Book review: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, 1719

Robinson Crusoe – or, as its amazing sub-title would have it ‘The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore byContinue reading “Book review: Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, 1719”

Book review: Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift – 1726

I’ve written at length in this recent series of posts about the gap between the perception of novels in popular culture, and the books themselves. ‘Gulliver’s Travels‘ has probably suffered the most in this regard, or had the longest journey, in that the coruscating satire has been recast over the years as a children’s book.Continue reading “Book review: Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift – 1726”

Book review: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson – 1886

Stevenson’s ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde” is an under-appreciated masterpiece. It’s a breathlessly fast paced story where the protagonist, Dr Jekyll, is dead (sorry, spoilers) halfway through the very short novel, and yet Stevenson manages to sustain the excitement until the big ‘reveal’ at the end. We now know of course that Dr Jekyll isContinue reading “Book review: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson – 1886”

Book review: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, 1969

Portnoy’s complaint is both a noun and a verb – the book is another first person narrative describing the author’s childhood and later life, an autobiography with only the flimsiest attempt at disguise as a novel. Alexander Portnoy complains to his psychiatrist – at quite some length – about his domineering mother, his father crippledContinue reading “Book review: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth, 1969”

Book review: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1884/5

Mark Twain’s ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn‘ follows chronologically the earlier ‘Tom Sawyer’, but has a much darker, more adult tone. Huck is the novel’s first person narrator, and has a primitive, naive view of the world which contrasts with that of the reader, and provides much of the humour and insight of the novel. HuckContinue reading “Book review: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, 1884/5”

Book review: New Grub Street, by George Gissing, 1891

Gissing isn’t really read very much today. His novels – or at least some of them – are still in print, but I doubt if he makes his way onto many syllabuses or reading lists. Certainly I would not be reading him now if ‘New Grub Street’ hadn’t appeared on the Guardian’s best 100 list.Continue reading “Book review: New Grub Street, by George Gissing, 1891”

Book review: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)

One of my reasons for exploring the Guardian’s ‘best 100 novels written in English’ list is to try and find some hidden gems – books that I have not come across before that are really worth reading. Poe’s only novel, “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket‘ meets only one of these criteria –Continue reading “Book review: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe (1838)”

Book review: Nightmare Abbey – Thomas Love Peacock – 1818

bey‘Nightmare Abbey’ is probably as heavy-handed a piece of satire as you will find in the whole of literature. Neither nightmarish – there are none of the traditional characteristic features of gothic fiction – nor set in an abbey, this short novel is partly a thinly disguised portrait of some of the romantic poets ofContinue reading “Book review: Nightmare Abbey – Thomas Love Peacock – 1818”

Book review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, 1891

I know I don’t normally write about the publication history of the books I review, but the background to this one is more complex than usual, and quite relevant. It was published in full in Lippincott’s Monthly magazine in 1890 (in a significantly shorter version than the final novel). Wilde predicted “I think it willContinue reading “Book review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, 1891”

Book review: Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886

Read in a Penguin Classic edition It’s about time I explained why I am reading what is essentially a children’s book, albeit a Victorian ‘classic’. A few months ago the Guardian completed a two year exercise to publish a list of the top 100 novels written in English. I’ve written previously about how irritating theseContinue reading “Book review: Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson, 1886”