changed how people viewed the world.
The small cast of characters West creates represents society as a whole. Is our soldier better off not remembering, despite the hurt this causes his family?
All in all, this is a fine example of how great literature mirrors changes in society's mindset.
At 80 pages, this small novel is an easy way to dip your toe in the water, it's handily picked up for a couple of dollars at a used book store (or even free on Google Books), and is easily digestible in an afternoon.
Give it a try and let us know what you think. We loved it.