The days are getting colder, which can mean only one thing: sofa time with a really good book...
There’s nothing like an epic novel to get us in the mood for a brooding winter. As those dark nights roll in and the weekend temperatures plummet, it’s all about toasting our slipper boots by the fire and curling up on the sofa with a really good winter book and a mug of hot chocolate.
If you’re finding it tricky finding exactly the right seasonal read for you, however, never fear: Marie Claire is here to help. Whether you’re after a doomed Soviet romance in the snow, or a magical adventure stepped through the wardrobe, we’ve rounded up 10 of the best winter novels to lose yourself in.
1. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Set at Christmas in snow covered Massachusetts, the willful Jo March emulates enough spirit to give us all a glow as we read about the trials-and-tribulations of the March sisters. Set during the American Civil War, we follow siblings – Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy – as they journey from adolescence to adulthood. Preparing to face a harsh Christmas without their father, Louisa May Alcott’s independent 19th century sisters defy convention, breaking free of traditional stereotypes. We can’t think of four better women to spend a frosty weekend with indoors.
2. The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe by C.S Lewis
Introducing the wintry, magical world of Narnia – a land where talking animals live in perpetual fear of the White Witch, imprisoned in an eternal winter. You’re never too old to open C.S Lewis’ creaking doors, tiptoe through his wardrobe and discover an enchanting land filled with snow-capped forests, tea-loving fawns and immortal queens. And then there’s Aslan: heroic, iconic, self-sacrificing Aslan. We’re getting teary just thinking about him…
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights isn’t a perfect love story – far from it – and that’s what still continues to captivate its readers. Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship isn’t remotely pretty: their love is as weathered and ragged as the remote Yorkshire moor it plays out on – and just as wild and destructive. As their relationship frays, it crescendoes just like a howling storm. Emily Bronte’s tale of all-consuming love is an intoxicating read.
4. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Ushankas at the ready, everyone. Who wouldn’t want to curl up on the sofa and disappear into this heartbreaking tale of doomed love set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution? Set in 1905 and spanning decades of political turmoil, the novel isn’t a simple tale of love and (*WARNING*) it requires a lot of focus to navigate through a complicated narrative and a multitude of name-changing characters. Dizzying and engrossing, if you’re looking for an adventurous read, this is it.
5. Call Of The Wild by Jack London
If an epic historial-romance isn’t up your street and you prefer a shorter read, why not try Jack London’s tale about a sled dog called Buck. Set in Yukon, Canada during the 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, a domesticated dog is stolen and sold into Alaskan servitude. When events turn violent, Buck is forced to dig deep and answer to his true nature – the call of the wild. Every Jack London book is a joy to read but this tale of survival is considered to be his finest.
6. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens is about synonymous with winter as mulled cider, ear muffs and woodburning fireplaces. Bearing this in mind, we thought we’d avoid the obvious suggestions you’ve all heard a million times before. The Mystery of Edwin Drood is Dicken’s ultimate whodunnit, for no other reason than it was left unfinished when he died in 1870. Why did Edwin suddenly disappear? Who murdered him? We never find out the answers, which is what makes this gothic novel all the more haunting. Shrouded in opium smoke, it is a mystery that will remain eternally unsolved.
7. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
A secluded mountain sanatorium near Kyoto provides us with a surprising backdrop to a haunting tale about love and loss. Haruki Murakami became a cult figure after this novel’s publication in the 1980s – its forests a symbolism of loneliness and isolation. Norwegian Wood a deeply troubling yet poetically beautiful story – set in Tokyo in the 1960s, protagonist Watanabe looks back to his student days and recounts two great loves with two very different women. His words envelop you as softly as falling snow.
8. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
Feeling the chill of the Cold War, John Le Carre’s bleak spy novel follows espionage veteran George Smiley – an ageing anti-hero who is determined to uncover a Soviet mole in the British Secret Intelligence Service. Adapted for film, television and radio, nothing beats the original 1974 novel. Considered his finest work, Le Carre leads us down London’s rain-splattered streets, under grey skies and into an unsettling world where nobody can be trusted.
9. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
Lavish parties always step up a notch in the run-up to Christmas, yet we doubt any will be as fantastically plot-driven as Rachel’s eighteenth birthday party in this Wilkie Collins 1868 classic. When Rachel inherits a large Indian diamond and it goes missing, the hunt is on to find the thief and recover the jewel. Considered by many to be the finest detective novel ever written, this is the perfect accompaniment to the festive party season.
10. The Red Shoes by Hans Christian Andersen
Winter wouldn’t feel like winter without a magical fairy tale to escape into. This dark story – about a dancing pair of red shoes with a mind of its own – is particularly unsettling. Once you’ve read this, why not indulge in a screening of Powell and Pressburger’s 1948 film, inspired by the fairy tale starring Moira Shearer?