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Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen

Publisher: (1817)

Catherine Morland is a young girl with a very active imagination. Her naivety and love of sensational novels lead her to approach the fashionable social scene in Bath and her stay at nearby Northanger Abbey with preconceptions that have embarrassing and entertaining consequences.

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Silas Marner

Author: George Eliot

Publisher: Fabbri Publishing Ltd (1991)

Falsely accused of theft and cast out by the religious community of which he was a member, Silas Marner leaves his home and settles in Raveloe, where he leads a solitary existence as a weaver. Marner's work is in great demand, and the wealth that he accumulates becomes his consolation for all that he has lost; but when Dunstan Cass, one of the squire's sons, steals Marner's money the weaver loses his only remaining reason for living. However, one winter night, a little girl wanders into Marner's cottage out of the snow, and the weaver's life is changed for ever.

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Ten Tales From The Decameron

Author: Giovanni Boccaccio

Part of a series: Penguin 60s Classics

Publisher: Penguin (1995)

Boccaccio’s Decameron is a monumental work of medieval pre-Renaissance literature. When ten young Florentines take refuge outside their plague-ridden city they entertain themselves by telling each other stories. This selection contains one tale from each day and is a perfect demonstration of why it has been called the ‘human comedy’ in contrast to Dante’s Divine Comedy. Bawdy, outrageous, sometimes tragic or wise, these stories offer a tremendously entertaining view of society, religion and, above all, human nature. Translated by G H McWilliam.

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The Death Of King Arthur

Author: Thomas Malory

Publisher: Penguin Classics (1995)

One of the most moving accounts of the legendary age of chivalry, Le Morte D’Arthur was chronicled in the fifteenth century by Sir Thomas Malory and is published in two volumes in Penguin Classics. This book depicts the fatal battle between King Arthur and his treacherous son Mordred, and the devastation of Queen Guenever and Sir Launcelot, whose illicit love led to the destruction of Camelot.

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The History Of England

Author: Jane Austen

Part of a series: Penguin 60s Classics

Publisher: Penguin Books (1995)

‘The History of England’, written when Jane Austen was in her late teens, is a lively and somewhat disrespectful overview of the history of England’s monarchy. She sees nothing too reprehensible in Richard III, yet burns with contempt for Elizabeth I, and documents several reigns with breezy nonchalance. This volume also contains ‘Lesley Castle’, a delightful and often hilarious correspondence detailing the mishaps and misapprehensions that befall five young ladies.

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The Iliad

Author: Homer

Publisher: Unknown

Translation by Samuel Butler One of the foremost achievements in Western literature, Homer's Iliad tells the story of the darkest episode in the Trojan War. At its centre is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his refusal to fight after being humiliated by his leader Agamemnon. But when the Trojan Hector kills Achilles' close friend Patroclus, he storms back into battle to take revenge - even though he knows this will ensure his own untimely death. Interwoven with this tragic sequence of events are powerfully moving descriptions of the ebb and flow of battle, of the domestic world inside Troy's besieged city of Ilium, and of the conflicts between the Gods on Olympus as they argue over the fate of mortals This is no easy read. It is long winded at times, especially when listing men dying in battle, or crews of ships, complete with family histories. It only covers a few weeks when the Greeks are laying siege to a town, but it is epic in style. The interaction between the lead characters, the detail and depiction of war in all its brutality, and especially how the Gods intervene, being accepted and paid sacrifice continually makes it fascinating. However, many readers don’t manage to finish on the first attempt.

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The Marquise Of O—

Author: Heinrich von Kleist

Part of a series: Penguin 60s Classics

Publisher: Penguin Books (1995)

The story of a woman made pregnant without her knowledge. Between 1799, when he left the Prussian Army, and his suicide in 1811, Kleist developed into a writer of unprecedented and tragically isolated genius. His stories are those of a man swimming against the tide of German Enlightenment, unable to believe in the idealistic humanism of his day, and who sees human nature as irrational, ambiguous, and baffling. The Marquise of O— and Other Stories is published in Penguin Classics.

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Tigers Are Better Looking

Author: Jean Rhys

Publisher: Penguin Books (1972)

Selina liked to take a drink and shout and sing. Not very English of her. The neighbours hated it. So they made her go too far and get into big trouble. Very neat, very English, very effective. The confrontation of the Caribbean style and the English way of life – both here and there – is cause for concern. The English are as respectable and deadly as tigers – but tigers are better looking. Tigers are Better-Looking incorporates selections from Jean Rhys's first book of stories, The Left Bank, published in 1927, and later stories written after 1939. In them she encompasses within a few pages both the gaiety and charm of youth and love, and an awareness of all that threatens them. Writing in The New York Times, A. Alvarez has called these stories "extraordinary." The early stories have added value in that they illuminate Jean Rhys's development as a writer. Those written later, when her art was mature, are on the level of her novels and demonstrate that she is one of the most distinguished writers of our time, "the best living English novelist," again to quote Alvarez. The title of this collection comes from the opinion which many of Jean Rhys's characters share, that respectable people are as alarming as tigers, but "tigers are better-looking, aren't they?" It also reflects the astringent humour in her work; an explanation that however sad or even sordid her subject, she is never depressing.

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Vanity Fair

Author: William M Thackeray

Publisher: Pan Books Ltd (1967)

Vanity Fair follows the lives of Becky Sharp and Emmy (Amelia) Sedley during and after the Napoleonic wars. The story is framed by its preface and coda as a puppet show taking place at a fair. Rebecca Sharp is a strong-willed, cunning, moneyless young woman determined to make her way in society. After leaving school, Becky stays with Amelia Sedley, who is a good-natured young girl, of a wealthy London family. There, Becky meets the dashing and self-obsessed Captain George Osborne (Amelia's betrothed) and Amelia's brother Joseph (Jos) Sedley, a clumsy and vainglorious but rich civil servant home from the East India Company. Hoping to marry Sedley, Becky seeks to entice him, but she fails. George Osborne's friend Captain William Dobbin loves Amelia, but only wishes her happiness, which is centred on George. Becky Sharp says farewell to the Sedley family and enters the service of the crude and profligate baronet Sir Pitt Crawley, who has engaged her as governess to his daughters. Her behaviour at Sir Pitt's house gains his favour, and after the premature death of his second wife, he proposes marriage to her. However he finds that she has secretly married his second son, Captain Rawdon Crawley.....

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