• Persuasion

    by Jane Austen Year Published: 1817

    Persuasion is the last novel fully completed by Jane Austen. It was published at the end of 1817, six months after her death.

    The story concerns Anne Elliot, a young Englishwoman of 27 years, whose family is moving to lower their expenses and get out of debt. They rent their home to an Admiral and his wife. The wife’s brother, Navy Captain Frederick Wentworth, had been engaged to Anne in 1806, and now they meet again, both single and unattached, after no contact in more than seven years. This sets the scene for many humorous encounters as well as a second, well-considered chance at love and marriage for Anne in her second "bloom".

    The novel was well-received in the early 19th century. Greater fame came later in the century, continued in the 20th century, and through to the 21st century. Much scholarly debate on Austen's work has since been published. Anne Elliot is noteworthy among Austen's heroines for her relative maturity. As Persuasion is Austen's last completed novel, it is accepted as her most maturely written novel showing a refinement of literary conception indicative of a woman approaching forty years of age. Unlike Sense and Sensibility and Pride and PrejudicePersuasion was not rewritten from earlier drafts of novels that Austen had originally started before 1800. Her use of free indirect discourse in narrative was by 1816 in full evidence.

    The first edition of Persuasion was co-published with the previously unpublished Northanger Abbey in late December 1817 (1818 given on the title page), as the second two volumes of a four-volume set, with a preface for the first time publicly identifying Austen as the author of all her novels. Neither "Northanger Abbey" nor "Persuasion" was published under the working title Austen used. The later editions of both were published separately.

    Four made-for-television adaptations of the novel were made in Britain, beginning in 1960 with a mini-series featuring Daphne Slater in Persuasion. The next starred Ann Firbank in the lead role in the 1971 version co-starring Bryan Marshall; Amanda Root starred in the 1995 version co-starring Ciarán Hinds; and Sally Hawkins starred in the 2007 version co-starring Rupert Penry-Jones and made for ITV1. Another was made in the US in 1995.

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  • The Road

    by Cormac McCarthy Year Published: 2006 Post-Apocalyptic

    The Road is a 2006 novel by American writer Cormac McCarthy. It is a post-apocalyptic tale of a journey of a father and his young son over a period of several months, across a landscape blasted by an unspecified cataclysm that has destroyed most of civilization and, in the intervening years, almost all life on Earth. The novel was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction in 2006. 

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  • Nineteen Eighty-Four

    by George Orwell Year Published: 1949 English Novel: Dystopian

    Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel by George Orwell published in 1949. The Oceanian province of Airstrip One (formerly known as Great Britain) is a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public mind control, dictated by a political system euphemistically named English Socialism under the control of a privileged Inner Party elite that persecutes all individualism and independent thinking as thoughtcrimes. Their tyranny is headed by Big Brother, the quasi-divine Party leader who enjoys an intense cult of personality, but who may not even exist. Big Brother and the Party justify their rule in the name of a supposed greater good. The protagonist of the novel, Winston Smith, is a member of the Outer Party who works for the Ministry of Truth which is responsible for propaganda and historical revisionism. His job is to re-write past newspaper articles so that the historical record always supports the current party line. Smith is a diligent and skillful worker, but he secretly hates the Party and dreams of rebellion against Big Brother.

    As literary political fiction and dystopian science-fiction, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a classic novel in content, plot, and style. Many of its terms and concepts, such as Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak, Room 101, Telescreen, 2 + 2 = 5, and memory hole, have entered everyday use since its publication in 1949. Moreover, Nineteen Eighty-Four popularised the adjective Orwellian, which describes official deception, secret surveillance, and manipulation of the past by a totalitarian or authoritarian state. In 2005, the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It was awarded a place on both lists of Modern Library 100 Best Novels, reaching number 13 on the editor's list, and 6 on the reader's list. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 8 on the BBC's survey The Big Read.

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  • Jane Eyre

    by Charlotte Bronte Year Published: 1847 English Novel: Bildungsroman

    Jane Eyre (originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography) is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published on 16 October 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. of London, England, under the pen name "Currer Bell." The first American edition was released the following year by Harper & Brothers of New York.

    Primarily of the bildungsroman genre, Jane Eyre follows the emotions and experiences of its eponymous character, including her growth to adulthood, and her love for Mr. Rochester, the byronic master of fictitious Thornfield Hall. In its internalization of the action – the focus is on the gradual unfolding of Jane's moral and spiritual sensibility and all the events are colored by a heightened intensity that was previously the domain of poetry – the novel revolutionized the art of fiction. Charlotte Brontë has been called the 'first historian of the private consciousness' and the literary ancestor of writers like Joyce and Proust. The novel contains elements of social criticism, with a strong sense of morality at its core, but is nonetheless a novel many consider ahead of its time given the individualistic character of Jane and the novel's exploration of classism, sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism.

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  • The Picture of Dorian Gray

    by Oscar Wilde Year Published: 1890 English Novel: Gothicism and Faustian

    The Picture of Dorian Gray is the only published novel by Oscar Wilde, appearing as the lead story in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine on 20 June 1890, printed as the July 1890 issue of this magazine. The magazine's editors feared the story was indecent as submitted, so they censored roughly 500 words, without Wilde's knowledge, before publication. But even with that, the story was still greeted with outrage by British reviewers, some of whom suggested that Wilde should be prosecuted on moral grounds, leading Wilde to defend the novel aggressively in letters to the British press. Wilde later revised the story for book publication, making substantial alterations, deleting controversial passages, adding new chapters and including an aphoristic Preface which has since become famous in its own right. The amended version was published by Ward, Lock and Company in April 1891. Some scholars believe that Wilde would today have wanted us to read the version he originally submitted to Lippincott's.

    The novel tells of a young man named Dorian Gray, the subject of a painting by artist Basil Hallward. Basil is impressed by Dorian's beauty and becomes infatuated with him, believing his beauty is responsible for a new mode in his art. Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, a friend of Basil's, and becomes enthralled by Lord Henry's world view. Espousing a new hedonism, Lord Henry suggests the only things worth pursuing in life are beauty and fulfillment of the senses. Realizing that one day his beauty will fade, Dorian (whimsically) expresses a desire to sell his soul to ensure the portrait Basil has painted would age rather than him. Dorian's wish is fulfilled, and when he subsequently pursues a life of debauchery, the portrait serves as a reminder of the effect each act has upon his soul, with each sin displayed as a disfigurement of his form, or through a sign of ageing. The Picture of Dorian Gray is considered a work of classic Gothic fiction with a strong Faustian theme.

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  • All Quiet on the Western Front

    by Erich Maria Remarque Year Published: 1928 German War Novel

    All Quiet on the Western Front (German: Im Westen nichts Neues) is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and mental stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these soldiers upon returning home from the front.

    The novel was first published in November and December 1928 in the German newspaper Vossische Zeitung and in book form in late January 1929. The book and its sequel, The Road Back, were among the books banned and burned in Nazi Germany. It sold 2.5 million copies in 22 languages in its first eighteen months in print.

    Following a lesser- thought-about war, Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front breaks from the traditional romanticizing of warfare and instead examines the harsh realities that young people face when they are sent to fight old people’s wars.

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