The 100 Greatest British Novels by BBC

BBC Culture polled book critics outside the UK, to give an outsider’s perspective on the best in British literature.

  1. 1. Middlemarch by George Eliot

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    Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Anne Evans, later Marian Evans. It is her seventh novel, begun in 1869 and then put aside during the final i...


  2. 2. To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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    A landmark novel of high modernism, the text, centering on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920, skillfully manipulates temporality and psycholog...


  3. 3. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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    Created from two short stories, "Mrs Dalloway in Bond Street" and the unfinished "The Prime Minister", the novel's story is of Clarissa's preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess. Wit...


  4. 4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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    Great Expectations is written in the genre of "bildungsroman" or the style of book that follows the story of a man or woman in their quest for maturity, usually starting from childhood and ending i...


  5. 5. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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    Jane Eyre is a first-person narrative of the title character, a small, plain-faced, intelligent and honest English orphan. The novel goes through five distinct stages: Jane's childhood at Gateshead...


  6. 6. Bleak House by Charles Dickens

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    Bleak House is the ninth novel by Charles Dickens, published in twenty monthly instalments between March 1852 and September 1853. It is held to be one of Dickens's finest novels, containing one of ...


  7. 7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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    The narrative is non-linear, involving several flashbacks, and two primary narrators: Mr. Lockwood and Ellen "Nelly" Dean. The novel opens in 1801, with Mr. Lockwood arriving at Thrushcross Grange,...


  8. 8. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

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    The story of the abandoned waif who learns to survive through challenging encounters with distress and misfortune.


  9. 9. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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    At this challenge, Mary Shelley began work on the 'ghost story' that was to evolve into the most celebrated horror novel in literary history. Frankenstein was published the next year and become the...


  10. 10. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

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    No one is better equipped in the struggle for wealth and worldly success than the alluring and ruthless Becky Sharp, who defies her impoverished background to clamber up the class ladder. Her senti...


  11. 11. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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    The book is narrated in free indirect speech following the main character Elizabeth Bennet as she deals with matters of upbringing, marriage, moral rightness and education in her aristocratic socie...


  12. 12. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

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    The story follows the life of one seemingly insignificant man, Winston Smith, a civil servant assigned the task of perpetuating the regime's propaganda by falsifying records and political literatur...


  13. 13. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

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    Ford Madox Ford wrote The Good Soldier, the book on which his reputation most surely rests, in deliberate emulation of the nineteenth-century French novels he so admired. In this way he was able to...


  14. 14. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson

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    It tells the tragic story of a heroine whose quest for virtue is continually thwarted by her family, and is one of the longest novels in the English language.


  15. 15. Atonement by Ian McEwan

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    Atonement is a 2001 novel by British author Ian McEwan. It tells the story of protagonist Briony Tallis's crime and how it changes her life, as well as those of her sister Cecilia and her lover Rob...


  16. 16. The Waves by Virginia Woolf

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    The Waves, first published in 1931, is Virginia Woolf's most experimental novel. It consists of soliloquies spoken by the book's six characters: Bernard, Susan, Rhoda, Neville, Jinny, and Louis.[1]...


  17. 17. Howards End by E. M. Forster

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    "Only Connect," Forster's key aphorism, informs this novel about an English country house, Howards End, and its influence on the lives of the wealthy and materialistic Wilcoxes; the cultured, ideal...


  18. 18. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

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    The Remains of the Day (1989) is the third published novel by Japanese-British author Kazuo Ishiguro. The Remains of The Day is one of the most highly-regarded post-war British novels. It won the B...


  19. 19. Emma by Jane Austen

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    Before she began the novel, Austen wrote, "I am going to take a heroine whom no-one but myself will much like."[1] In the very first sentence she introduces the title character as "Emma Woodhouse, ...


  20. 20. Persuasion by Jane Austen

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    Of all Jane Austen’s great and delightful novels, Persuasion is widely regarded as the most moving. It is the story of a second chance. Anne Elliot, daughter of the snobbish, spendthrift Sir Walte...


  21. 21. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

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    The story details an incident when Marlow, an Englishman, took a foreign assignment from a Belgian trading company as a ferry-boat captain in Africa. Although Conrad does not specify the name of th...


  22. 22. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding

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    A foundling of mysterious parentage brought up by Mr. Allworthy on his country estate, Tom Jones is deeply in love with the seemingly unattainable Sophia Western, the beautiful daughter of the neig...


  23. 23. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy

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    In 1895 Hardy’s final novel, the great tale of Jude the Obscure, sent shock waves of indignation rolling across Victorian England. Hardy had dared to write frankly about sexuality and to indict the...


  24. 24. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

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    This book, as well as the couple that followed it, enters the realm of what Margaret Drabble in The Oxford Companion to English Literature has called Lessing's "inner space fiction", her work that ...


  25. 25. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

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    This may be the first novel ever written that truly feels at home in our borderless, globalized, intermarried, post-colonial age, populated by "children with first and last names on a direct collis...

    - Time

  26. 26. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien

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    The Lord of the Rings is an epic high fantasy novel written by philologist and Oxford University professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children'...


  27. 27. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

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    A shipwreck’s sole escapee, Robinson Crusoe endures 28 years of solitude on a Caribbean island and manages not only to survive but also to prevail. A warm humanity, evocative details of his struggl...


  28. 28. Villette by Charlotte Bronte

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    Published first in 1853, Villette is Charlotte Bronte's last novel. The protagonist Lucy shares many qualities with her creator. Brontë tells the story of a language teacher who grows to realize th...

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  29. 29. Brick Lane by Monica Ali

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    Nazneen finds herself married off to a man twice her age and moved to London, where she meets a younger man involved in radical politics and begins to wonder if she has a say in her own destiny.

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  30. 30. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe

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    The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five tim...

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  31. 31. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

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    The End of the Affair (1951) is a novel by British author Graham Greene, as well as the title of two feature films (released in 1955 and 1999) that were adapted for the screen based on the novel. ...


  32. 32. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

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    British social comedy examines a young heroine's struggle against strait-laced Victorian attitudes as she rejects the man her family has encouraged her to marry and chooses, instead, a socially uns...


  33. 33. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

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    A classic in children's literature The Wind in the Willow is alternately slow moving and fast paced. The book focuses on four anthropomorphised animal characters in a pastoral version of England. T...


  34. 34. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

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    The novel describes the life of Kathy H., a young woman of 31, focusing at first on her childhood at an unusual boarding school and eventually her adult life. The story takes place in a dystopian B...


  35. 35. Remainder by Tom McCarthy

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    A man is severely injured in a mysterious accident, receives an outrageous sum in legal compensation, and has no idea what to do with it. Then, one night, an ordinary sight sets off a series of biz...

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  36. 36. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell

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    A Dance to the Music of Time is a twelve-volume cycle of novels by Anthony Powell, inspired by the painting of the same name by Nicolas Poussin. One of the longest works of fiction in literature, i...


  37. 37. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

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    Sent down from Oxford in outrageous circumstances, Paul Pennyfeather is oddly surprised to find himself qualifying for the position of schoolmaster at Llanabba Castle. His colleagues are an assortm...

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  38. 38. The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

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    Jeanette Winterson’s novels have established her as one of the most important young writers in world literature. The Passion is perhaps her most highly acclaimed work, a modern classic that confirm...

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  39. 39. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

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    Winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize By an acclaimed writer at the height of his powers, The Sense of an Ending extends a streak of extraordinary books that began with the best-selling Arthur & Geor...

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  40. 40. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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    In 1862 Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy Oxford mathematician with a stammer, created a story about a little girl tumbling down a rabbit hole. Thus began the immortal adventures of Alice, perhaps th...


  41. 41. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens

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    This tale of Paul Dombey, his son (also named Paul) and his daughter Florence was first published in installments, between 1846 and 1848. Though called Dombey and Son, the story is as much about Mr...

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  42. 42. Brighton Rock by Graham Greene

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    Pinkie, a boy gangster in pre-war Brighton, is a Catholic dedicated to evil and damnation. In a dark setting of double crossing and razor slashes, his ambition and hatreds are horribly fulfilled, u...

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  43. 43. The Swimming-Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst

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    A literary sensation and bestseller both in England and America, The Swimming-Pool Library is an enthralling, darkly erotic novel of homosexuality before the scourge of AIDS; an elegy, possessed of...

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  44. 44. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

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    Wolf Hall (2009) is a Man Booker Prize-winning novel by English author Hilary Mantel, published by Fourth Estate. Set in the 1520s, it is about Thomas Cromwell's rise to power in the Tudor court of...


  45. 45. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

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    The Little Stranger is a 2009 gothic novel written by Sarah Waters. It is a ghost story set in a dilapidated mansion in Warwickshire, England in the 1940s. Departing from her earlier themes of lesb...


  46. 46. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie

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    Midnight's Children is a loose allegory for events in India both before and, primarily, after the independence and partition of India, which took place at midnight on 15 August 1947. The protagonis...


  47. 47. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne

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    As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story. But it is one of the central jokes of the novel that he cannot explain anything simply, that he must make expla...


  48. 48. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

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    Set sometime around 1950, Lucky Jim follows the exploits of the eponymous James (Jim) Dixon, a reluctant Medieval history lecturer at an unnamed provincial English university. Having made a bad fir...


  49. 49. Possession by A.S. Byatt

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    Part historical as well as contemporary fiction, the title Possession refers to issues of ownership and independence between lovers, the practice of collecting historically significant cultural art...


  50. 50. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster

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    A Passage to India is set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. The story revolves around four characters: Dr. Aziz, his British friend Cyril Fi...


  51. 51. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

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    Violated by one man, forsaken by another, Tess Durbeyfield is the magnificent and spirited heroine of Thomas Hardy’s immortal work. Of all the great English novelists, no one writes more eloquently...

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  52. 52. New Grub Street: A Novel by George Gissing

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    New Grub Street is a novel by George Gissing published in 1891, which is set in the literary and journalistic circles of 1880s London. Gissing revised and shortened the novel for a French edition o...

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  53. 53. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

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    In Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Bertha is the madwoman locked in the attic by her husband Rochester, the simmering Englishman whose children Jane has been hired to tutor. In Bronte's novel we lear...

    - Time

  54. 54. NW: A Novel by Zadie Smith

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    New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012 “A boldly Joycean appropriation, fortunately not so difficult of entry as its great model… Like Zadie Smith’s much-acclaimed predecessor White Teeth (2000), NW...

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  55. 55. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

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    From the preeminent prose satirist in the English language, a great classic recounting the four remarkable journeys of ship's surgeon Lemuel Gulliver. For children it remains an enchanting fantasy;...


  56. 56. Oranges are not the only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

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    Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985, which she subsequently adapted into a BBC television drama. It is a bildungsroman about a lesbian girl who grows u...


  57. 57. Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

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    In creating his acclaimed masterpiece Parade's End, Ford Madox Ford "wanted the Novelist in fact to appear in his really proud position as historian of his own time . . . The 'subject' was the worl...


  58. 58. Loving by Henry Green

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    Loving tells the story of the servants in Kinalty Castle, an upper-class Irish household during World War II.


  59. 59. The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

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    The Line of Beauty is a 2004 Booker Prize-winning novel by Alan Hollinghurst. Set in the United Kingdom in the early to mid-1980s, the story surrounds the post-Oxford life of the young gay prota...


  60. 60. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence

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    Sons and Lovers is one of the landmark novels of the twentieth century. When it appeared in 1913, it was immediately recognized as the first great modern restatement of the oedipal drama, and it is...


  61. 61. The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

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    The Sea, the Sea is the 19th novel by Iris Murdoch. It won the Booker Prize in 1978. The Sea, the Sea is a tale of the strange obsessions that haunt a self-satisfied playwright and director as h...


  62. 62. Animal Farm by George Orwell

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    Animal Farm is a dystopian novella by George Orwell. Published in England on 17 August 1945, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era before World War II. Orwell, a democrat...


  63. 63. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

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    A slender novel but far from flimsy, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie enrolls the reader at Edinburgh's fictional Marcia Blaine School for Girls under the tutelage of one Jean Brodie, a magnetic, unco...

    - Time

  64. 64. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

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    'Trollope did not write for posterity,' observed Henry James. 'He wrote for the day, the moment; but these are just the writers whom posterity is apt to put into its pocket.' Considered by contempo...


  65. 65. Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf

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    In her most exuberant, most fanciful novel, Woolf has created a character liberated from the restraints of time and sex. Born in the Elizabethan Age to wealth and position, Orlando is a young noble...


  66. 66. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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    Sense and Sensibility is a novel by Jane Austen, published in 1811. It was published anonymously; By A Lady appears on the cover page where the author's name might have been. It tells the story of ...


  67. 67. Crash: A Novel by J. G. Ballard

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    In this hallucinatory novel, an automobile provides the hellish tableau in which Vaughan, a "TV scientist" turned "nightmare angel of the highways," experiments with erotic atrocities among auto cr...

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  68. 68. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

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    The title is taken from an old Cockney expression, "as queer as a clockwork orange" and alludes to the prevention of the main character's exercise of his free will through the use of a classical co...


  69. 69. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad

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    Edited with an introduction and notes by Martin Seymour-Smith. In his evocation of the republic of Costaguana, set amid the exotic and grandiose scenery of South America, Conrad reveals not only th...


  70. 70. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

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    Daniel Deronda opens with one of the most memorable encounters in fiction: Gwendolen Harleth, alluring yet unsettling, is poised at the roulette-table in Leubronn, observed by Daniel Deronda, a you...


  71. 71. Old Filth by Jane Gardam

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    Sir Edward Feathers has had a brilliant career, from his early days as a lawyer in Southeast Asia, where he earned the nickname Old Filth (FILTH being an acronym for Failed In London Try Hong Kong)...

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  72. 72. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene

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    The Heart of the Matter deals with Catholicism and moral change in the protagonist, Scobie (a police officer). Greene was a British intelligence officer stationed in Freetown, Sierra Leone. He drew...


  73. 73. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

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    In eighteenth-century Germany, the impetuous student of philosophy who will later gain fame as the Romantic poet Novalis seeks his father's permission to wed his true philosophy — a plain, simple c...


  74. 74. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

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    Thomas Hardy's first masterpiece, The Mayor of Casterbridge opens with a scene of such heartlessness and cruelty that it still shocks readers today. A poor workman named Michael Henchard, in a fit ...

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  75. 75. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence

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    Perhaps no other of the world’s great writers lived and wrote with the passionate intensity of D. H. Lawrence. And perhaps no other of his books so explores the mysteries between men and women–both...


  76. 76. Small Island by Andrea Levy

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    Hortense Joseph arrives in London from Jamaica in 1948 with her life in her suitcase, her heart broken, her resolve intact. Her husband, Gilbert Joseph, returns from the war expecting to be receive...


  77. 77. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham

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    The first and most autobiographical of Maugham's masterpieces. It is the story of Philip Carey, an orphan eager for life, love and adventure. After a few months studying in Heidelberg, and a brief ...


  78. 78. A House for Mr. Biswas by V.S. Naipaul

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    It is the story of Mr Mohun Biswas, an Indo-Trinidadian who continually strives for success and mostly fails, who marries into the Tulsi family only to find himself dominated by it, and who finally...


  79. 79. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

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    The story involves fantasy elements such as witches and armoured polar bears, and alludes to a broad range of ideas from fields such as physics, philosophy, theology and spirituality. It follows th...


  80. 80. Excellent Women by Barbara Pym

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    Excellent Women is probably the most famous of Barbara Pym's novels. The acclaim a few years ago for this early comic novel, which was hailed by Lord David Cecil as one of 'the finest examples of h...

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  81. 81. The Jewel In The Crown by Paul Scott

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    BOOK ONE OF THE RAJ QUARTET India 1942: everything is in flux. World War II has shown that the British are not invincible and the self-rule lobby is gaining many supporters. Against this background...

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  82. 82. Bad News by Edward St Aubyn

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    THE SECOND PATRICK MELROSE NOVEL. Twenty-two years old and in the grip of a massive addiction, Patrick Melrose is forced to fly to New York to collect his father’s ashes. Over the course of a weeke...

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  83. 82. Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn

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    In the deep south of France, Patrick Melrose has the run of his parents' house and magical garden, and the company of his vivid imagination. Yet his tyrannical father rules this world with consider...

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  84. 82. Some Hope by Edward St. Aubyn

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    Some Hope, the third installment in Edward St. Aubyn's wonderful, wry, and profound Patrick Melrose Cycle, is centered on a dinner party, attended by the illustrious and profane elite of British so...

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  85. 82. Mother's Milk by Edward St Aubyn

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    First published in 2006, Mother’s Milk is the fourth novel in the critically acclaimed Patrick Melrose series. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize that year and won the 2007 Prix Femina Étr...

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  86. 82. At Last by Edward St. Aubyn

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    A New York Times Notable Book of 2012 One of The Telegraph's Best Fiction Books 2011 One of Esquire's Best Books of 2012 One of TIME's Top 10 Fiction Books of 2012 Here, from the writer described b...

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  87. 83. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

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    Barchester Towers, published in 1857, is the second novel in Anthony Trollope's series known as the "Chronicles of Barsetshire". Among other things it satirises the then raging antipathy in the Chu...


  88. 84. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh

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    In Scoop, surreptitiously dubbed "a newspaper adventure," Waugh flays Fleet Street and the social pastimes of its war correspondants as he tells how William Boot became the star of British super-jo...


  89. 85. Regeneration by Pat Barker

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    The first book of the Regeneration Trilogy and a Booker Prize nominee In 1917 Siegfried Sasson, noted poet and decorated war hero, publicly refused to continue serving as a British officer in World...

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  90. 86. A Legacy by Sybille Bedford

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    "A Legacy is the tale of two very different families. The Merzes are members of the Jewish upper bourgeoisie of Berlin and direct descendants of Henriette Merz, friend of Goethe and Mirabeau. But t...

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  91. 87. The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett

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    It deals with the lives of two very different sisters, Constance and Sophia Baines, following their stories from their youth, working in their mother's draper's shop, into old age. It is generally ...


  92. 88. The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen

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    The Death of the Heart is a 1938 novel by Elizabeth Bowen set between the two world wars. It is about a sixteen year old orphan, Portia Quayne, who moves to London to live with her half-brother Tho...


  93. 89. The Horse's Mouth by Joyce Cary

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    Joyce Cary wrote two trilogies, or 'triptychs' as he later called them, and both are Faber Finds. The first comprises Herself Surprised (1941), To Be a Pilgrim (1942) and The Horse's Mouth (1944). ...

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  94. 90. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

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    Thus young Walter Hartright first meets the mysterious woman in white in what soon became one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century. Secrets, mistaken identities, surprise revelation...


  95. 91. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

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    The Forsyte Saga, first published under that name in 1922, is a series of three novels and two interludes published between 1906 and 1921 by Nobel Prize-winning English author John Galsworthy. They...


  96. 92. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

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    When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doo...

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  97. 93. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

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    Lord of the Flies discusses how culture created by man fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves, but with disastrous results....


  98. 94. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg

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    Considered by turns part-gothic novel, part-psychological mystery, part-metafiction, part-satire, part-case study of totalitarian thought, it can also be thought of as an early example of modern cr...


  99. 95. The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

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    "My name is Karim Amir, and I am an Englishman born and bred, almost..."The hero of Hanif Kureishi's debut novel is dreamy teenager Karim, desperate to escape suburban South London and experience t...

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  100. 96. The Memoirs of a Survivor by Doris May Lessing

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    The Memoirs of a Survivor is a dystopian novel by Nobel Prize-winner Doris Lessing. It was first published in 1974 by Octagon Press. It was made into a film in 1981, starring Julie Christie and Nig...


  101. 97. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

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    The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of seven high fantasy novels by author C.S. Lewis. It is considered a classic of children's literature and is the author's best-known work, having sold over 100...


  102. 98. Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry

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    To describe his perennial theme, Lowry once borrowed the words of the critic Edmund Wilson: "the forces in man which cause him to be terrified of himself." You see exactly what he means in this cor...

    - Time

  103. 99. There But For The by Ali Smith

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    When a dinner-party guest named Miles locks himself in an upstairs room and refuses to come out, he sets off a media frenzy. He also sets in motion a mesmerizing puzzle of a novel, one that harness...

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  104. 100. The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse

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    “To dive into a Wodehouse novel is to swim in some of the most elegantly turned phrases in the English language.”—Ben Schott Follow the adventures of Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s gentleman, J...

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