A week or so ago The Guardian published an interesting article about inheritance classics, itself ‘inspired by the Orange prize for fiction having joined forces with Vintage Classics to ask 100 people to name the one book they would pass on to the next generation – their so-called inheritance classic.’ In the article, along with general observations about the books chosen, various literary celebrities state their choice and the reasons for it.
All this got me thinking about which single book I would want to pass on to successive generations and why. So here is my inheritance classic:
Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy
I first read Jude in my late teens while studying for my English Lit A level. It wasn’t one of my course books but rather a title I decided to read as part of the extended reading we were encouraged to do. The last and easily the greatest of Hardy’s novels tells the tale of Jude’s thwarted academic ambitions as he struggles to break through the social barriers that constrain him. Called Jude the Obscene by one reviewer it received a critical mauling on its release, which in turn lead to Hardy abandoning fiction, and Jude’s story, shocking in its day, still has power to shake the reader. Jude is a book that spoke to me personally when I first read it, aged seventeen, about to embark on my own University education, the first of my family to do so. The recent political focus on social mobility shows things have not improved that much since Hardy put pen to paper to attack this issue and the raising of University course fees will only serve to close the doors on more aspiring students like Jude. The book deals magnificently with the big issues of class, sexual relationships and marriage, but at it’s core, it is the character of Jude and his struggle to better himself that captures the imagination.
What about you, what would your inheritance inheritance classic be?