Beautiful books

Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen

The Penguin English Library Edition of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

"The more I know of the world, the more am I convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much!"

Jane Austen's novel tells the story of Marianne Dashwood, who wears her heart on her sleeve, and when she falls in love with the dashing but unsuitable John Willoughby she ignores her sister Elinor's warning that her impulsive behaviour leaves her open to gossip and innuendo. Meanwhile Elinor, always sensitive to social convention, is struggling to conceal her own romantic disappointment, even from those closest to her. Through their parallel experience of love - and its threatened loss - the sisters learn that sense must mix with sensibility if they are to find personal happiness in a society where status and money govern the rules of love.

The Penguin English Library - 100 editions of the best fiction in English, from the eighteenth century and the very first novels to the beginning of the First World War.

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

'It isn't running away they're afraid of. We wouldn't get far. It's those other escapes, the ones you can open in yourself, given a cutting edge'

Offred is a Handmaid. She has only one function: to breed. If she refuses to play her part she will, like all dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. She may walk daily to the market and utter demure words to other Handmaid's, but her role is fixed, her freedom a forgotten concept.

Offred remembers her old life - love, family, a job, access to the news. It has all been taken away. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire.

Includes exclusive content: In The 'Backstory' you can read Margaret Atwood's account of how she came to write this landmark dystopian novel

'Compulsively readable' Daily Telegraph

Wide Sargasso Sea

Jean Rhys (and others)

A gorgeous clothbound edition of Jean Rhys's great masterpiece of desire and madness in the Caribbean, published for the novel's fiftieth anniversary.

Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel's heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys's brief, beautiful masterpiece.

'She took one of the works of genius of the nineteenth century and turned it inside-out to create one of the works of genius of the twentieth century'
Michele Roberts, The Times

Highballs for Breakfast

P.G. Wodehouse

'A splendid anthology' The Times

No writer knew better than PG Wodehouse how a drink can lift the spirits – and he was a master at the high comic effects of having a few too many. Highballs for Breakfast is a handpicked selection of wit, wisdom and comic moments from Wodehouse’s work that involve getting pickled or plastered, or lathered or sozzled, and getting in and out of all manner of scrapes.

If some great writers dwelled on the darker side of drinking, Wodehouse was concerned with the pure pleasure to be had from ‘the magic bottle’ and getting outside of the contents of a tall glass. His imperishable writing displays a well-turned appreciation for all kinds of booze – cocktails, champagne, port, whiskey and brandy (with soda, of course); but also the humble pint, and even the infamous poteen.

This sparkling collection captures Wodehouse at his best on being terribly thirsty, or drowning one’s sorrows, or knocking one back for Dutch courage. It finds him celebrating the special atmospheres of the English country pub and the Manhattan barroom. And it shows him to be exceptionally good on hangovers, but equally so on hangover cures, such as the legendary pick-me-ups prepared for Bertie Wooster by the dependable Jeeves.

For all lovers of a laugh and a drink, Highballs for Breakfast is a tonic, a bracer, and a tissue-restorer.

The Waves (Vintage Classics Woolf Series)

Virginia Woolf

The Waves is an astonishingly beautiful and poetic novel. It begins with six children playing in a garden by the sea and follows their lives as they grow up and experience friendship, love and grief at the death of their beloved friend Percival. Regarded by many as her greatest work, The Waves is also seen as Virginia Woolf's response to the loss of her brother Thoby, who died when he was twenty-six.

Lust

Roald Dahl

From Roald Dahl, the master of the sting in the tail, a newly collected book of his darkest stories

We fall not in love but in lust . . .

Lust, in all its myriad forms, consumes us. What won't we do to achieve our heart's desire? In these ten tales of twisted love master storyteller Roald Dahl explores how our darkest impulses reveal who we really are.

Here you'll read a story concerning wife swapping with a sting in its tail, hear of the aphrodisiac that drives men into a frenzy, discover the last act in a tale of jilted first love and discover the naked truth of art, among others.

Dahl understood our deepest secrets, desires and fears and Lust is one of four books - the rest being Madness, Cruelty and Deception - that explore our hidden selves.

New and forthcoming

Decline and Fall

Evelyn Waugh

A tie-in edition of Waugh's first and funniest novel to accompany the new BBC adaptation starring Jack Whitehall.

Sent down from Oxford University for indecent behaviour, Paul Pennyfeather embarks on a series of bizarre adventures that start in a minor public school and end in one of Her Majesty's prisons. In this, his first and funniest novel, Evelyn Waugh brilliantly satirised the roaring twenties with his story of an innocent abroad in high society.

Rome Stories

Jonathan Keates

During its three-thousand-year history Rome has been an imperial metropolis, the capital of a nation and the spiritual core of a great world religion. For writers from antiquity to the present, however, the place holds an alternative significance as a realm of fantasy, aspiration and desire. Captivating and lethal at one and the same moment, its fatal gift of beauty both transfigures and betrays those in thrall to it. Rome Stories explores the city's fateful impact through the writing of classical historians, a Renaissance sculptor, 18th-century tourists, American, British and French novelists and the authors of modern Rome, each testing and unravelling the city's ageless paradoxes. Gibbon admires the Last of the Tribunes, Goethe decodes the mysteries of the Carnival and Stendhal's subversive aristocrats mingle revolution with a little cross-dressing amid their gilt mirrors and frescoed ceilings From Plutarch to Pasolini, from Hawthorne to Wharton, the city of Caesars and popes, of dreamers, chancers and hustlers confronts the questing imagination with its eternally unflinching gaze.

Zuleika Dobson

Max Beerbohm

Zuleika Dobson, great beauty and second-rate conjurer, leaves a trail of broken hearts behind her wherever she goes. When she arrives at Oxford to stay with her grandfather, the Warden of Judas College, the entire student population is immediately smitten - including the proud and impossibly noble Duke of Dorset. But disaster looms for the fatally lovelorn undergraduates in Beerbohm's brilliant satire on the strange and enchanting world of Oxford before the wars.

Clayhanger

Arnold Bennett

No longer a boy, not quite a man, Edwin Clayhanger stands on a canal bridge on his last day of school, and surveys the valley of Bursley and the Five Towns. Serious, good-natured and full of incoherent ambition, Edwin's hopes and dreams for the future are just taking shape, even as they are put to the test by challenges from Edwin's domineering father, the stifling constraints of society, and an unusual young woman.

Anna of the Five Towns

Arnold Bennett

Miserly and mysterious, the richest man in the Five Towns lives simply, ruling his household with an iron fist and a cruel temper. His daughter, Anna, is used to the life of strict, thrifty order imposed by her father. But when she comes of age, Anna inherits a small fortune and attracts the attentions of the town's most eligible bachelor. A new world seems to be opening to Anna, but her heart, given a taste of freedom, leads her in unexpected directions.

Little Women

Louisa May Alcott (and others)

A BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation of the evergreen classic novel by Louisa May Alcott.

With their father away fighting in the American Civil War, the four March girls are facing a lean Christmas with their mother. But the sisters’ close bond and determination to make the best of things enables them to find happiness despite their poverty.

As the years go by we follow their fortunes as they journey into womanhood. Meg the beauty, Jo the tomboy, shy Beth and precocious Amy will encounter adventure, hardship, joys and disappointments, and learn to meet the challenges of life as they become independent and make their way in the world. While marriage and motherhood may beckon for the sisters, their most enduring love is always for each other.

First published in 1868 and never out of print since, this iconic coming-of-age tale is a perennial favourite that has touched the hearts of generations of readers. This moving BBC Radio 4 dramatisation stars Natasha J Barnes, Julianna Jennings, Bryony Hannah and Samantha Dakin as Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, with Tara Ward as Mrs March and Alex Lanipekun as Laurie.

Duration: 2 hours 20 mins approx.

The Grand Babylon Hotel

Arnold Bennett

Nella, daughter of millionaire Theodore Racksole, orders a dinner of steak and beer at the exclusive Grand Babylon Hotel in London. Her order is refused, so Theodore promptly buys the chef, the kitchen and the whole hotel. But when hotel staff begin to vanish and a German prince goes missing, Nella discovers that murder, blackmail and kidnapping are also on the menu. A rollicking murder mystery from one of the finest writers of the last century.

And Quiet Flows the Don

Mikhail Sholokhov (and others)

The epic novel of love, war and revolution from Mikhail Sholokhov, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature

An extraordinary Russian masterpiece, And Quiet Flows the Don follows the turbulent fortunes of the Cossack people through peace, war and revolution - among them the proud and rebellious Gregor Melekhov, who struggles to be with the woman he loves as his country is torn apart. Borne of Mikhail Sholokhov's own early life in the lands of the Cossacks by the river Don, it is a searing portrait of a nation swept up in conflict, with all the tragic choices it brings.