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Log in using your social network account. Please enter a valid password. Keep me logged in. Want an ad-free experience? Subscribe to Independent Premium. View offers. Download the new Indpendent Premium app Sharing the full story, not just the headlines Download now. Shape Created with Sketch. It is a fact universally acknowledged that every list of great books must include Pride and Prejudice.
For every lucky Elizabeth, who tames the haughty, handsome Mr. No-one has lampooned the self-absorption, delusions of grandeur and sexual frustration of adolescence as brilliantly as Susan Townsend, and no one ever will. War is the ultimate dead-end for logic, and this novel explores all its absurdities as we follow US bombardier pilot Captain John Yossarian. A good years before metoo, Thomas Hardy skewered the sexual hypocrisy of the Victorian age in this melodramatic but immensely moving novel.
Read this if you want to understand the rotten culture at the root of victim-blaming. The main character, warrior-like Okonkwo, embodies the traditional values that are ultimately doomed. By the time Achebe was born in , missionaries had been settled in his village for decades. He wrote in English and took the title of his novel from a Yeats poem, but wove Igbo proverbs throughout this lyrical work. Orwell was interested in the mechanics of totalitarianism, imagining a society that took the paranoid surveillance of the Soviets to chilling conclusions.
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Our hero, Winston, tries to resist a grey world where a screen watches your every move, but bravery is ultimately futile when the state worms its way inside your mind. Her device was simple but incendiary: look at the world through the eyes of a six-year-old, in this case, Jean Louise Finch, whose father is a lawyer defending a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.
Great Expectations is the roiling tale of the orphaned Pip, the lovely Estella, and the thwarted Miss Havisham. In an astonishing act of literary ventriloquism, Mantel inhabits a fictionalised version of Thomas Cromwell, a working-class boy who rose through his own fierce intelligence to be a key player in the treacherous world of Tudor politics. Historical fiction so immersive you can smell the fear and ambition. Wallow in this sublimely silly tale of the ultimate comic double act: bumbling aristocrat Bertie Wooster and his omniscient butler, Jeeves.
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A sheer joy to read that also manages to satirise British fascist leader Oswald Mosley as a querulous grump in black shorts. Shelley was just 18 when she wrote Frankenstein as part of a challenge with her future husband, Percy Shelley, and Lord Byron, to concoct the best horror story. Some years after it was first published, the gothic tale feels more relevant than ever as genetic science pushes the boundaries of what it means to create life.
His theory is this: maroon a bunch of schoolboys on an island, and watch how quickly the trappings of decent behaviour fall away. Never has a broken pair of spectacles seemed so sinister, or civilisation so fragile. Not many love stories take in a mad woman in the attic and a spot of therapeutic disfigurement, but this one somehow carries it off with mythic aplomb. This is a richly satisfying slow burn of a novel that follows the lives and loves of the inhabitants of a small town in England through the years — The acerbic wit and timeless truth of its observations mark this out as a work of genius; but at the time the author, Mary Anne Evans, had to turn to a male pen name to be taken seriously.
Stick another log on the fire and curl up with this dark, peculiar and quite brilliant literary murder tale. A group of classics students become entranced by Greek mythology - and then take it up a level. Remember, kids: never try your own delirious Dionysian ritual at home. A subtle and engrossing look at racial identity, through the story of a charismatic young Nigerian woman who leaves her comfortable Lagos home for a world of struggles in the United States.
Capturing both the hard-scrabble life of US immigrants and the brash divisions of a rising Nigeria, Adichie crosses continents with all her usual depth of feeling and lightness of touch. An absolute unadulterated comic joy of a novel.
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Stella Gibbons neatly pokes fun at sentimental navel-gazing with her zesty heroine Flora, who is more interested in basic hygiene than histrionics. Morrison was inspired by the real-life story of an enslaved woman who killed her own daughter rather than see her return to slavery. Evelyn Waugh bottles the intoxicating vapour of a vanished era in this novel about middle-class Charles Ryder, who meets upper-class Sebastian Flyte at Oxford University in the s.
Rarely has a fictional world been so completely realised. Will there ever be a novel that burns with more passionate intensity than Wuthering Heights? My sin, my soul. Back in an age before artificial intelligence could teach itself to play chess in a few hours better than any grandmaster that ever lived, Philip K Dick was using the concept of android life to explore what it meant to be human, and what it is to be left behind on a compromised planet. That he could do it in pages that set the mind spinning and engage the emotions with every page-turn make this a rare science-fiction indeed.
The Catcher in the Rye is the quintessential novel of the adolescent experience, captured in deathless prose.
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Dashiel Hammett may have been harder boiled, his plots more intricate but, wow, does Raymond Chandler have style. As a woman on the make, Becky is the perfect blend of wit, cunning and cold-hearted ruthlessness. Try as film and TV might to humanise and make excuses for her, Becky needs victims to thrive! Almost every word is arresting, and the way that Plath captures the vivid life happening around Esther, news events, magazine parties, accentuates the deadening illness that drives her towards suicidal feelings.
Harry Potter may be more popular, but Willy Wonka is altogether weirder. In Anna Karenina — enormous, too!
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The most deliciously wicked experience in literature, this epistolary novel introduces us to the Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont, who play cruel games of sexual conquest on their unwitting victims. Sexy but very, very bad. There she meets the housekeeper Mrs Danvers, formerly devoted to Rebecca, who proceeds to torment her. As atmospheric, psychological horror it just gets darker and darker.
The imposing Prince Don Fabrizio presides over a town close to Palermo during the last days of an old world in which class stratifications are stable and understood. Support free-thinking journalism and subscribe to Independent Minds. Enter your email address Continue Continue Please enter an email address Email address is invalid Fill out this field Email address is invalid Email already exists. Update newsletter preferences.
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