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The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) by Henry Alain-Fournier

The Lost Estate is Robin Buss's translation of Henri Alain-Fournier's poignant study of lost love, Le Grand Meaulnes.

In his restless search for his Lost Estate and the happiness he found there, Meaulnes, observed by his loyal friend Francois, may risk losing everything he ever had. Poised between youthful admiration and adult resignation, Alain-Fournier's compelling narrator carries the reader through this evocative and unbearably poignant portrayal of desperate friendship and vanished adolescence.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

The compelling autobiographical tale of a young woman desperately seeking a place in the world.

When her family becomes impoverished after a disastrous financial speculation, Agnes Grey determines to find work as a governess in order to contribute to their meagre income and assert her independence. But Agnes's enthusiasm is swiftly extinguished as she struggles first with the unmanageable Bloomfield children and then with the painful disdain of the haughty Murray family; the only kindness she receives comes from Mr Weston, the sober young curate. Drawing on her own experience, Anne Brontë's first novel offers a compelling personal perspective on the desperate position of unmarried, educated women for whom becoming a governess was the only respectable career open in Victorian society.

 

 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

This Penguin Classic is performed by Katie Leung, star of the Harry Potter films. This definitive recording includes an Introduction by Hugh Haughton.

Conjured up one 'golden afternoon' in 1862 to entertain Alice Liddell, the daughter of the dean of Carroll's college, the dream worlds of nonsensical Wonderland and back-to-front Looking-Glass kingdom depict order turned upside-down. Following the white rabbit into his warren, Alice falls into a world where croquet is played with hedgehogs and flamingos, a baby turns into a pig, time runs amok at a the Mad Hatter's tea-party, a chaotic game of chess makes Alice a Queen and the Mock Turtle and Gryphon dance the Lobster Quadrille. But amongst the anarchic humour and sparkling wordplay, unforgettable characters, puzzles and riddles, are poignant moments of nostalgia for a lost childhood. 

 

 

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, regarded by many to be first novel in English, is also the original tale of a castaway struggling to survive on a remote desert island.

The sole survivor of a shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe is washed up on a desert island. In his journal he chronicles his daily battle to stay alive, as he conquers isolation, fashions shelter and clothes, enlists the help of a native islander who he names 'Friday', and fights off cannibals and mutineers. Written in an age of exploration and enterprise, it has been variously interpreted as an embodiment of British imperialist values, as a portrayal of 'natural man', or as a moral fable. But above all is a brilliant narrative, depicting Crusoe's transformation from terrified survivor to self-sufficient master of an island.

 

Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens's maturity.

When Arthur Clennam returns to England after many years abroad, he takes a kindly interest in Amy Dorrit, his mother's seamstress, and in the affairs of Amy's father, a man of shabby grandeur, long imprisoned for debt in the Marshalsea. As Arthur discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect many lives, from Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier.

 

Tales from the Thousand and One Nights by Charles Dickens

Sometimes known as the Arabian NightsTales from the Thousand and One Nights includes some of the world's best-loved tales, including such classics as Aladdin and 'Sindbad the Sailor'

The tales told by Scheherazade over a thousand and one nights to delay her execution by the vengeful King Shahryar have become among the most popular in both Eastern and Western literature. From the epic adventures of 'Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp' to the farcical 'Young Woman and her Five Lovers' and the social criticism of 'The Tale of the Hunchback', the stories depict a fabulous world of all-powerful sorcerers, jinns imprisoned in bottles and enchanting princesses. But despite their imaginative extravagance, the Tales are also anchored to everyday life by their bawdiness and realism, providing a full and intimate record of medieval Eastern world.

 

The Diary of  a Nobody by George Grossmith

A razor-sharp satire about the everyday mishaps of the immortal comic character Mr Pooter.

Mr Pooter is a man of modest ambitions, content with his ordinary life. Yet he always seems to be troubled by disagreeable tradesmen, impertinent young office clerks and wayward friends, not to mention his devil-may-care son Lupin with his unsuitable choice of bride. In the bumbling, absurd, yet ultimately endearing character of Pooter, the Grossmith brothers created a wonderful portrait of the class system and the inherent snobbishness of the suburban middle-class suburbia - one which sends up the late Victorian crazes for Aestheticism, spiritualism and bicycling, as well as the fashion for publishing diaries by anybody and everybody.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

A comic masterpiece that has never been out of print since it was first published in 1889.

Martyrs to hypochondria and general seediness, J. and his friends George and Harris decide that a jaunt up the Thames would suit them to a 'T'. But when they set off, they can hardly predict the troubles that lie ahead with tow-ropes, unreliable weather forecasts and tins of pineapple chunks - not to mention the devastation left in the wake of J.'s small fox-terrier Montmorency. Three Men in a Boat was an instant success when it appeared in 1889, and, with its benign escapism, authorial discursions and wonderful evocation of the late-Victorian 'clerking classes', it hilariously captured the spirit of its age.

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

Fifteen exquisite tales from one of the world'd greatest writers of the short story.

Innovative, startlingly perceptive and aglow with colour, these stories were written towards the end of Katherine Mansfield's tragically short life. Many are set in the author's native New Zealand, others in England and the French Riviera. All are revelations of the unspoken, half-understood emotions that make up everyday experience - from the blackly comic 'The Daughters of the Late Colonel', and the short, sharp sketch 'Miss Brill', in which a lonely woman's precarious sense of self is brutally destroyed, to the vivid impressionistic evocation of family life in 'At the Bay'. 'All that I write,' Mansfield said, 'all that I am - is on the borders of the sea. It is a kind of playing.'

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

In one of Shakespeare's most perennially popular comedies a young woman, Hermia, flees ancient Athens with her lover, only to be pursued by her would-be husband and her best friend. Unwittingly, all four find themselves in an enchanted forest where fairies and sprites take an interest in human affairs, dispensing magical love potions and casting mischievous spells. Slapstick collides with courtly romance and confusion ends in harmony, as love is transformed, misplaced and ultimately restored.

Much Ado About Nothing  by William Shakespeare

Beatrice and Benedick both claim they are determined never to marry. But when their friends trick them into believing that each harbours secret feelings for the other, the pair begin to question whether their witty banter and verbal sparring conceal something deeper. Schemes abound, dangerous misunderstandings proliferate and matches are eventually made in this dazzling, dark-edged comedy of mature love and second chances.

Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

A joyful celebration of the endless possibilities of the art of fiction, Tristram Shandy is also a wry demonstration of its limitations.

Laurence Sterne's great masterpiece of bawdy humour and rich satire defies any attempt to categorize it. Part novel, part digression, its gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters, including Dr Slop, Corporal Trim and the parson Yorick. 

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

The classic tale of shipwreck and adventure in strange lands, Gulliver's Travels is also a wickedly clever satire on the nature of humankind.

Shipwrecked and cast adrift, Lemuel Gulliver wakes to find himself on Lilliput, an island inhabited by little people, whose height makes their quarrels over fashion and fame seem ridiculous. His subsequent encounters - with the crude giants of Brobdingnag, the philosophical Houyhnhnms and brutish Yahoos - give Gulliver new, bitter insights into human behaviour. Swift's savage satire views mankind in a distorted hall of mirrors as a diminished, magnified and finally bestial species, presenting us with an uncompromising reflection of ourselves.

War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy's magnificent epic begins at a glittering society party in St Petersburg in 1805, where conversations are dominated by the prospect of war. Terror swiftly engulfs the country as Napoleon's army marches on Russia, and the lives of three young people are changed forever. The stories of quixotic Pierre, cynical Andrey and impetuous Natasha interweave with a huge cast, from aristocrats and peasants to soldiers and Napoleon himself, in a novel of conflict and love, birth and death, free will and fate, and human life in all its imperfection and grandeur.

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