Tolstoy, Steinbeck, Defoe – why are so many turning to classic novels?


As sales of literary heavyweights soar, Booker winner Penelope Lively says that getting lost in a good book is now more relevant than it has ever been

There aren’t many aspects of the lockdown that the author Penelope Lively enjoys but reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to her 27-year-old granddaughter on video calls is one of them. “We discovered that for some extraordinary reason she’d never read it in her childhood,” Lively says. “So we’re each taking it in turns to read a bit to each other – and thoroughly enjoying it.”

Isolated in her home in north London, Lively, an 87-year-old widow, has also been scouring her own bookshelves for classic novels she can read alone. Currently, she is devouring all of the Irish writer William Trevor’s books: “I suddenly realised there was a lot of him I’d never read, and I’d almost forgotten how amazingly good he is.”

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