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Drugs and sex make her life no less empty. The only place in which she is happy is behind the wheel of her car, driving endlessly on the freeway.

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Long before he became prime minister, Disraeli was a member of Young England, a group that looked to paternalism to solve the problems of the industrial age. A sense of the oppression that inspired Chartism is channelled into a high romantic storyline.

After his release from prison in s Berlin, transport-worker-turned-hardman Franz Biberkopf tries and fails to stay on the straight and narrow: freedom, he soon realises, is its own kind of punishment. A novel spun from the case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the pair of small-time communists who, accused of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets, were executed by the US authorities in Originally three individual volumes — more than 1, pages in the Penguin complete edition — U. Large parts of it abandon straightforward narrative in favour of newspaper headlines and stream-of-consciousness collage.

In between wander a dozen or so vagrant and only intermittently connected characters — tycoons, power-brokers, hoboes, aspiring movie actors, drunks — deviously at large in the pullulating anthill of earlyth-century transatlantic life.

Victoria Segal. Castle Rackrent can claim many English literary firsts, but was most influential as the first regional novel. Set in Ireland before the arrival of short-lived independence in , this is a satirical saga of incompetent Anglo-Irish landlords, narrated in the vernacular by their disingenuous steward, Thady Quirk.

The one Victorian novel whose greatness no one contradicts. Dorothea marries the parson-scholar Edward Casaubon, only to discover his mind is unworthy of her. Amidst swirlingly connected plots, Dorothea now widowed eventually finds fulilment. Lydgate does not. Marner is a linen weaver in the village of Raveloe, who once belonged to a religious sect from which he was unjustly expelled: in reaction he has become a miser. His store of gold is stolen by the son of the local squire; at the same time, a golden-haired foundling, later named Eppie, is left in his house.

She humanises the miser and when her rich father reveals himself, Eppie refuses to leave her adoptive parent. A pioneering novel about being black in America, by a pioneer black American author. It is framed as a journal by an un-named African-American, following his post-college career. Can youthful idealism withstand the disillusions of age? Flaubert asks what is ultimately of most value to us: hope or disappointment? In his sequel to The Sportswriter , Ford picks up the story of Frank Bascombe, now a New Jersey estate agent, as he navigates the fraught emotional territory of a holiday weekend.

An ambitious, almost encyclopedic novel about modern America, structured around the seemingly hackneyed idea of a dysfunctional family getting together for Christmas. The parents, Enid and Alfred, confront old age, illness and frustrated ambitions.

List of apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction - Wikipedia

The elusive central character is Wyatt Gwyon, intended by his family for the ministry but instead a forger of those objects of religious devotion: paintings. The novel renders the passion with which he creates truly original fakes, credited to Flemish masters. The other leading characters are also counterfeiters, like Otto, the playwright, who plagiarises authors he has never read, or the conman Frank Sinisterra. Much of the novel consists of dialogues in which ideas about religion, art and truthfulness are fearlessly elaborated.

All turns out well. The novel in which Gaskell set out to be scrupulously fair to the Lancashire mill-owners whom she had earlier criticised in Mary Barton Initially appalled, Margaret is gradually won over by the rough northern community and its tough but moral textile workers.

When Bernard, a student, is told he is illegitimate, he runs away from home and ends up in the bed of his schoolfriend Olivier. Bernard becomes secretary to Edouard — who is working on a novel called The Counterfeiters. While writing the novel, Gide kept a journal detailing its composition, which he published separately in Unwilling to share their fate, their younger sister Monica marries a wealthy man who makes her miserable.

George Orwell said of this bitter, brilliant novel that it retains its capacity to disquiet. Though set in late 19th-century London, its study of the corrosion of the literary world by self-promotion and commercialism is more relevant today than ever. Edwin Reardon and Jasper Milvain are two young writers who both realise that the values of the new literary industry are base. Milvain plays the game and prospers; Reardon chooses not to compromise and fails. Led to safety and protected by July, their faithful black servant, the Smales in turn become subservient to him.

Rosalind Porter Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. In a greasy factory suburb, Pelageya Nilovna is a downtrodden woman whose only solace is religion. When her son, Pavel Vlassov, declares himself a socialist, she is afraid and ashamed. In her eyes, socialists murder tsars. Yet through her love for her son, she overcomes her habits of subservience. A strange, huge picture of Glasgow written by an author as renowned for his artwork as for his writing. The challenge to the reader is to follow the connections between the two.

The early-morning march of hobnail boots on cobbles and the clack-clack-clack of the cotton mills may document a distant time, but rising unemployment, pressure on wages and means testing still shatters lives today. Michael Henchard, a drunken journeyman labourer, sells his wife to a sailor at a local fair. On sobering up, he vows not to drink for 21 years.

He rises in the world as a corn-factor and is elected mayor of Casterbridge Dorchester, bleakly depicted , but his fall once again is precipitous, and he dies, as he began, a labourer. Neglected by his parents, bullied by his brother, beaten and belittled at school, Billy Casper has little hope of a future beyond the pit in his deprived northern town, a destiny signalled by the coal- heaps which loom over the playground.

The most popular novel among both armies in the American civil war. On his release, he steals some silver candlesticks from a bishop, who forgives him. This act of kindness sets Valjean on the path of righteousness. He becomes a successful industrialist, mayor and family man — although always haunted by his criminal past. Hugo introduces spectacular wartime and street-revolution set pieces. Greeks, Germans and Italians march through the town. Making use of the rawness of folklore and tapping into the strange logic of dreams, Kadare takes the lunacy of war and spins it into his own Balkan myth.

He seems to have lost his sight, though he remembers little of what has happened. The third-person narrative does not merely inhabit his thoughts, it also uses a version of his demotic Scots, replete with obsenities, but charged with feeling. JM Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.

The most famous poet of his era, Larkin as a young man published two novels, of which this is the second. Published in austerity Britain, in a year which saw the worst winter of the century, the narrative is very much of its time. But no one reading it will fail to wonder whether there was not a great novelist struggling to get out of a great poet. At separate tables in a rooftop cafe, two black women take tea and pass as white. It is a chance encounter between childhood friends. Irene is a respectable black woman committed to her home and family. Clare travels the world with her white husband who, unwittingly, calls her Nig.


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Passing broke literary ground as the story of two racially and sexually ambiguous women written by another. Social boundaries can be permeated, but not without cost. Nearly 60 years before winning the Nobel prize, Lessing was acclaimed for a stunning debut which tells the story of Dick and Mary Turner, farmers in a remote part of Rhodesia. The lure and contradictions of colonial life are brilliantly analysed as a tragedy unfolds.

Here his target is dollar- driven evangelism. Elmer, a jock who lives for football, booze and girls, gets religion at college. He escapes. We shall yet make these United States a moral nation. The novel remained on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and still strikes a chord. Michael Moran is a former IRA guerrilla whose fails to adjust to civilian life after the Irish war of independence and is bitterly resentful of the new free state government.

He takes it out on his family, for whom he is the ultimate patriarch.


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  7. Employing an appropriately louche prose style, he spins an enjoyable, self-deprecating yarn as his hapless hero tries to interest householders in the Sucko brand and whiles away his spare time romancing the wife of a fellow salesman. It begins with the unreality of a fairy tale: three children in a remote Australian settlement in the mids see a stranger, not quite human, balancing precariously on a fence, somewhere between earth and heaven. Their family takes hi in but contact with Gemmy Fairly, a white man who has lived with the blacks and is a stranger even to himself, has repercussions for the whole community.

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    Fascinated with this place high up in the Swiss Alps, where illness is championed — not without vanity — as a triumph of the intellect over the body, he stays for seven years and falls ill along the way. Featuring lengthy debates between humanist freemasons and Jews-turned-Catholics, a long love-scene written entirely in French and a brilliant hallucinatory journey down the snowy slopes, it merits multiple readings.

    A novel for a lifetime not just a rainy afternoon. With wry commentary on the abuse of power, epic set pieces from the Thirty Years war and graphic depictions of the horrors of the plague, it is the classic of 19th-century Italian literature and is as important in that country as the works of Thackeray, Dickens, Fielding and Hardy rolled into one. Maupassant turns his cynical imagination to the squalor and decadent gloryof late 19th-century Paris. There his splendidly moustachioed hero, Georges Duroy, immerses himself in the amoral world of political journalism and climbs to the top of society, over the bodies of colleagues and quickly discarded mistresses.

    At once detestable and delightful, Duroy works his charm on the reader as seductively as on the women he misuses. The result is a masterpiece — a page-turner as well as a vivid chronicle of a sordid world. Sam Jordison. One of the greatest novels of the late 20th-century. India comes alive in an inspiring contemplation of power and the powerless, of compassion and terror, of comedy and cruelty. Mistry has the heart of Dickens, the sweep of Victor Hugo and the command of words of a great poet.

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    Carmel Callil Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Moravia started his study of two days in the life of a middle-class widow and her troublesome children when he was 18, having been challenged by friends. A bracing blast of social-realism, played out in San Francisco and detailing the rise and fall of a knuckle-headed dentist.