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Exploring issues of colonialism, faith and the limits of comprehension, E.M. Forster's A Passage to India is published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced 'Anglo-Indian' community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and explore the 'real India', they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects. A masterly portrait of a society in the grip of imperialism, A Passage to India compellingly depicts the fate of individuals caught between the great political and cultural conflicts of the modern world.
'His great book ... masterly in its presence and its lucidity'
Published: 6 Aug 2015
Penelope Lively's Booker Prize winning classic, Moon Tiger is a haunting story of loss and desire, published here as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
Claudia Hampton - beautiful, famous, independent, dying.
But she remains defiant to the last, telling her nurses that she will write a 'history of the world . . . and in the process, my own'. And it is her story from a childhood just after the First World War through the Second and beyond. But Claudia's life is entwined with others and she must allow those who knew her, loved her, the chance to speak, to put across their point of view. There is Gordon, brother and adversary; Jasper, her untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool conventional daughter; and then there is Tom, her one great love, found and lost in wartime Egypt.
'Leaves its traces in the air long after you've put it away' Anne Tyler
'A complex tapestry of great subtlety. Lively writes so well, savouring the words as she goes' Daily Telegraph
'Very clever: evocative, thought-provoking and hangs on the mind long after it is finished' Literary Review
A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is bestselling author Marina Lewycka's hilarious and award winning debut novel, now available as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
'Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.'
Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth.
But the sisters' campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe's darkest history and sends them back to roots they'd much rather forget . . .
'It's rare to find a first novel that gets so much right . . . Lewycka is a seriously talented comic writer' Time Out
'Hugely enjoyable . . . yields a golden harvest of family truths' Daily Telegraph
'Delightful, funny, touching' Spectator
A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas and one of the best-loved comic novels of all time, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'We are not like other folk, maybe, but there have always been Starkadders at Cold Comfort Farm...'
Sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste has been expensively educated to do everything but earn a living. When she is orphaned at twenty, she decides her only option is to descend on relatives - the doomed Starkadders at the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm.
There is Judith in a scarlet shawl, heaving with remorse for an unspoken wickedness; raving old Ada Doom, who once saw something nasty in the woodshed; lustful Seth and despairing Reuben, Judith's two sons; and there is Amos, preaching fire and damnation to one and all.
As the sukebind flowers, Flora takes each of the family in hand and brings order to their chaos.
Cold Comfort Farm is a sharp and clever parody of the melodramatic and rural novel.
'Very probably the funniest book ever written' Sunday Times
'Screamingly funny and wildly subversive' Marian Keyes, Guardian
'Delicious ... Cold Comfort Farm has the sunniness of a P. G. Wodehouse and the comic aplomb of Evelyn Waugh's Scoop' Independent
'One of the finest parodies written in English...a wickedly brilliant skit' Robert Macfarlane, Guardian
Stella Gibbons was born in London in 1902. She went to North London Collegiate School and studied journalism at University College, London. She then worked for ten years on various papers, including the Evening Standard. Her first publication was a book of poems, The Mountain Beast (1930), and her first novel, Cold Comfort Farm (1932), won the Femina Vie Heureuse Prize. Amongst her other novels are Miss Linsey and Pa (1936), Nightingale Wood (1938), Westwood (1946), Conference at Cold Comfort Farm (1949) and Beside the Pearly Water (1954). Stella Gibbons died in 1989.
'Hunters for gold or pursuers of fame, they all had gone out on that stream, bearing the sword, and often the torch, messengers of the might within the land, bearers of a spark from the sacred fire.'
Marlow, a seaman, tells of a journey up the Congo. His goal is the troubled European and ivory trader Kurtz. Worshipped and feared by invaders as well as natives, Kurtz has become a godlike figure, his presence pervading the jungle like a thick, obscuring mist. As his boat labours further upstream, closer and closer to Kurtz's extraordinary and terrible domain, so Marlow finds his faith in himself and civilization crumbling.
'Late into the night we talked of love, of its complications. In my father's eyes they were imaginary. . . This conception of rapid, violent and passing love affairs appealed to my imagination. I was not at the age when fidelity is attractive. I knew very little about love.'
The French Riviera: home to the Beautiful People. And none are more beautiful than Cécile, a precocious seventeen-year-old, and her father Raymond, a vivacious libertine. Charming, decadent and irresponsible, the golden-skinned duo are dedicated to a life of free love, fast cars and hedonistic pleasures. But then, one long, hot summer Raymond decides to marry, and Cécile and her lover Cyril feel compelled to take a hand in his amours, with tragic consequences.
Bonjour Tristesse scandalized 1950s France with its portrayal of teenager terrible Cécile, a heroine who rejects conventional notions of love, marriage and responsibility to choose her own sexual freedom.
'Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.'
Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, frustrated college professor. In love with his landlady's twelve-year-old daughter Lolita, he'll do anything to possess her. Unable and unwilling to stop himself, he is prepared to commit any crime to get what he wants.
Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these?
Anita Brookner's first novel, available as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
'Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature.'
Ruth Weiss, an academic, is beautiful, intelligent and lonely. Studying the heroines of Balzac in order to discover where her own childhood and adult life has gone awry, she seeks not salvation but enlightenment.
Yet in revisiting her London upbringing, her friendships and doomed Parisian love affairs, she wonders if perhaps there might not be a chance for a new start in life . . .
On the Road by Jack Kerouac is the exhilarating novel that defined the Beat Generation and is a 2012 major motion picture starring Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst and Sam Riley, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'What's your road, man? - holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, any road. It's an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.'
Sal Paradise, young and innocent, joins the slightly crazed Dean Moriarty on a breathless, exuberant ride back and forth across the United States. Their hedonistic search for release or fulfilment through drink, sex, drugs and jazz becomes an exploration of personal freedom, a test of the limits of the American Dream.
A brilliant blend of fiction and autobiography, Jack Kerouac's exhilarating novel defined the new 'Beat' generation and became the bible of the counter culture.
'On the Road sold a trillion Levis and a million espresso machines, and also sent countless kids on the road. The alienation, the restlessness, the dissatisfaction were already there waiting when Kerouac pointed out the road' William Burroughs
'Pop writing at its best. It changed the way I saw the world, making me yearn for fresh experience' Hanif Kureishi, Independent on Sunday
Jack Kerouac was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1922. Educated by Jesuit brothers in Lowell, he decided to become a writer at age seventeen and developed his own writing style, which he called 'spontaneous prose'. He used this technique to record the life of the American 'traveler' and the experiences of the Beat Generation, most memorably in On the Road and also in The Subterraneans and The Dharma Bums. His other works include Big Sur, Desolation Angels, Lonesome Traveler, Visions of Gerard, Tristessa, and a book of poetry called Mexico City Blues. Jack Kerouac died in 1969.
'I knew Sebastian by sight long before I met him. That was unavoidable for, from his first week, he was the most conspicuous man of his year by reason of his beauty, which was arresting, and his eccentricities of behaviour, which seemed to know no bounds.'
Charles Ryder, a lonely student at Oxford, is captivated by the outrageous and exquisitely beautiful Sebastian Flyte. Invited to Brideshead, Sebastian's magnificent family home, Charles welcomes the attentions of its eccentric, aristocratic inhabitants. But he also discovers a world where duty and desire, faith and earthly happiness are in conflict; a world which threatens to destroy his beloved Sebastian.
A scintillating depiction of the decadent, privileged aristocracy prior to the Second World War, Brideshead Revisited is widely regarded as Evelyn Waugh's finest work.
Nobel Laureate and two-time Booker prize-winning author of Disgrace and The Life and Times of Michael K, J. M. Coetzee reimagines Daniel DeFoe's classic novel Robinson Crusoe in Foe. Published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
In an act of breathtaking imagination, J.M Coetzee radically reinvents the story of Robinson Crusoe.
In the early eighteenth century, Susan Barton finds herself adrift from a mutinous ship and cast ashore on a remote desert island. There she finds shelter with its only other inhabitants: a man named Cruso and his tongueless slave, Friday. In time, she builds a life for herself as Cruso's companion and, eventually, his lover. At last they are rescued by a passing ship, but only she and Friday survive the journey back to London.
Determined to have her story told, she pursues the eminent man of letters Daniel Foe in the hope that he will relate truthfully her memories to the world. But with Cruso dead, Friday incapable of speech and Foe himself intent on reshaping her narrative, Barton struggles to maintain her grip on the past, only to fall victim to the seduction of storytelling itself.
Treacherous, elegant and unexpectedly moving, Foe remains one of the most exquisitely composed of this pre-eminent author's works.
'A small miracle of a book. . . of marvellous intricacy and overwhelming power' Washington Post
'A superb novel' The New York Times
Kurt Vonnegut (Author) , Benjamin Kunkel (Introducer)
Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle is an irreverent and highly entertaining fantasy about the playful irresponsibility of nuclear scientists, beautifully repackaged as part of the Penguin Essentials range.
'All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.'
Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founding fathers of the atomic bomb, has left a deadly legacy to the world. For he is the inventor of Ice-nine, a lethal chemical capable of freezing the entire planet. The search for its whereabouts leads to Hoenikker's three eccentric children, to a crazed dictator in the Caribbean, to madness.
Will Felix Hoenikker's death wish come true? Will his last, fatal gift to humankind bring about the end that, for all of us, is nigh?
Told with deadpan humour and bitter irony, Kurt Vonnegut's cult tale of global apocalypse preys on our deepest fears of witnessing the end and, worse still, surviving it . . .
'The time to read Vonnegut is just when you begin to suspect that the world is not what it appears to be. He is not only entertaining, he is electrocuting. You read him with enormous pleasure because he makes your hair stand on end' New York Times
'One of the warmest, wisest, funniest voices to be found anywhere in fiction' Daily Telegraph
'Vonnegut has looked the world straight in the eye and never flinched' J. G. Ballard
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and was followed by The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House (1968); a collection of short stories, Slaughterhouse Five (1969), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988), Hocus Pocus (1990) and Timequake (1997). He is also the author of a number of collections of short stories and essays. Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007.
Fast, thrilling, compulsively addictive - The Circle is Dave Eggers's timely novel about our obsession with the internet, now available as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
When Mae is hired to work for the Circle, the world's most powerful internet company, she feels she's been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Run out of a sprawling California campus, the Circle links users' personal emails, social media, and finances with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of transparency. Mae can't believe her great fortune to work for them - even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public ...
'Tremendous. Inventive, big hearted and very funny. Prepare to be addicted' Daily Mail
'Prescient, important and enjoyable . . . a deft modern synthesis of Swiftian wit with Orwellian prognostication' Guardian
'A gripping and highly unsettling read' Sunday Times
Herman Hesse (Author) , Walter Sorell (Revised by), Basil Creighton (Translator)
'The unhappiness that I need and long for . . . is of the kind that will let me suffer with eagerness and die with lust. That is the unhappiness, or happiness, that I am waiting for.'
Alienated from society, Harry Haller is the Steppenwolf, wild, strange and shy. His despair and desire for death draw him into an enchanted, Faust-like underworld. Through a series of shadowy encounters, romantic, freakish and savage by turn, Haller begins to rediscover the lost dreams of his youth.
Adopted by the Sixties counterculture, Steppenwolf captured the mood of a disaffected generation that was beginning to question everything.
Muriel Spark's classic The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie features a schoolmistress you'll never forget, in this beautifully repackaged Penguin Essentials edition.
'Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life . . .'
Passionate, free-thinking and unconventional, Miss Brodie is a teacher who exerts a powerful influence over her group of 'special girls' at Marcia Blaine School. They are the Brodie set, the crème de la crème, each famous for something - Monica for mathematics, Eunice for swimming, Rose for sex - who are initiated into a world of adult games and extracurricular activities they will never forget. But the price they pay is their undivided loyalty . . .
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a brilliantly comic novel featuring one of the most unforgettable characters in all literature.
'Muriel Spark's novels linger in the mind as brilliant shards' John Updike
'Spark's most celebrated novel' Independent
'There is no question about the quality and distinctiveness of her writing, with its quirky concern with human nature, and its comedy' William Boyd
'A brilliant psychological figure' Observer
Muriel Spark was born and educated in Edinburgh. She was active in the field of creative writing since 1950, when she won a short-story writing competition in the Observer, and her many subsequent novels include Memento Mori (1959), The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961), The Girls of Slender Means (1963) and Aiding and Abetting (2000). She also wrote plays, poems, children's books and biographies. She became Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1993, and died in 2006.
A haunting novel about art and its power to heal, J. L. Carr's A Month in the Country published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
'That night, for the first time during many months, I slept like the dead and, next morning, awoke very early.'
One summer, just after the Great War, Tom Birkin, a demobbed soldier, arrives in the village of Oxgodby. He has been invited to uncover and restore a medieval wall painting in the local church. At the same time, Charles Moon - a fellow damaged survivor of the war - has been asked to locate the grave of a village ancestor. As these two outsiders go about their work of recovery, they form a bond, but they also stir up long dormant passions within the village. What Berkin discovers here will stay with him for the rest of his life . . .
Published: 14 Aug 2014
'Snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves.'
From a child grappling with the death of a fallen priest, to a young woman's dilemma over whether to elope to Argentina with her lover, to the dance party at which a man discovers just how little he really knows about his wife, these fifteen stories bring the gritty realism of existence in Joyce's native Dublin to life.
The hilarious 1980s political satire by Jonathan Coe, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
It is the 1980s and the Winshaw family are getting richer and crueller by the year:
Newspaper-columnist Hilary gets thousands for telling it like it isn't; Henry's turning hospitals into car parks; Roddy's selling art in return for sex; down on the farm Dorothy's squeezing every last pound from her livestock; Thomas is making a killing on the stock exchange; and Mark is selling arms to dictators.
But once their hapless biographer Michael Owen starts investigating the family's trail of greed, corruption and immoral doings, the time growing ripe for the Winshaws to receive their comeuppance. . .
This wickedly funny take on life under the Thatcher government was the winner of the 1995 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize
'A sustained feat of humour, suspense and polemic, full of twists and ironies' Hilary Mantel, Sunday Times
'A riveting social satire on the chattering and all-powerful upper classes' Time Out
'Big, hilarious, intricate, furious, moving' Guardian
'His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as a mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.'
Jix Dixon has a terrible job at a second-rate university. His life is full of things he could happily do without: the tedious and ridiculous Professor Welch, a neurotic and unstable girlfriend, Margaret, burnt sheets, medieval recorder music and over-enthusiastic students. If he can just deliver a lecture on 'Merrie England', a moderately successful career surely awaits him. But without luck, life is never simple . . .
'Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two friends, worth the name, someone to love and someone to love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink; for thirst is a dangerous thing.'
Suffering from every malady in the book except housemaid's knee, three men and a dog decide to head for a restful vacation on the Thames. Anticipating peace and leisure, they encounter, in fact, the joys of roughing it, of getting their boat stuck in locks, of being towed by amateurs, of having to eat their own cooking and, of course, of coping with the glorious English weather.