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Five Great… Novels (T-Z)

I thought that I would make a series which lists five beautifully written and thought-provoking novels.  All have been picked at random, and are sorted by the initial of the author.  For each, I have copied the official blurb.  I’m sure that everyone will find something here that interests them.

1. A Game of Hide and Seek by Elizabeth Taylor
“During summer games of hide and seek Harriet falls in love with Vesey and his elusive, teasing ways. When he goes to Oxford she cherishes his photograph and waits for the letter that never comes. Years pass, and Harriet stifles her imaginings; with a husband and daughter, she excels at respectability. But then Vesey reappears, and her marriage seems to melt away. Harriet is older, it is much too late, but she is still in love with him.”

2. N.P. by Banana Yoshimoto
“A powerful story of passion and friendship, the nature of love and the taboos surrounding it. “N.P.” is the last collection of stories by a celebrated Japanese writer, written in English while she was living in Boston.”

3. A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
“Taking its title from T.S. Eliot’s modernist poem “The Waste Land”, Evelyn Waugh’s “A Handful of Dust” is a chronicle of Britain’s decadence and social disintegration between the First and Second World Wars. This “Penguin Modern Classics” edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Robert Murray Davis. After seven years of marriage, the beautiful Lady Brenda Last is bored with life at Hetton Abbey, the Gothic mansion that is the pride and joy of her husband, Tony. She drifts into an affair with the shallow socialite John Beaver and forsakes Tony for the Belgravia set. Brilliantly combining tragedy, comedy and savage irony, “A Handful of Dust” captures the irresponsible mood of the ‘crazy and sterile generation’ between the wars. This breakdown of the Last marriage is a painful, comic re-working of Waugh’s own divorce, and a symbol of the disintegration of society.”

4. Summer in Baden-Baden by Leonid Tsypkin
“A novel about love, married love, and the love of literature, Summer in Baden-Baden is set partly in the present as the narrator crosses Russia in wintertime on a train to Leningrad (the once and future St. Petersburg) and partly in the past as he reimagines the passionate summer of 1867 when Fyodor Dostoyevsky and his young wife Anna travelled across Europe towards Baden-Baden. Dostoyevsky’s reckless passions for gambling, for his literary vocation, for his wife, are matched by her all-forgiving love, which is in turn reflected by the love of Leonid Tsypkin for Dostoyevsky.”

5. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name by Vendela Vida
“When Clarissa Iverton was fourteen years old, her mother disappeared leaving Clarissa to be raised by her father. Upon his death, Clarissa, now twenty-eight, discovers he wasn’t her father at all. Abandoning her fiance, Clarissa travels from New York to Helsinki, and then north of the Arctic Circle – to Lapland. There, under the northern lights, Clarissa not only unearths her family’s secrets, but also the truth about herself.”

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Five Great… Novels (O-S)

I thought that I would make a series which lists five beautifully written and thought-provoking novels.  All have been picked at random, and are sorted by the initial of the author.  For each, I have copied the official blurb.  I’m sure that everyone will find something here that interests them.

1. The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
“Frustrated with her parents’ genteel country life, Lexie Sinclair plans her escape to London. There, she takes up with Innes Kent, a magazine editor who introduces her to the thrilling, underground world of bohemian, postwar Soho. She learns to be a reporter, comes to know art and artists, and embraces her freedom fully. So when she finds herself pregnant, she doesn’t hesitate to have the baby on her own. Later, in present-day London, a young painter named Elina dizzily navigates the first weeks of motherhood and finds she can’t remember giving birth, while her boyfriend Ted is flooded with memories and images he cannot place. As their stories unfold–moving in time and changing voice chapter by chapter–a connection between the three of them takes shape that drives the novel towards a tremendous revelation. ”

2. Secrets of the Tides by Hannah Richell
“The Tides are a family with dark secrets. Haunted by the events of one tragic day ten years ago, they are each, in their own way, struggling to move forwards with their lives. Dora, the youngest daughter, lives in a ramshackle East End warehouse with her artist boyfriend Dan. Dora is doing a good job of skating across the surface of her life – but when she discovers she is pregnant the news leaves her shaken and staring back at the darkness of a long-held guilt. Returning to Clifftops, the rambling family house perched high on the Dorset coastline, Dora must confront her past. Clifftops hasn’t changed in years and moving through its rooms and gardens, Dora can still feel the echo of that terrible summer’s day when life changed forever for the Tides. As Dora begins her search for clues surrounding the events of that fateful day, she comes to realise that the path to redemption may rest with her troubled sister, Cassie. If Dora can unlock the secrets Cassie swore she would take to her grave, just maybe she will have a shot at salvation. But can long-held secrets ever really be forgiven? And even if you do manage to forgive and forget, how do you ever allow yourself to truly love again?”

3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
“This is the story of Rahel and Estha, twins growing up among the banana vats and peppercorns of their blind grandmother’s factory, and amid scenes of political turbulence in Kerala. Armed only with the innocence of youth, they fashion a childhood in the shade of the wreck that is their family: their lonely, lovely mother, their beloved Uncle Chacko (pickle baron, radical Marxist, bottom-pincher) and their sworn enemy, Baby Kochamma (ex-nun, incumbent grand-aunt).”

4. The Dive from Clausen’s Pier by Ann Packer
“How much do we owe the people we love? Is it a sign of strength or weakness to walk away from someone in need? These questions lie at the heart of Ann Packer’s intimate and emotionally thrilling new novel, which has won its author comparisons with Jane Hamilton and Sue Miller. At the age of twenty-three Carrie Bell has spent her entire life in Wisconsin, with the same best friend and the same dependable, easygoing, high school sweetheart. Now to her dismay she has begun to find this life suffocating and is considering leaving it–and Mike–behind. But when Mike is paralyzed in a diving accident, leaving seems unforgivable and yet more necessary than ever. The Dive from Clausen’s Pier animates this dilemma–and Carrie’s startling response to it–with the narrative assurance, exacting realism, and moral complexity we expect from the very best fiction.”

5. No Signposts in the Sea by Vita Sackville-West
“Edmund Carr is at sea in more ways than one. An eminent journalist and self-made man, he has recently discovered that he has only a short time to live. Leaving his job on a Fleet Street paper, he takes a passage on a cruise ship where he knows that Laura, a beautiful and intelligent widow whom he secretly admires, will be a fellow passenger. Exhilarated by the distant vista of exotic islands never to be visited and his conversations with Laura, Edmund finds himself rethinking all his values. A voyage on many levels, those long purposeless days at sea find Edumnd relinquishing the past as he discovers the joys and the pain of a love he is simultaneously determined to conceal.”

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Five Great… Novels (K-N)

I thought that I would make a series which lists five beautifully written and thought-provoking novels.  All have been picked at random, and are sorted by the initial of the author.  For each, I have copied the official blurb.  I’m sure that everyone will find something here that interests them.

1. All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman
“All Tom’s friends really are superheroes. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding the Perfectionist is hypnotized by her ex, Hypno, to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, the Perfectionist is sure that Tom has abandoned her, so she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpowers to leave all the heartbreak behind. With no idea that Tom’s beside her, she boards the plane. Tom has, until they touch down, to convince her he’s there, or he loses her forever…This book is a wonderful, heartbreakingly funny tribute to love, sweet love.”

2. The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls by Claire Legrand
“Victoria hates nonsense. There is no need for it when your life is perfect. The only smudge on her pristine life is her best friend Lawrence. He is a disaster–lazy and dreamy, shirt always untucked, obsessed with his silly piano. Victoria often wonders why she ever bothered being his friend. (Lawrence does, too.) But then Lawrence goes missing. And he’s not the only one. Victoria soon discovers that The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls is not what it appears to be. Kids go in but come out…different. Or they don’t come out at all. If anyone can sort this out, it’s Victoria–even if it means getting a little messy.”

3. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
“Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent older cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in Philip as his heir, a man who will love his grand home as much as he does himself. But the cosy world the two construct is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and there he dies suddenly. In almost no time at all, the new widow – Philip’s cousin Rachel – turns up in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, sophisticated, mysterious woman like a moth to the flame. And yet …might she have had a hand in Ambrose’s death?”

4. The Fuck Up by Arthur Nersesian
“Arthur Nersesian’s underground literary treasure is an unforgettable slice of gritty New York City life…and the darkly hilarious odyssey of an anonymous slacker. He’s a perennial couch-surfer, an aspiring writer searching for himself, and he’s just trying to survive. But life has other things in store for the fuck-up. From being dumped by his girlfriend to getting fired for asking for a raise, from falling into a robbery to posing as a gay man to keep his job at a porn theatre, the fuck-up’s tragi-comedy is perfectly realised by Arthur Nersesian, who manages to create humour and suspense out of urban desperation. Written in a style compared to crossing J.D. Salinger with Irvine Welsh, Nersesian’s novel is totally absorbing.”

5. The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
“A long-lost book reappears, mysteriously connecting an old man searching for his son and a girl seeking a cure for her widowed mother’s loneliness.”

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Five Great… Novels (G-J)

I thought that I would make a series which lists five beautifully written and thought-provoking novels.  All have been picked at random, and are sorted by the initial of the author.  For each, I have copied the official blurb.  I’m sure that everyone will find something here that interests them.

1. The Orange Girl by Jostein Gaarder
“To Georg Roed, his father is no more than a shadow, a distant memory. But then one day his grandmother discovers some pages stuffed into the lining of an old red pushchair. The pages are a letter to Georg, written just before his father died, and a story, ‘The Orange Girl’. But ‘The Orange Girl’ is no ordinary story – it is a riddle from the past and centres around an incident in his father’s youth. One day he boarded a tram and was captivated by a beautiful girl standing in the aisle, clutching a huge paper bag of luscious-looking oranges. Suddenly the tram gave a jolt and he stumbled forward, sending the oranges flying in all directions. The girl simply hopped off the tram leaving Georg’s father with arms full of oranges. Now, from beyond the grave, he is asking his son to help him finally solve the puzzle of her identity.”

2. The Tortoise and The Hare by Elizabeth Jenkins
“In affairs of the heart the race is not necessarily won by the swift or the fair. Imogen, the beautiful and much younger wife of distinguished barrister Evelyn Gresham, is facing the greatest challenge of her married life. Their neighbour Blanche Silcox, competent, middle-aged and ungainly – the very opposite of Imogen – seems to be vying for Evelyn’s attention. And to Imogen’s increasing disbelief, she may be succeeding.”

3. Daisy Miller by Henry James
“Travelling in Europe with her family, Daisy Miller, an exquisitely beautiful young American woman, presents her fellow-countryman Winterbourne with a dilemma he cannot resolve. Is she deliberately flouting social convention in the outspoken way she talks and acts, or is she simply ignorant of those conventions? In “Daisy Miller” Henry James created his first great portrait of the enigmatic and dangerously independent American woman, a figure who would come to dominate his later masterpieces.”

4. Three Junes by Julia Glass
“In this captivating debut novel, Julia Glass depicts the life and loves of the McLeod family during three crucial summers spanning a decade. Paul McLeod, patriarch of a Scottish family and a retired newspaper editor and proprietor, is on a package tour of Greece after the death of his wife. The story of his departure from the family home in Scotland and late gesture towards some sort of freedom gives way to his eldest son’s life (Fenno). Fenno protects his heart by putting himself under emotional quarantine throughout his life as a young gay man in Manhattan. When he returns home for his father’s funeral, this emotional isolation cannot be sustained when he is confronted by a choice that puts him at the centre of his family and its future. ”

5. Florence and Giles by John Harding
“In a remote and crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence is neglected by her guardian uncle and banned from reading. Left to her own devices she devours books in secret and talks to herself – and narrates this, her story – in a unique language of her own invention. By night, she sleepwalks the corridors like one of the old house’s many ghosts and is troubled by a recurrent dream in which a mysterious woman appears to threaten her younger brother Giles. Sometimes Florence doesn’t sleepwalk at all, but simply pretends to so she can roam at will and search the house for clues to her own baffling past. After the sudden violent death of the children’s first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives, and immediately strange phenomena begin to occur. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against this powerful supernatural enemy, and without any adult to whom she can turn for help, Florence must use all her intelligence and ingenuity to both protect her little brother and preserve her private world.”

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Five Great… Novels (E-F)

I thought that I would make a series which lists five beautifully written and thought-provoking novels.  All have been picked at random, and are sorted by the initial of the author.  For each, I have copied the official blurb.  I’m sure that everyone will find something here that interests them.

1. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald
“The year is 1794 and Fritz, passionate, idealistic and brilliant, is seeking his father’s permission to announce his engagement to his heart’s desire: twelve-year-old Sophie. His astounded family and friends are amused and disturbed by his betrothal. What can he be thinking? Tracing the dramatic early years of the young German who was to become the great romantic poet and philosopher Novalis, ‘The Blue Flower’ is a masterpiece of invention, evoking the past with a reality that we can almost feel.”

2. A Million Little Pieces by James Frey
“James Frey wakes up on a plane, with no memory of the preceding two weeks. His face is cut and his body is covered with bruises. He has no wallet and no idea of his destination. He has abused alcohol and every drug he can lay his hands on for a decade – and he is aged only twenty-three. What happens next is one of the most powerful and extreme stories ever told. His family takes him to a rehabilitation centre. And James Frey starts his perilous journey back to the world of the drug and alcohol-free living. His lack of self-pity is unflinching and searing. A Million Little Pieces is a dazzling account of a life destroyed and a life reconstructed. It is also the introduction of a bold and talented literary voice.”

3. Middlemarch by George Eliot
“George Eliot’s most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial English community prior to the Reform Bill of 1832. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; passionate, idealistic and penniless artist Will Ladislaw; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past. As their stories interweave, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama.”

4. The Little Shadows by Marina Endicott
“”The Little Shadows” tells the story of three sisters making their way in the world of vaudeville before and during the First World War. Setting off to make their fortune as a singing act after the untimely death of their father, the girls, Aurora, Clover and Bella, are overseen by their fond but barely coping Mama. The girls begin with little besides youth and hope but evolve into artists as they navigate their way to adulthood among a cast of extraordinary characters – charming charlatans, unpredictable eccentrics, and some who seem ordinary but have magical gifts. Marina Endicott lures us onto the brightly lit stage and into the little shadows that lurk behind the curtain, and reveals how the art of vaudeville – In all its variety, madness, melodrama, hilarity and sorrow – echoes the art of life itself.”

5. Maurice by E.M. Forster
“Maurice Hall is a young man who grows up confident in his privileged status and well aware of his role in society. Modest and generally conformist, he nevertheless finds himself increasingly attracted to his own sex. Through Clive, whom he encounters at Cambridge, and through Alec, the gamekeeper on Clive’s country estate, Maurice gradually experiences a profound emotional and sexual awakening. A tale of passion, bravery and defiance, this intensely personal novel was completed in 1914 but remained unpublished until after Forster’s death in 1970. Compellingly honest and beautifully written, it offers a powerful condemnation of the repressive attitudes of British society, and is at once a moving love story and an intimate tale of one man’s erotic and political self-discovery.”

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Five Great… Novels (C-D)

I thought that I would make a series which lists five beautifully written and thought-provoking novels.  All have been picked at random, and are sorted by the initial of the author.  For each, I have copied the official blurb.  I’m sure that everyone will find something here that interests them.

1. Wise Children by Angela Carter
“A richly comic tale of the tangled fortunes of two theatrical families, the Hazards and the Chances, Angela Carter’s witty and bawdy novel is populated with as many sets of twins, and mistaken identities as any Shakespeare comedy, and celebrates the magic of over a century of show business.”

2. The Professor’s House by Willa Cather
“A study in emotional dislocation and renewal–Professor Godfrey St. Peter, a man in his 50’s, has achieved what would seem to be remarkable success. When called on to move to a more comfortable home, something in him rebels.”

3. The Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield
“Behind this rather prim title lies the hilarious fictional diary of a disaster-prone lady of the 1930s, and her attempts to keep her somewhat ramshackle household from falling into chaos: there’s her husband Robert, who, when he’s not snoozing behind The Times, does everything with grumbling recluctance; her gleefully troublesome children; and a succession of tricky sevants who invariably seem to gain the upper hand. And if her domestic trials are not enough, she must keep up appearances. Particularly with the maddeningly patronising Lady Boxe, whom our Provincial Lady eternally (and unsuccessfully) tries to compete with.”

4. The Songwriter by Beatrice Colin
“New York, 1916. Monroe Simonov, a song-plugger from Brooklyn, is in love with a Ziegfeld Follies dancer who has left him for California. Inez Kennedy, a fashion model in a department store, has just one season remaining to find a wealthy husband before she must return to the Midwest. Anna Denisova, a glamorous political exile, gives lectures and writes letters while she waits for the Russian people to overthrow their Tsar. Although the world is changing faster than they could ever have imagined, Monroe, Inez and Anna discover that they are still subject to the tyranny of the heart. In this richly atmospheric and deftly plotted novel, their paths cross and re-cross leaving a trail of passion, infidelity and betrayal, before hurtling towards an explosive climax.”

5. Jerusalem the Golden by Margaret Drabble
“Brought up in a stifling, emotionless home in the north of England, Clara finds freedom when she wins a scholarship and travels to London. There, she meets Clelia and the rest of the Denham family: brilliant and charming, they dazzle Clara with their flair for life, and Clara yearns to be part of their bohemian world. But while she will do anything to join their circle, she gives no thought to the chaos that she may cause…In this captivating story of growing up and moving on, Margaret Drabble explores what it means to leave a disregarded childhood and family behind.”

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Five Great… Novels (A-B)

I thought that I would make a series which lists five beautifully written and thought-provoking novels.  All have been picked at random, and are sorted by the initial of the author.  For each, I have copied the official blurb.  I’m sure that everyone will find something here that interests them.

1. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“The limits of fifteen-year-old Kambili’s world are defined by the high walls of her family estate and the dictates of her fanatically religious father. Her life is regulated by schedules: prayer, sleep, study, prayer. When Nigeria is shaken by a military coup, Kambili’s father, involved mysteriously in the political crisis, sends her to live with her aunt. In this house, noisy and full of laughter, she discovers life and love – and a terrible, bruising secret deep within her family.”

2. Vera by Elizabeth von Arnim
“Lucy Entwhistle’s beloved father has just died, and aged twenty-two, she finds herself alone in the world. Leaning against her garden gate, dazed and unhappy, she is disturbed by the sudden appearance of the perspiring Mr Wemyss. This middle-aged man is also in mourning – for his wife, Vera, who has died in mysterious circumstances. Before Lucy can collect herself, Mr Wemyss has taken charge: of the funeral arrangements, of her kind Aunt Dot, but most of all of Lucy herself, body and soul. ”

3. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
“Truly Plaice – part behemoth, part witch, part Cinderella – is born larger than life into a small-minded town. Her birth rocks the pillars of tiny Aberdeen, New York, and breaks her family into smithereens. She spends a painful childhood in the shadow of her older sister Serena’s beauty, and is teased mercilessly for her enormous physique. But when Serena unexpectedly vanishes and leaves her son in Truly’s care, Truly must become mistress of a house she did not choose and the unwilling victim of her brother-in-law, Dr. Robert Morgan. Once her childhood tormentor, he now subjects her to brutal criticism and cruel medical experiments that test her endurance past breaking point – but Truly may have more power than he realises…”

4. Devil by the Sea by Nina Bawden
“‘The first time the children saw the Devil, he was sitting next to them in the second row of deckchairs in the bandstand. He was biting his nails.’ So begins the horrifying story of a madman loose in a small seaside town- his prey the very young and the very old. Seen through the eyes of Hilary- a precocious, highly imaginative, lonely child- it is a chilling story about the perceptiveness of children, the blindness of parents and the allure of strangers. As the adults carry on with their own grown-up capers, Hilary is led further and further into the twilight world of one man’s terrifyingly warped view of normal life. But will she have the sense to resist it?”

5. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
“When Rose Campbell, a shy orphan, arrives at “The Aunt Hill” to live with her six aunts and seven boisterous male cousins, she is quite overwhelmed. How could such a delicate young lady, used to the quiet hallways of a girls’ boarding school, exist in such a spirited home? It is the arrival of Uncle Alec that changes everything. Much to the horror of her aunts, Rose’s forward-thinking uncle insists that the child get out of the parlor and into the sunshine. And with a little courage and lots of adventures with her mischievous but loving cousins, Rose begins to bloom. Written by the beloved author of “Little Women,” “Eight Cousins” is a masterpiece of children’s literature. This endearing novel offers readers of all ages an inspiring story about growing up, making friends, and facing life with strength and kindness.”

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