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This is it. The place for the greatest writing: stories that transcend all other ‘genres’. Literary fiction goes above and beyond any specific genre in order to deliver stories that strike at the heart of what it means to be human.
'If you care about something you have to protect it. If you're lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.' Eleven-year-old Owen Meany, playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire, hits a foul ball and kills his best friend's mother. Owen doesn't believe in accidents; he believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is both extraordinary and terrifying.
This is Doris Lessing’s first novel published in 1950 and is still as powerful today as it was then. As interesting and stunning a read as it was then and surprising how relevant it still is today. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... This is Nobel Prize-winning Lessing’s first novel, brought with her as a manuscript in a suitcase when she moved to England from Africa in 1950. Set in Rhodesia, it tells the story of Dick Turner, a failed white farmer, and his wife, Mary, a town girl who hates the bush. Trapped by poverty, sapped by the heat of their tiny brick and iron house, Mary, lonely and frightened, turns to Moses, the black cook, for kindness and understanding. An incredible evocation of Africa’s majestic beauty, a haunting portrait of lives in confusion and a disturbing exploration of the ideology of white supremacy, this is a landmark of twentieth-century literature.
This is an extraordinary book, funny, surreal and, at times, heartbreakingly sad. It’s long, some 600 pages, and truly compulsive. Even if at times you are not sure quite what is happening, it has you spellbound. It’s about fatherhood, writing, fear and life, with some truly memorable characters. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘This is an extraordinary novel from one of the greatest contemporary American authors. Perhaps the best known and most loved of Irving’s books, and rightly hailed as a modern classic, The World According to Garp is an utterly captivating, thought-provoking masterpiece with the most wonderful characters you will ever meet.' Emma Buckley, Assistant Editor at Transworld
One of John Boyne's favourite books. Following Homer Wells as he grows up in an orphanage and finds himself learning the skills of cider making. Another gem from the pen of one the quirkiest and heartfelt authors of our time. May 2010 Guest Editor John Boyne on John Irving... My favourite contemporary novelist. When I read The Cider House Rules at the age of 16, I became absolutely convinced that I wanted to be a writer. Irving combines humour and tragedy with an extraordinary ambition to recreate decades of a character’s life in each of his books.
I first saw the musical, then read the book, and let me just put this out there, Les Miserables is long, and even with a relatively simple plot, not a particularly easy read. Having said that, I am glad that I read it, but am going to whisper this... I prefer the musical (and now I’m ducking).
Uncle Tom’s Cabin was first serialised in an anti-slavery periodocial. By popular demand Harriet Beacher Stowe released it as a novel and it almost immediately sold out. The book describes the journey Uncle Tom takes from being a slave on a Kentucky farm takes to his death on the orders of the vicious plantation owner Simon Legree. His humanity, dignity and Christian faith shines through even in the worst adversity. The novel had a profound effect on attitudes to slavery and was cited by Abraham Lincoln as a strong motivation for the Amercian Civil War.
Although set in the mid 1960’s this is still a relevant book about marriage and relationships and explores the characters in a depth. July 2010 Guest Editor Louise Candlish on Margaret Atwood... I read Atwood’s first novel some time after the later biggies like Alias Grace and was not surprised to find she was masterly right out of the blocks. Though the heroine Marian’s journey is an anguished one, there are also flashes of wonderful absurdist humour. If this were published today it would probably be called ‘chick noir’.
May 2014 Guest Editor Daisy Goodwin on The Palliser Series... Dickens is the prose stylist, but Trollope is the psychologist. His characterisation is subtle and surprising and he is particularly good at creating convincing female characters. I love Lady Glencora in the Palliser series, she is the embodiment of what today we would call ‘soft power’. I have written two novels set in the nineteenth century and I read Trollope continually as a language barometer.
Two cousins, Toby and Cat(riona), are annoyed when Miranda, a London cousin, arrives at their island in Scotland for the summer. After preliminary snarls, the three become involved in a mysterious puzzle with occult overtones. Carrigona, the island, is a seal-nursery; the seals are connected to St. Culzean and their ancestors, especially Malise and his granddaughter Lucy. Lucy's portrait, with its piercing eyes, provokes the teens; Miranda's singing (during which her hands look strangely like Lucy's) unsettles the seals -- they leave the island for the first time in centuries. A young pup remains, wounded, and he becomes a household pet, diverting the teens to more earthy pursuits. But there is a serious threat for the seals -- they've moved to an unfriendly island -- which adds some suspense. Eventually the seals return, but only after Miranda turns against her country cousins and looks for adventure elsewhere.
A fugitive train loaded with the plunder of a doomed people. A dazzling jewelled pendant in the form of a stylized peacock. And three men - an American infantry captain in World War II, an Israeli-born dealer in art stolen by the Nazis, and a pioneering psychiatrist in fin-de-siecle Budapest - who find their carefully-wrought lives turned upside-down by three fierce women, each locked in a struggle against her own history and the history of our times. And at the centre of Love and Treasure, nested like a photograph hidden in a locket, a mystery: where does the worth of a people and its treasures truly lie? What is the value of a gift, when giver and recipient have been lost - of a love offering when the beloved is no more? In an intricately constructed narrative that is by turns funny and tragic, thrilling and harrowing, with all the expertise and narrative drive that readers have come to expect from her work, Waldman traces the unlikely journey, from 1914 Budapest to post-war Salzburg to present-day New York, of the peacock pendant whose significance changes - token of friendship, love-offering, unlucky talisman with the changes of fortune undergone by her characters as they find themselves caught up in the ebb and flow of modern European history. Spanning continents and a hundred years of turbulent history, encompassing war and revolution, the history of art, feminism and psychoanalysis, depicting the range of human feeling from the darkness of a shattered Europe to the ordinary heartbreaks of a contemporary New York woman, Love and Treasure marks the full maturity of a remarkable writer.
Literary fiction is a bit of a “catch-all” phrase. Some call it “Serious Fiction” but we prefer to think of it as all of the greatest stories ever told, all in one place. This is where you will find literary classics from literary masters past and present.
Why not have a look at our monthly featured titles for inspiration? Revisit old friends? Discover new ones? Or finally read that book that your friends have been banging on about for ages? Whatever your reasons, settle down with your favourite tipple, unwind and open your mind with the home-spun brilliance of authors like Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, David Nicholls and Zadie Smith; or those from further afield: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Ben Okri, Jostein Gaarder and so many more. There are obviously so many to choose from, you could get lost in the Sea of Choices.