The first of May, May Day, contains a multitude of meanings. Traditional rural English celebrations include maypoles, Morris dancing and the crowning of the May Queen (think Midsomer Murders: village greens, duck ponds, cottages with thatched eaves.) But May Day also has significance as International Workers Day, a time of celebration for labour and socialist movements, commemorated with marches and demonstrations in the streets of cities and towns all over the world.
Then there’s the military usage of Mayday, the universal signal for ‘help!’, derived from the French expression ‘Venez m’aider’. This is where we’re going to start with suggestions for this month’s reading, but we’ll cover all of the meanings of May Day in one way or another – and look at some of the world’s best 20th century fiction.