One of the most popular of Hardy's novels, this charming pastoral idyll is a lightly humorous depiction of life in an early Victorian rural community. The story delicately balances the concerns of the Mellstock parish choir with a romance between a member of the choir and the village schoolmistress.
Often thought of as Thomas Hardy's best work, not only for the elaborate structure of the plot, where small and subtle details lead to the character's ruin, but in the themes that range from how human loneliness and sensuality can stop a person from trying to fulfill his dreams; to how, when free from the trap of ma…Read More »
Hardy distrusted the application of nineteenth-century empiricism to history because he felt it marginalized important human elements. In The Trumpet Major, the tale of a woman courted by three competing suitors during the Napoleonic wars, he explores the subversive effects of ordinary human desire and conflicting l…Read More »
Ulysses, one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, has had a profound influence on modern fiction. In a series of episodes covering the course of a single day, 16 June 1904, the novel traces the movements of Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus through the streets of Dublin. Each episode has its own litera…Read More »
Often called the greatest nineteenth-century British novelist, George Eliot (the pen name of Mary Ann Evans) created in Middlemarch a vast panorama of life in a provincial Midlands town. At the story’s center stands the intellectual and idealistic Dorothea Brooke—a character who in many ways resembles Eliot herself….Read More »
"Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life" was Herman Melville's first novel. Originally published in 1846, "Typee" was partially based on Melville's own experiences as a beachcomber in the South Pacific Marquesas Islands. A romanticized travelogue of the Pacific island paradise Nuku Hiva, "Typee" is the story of Tommo, a Y…Read More »
Dickens's classic tale of a young man's adventures on his journey from an unhappy childhood to his success as a novelist. Among the characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr. Murdstone; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora;…Read More »
George Eliot’s final novel and her most ambitious work, Daniel Deronda contrasts the moral laxity of the British aristocracy with the dedicated fervor of Jewish nationalists. Crushed by a loveless marriage to the cruel and arrogant Grandcourt, Gwendolen Harleth seeks salvation in the deeply spiritual and altruistic …Read More »
This novel's unsentimental evocation of childhood in the English countryside stands as an enduring triumph; but equally memorable are its portrayal of a narrow, tradition-bound society, its striking, superbly drawn heroine, Maggie Tulliver, and its dramatic unfolding of tragic human destiny.
In the summer of 1348, with the plague ravaging Florence, ten young men and women take refuge in the countryside, where they entertain themselves with tales of love, death, and corruption, featuring a host of characters, from lascivious clergymen and mad kings to devious lovers and false miracle-makers. Named after …Read More »
Dickens takes up on an exploration of the perils, travels, and adventures of the Pickwick Club's members: the founding chairman, former businessman and amateur scientist Mr. Pickwick; his trusted companion Sam Weller; the sportsman Winkle; the poet Snodgrass; and the lover Tracy Tupman.
Accused of a crime he didn't commit and unjustly forced from his home town, Silas lives a reclusive and godless life, finding love and companionship only in material objects. It will take the theft of his gold and the discovery of an abandoned infant to remind him of the importance of human relationships and faith. …Read More »
With Dickens' famous words, Merry Christmas, everyone! "Bah!" said Scrooge. "Humbug!" unfolds a tale that renews the joy that is Christmas. Regardless of whether you read it out loud with your family and friends, or open the pages on a chill winter night to savor the story in isolation, Charles Dickens' _A Christm…Read More »
The Old Curiosity Shop is the story of Little Nell, a beautiful and virtuous young girl who lives with her grandfather in his shop of curiosities. Her only friend is Kit, an honest young lad who works at the shop, and whom she is teaching to write. Unbeknownst to Nell, her grandfather is obsessed with their precario…Read More »
One of the most widely read novels of all time, Les Misérables was the crowning literary achievement of Victor Hugo’s stunning career. Though he was considered the greatest French writer of his day, Hugo was forced to flee the country because of his opposition to Napoleon III. While in exile he completed _Les Misé…Read More »
Written in 1846 at the height of Balzac's powers, this novel portrays the stunningly malevolent Cousin Bette and her intricate plans for revenge against the wealthy relatives on whom she depends and whose condescension she bitterly resents. As Bette's insidious deceit relentlessly unravels the lives of the obsessive…Read More »
Martin Eden, Jack London’s semiautobiographical novel about a struggling young writer, is considered by many to be the author’s most mature work. Personifying London’s own dreams of education and literary fame as a young man in San Francisco, Martin Eden’s impassioned but ultimately ineffective battle to overcome hi…Read More »
A magnificent drama of vengeance, infidelity, and retribution, Anna Karenina portrays the moving story of people whose emotions conflict with the dominant social mores of their time. Sensual, rebellious Anna falls deeply and passionately in love with the handsome Count Vronsky. When she refuses to conduct the discre…Read More »
Thomas Hardy’s almost supernatural insight into the course of wayward lives, his instinctive feeling for the beauty of the rural landscape, and his power to invest that landscape with moral significance all came together in an utterly fluent way in The Mayor of Casterbridge. A classically shaped story about the rise…Read More »
A pretty young girl has to leave home to make money for her family. She is clever and a good worker; but she is uneducated and does not know the cruel ways of the world. So, when a rich young man says he loves her, she is careful - but not careful enough. He is persuasive, and she is overwhelmed. It is not her fault…Read More »
Moll Flanders recounts the story of her extraordinary life, from her birth in Newgate prison to her declining years in married prosperity. After being seduced in the home of her adoptive family she lives off her wits and her beauty, as a whore, 'five times a Wife', and a thief, and is eventually transported to Virgi…Read More »
The hero of Charlotte Bronte's first novel escapes a dreary clerkship in industrial Yorkshire by taking a job as a teacher in Belgium. There, however, his entanglement with the sensuous but manipulative Zoraide Reuter, complicates his affections for a penniless girl who is both teacher and pupil in Reuter's school.
Far from the Madding Crowd was the first of Hardy's novels to apply the name of Wessex to the landscape of south-west England, and the first to gain him widespread popularity as a novelist. When the beautiful and spirited Bathsheba Everdene inherits her own farm, she attracts three very different suitors; the seemin…Read More »
The most famous—and perhaps greatest—novel of all time, Tolstoy’s War and Peace tells the story of five families struggling for survival during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia.Among its many unforgettable characters is Prince Andrey Bolkonsky, a proud, dashing man who, despising the artifice of high society, joins t…Read More »
In an overgrown churchyard, a grizzled convict springs upon an orphan boy named Pip. The convict terrifies Pip and threatens to kill him unless the boy helps further his escape. Later, Pip finds himself in a ruined garden where he meets the embittered and crazy Miss Havisham and her foster child, Estella, with whom …Read More »
Harriet Beecher Stowe was appalled by slavery, and she took one of the few options open to nineteenth-century women who wanted to affect public opinion: she wrote a novel, a huge, enthralling narrative that claimed the heart, soul, and politics of pre-Civil War Americans. An overtly moralistic work of unabashed prop…Read More »
Elizabeth Bennet is Austen's most liberated and unambiguously appealing heroine, and Pride and Prejudice has remained over most of the past two centuries Austen's most popular novel. The story turns on the marriage prospects of the five daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Bennet: Elizabeth forms a prejudice against the proud …Read More »
At the heart of Dickens's second novel is a story as much about crime and poverty as it is about justice and charity. Orphaned at birth, Oliver Twist grows up under the loveless, relentless watch of a workhouse. He runs away with hopes for a better life in London, only to become–at the hands of the unforgettable Art…Read More »
A poor young girl, Fanny, is sheltered by Sir Thomas and Lady Bertram, her uncle and aunt) along with their four children, Tom, Edmund, Maria and Julia, in their house at Mansfield Park. Treated less preferably to the other children, she is provided support by Edmund, whose kindness leads her to fall in love with hi…Read More »
Coketown is dominated by the figure of Mr Thomas Gradgrind, school headmaster and model of Utilitarian success. Feeding both his pupils and family with facts, he bans fancy and wonder from any young minds. As a consequence, his obedient daughter Louisa marries the loveless businessman and 'bully of humanity' Mr Boun…Read More »