Best books on school: Author Patricia Nicol recommends novels featuring the highs and lows of education
- Patricia Nicol shared a selection of books with characters attending school
- From Charles Dickens’ Dotheboys Hall to Charlotte Brontë’s Lowood School
- Literary expert also picks out modern equivalents with a more cheery outlook
All being well, my eldest son will start secondary school tomorrow. What he needs to take with him seems a huge step-up from primary. Through August, we’ve been accruing uniform and sports gear, proper pens, a pencil case and backpacks to transport it all in.
My husband, who seems by far the most excited by all this new kit, had a panic the other day about the wrong type of maths calculator.
Starting a new school or job is a daunting time for anyone, but the strangeness of these times has a muting effect, too. We have not wanted to be too prescriptive about what to expect because everything could change — we may yet need to add a mask to that kit list.
Emma Straub’s recent novel, All Adults Here, sees Cecelia coming to live with her grandmother Astrid in small-town America after being bullied in New York (left). Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre
Our son, meanwhile, has been quiet on the subject of starting secondary, and we are unsure if that is containment, nervousness, or if he is just eking out the last few minutes of the summer holiday.
We are at least happy with his choice of school and confident in their planning
Patricia Nicol, Daily Mail journalist
The literary education establishment I would least like to send my children to is the purportedly Christian Lowood School in Jane Eyre, presided over by the miserly Mr Brocklehurst.
There, Jane undergoes real hardship. But she also makes her first friend, the tragically consumptive Helen Burns, and finds her kindly mentor, Maria Temple.
An even more morally bankrupt northern Victorian school is Charles Dickens’ Dotheboys Hall, where the ingenue Nicholas Nickleby works as ‘Master of Arts’ (despite being nothing of the kind). There half-starved, unwanted children are administered brimstone and treacle, neglect and cruelty by the wantonly corrupt Squeers family.
Back in our contemporary world, Emma Straub’s recent novel, All Adults Here, sees Cecelia coming to live with her grandmother Astrid in small-town America after being bullied in New York. Before her start, her aunt subtly makes an introduction to the misfit August. In a lovely moment, it is him Cecelia seeks out on her first morning on the school bus.
If you are starting something new this week, best of luck.