The Classics – Thematic List #2

Classics that made great films…

9780141330136Great Expectations Charles Dickens

A terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild Kent marshes; a summons to meet the bitter, decaying Miss Havisham and her beautiful, cold-hearted ward Estella; the sudden generosity of a mysterious benefactor – these form a series of events that change the orphaned Pip’s life forever, and he eagerly abandons his humble origins to begin a new life as a gentleman. Dickens’s haunting late novel depicts Pip’s education and development through adversity as he discovers the true nature of his ‘great expectations’.

This definitive edition uses the text from the first published edition of 1861. It includes a map of Kent in the early nineteenth century, and appendices on Dickens’s original ending and his working notes, giving readers an illuminating glimpse into the mind of a great novelist at work.

9780141182612The Big Sleep and Other Novels Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler created the fast-talking, trouble-seeking Californian private eye Philip Marlowe for his first great novel The Big Sleep in 1939. Marlowe’s entanglement with the Sternwood family – and an attendant cast of colourful underworld figures – is the background to a story reflecting all the tarnished glitter of the great American Dream. The detective’s iconic image burns just as brightly in Farewell, My Lovely, on the trail of a missing nightclub crooner. And the inimitable Marlowe is able to prove that trouble really is his business in Chandler’s brilliant epitaph, The Long Good-Bye.
‘One of the greatest crime writers, who set standards that others still try to attain.’
Sunday Times

9780141036144Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101…

Nineteen Eight-Four is George Orwell’s terrifying vision of a totalitarian future in which everything and everyone is a slave to a tyrannical regime.

‘More relevant to today than almost any other book that you can think of.’ – Jo Brand

‘Right up there among my favourite books. . . I read it again and again.’ – Margaret Atwood
9780241951644Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

‘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?

‘A masterpiece. One of the great works of art of our age’ Independent
9780141391847The Confession of a Child of the Century Alfred de Musset

Octave, a young Parisian, loves his mistress Elise – until he witnesses her being unfaithful. In despair, he descends into decadence and libertinism. But when the death of his father takes Octave to the countryside, he falls in love with Brigitte, a young widow who spends most of her days caring for others. At first, Brigitte tries to resist his advances, but eventually they become lovers. Octave, however, is quickly overcome by suspicion. Will Brigitte remain true to him? Doesn’t every woman betray her lover sooner or later? In De Musset’s compelling novel of  debauchery, despair and passionate love, nothing is certain.

9780141335377Romeo and Juliet William Shakespeare

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Romeo and Juliet meet by chance and fall instantly in love.  But their families are bitter enemies and their love is forbidden.  Yet the two lovers cannot bear to be separated and, in a city torn apart by feuds and gang warfare, their love leads them to drastic measures – with devastating consequences.

‘The themes of the play are very relevant to today.  Two young people raised in an atmosphere of hate, who find love in the midst of it’
Leonardo DiCaprio
9780143105428Pride and Prejudice Jane Austen

‘Vanity, not love, has been my folly’

When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited; he is indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life.

9780141182490Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf

Clarissa Dalloway, elegant and vivacious, is preparing for a party and remembering those she once loved. In another part of London, Septimus Warren Smith is shell-shocked and on the brink of madness. Smith’s day interweaves with that of Clarissa and her friends, their lives converging as the party reaches its glittering climax.

Past, present and future are brought together one momentous June day in 1923.
9780141326696Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë

Search the moors with Heathcliff

As the snow begins to fall, a man is forced to take shelter at the dark, foreboding Wuthering Heights.  This house is haunted by memories and the dangerous story of Cathy and Heathcliff, who fell violently in love but could not be together.  When Cathy refuses to marry him, Heathcliff’s terrible revenge ruins them all – but still his and Cathy’s love will not die . . .

9780241965672The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald

‘There was music from my neighbour’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.’

Everybody who is anybody is seen at the glittering parties held in millionaire Jay Gatsby’s mansion in West Egg, east of New York. The riotous throng congregates in his sumptuous garden, coolly debating Gatsby’s origins and mysterious past. None of the frivolous socialites understands him and among various rumours is the conviction that ‘he killed a man’. A detached onlooker, Gatsby is oblivious to the speculation he creates, but always seems to be watching and waiting, though no one knows what for.

As the tragic story unfolds, Gatsby’s destructive dreams and passions are revealed, leading to disturbing consequences. A brilliant evocation of 1920s high society, The Great Gatsby peels away the layers of this glamorous world to display the coldness and cruelty at its heart.

9780141439471Frankenstein Mary Shelley

Dr Frankenstein has created a monster . . .

Obsessed by making life itself, Victor Frankenstein plunders graveyards for the material to fashion a new being, which he shocks into life with electricity.  But his botched creature, rejected by Frankenstein and denied human companionship, sets out to destroy his maker and all that he holds dear . . .
9780141188973The Witches of Eastwick John Updike

The air of Eastwick breeds witches – women whose powerful longings can stir up thunderstorms and fracture domestic peace. Jane, Alexandra and Sukie, divorced and dangerous, have formed a coven. Into the void of Eastwick breezes Darryl Van Horne, a charismatic magus of a man who entrances the trio, luring them to his mansions . . .
9780141023571Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck

Streetwise George and his big, childlike friend Lennie are drifters, searching for work in the fields and valleys of California. They have nothing except the clothes on their back, and a hope that one day they ll find a place of their own and live the American dream. But dreams come at a price. Gentle giant Lennie doesn t know his own strength, and when they find work at a ranch he gets into trouble with the boss s daughter-in-law. Trouble so bad that even his protector George may not be able to save him . . .

9780141188683The Terror of St Trinian’s and Other Drawings Ronald Searle

Ronald Searle takes us back to the world of the Gothic Public School in The Terror of St Trinian’s. In this gloriously anarchic academy for young ladies we witness shootings, knifings, torture and witchcraft, as well as many maidenly arts. The subject of many evergreen films, St Trinian’s is synonymous with the sort of outrageous behaviour that would make a convict blanch. This book also contains a selection of Ronald Searle’s work from the non-school books, including The Rake’s Progress, Souls in Torment and Merry England, etc. and their publication in one volumes stakes Searle’s claim to be the greatest and most influential English satirist since the war.

9780141184982A Kestrel for a Knave Barry Hines

Barry Hines’s acclaimed novel continues to reach new generations of teenagers and adults with its powerful story of survival in a tough, joyless world. Billy Casper is a troubled teenager growing up in a Yorkshire mining town. Treated as a failure at school and unhappy at home, Billy discovers a new passion in life when he finds Kes, a kestrel hawk. Billy identifies with her silent strength and she inspires in him the trust and love that nothing else can. Ken Loach’s well-known film adaptation, Kes, has achieved cult status and in his new afterword Barry Hines discusses working on the screen version (he adapted the novel) and reappraises a book that has become a popular classic.

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