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What We're Reading...

In 1948, The New Yorker magazine published a short story that would soon become a classic. The story was The Lottery: a atmospheric and disturbing tale of a day in the life of a village steeped in tradition. It's writer was Shirley Jackson, a woman whose own life had its darker periods.

If you are preparing for an English Literature A Level in September, short stories are a fantastic way of keeping your hand in without having to commit to a whole novel. You can read modern literature in The New Yorker and there are some fantastic collections compiled for Penguin by Philip Hensher. Simply reading is a perfectly acceptable way to spend the summer but if you want to practice your literary skills, you may want to take some notes (use an Ayoa board to help organise your thoughts). Think about what themes are being explored; what methods the author is using to explore them; the narrative voice and its impact on the message. Highlight words and phrases that capture your attention and think about why you like them. Talk about the story with others; write a blog about it.

If you enjoy unsettling novels (and honestly, what is the point of literature if it DOESN'T unsettle you!?? I can not recommend Jackson highly enough. Other works well worth a read are We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Haunting of Hill House. For other excellent writers from the period, do have a look at Daphne du Maurier (author of the unsurpassed Rebecca) or Patricia Highsmith (by all accounts a terrible person which may explain why she is so good at creating awful characters).

Let me know what you've enjoyed reading recently by posting on my new Facebook page: ALevelEnglishLiterature.

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