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This is where you will find stunning books from literary masters past and present. Literary fiction doesn’t just mean good or valued, as brilliant writing can be found in any genre. These are serious stories with high artistic qualities that strike at the heart of what it is to be human.
While Pride and Prejudice may sit at the top of many people’s favourite Jane Austen books, Emma has to be a contender for the title too. For me Emma has a little more bite, it isn’t quite as comfortable a read as Pride and Prejudice, and that makes it more interesting. In terms of lead characters Emma is right up there, she may be headstrong, snobbish, convinced she knows best, yet because of those characteristics, because she isn't perfect, she also feels so very real. Emma is a bright, beautifully written novel with real heart and I love it.
It's 1958 and Sylvia Blackwell is appointed children's librarian in the long-forgotten library in East Mole. Her enthusiasm to inspire the children and engender a love of reading doesn't quite go to plan when she falls in love and the town she grew to love turns on her. A gorgeously delightful and nostalgic book that makes you hanker back to a lost time when children's literature first stole your heart.
The unnamed narrator of this remarkable novel is a vulnerable, bookish eighteen-year-old who lives in a close-knit community beset by sectarian violence. Harassed by an older man she calls Milkman, she’s compelled to keep her encounter with this sinister figure a deeply buried secret. She’s isolated, silenced, and must remain silent, and it’s this that cuttingly resonates with the #MeToo movement, and also with the situation of many teenage girls whose early experiences of womanhood all too often involve fear, shame and secrecy. Many reviews of this novel speak of its “challenging” nature, its “difficult” experimentalism, but whether a reader finds it to be “difficult” very much depends as to how one engages with the narrator. It took a little while to fall in step with her rhythm, but I found her stream-of-consciousness voice compelling and richly rewarding. Sharp on the psychology of small communities and the repercussions of inaction, and quirkily comic to boot, this is an exhaustively exceptional novel.
In an age of gene splicing, stem cell research and Computer Artificial Intelligence, Mary Shelley’s dark gothic tale contains a stark warning message for us all in this modern age. The novel is as much about the struggle that Dr Frankenstein’s creature has with what it means to be human as it does about the creation of life itself. The key takeaway for the reader is just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
This book is Melmoth. It's pages reach out, take you by the hand and walks you through each of the character's lives, making you bear witness to moral complexities navigated by each character. The Interweaving narratives introduced with the strange manuscript bound me to this book and didn't release me until the final page. I still feel the tingle on the back of my neck - like the book is nearby, watching and waiting... Sarah Perry's writing is a lesson in the mastery of the English language, with the poetic fluidity of the River Elbe. Although this book is rather demure, it packs a real punch and manages to combine history, folklore and morality to create a thrilling allegory of ignorance and narrow sightedness.
Vivian is one of life’s outsiders; an orphan oddity adrift from the world, whose parents told her she was a Changeling. She posts her aunt’s ashes to her aunt’s friends, and then to strangers from the phone book. She advertises for a friend who “Must Answer to Penelope: Pennies Need Not Apply.” Against the odds, a Penelope responds, and a bond is formed but still, Vivian wanders Dublin, doing the strange things that make perfect sense to her, but arouse alarm in others and the question, “Is everything, alright?” This charming, unsettling, magical story about loneliness, reaching out, friendship and hope is laced with dark humour and whimsy. It is at once briskly amusing and deeply moving, and makes a marvellous companion to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.
** LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018 ** `Autumn makes me think of leaves, which makes me think of trees, which makes me think of The Overstory, the best novel ever written about trees, and really, just one of the best novels, period.' Ann Patchett 'It's a masterpiece.' - Tim Winton 'It's not possible for Powers to write an uninteresting book.' - Margaret Atwood A monumental novel about trees and people by one of our most 'prodigiously talented' (The New York Times Book Review) novelists. The Overstory unfolds in concentric rings of interlocking fables that range from antebellum New York to the late twentieth-century Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest and beyond: An Air Force loadmaster in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. An artist inherits a hundred years of photographic portraits, all of the same doomed American chestnut. A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. These four, and five other strangers - each summoned in different ways by trees - are brought together in a last and violent stand to save the continent's few remaining acres of virgin forest. There is a world alongside ours - vast, slow, interconnected, resourceful, magnificently inventive and almost invisible to us. This is the story of a handful of people who learn how to see that world and who are drawn up into its unfolding catastrophe.
Classic stuff with Paris very much at its centre. Although set in the present, the past echoes through it as various people brush up against history, politics and atrocities. Our main characters are a 19-year old, illegal, Moroccan immigrant, Tariq, and a lonely, middle-aged American academic, Hannah, bruised by a love affair in Paris ten years earlier. Tariq works in a fried chicken shop with a couple of Algerians who discuss the brutality of the French in the war of independence. This echoes the interviews Hannah is transcribing for her research about women under German occupation. A quirk of fate allows Tariq to become Hannah’s lodger and then translator. Although a comparatively short book, at under three hundred pages, there is a huge amount within it. Faulks is without a doubt an impressive novelist. This is a must-read. Featured in Episode 5 of the LoveReading Podcast
Hildegard Wolf is a German psychiatrist who lives a comfortable life in Paris. When she encounters a client who claims to be Lord Lucan, she can't help but be intrigued. After all, he's the second man who has claimed to be the elusive lord. But which one is the imposter? This is one of the 22 novels written by Muriel Spark in her lifetime. All are being published by Polygon in hardback Centenary Editions between November 2017 and September 2018.
Often described as the perfect partner to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Spark's last novel is set in Switzerland where Rowland and his wife Nina run a finishing school. Murderous jealousy soon rears its head when a precocious young student shows promise in her writing career. This is `Spark at her sharpest, her purest and her most merciful' - Ali Smith. This is one of the 22 novels written by Muriel Spark in her lifetime. All are being published by Polygon in hardback Centenary Editions between November 2017 and September 2018.
Described by Gore Vidal as `a novel written at the top of her form and so unique', Reality and Dreams concerns the delirious, egocentric film director Tom Richards, who is recovering from injuries sustained while falling off a crane on set. His obsessive passion to make a film about a simple young woman sucks his wife, daughters, lovers and friends into a maelstrom of destruction. This is one of the 22 novels written by Muriel Spark in her lifetime. All are being published by Polygon in hardback Centenary Editions between November 2017 and September 2018.