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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.
Winner of the Lost Man Booker Prize. An involving and interesting tale set in 1919 about a World War One veteran, Brendan Archer, who travels to Ireland to find the girl he rashly got engaged to three years earlier. When love appears to have been lost Brendan finds himself drawn in to the world of the Palm Court hotel just as Ireland faces it’s most dramatic political upheaval. A book of humour, pathos and politics. Totally absorbing and unputdownable.
A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them. And soon they enter a terrifying heart of darkness from which they may never return.
Told in prose poetry this short novel is based on the long standing affair between George Barker and Smart. If you are looking to go on an emotional rollercoaster then pick this up and have a read but be prepared to be wonderfully drained by the end. March 2010 Guest Editor Susan Fletcher on By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept... I'll never be able to say that I enjoyed this novel. But no other book has had such force to it, or stayed in mind for so long afterwards. It is a slim book - a novella, really - but it is packed with all the passion, fear and anguish that Smart felt during her long affair with the married poet George Barker. Her story is tragic and awesome. Their affair lasted for decades, and Smart bore Barker four children - but he never left his wife, who knew of the affair. Her language is extraordinary - too dense, in places, for me to understand, but there are also many lines or expressions which are unbearably tender, or which bite very hard. It is, in many ways, an exhausting read - but it makes this list for being so wild and emotionally charged. It's an unforgettable book.
Author shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2011. One of Erica James' favourite books. After a terrible family tragedy Ian Bedloe seeks guidance at the aptly named Church of the Second Chance. For the next 20 years he tries to make amends for the things that happened to his family. Intricate story lines and characters seem to effortlessly flow together and the uplifting ending makes this a brilliant family drama. August 2009 Guest Editor Erica James on ANNE TYLER Similarly Anne Tyler’s novels deal with the every day ups and downs of relationships and family life. She has a wonderful knack for creating totally believable but wholly ordinary characters to whom we can all relate. Nobody does domestic drama better than Anne Tyler and she is the standard to which I aspire!
For a “literary” family saga, it’s hard to beat A Thousand Acres, set in Iowa; Jane Smiley’s novel is a modern retelling of the King Lear story. A novel to sweep you up and carry you along as the tragic story of this thousand acres of the best black, densest, deepest earth unfolds. Like for Like Reading: The Way the Crow Flies, Ann-Marie MacDonaldMiddlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
In the summer of 1959 Nora Silk moves into a quiet suburb on Long Island with her two, young sons, a collection of Elvis records and a marked absence of husband. Her glamour and cheerfully chaotic ways immediately arouse the suspicions of the neighbourhood where life runs according to two rules - 'mind your own business and keep up your lawn'. Seventh Heaven is a lyrical, optimistic novel of yearning and desire, 'this writer can cut through to the true magic and true grit beneath' (Financial Times).
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES AT THE WHISTLE STOP CAFÉ is the story of two women in the 1980s, of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women—of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth—who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present—for Evelyn and for us—will never quite be the same.
Shortlisted for the Lost Man Booker Prize. A touching, intimate novel about a family on the verge of breakdown after the expulsion of the son from school and the subsequent events. Nina Bawden creates in depth characters and relationships and handles her material with tenderness and compassion. very moving read.
‘She is a master of her material, a writer in whom great talent abides’ Vanity Fair
'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.
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.
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.