Beautiful books

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde (and others)

Oscar Wilde's tale of a Faustian pact in Victorian England, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a both a slow-burning Gothic horror and a brilliant philosophical investigation of youth, beauty and desire. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with an introduction and notes by Robert Mighall.

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The Picture of Dorian Gray was a succès de scandale. Early readers were shocked by its hints at unspeakable sins, and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. It has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb.

This definitive edition includes a selection of contemporary reviews condemning the novels immorality, and the introduction to the first Penguin Classics edition by Peter Ackroyd.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), son of an eminent eye-surgeon and a nationalist poet, was educated in Dublin and Oxford and became the leading exponent of the new Aesthetic Movement. His work, including short fiction such The Happy Price (1888), his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), gradually won him a reputation, which was cemented by his phenomenally successful plays, including A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Imprisoned for homosexual acts, he died after his release, in exile in Paris.

If you enjoyed The Picture of Dorian Gray, you might like Joris-Karl Huysmans' Against Nature (A Rebours) Wilde's real-life inspiration for the novel that slowly corrupts Dorian Gray, also available in Penguin Classics.

The Handmaid's Tale

Margaret Atwood

NOW A SMASH-HIT CHANNEL 4 TV SERIES

'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

The Forsytes Concludes

John Galsworthy (and others)

8 episodes based on the last volume of John Galsworthy’s saga, including the novels Maid in Waiting, Flowering Wilderness and One More River.
The saga moves to Oxfordshire, where the Cherrell family is introduced and Dinny Cherrell, cousin to Fleur and Michael, is full of excitement at the life ahead of her. As the years unfold, however, she is struck by love, then tragedy, and shock as figures from the past return unexpectedly.

On Heroes and Tombs

Ernesto Sabato (and others)

'A novelist of immense power ... uncompromising and original' Colm Tóibín

'I can feel the passage of time, as though it were coursing through my veins, along with my blood...'

One June day in 1955 Alejandra, last of a noble yet decaying Argentinian dynasty, shoots her father, locks herself up with his body, and sets fire to them both. What caused this act of insanity? Does the answer lie with Martín, her troubled lover, Bruno, the writer who worshipped her mother, or with her father Fernando himself, demonic creator of the strange 'Report on the Blind'? Their lives entwine in Ernesto Sabato's dark epic of passion, philosophy and paranoia in Buenos Aires.

'Bewitched, baroque, monumental' Newsweek

East of Eden

John Steinbeck

California's fertile Salinas Valley is home to two families whose destinies are fruitfully, and fatally, intertwined. Over the generations, between the beginning of the twentieth century and the end of the First World War, the Trasks and the Hamiltons will helplessly replay the fall of Adam and Eve and the murderous rivalry of Cain and Abel.

East of Eden was considered by Steinbeck to be his magnum opus, and its epic scope and memorable characters, exploring universal themes of love and identity, ensure it remains one of America's most enduring novels.

Of Mice and Men

John Steinbeck

'Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don't belong no place.'

George and his large, simple-minded friend Lennie are drifters, following wherever work leads them. Arriving in California's Salinas Valley, they get work on a ranch. If they can just stay out of trouble, George promises Lennie, then one day they might be able to get some land of their own and settle down some place. But kind-hearted, childlike Lennie is a victim of his own strength. Seen by others as a threat, he finds it impossible to control his emotions. And one day not even George will be able to save him from trouble.

Of Mice and Men is a tragic and moving story of friendship, loneliness and the dispossessed.

The Grapes of Wrath

John Steinbeck

'To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.'

Drought and economic depression are driving thousands from Oklahoma. As their land becomes just another strip in the dust bowl, the Joads, a family of sharecroppers, decide they have no choice but to follow. They head west, towards California, where they hope to find work and a future for their family. But while the journey to this promised land will take its inevitable toll, there remains uncertainty about what awaits their arrival . . .

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, The Grapes of Wrath is an epic human drama.

The Pearl

John Steinbeck

'In the town they tell the story of the great pearl - how it was found and how it was lost again. They tell of Kino, the fisherman, and of his wife, Juana, and of the baby, Coyotito. And because the story has been told so often, it has taken root in every man's mind.'

The Pearl is Steinbeck's heartbreaking short parable about wealth and the darkness and evil it can instill in even the most generous of men's hearts.

Cannery Row

John Steinbeck

'Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream.'

Meet the gamblers, whores, drunks, bums and artists of Cannery Row in Monterey, California, during the Great Depression. They want to throw a party for their friend Doc, so Mack and the boys set about, in their own inimitable way, recruiting everyone in the neighbourhood to the cause. But along the way they can't help but get involved in a little mischief and misadventure. It wouldn't be Cannery Row if it was otherwise, now would it?

Two Stories

Virginia Woolf (and others)

Virginia Woolf was one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. With her husband, Leonard Woolf, she started the Hogarth Press in 1917: the list ranged widely in fiction, poetry, politics and psychoanalysis, and published all Virginia Woolf’s own work.

Its first publication appeared in 2017: Two Stories, bound in bright Japanese paper, contained a short story from both Virginia and Leonard. Typeset and bound by Virginia, with illustrations by Dora Carrington, 134 copies were printed by Leonard using a small handpress installed in the dining room at Hogarth House, Richmond.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of ‘Publication No. 1’ this new edition of Two Stories takes the original text of Virginia’s story, ‘The Mark on the Wall’ (with illustrations by Dora Carrington), and pairs it with a new story, ‘St Brides Bay’, by Mark Haddon, a lifelong reader of Virginia Woolf.

TWO STORIES also includes a portrait of Virginia Woolf by Mark Haddon, and a short introduction from the publisher about the founding of the Press.