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The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

'Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers, - stern and wild ones, - and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss'

Fiercely romantic and hugely influential, The Scarlet Letter is the tale of Hester Prynne, imprisoned, publicly shamed, and forced to wear a scarlet 'A' for committing adultery and bearing an illegitimate child, Pearl. In their small, Puritan village, Hester and her daughter struggle to survive, but in this searing study of the tension between private and public existence, Hester Prynne's inner strength and quiet dignity means she has frequently been seen as one of the first great heroines of American fiction.

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.

Ethan Frome

Edith Wharton (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

'He seemed a part of the mute melancholy landscape, an incarnation of its frozen woe, with all that was warm and sentient in him fast bound below the surface'

Ethan Frome works his unproductive farm and struggles to maintain a bearable existence with his difficult, suspicious and hypochondriac wife, Zeena. But when Zeena's vivacious cousin enters their household as a 'hired girl', Ethan finds himself obsessed with her and with the possibilities for happiness she comes to represent. In one of American fiction's finest and most intense narratives, Edith Wharton moves this ill-starred trio towards their tragic destinies.

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 Moonstone

Wilkie Collins (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

'Here was our quiet English house suddenly invaded by a devilish Indian Diamond - bringing after it a conspiracy of living rogues, set loose on us by the vengeance of a dead man'

When Rachel Verinder's birthday present - the Moonstone, a large Indian diamond - is stolen at her party, suspicion and the diamond's mysterious curse seem set to ruin everyone and everything she loves. Only Sergeant Cuff's famous detective skills offer any hope of peace and a future for them all. The intricate plot and modern technique of multiple narrators made Wilkie Collin's 1868 work a huge success in the Victorian sensation genre. With a reconstruction of the crime, red herrings and a 'locked-room' puzzle, The Moonstone was also a major precursor of the modern mystery novel.

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.

Robinson Crusoe

Daniel Defoe (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

'I walk'd about on the shore, lifting up my hands, and my whole being, as I may say, wrapt up in the contemplation of my deliverance ... reflecting upon all my comrades that were drown'd, and that there should not be one soul sav'd but my self ... '

Who has not dreamed of life on an exotic isle, far away from civilization? Here is the novel which has inspired countless imitations by lesser writers, none of which equal the power and originality of Defoe's famous book. Robinson Crusoe, set ashore on an island after a terrible storm at sea, is forced to make do with only a knife, some tobacco, and a pipe. He learns how to build a canoe, make bread, and endure endless solitude. That is, until, twenty-four years later, when he confronts another human being. First published in 1719, Robinson Crusoe has been praised by such writers as James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Samuel Johnson as one of the greatest novels in the English language.

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.

Wives and Daughters

Elizabeth Gaskell (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

"Eh, miss, but that be a rare young lady! She do have such pretty coaxing ways ..."

Seventeen-year-old Molly Gibson worships her widowed father. But when he decides to remarry, Molly's life is thrown off course by the arrival of her vain, shallow and selfish stepmother. There is some solace in the shape of her new stepsister Cynthia, who is beautiful, sophisticated and irresistible to every man she meets. Soon the girls become close, and Molly finds herself cajoled into becoming a go-between in Cynthia's love affairs. But in doing so, Molly risks ruining her reputation in the gossiping village of Hollingford - and jeopardizing everything with the man she is secretly in love with.

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.

Villette

Charlotte Brontë (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Villette by Charlotte Brontë

'That evening more firmly than ever fastened into my soul the conviction that Fate was of stone, and Hope a false idol - blind, bloodless, and of granite core. I felt, too, that the trial God had appointed me was gaining its climax, and must now be turned by my own hands, hot, feeble, trembling as they were'

With neither friends nor family, Lucy Snowe sets sail from England to find employment in a girls' boarding school in the small town of Villette. There she struggles to retain her self-possession in the face of unruly pupils, an initially suspicious headmaster and her own complex feelings, first for the school's English doctor and then for the dictatorial professor Paul Emmanuel. Drawing on her own deeply unhappy experiences as a governess in Brussels, Charlotte Brontë's last and most autobiographical novel is a powerfully moving study of isolation and the pain of unrequited love, narrated by a heroine determined to preserve an independent spirit in the face of adverse circumstances.

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 Mill on the Floss

George Eliot (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

If life had no love in it, what else was there for Maggie?

Tragic and moving, The Mill on the Floss is a novel of grand passions and tormented lives. As the rebellious Maggie's fiery spirit and imaginative nature bring her into bitter conflict with her narrow provincial family, most painfully with her beloved brother Tom, their fates are played out on an epic scale. George Eliot drew on her own frustrated rural upbringing to create one of the great novels of childhood, and one of literature's most unforgettable heroines.

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.

Hard Times

Charles Dickens (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Hard Times by Charles Dickens

'Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else'

Coketown is dominated by the figure of Mr Thomas Gradgrind, school owner and model of Utilitarian success. Feeding both his pupils and his family with facts, he bans fancy and wonder from young minds. As a consequence his obedient daughter Louisa marries the loveless businessman and 'bully of humility' Mr Bounderby, and his son Tom rebels to become embroiled in gambling and robbery. And, as their fortunes cross with those of free-spirited circus girl Sissy Jupe and victimised weaver Stephen Blackpool, Gradgrind is eventually forced to recognise the value of the human heart in an age of materialism and machinery.

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

Howards End

E M Forster (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Howards End by E. M. Forster

'The poor cannot always reach those whom they want to love, and they can hardly ever escape from those whom they love no longer. We rich can'

'Only connect.' is the idea at the heart of this book, a heartbreaking and provocative tale of three families at the beginning of the twentieth century: the rich Wilcoxes, the gentle, idealistic Schlegels and the lower-middle class Basts. As the Schlegel sisters try desperately to help the Basts and educate the close-minded Wilcoxes, the families are drawn together in love, lies and death.

Frequently cited as E. M. Forster's finest work, Howards End brilliantly explores class warfare, conflict and the English character.

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.

Barchester Towers

Anthony Trollope (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

'What! to come here a stranger, a young, unknown, and unfriended stranger, and tell us, in the name of the bishop his master, that we are ignorant of our duties, old-fashioned, and useless!'

Trollope's comic masterpiece of plotting and backstabbing opens as the Bishop of Barchester lies on his deathbed. Soon a pitched battle breaks out over who will take power, involving, among others, the zealous reformer Dr Proudie, his fiendish wife and the unctuous schemer Obadiah Slope.

Barchester Towers is one of the best-loved novels in Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire series, which captured nineteenth-century provincial England with wit, worldly wisdom and an unparalleled gift for characterization.

The second book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

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.

North and South

Elizabeth Gaskell (Author)

The Penguin English Library edition of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

'How am I to dress up in my finery, and go off and away to smart parties, after the sorrow I have seen today?'

Elizabeth Gaskell's compassionate, richly dramatic novel features one of the most original and fully-rounded female characters in Victorian fiction, Margaret Hale. It shows how, forced to move from the country to an industrial northern town, she develops a passionate sense of social justice, and a turbulent relationship with mill-owner John Thornton. North and South depicts a young woman discovering herself, in a nuanced portrayal of what divides people, and what brings them together.

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 Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Anne Brontë (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

'She looked so like herself that I knew not how to bear it'

In this sensational, hard-hitting and passionate tale of marital cruelty, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall sees a mysterious tenant, Helen Graham, unmasked not as a 'wicked woman' as the local gossips would have it, but as the estranged wife of a brutal alcoholic bully, desperate to protect her son. Using her own experiences with her brother Branwell to depict the cruelty and debauchery from which Helen flees, Anne Brontë wrote her masterpiece to reflect the fragile position of women in society and her belief in universal redemption, but scandalized readers of the time.

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 Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

'I'm unfavorable to killin' a man as long as you can git around it; it ain't good sense, it ain't good morals. Ain't I right?'

The original Great American Novel, an incomparable adventure story and a classic of anarchic humour, Twain's masterpiece sees Huckleberry Finn and Jim the slave escape their difficult lives by fleeing down the Mississippi on a raft. There, they find steamships, feuding families, an unlikely Duke and King and vital lessons about the world in which they live. With its unforgettable cast of characters, Hemingway called this 'the best book we've ever had'.

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 Confidence-Man and Billy Budd, Sailor

Herman Melville (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of The Confidence - Man and Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville

'Life is a pic-nic en costume; one must take a part, assume a character, stand ready in a sensible way to play the fool'

In The Confidence-Man, Melville's unnerving and hallucinatory satire on the American dream, a slippery trickster and master of disguise comes to swindle his fellow passengers - who themselves may also be con-men - aboard a Mississippi steamboat.

Billy Budd, Sailor, published after Melville's death in 1891, is a gripping allegory of good and evil, as an innocent man, pressed into service on a British man-of-war, is falsely accused of mutiny. Both these late works are animated with the dark genius of the greatest of American writers.

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.

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Thomas Hardy (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

"I would be content, ay, glad, to live with you as your servant, if I may not as your wife; so that I could only be near you, and get glimpses of you, and think of you as mine ... I long for only one thing in heaven or earth or under the earth, to meet you, my own dear! Come to me - come to me, and save me from what threatens me!"

When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. With its sensitive depiction of the wronged Tess and powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D'Urbervilles is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy's novels.

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.

Joseph Andrews

Henry Fielding (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding

'Kissing, Joseph, is but a prologue to a Play. Can I believe a young fellow of your Age and Complexion will be content with Kissing?'

Henry Fielding's riotous tale of innocents in a corrupt world was one of the earliest English novels, blending bawdy slapstick, philosophical musing and pointed social satire to create a work of moral complexity and generous, life-affirming humanity. Published in 1742, it tells the story of the chaste servant Joseph Andrews who, after being sacked for spurning the advances of the lascivious Lady Booby, takes to the road, accompanied by his beloved Fanny Goodwill and the absent-minded, much put-upon Parson Adams. There they encounter robbers, tricksters, seducers, mishaps and strange twists of fortune, in a series of adventures filled with exuberant comedy.

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.

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

'The mind of man is capable of anything - because everything is in it, all the past as well as all the future. What was there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, rage - who can tell? - but truth - truth stripped of its cloak of time. Let the fool gape and shudder - the man knows, and can look on without a wink'

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. Conrad's Heart of Darkness has been considered the most important indictment of the evils of imperialism written to date.

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.

Northanger Abbey

Jane Austen (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

'To look almost pretty, is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life, than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive'

During an eventful season at Bath, young, naïve Catherine Morland experiences the joys of fashionable society for the first time. She is delighted with her new acquaintances: flirtatious Isabella, who shares Catherine's love of Gothic romance and horror, and sophisticated Henry and Eleanor Tilney, who invite her to their father's mysterious house, Northanger Abbey. There, her imagination influenced by novels of sensation and intrigue, Catherine imagines terrible crimes committed by General Tilney. With its broad comedy and irrepressible heroine, this is the most youthful and and optimistic of Jane Austen's works.

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.

Lady Audley's Secret

Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Author)

The Penguin English Library Edition of Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

'Lady Audley uttered a long, low, wailing cry, and threw up her arms above her head with a wild gesture of despair'

In this outlandish, outrageous triumph of scandal fiction, a new Lady Audley arrives at the manor: young, beautiful - and very mysterious. Why does she behave so strangely? What, exactly, is the dark secret this seductive outsider carries with her? A huge success in the nineteenth century, the book's anti-heroine - with her good looks and hidden past - embodied perfectly the concerns of the Victorian age with morality and madness.

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 Portrait of a Lady

Henry James (Author)

The Penguin English Library edition of The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

'She knew of no wrong that he had done; he was not violent, he was not cruel; she simply believed that he hated her'

When Isabel Archer, a beautiful, spirited American, is brought to Europe by her wealthy aunt Touchett, it is expected that she will soon marry. But Isabel, resolved to enjoy her freedom, does not hesitate to turn down two eligible suitors. Then she finds herself irresistibly drawn to Gilbert Osmond. Charming and cultivated, Osmond sees Isabel as a rich prize waiting to be taken. In this portrait of a 'young woman affronting her destiny', Henry James created one of his most magnificent heroines, and a story of intense poignancy.

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.

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