Recommendation: To be honest, I wouldn’t bother unless you are on some kind of quest to read your way through the Penguin classics. On the other hand, it is quite short and it will add a couple of fun words to your vocabulary

Where to read: Not sure – it’s kind of weird reading it alone but also, reading it on the train is kind of uncomfortable

Read with: So much gin

In brief: This is a weird one – on the one hand, the contents are not really socially acceptable, on the other hand, the prose is absolutely beautiful, it is rightly regarded as a classic and it has a level of cultural currency, so…

Let’s be honest, the plot summary on Wikipedia is actually pretty on point and there is plenty of information about the critical history of the darn thing freely available for your consideration. There is, therefore, very little I can add of value.

That said, I will make the following points which may be relevant if you are considering whether to pick it up:

  • Reading it in public can get quite uncomfortable, particularly if someone is in a position to snoop over your shoulder. Perversely, coronavirus isolation may actually be the ideal time to tick this off your list. Although, as above, that also feels a little bit weird;
  • Do not under any circumstances read this if you are under the age of about 18 and/or do not have a well-developed feel for satire – I am still scarred by (and scared for) girls I went to high school with who read it and subsequently adopted a Lolita-esque manner of dress;
  • It is worth taking your time to read through slowly, with a pencil and a dictionary nearby. You have my permission to mark up your copy (unless it’s borrowed, in which case please don’t).

All in all, it’s not a waste of time but I also wouldn’t put it at the top of your list. If it is a choice between this and something like The English Patient or Wide Sargasso Sea or Atonement, go with those.

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