Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Woolf is one of the 20th-century novelists to whom McEwan is indebted. A giant of English literature, she asks big questions in her writing – not least her fourth novel. Mrs. Dalloway takes place within the course of a single day in June 1923. The subject: Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class wife of a Member of Parliament, who is preparing for a party she’s hosting that evening. As she strolls around London, we learn that she has a troubled past and struggles – like Woolf – with depression. Meanwhile, a Great War veteran, Septimus Warren Smith, is suffering from shell shock and heading to an appointment with Clarissa’s psychiatrist. As the day draws to an end, the pair’s worlds collide. The stream of consciousness ends unresolved. “What is this terror?” writes Woolf. “What is this ecstasy?”
The Poems of Emily Dickinson edited by R.W. Franklin
It’s pleasingly fitting to self-isolate with a book of poetry by Dickinson. After all, the 19th-century American poet spent most of her time in seclusion. Born in 1830 in Massachusetts, she rarely left the family home and according to locals was hardly ever seen. She spent her days in a room of her own, writing letters and poetry. Assembled by Ralph Franklin, a scholar of her manuscripts, this edition compiles 1,789 of her poems, most of which were circulated among family and friends and existed in more than one version. This is as close as we can get to a definitive volume, with the poems’ original spelling, punctuation and capitalisation. Dip in and out of her wild and mysterious musings on nature, hope, love, mental health and death.