Before I begin this one, I’d like to dedicate it to all my American followers. I’d also like to clarify the following, before someone is nice enough to point them out to me:
-I am not American. I am perfectly aware of this.
-As a History student, I am fully aware that you’re celebrating gaining independence from Brits like myself.
But, neither of these things stops me loving America! Having visited five times (with hopes of visiting again over the next few years), it’s definitely my favourite place for a holiday. In fact, I decided to write this post after reflecting what I was doing a year ago today- watching the Fourth of July fireworks in Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Florida! (They were honestly the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and I wish my photos did them justice, but have one anyway because they’re still pretty!)
So, how does an English book blogger pay tribute to her American friends on Independence Day? By discussing some of my favourite novels and the states they made famous!
Without further ado, let’s get to the point of the post:
1, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (set in Alabama)
Is this a cliché choice? Probably, but that’s because this is the greatest American book, or maybe even the greatest book full stop, of all time. End of. Lee was a truly gifted storyteller, accomplishing the amazing feat of making racists in 1960’s America actually sympathise with the plight of a persecuted black man. I challenge anyone not to be deeply moved as we hear Tom Robinson’s tale told from the perspective of Scout- a feisty, blunt child who cannot understand why Robinson’s skin colour is an issue. As an added bonus, this is the book that brought us Atticus Finch, the best literary hero of all time. The only thing wrong with this book is that it still feels relevant in today’s society.
2. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (set in Georgia)
In this novel, the love story of Scarlett O’Hara, a beautiful but spoiled Southern ‘belle’, and Rhett Butler, a controversial blockade runner who is captivated by her charms, plays out against the backdrop of the American Civil War, showcasing the devastation the South felt after their defeat. In its way, it’s a very political novel, as it attempts to show why the Confederacy championed slavery. To a rational mind, that answer is never really given, although this is the only novel that has ever made me feel some sympathy towards the South, as we are shown how many young men were brainwashed into fighting for ‘the Cause’, and lost their lives as a result. Even if the politics doesn’t interest you at all, the love story will- until this one, I’d never read a book where a couple seems to love and hate each other in equal measures, and to passionate extremes.
3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (set in New York)
One of my favourite bookish experiences ever would have to be sitting on a plane, watching New York’s iconic skyline approach whilst reading this book. Describing the playboy lifestyle of Jay Gatsby, and the romantic places he visits with his lover Daisy, Fitzgerald simply captures life in New York City, and all the amazing experiences one can have there. It helps that the action takes place in the 1920’s, featuring beautiful accounts of dancing and cocktail parties. This is another novel I would call one of America’s best, and I think a big reason for that is its enthralling description of such an iconic, quintessentially American location. Potential readers should be warned- at best, this book will leave you in the mood for a 1920’s style cocktail or too, at worst, you’ll be left with a burning desire to get on the next plane bound for NYC!
4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (set in New York)
Having covered Harper Lee, we’ll move on to her childhood best friend Truman Capote, with another obvious choice when discussing portrayals of America’s most famous city- its title even namedrops one of New York’s many tourist hotspots! In terms of the characters and the storyline, I must confess endless pages of Holly being romanced by rich men didn’t really enthral me. Yet, this repetitive lifestyle did facilitate description of just how the 1960’s upper classes lived in New York, helped by the fact the author famously knew how to make the most of the city himself. Like The Great Gatsby, this one should definitely come with a free cocktail (although I’d argue it’s a lot less iconic)!
5. Wild by Cheryl Strayed (features California and Oregon) This may seem like an unusual choice when discussing great American novels, not least because all the others I have mentioned are works of fiction, but on a personal level, this may well be the one that has inspired me most, so I saved the most meaningful until last. I have always loved both walking- a passion I share with my best friend- and travel, and this book combines both. It is the autobiographical story of Strayed, who decided to distract herself from the breakdown of her marriage by walking the Pacific Crest Trail, a monumental hike that involves walking the Pacific coast of the US. For the past several years, my friend and I have always had the ultimate goal of completing a long-distance hike, the type that takes months and is a real adventure. After reading this book, drooling over Strayed’s stunning description of the natural wonders she encountered on the trail, I knew this was the walk for us. Ever since then, it’s been our dream to complete the hike… although we’d maybe like to be a little bit more prepared than Strayed herself was!