Category > Classics

A Farewell to Arms

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A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway, book reviewDespite the best intentions, there are still large numbers of authors whose work I have never read – something which I expect a lot of you will understand and agree with. Thankfully, I was able to put at least one right recently, when I finally read a book by Ernest Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms.

Set on the Italian front during World War One, A Farewell to Arms is the story of an American ambulance driver and his relationship with a British nurse.

The book’s jacket says that the story deals with Frederic Henry’s “passion for a beautiful English nurse” and deals with “the profound struggle between loyalty and desertion.


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The Gap in the Curtain

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The Gap in the Curtain , John Buchan, book reviewThe Scottish novelist John Buchan is the writer about whom I know the most. I‘ve been reading him, and working on him, on and off, for over twenty years. But I get bored with his most famous character, Richard Hannay, and with The Thirty-Nine Steps, which is his most famous novel. So, here’s a Buchan novel that isn’t about Richard Hannay. The Gap in the Curtain (1932) is a great read, for several reasons. It’s narrated by Buchan’s other great protagonist-narrator, Edward Leithen, who is a hard-working lawyer and politician. He has nothing to do with the secret services, nor does he take orders from the Foreign Office or the police: he is an independent adventurer.


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The Yellow Wallpaper

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The Yellow Wallpaper (Virago modern classics), Charlotte Perkins Gilman, book reviewHave you ever noticed that some of the shortest books are also the saddest? It’s almost as if we need multiple words to express joy and barely a few to plunge the depths of human misery. Such is the case in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s tiny book The Yellow Wallpaper which was published in 1892. It’s also hard to imagine that in modern times anyone would be able to get a story of just 28 pages published, unless it were one of the shorter contributions to a book of short stories. The Yellow Wallpaper despite its brevity is hailed as a ‘Literary Masterpiece’ – at least that’s what it says on the cover of my Virago Modern Classics edition in its 2002 reprint.

The Yellow Wallpaper took me a very short time to read – half a bath to be precise. The other half polished off the ‘Afterword’, an essay about the book which is longer than the tale itself.


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Youth

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Youth by Joseph Conrad, book reviewThis review is a part of book blog event in celebration of 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics. To mark the anniversary Penguin is launching a brand new series: The Mini Moderns – a collection of outstanding short-stories and novellas in convenient, pocket-sized and pocket-money priced editions. Curious Book Fans are contributing with the reviews of Youth by Joseph Conrad and La Grosse Fifi by Jean Rhys. You can read more about the Penguin Mini Moderns and book blogging event here.

When I expressed my interest in receiving one of Penguin’s new Mini Moderns series, published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Penguin Modern Classics, I didn’t specify a particular book to receive. Having recently been considering revisiting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which I read at school and hated (it being a school text), it seemed to be a sign that it was Conrad’s Youth: A Narrative which I received from the Mini Moderns collection.

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Wuthering Heights

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Wuthering Heights (Hardback) By Emily Bronte, book reviewWuthering Heights by Emily Brontë was published in 1847, originally under the pen name of Ellis Bell, and is the author’s only novel. A dark and stormy novel set on the Yorkshire moors, Wuthering Heights tells the story of Cathy and Heathcliff and their respective families.

The action is related through narrators; the principal narrator is Mr Lockwood, a tenant of Heathcliff who is told the story of Heathcliff’s past by the housekeeper Ellen (Nelly) Dean, who was involved in all the events. Much of the novel, therefore, is set in the past. In the present day, many of the characters are dead, and Heathcliff has possession of Wuthering Heights and the nearby Thrushcross Grange, where Mr Lockwood is staying.


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Pride and Prejudice

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Pride and Prejudice By Jane Austen, book reviewJane Austen is an author who many people love or hate. Her detractors will say she is dull and formulaic, her fans will say she wrote beautifully. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle.

Pride and Prejudice is perhaps her best known novel. Set in Hertfordshire, it is about the Bennet family, Mr & Mrs Bennet and their five daughters, Jane, Elizabeth, Mary, Catherine (Kitty) and Lydia. Mrs Bennet’s main goal in life is securing advantageous marriages for her daughters, and so chases after every eligible man who enters the county. The main character is Elizabeth, from whose point of view we see much of the story.


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Sunset Song

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Sunset Song By Lewis Grassic GibbonSunset Song is one of the great works of Scottish literature, and of British literature as well in my opinion. It was first published in 1932, written by the Scottish author Lewis Grassic Gibbon – real name James Leslie Mitchell. Gibbon was born on an Aberdeenshire croft in 1901, and grew up in Kincardineshire, where Sunset Song is set. He travelled overseas with the Army, and died in 1935 in Welwyn Garden City.

Sunset Song is the first part of A Scots Quair, a trilogy of novels paying tribute to Grassic Gibbon’s homeland.

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Far from the Madding Crowd

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Far from the Madding Crowd By Thomas HardyThomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, the most pastoral and famous of his Wessex novels, was first published in 1874. The story concerns the elusive, beautiful and wayward young Bathsheba Everdene and the various men who develop a romantic interest in her over the course of the novel. Bathsheba arrives in the country to live with her aunt, Mrs Hurst, at the start of the book and soon attracts the attentions of local shepherd Gabriel Oak, who surprises Bathsheba by proposing marriage. ‘His Christian name was Gabriel, and on working days he was a young man of sound judgment, easy motions, proper dress, and general good character,’ writes Hardy.


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