Hasek was 39 when he died of tuberculosis, after decades of boozing and vagrancy. Yet there is an irresistible, feverish energy to this picaresque comedy about a little man dodging the horrors of the great war. Without Svejk, Joseph Heller has said, there would have been no Catch Phil Daoust Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
Anyone who comes to this novel expecting simplicity of style and unthinking machismo will be swiftly disabused. Visiting the country, Rudolf Rassendyll is observed uncannily to resemble the soon-to-be- crowned King Rudolf. Villainous Duke Michael abducts him and Rassendyll is prevailed upon to impersonate the monarch whom, with the assistance of loyal Fritz von Tarlenheim, he later rescues.
Having put Ruritania to rights, he returns to England and a somewhat pointlessly unadventurous existence. Hope was inspired to write the novel by seeing two men in a London street who closely resembled each other. Some of these are even caused by the children themselves.
Xan Brooks Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. He then returns to Abyssinia. Ian Pindar Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Kantor also shows how the ordinary prisoners were preyed upon by a gang of thugs called the Raiders, led by a Union soldier called William Collins. Drawing on his extensive research of the incident, Keneally spares the reader none of the horrors of war.
Oskar Schindler, a German businessman and Nazi party member, set up a factory in Poland producing supplies for the German army. By the end of the war he had become an unlikely hero, risking his life to save more than a thousand Jews from being sent to the concentration camps. When his plane is shot down, he parachutes to safety in a German prisoner-of-war camp, but after the war he discovers his crew are all dead.
The novel ponders the question, why did so many of the accused meekly confess their guilt in court? After losing his parents in the mayhem of the second world war, a Polish child wanders through the countryside at the mercy of the brutal and ignorant central or eastern European villagers he encounters, who assume he is a Jew or a Gypsy.
Call it Eternity. Levi, most renowned for his coruscating documentary report on life in a concentration camp, If This Is A Man, published this, his only novel, in Set in , it follows a group of Jewish partisans making their way, behind enemy lines, across a Europe unmarked by place names and directions, with Palestine their aim.
It is the German guns of the title that must be silenced to permit the evacuation of the British troops from a nearby island, and so change the course of the war. This is both a coming of age story and an elegy for a lost American era.
Blood Meridian is not a revisionist western so much as a gore-soaked demolition of the myth of manifest destiny. The New World is born out of violence. California in the s was the origin of the famous masked crusader and camper, sexier and more ironic American-style Robin Hood. Mailer was just 26 when his debut novel was published, three years after the end of the second world war.
His tale of a platoon of young American soldiers making their way through treacherous jungle on the Japanese-held island of Anopopei was without respite. Its focus on the ordinary American in all his bullying pettiness and fear, its detailed depictions of armed combat and insight into the psychology of men in pursuit of power caught the mood of an American public searching for the reality of war; it made this a bestseller and Mailer a superstar.
Shanghai This is a brilliant portrait of a particular marriage and of the world at war.
Dramatic, comic and entirely absorbing, it was televised, equally brilliantly, by the BBC in Carmen Callil Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. The jungle town of Macondo is a place where it is as possible to ascend heavenwards while hanging the laundry as to be machine-gunned by agents of the local banana company.
This novel remains the beacon of magical realism and the standard bearer for Latin American literature; in Spanish, only Don Quixote has been more successful. His wife dies shortly thereafter, leaving their four children orphans. The story follows their growing to adulthood and — with the Restoration — the rebuilding of Arnwood and the Beverley family fortunes.
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The novel was immensely popular with Victorian children and became the pattern for innumerable juvenile tales over the next century. We all know the story: man seeks unattainable object of deranged desire and causes general devastation in the process.
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A Very Big Theme, necessarily expressed in dense, wildly idiosyncratic prose as ambitious as Ahab himself. But also: the best book ever written about whaling, which means the most richly detailed novel of the sea, work, friendship and ecology. The timeless, repetitive waiting. Ida, a widowed schoolteacher, is living in s Rome with her two sons: Nino, a reckless and angry teenager, and baby Giuseppe, conceived when Ida is raped by a German soldier. She like Morante herself is half-Jewish, and lives in a permanent state of fear that her forbidden faith will be discovered.
Her handwritten manuscript was salvaged by her two young daughters who, orphaned and traumatised, did not release it for publication until 64 years later.
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Few heroes emerge in this take on French manners exposed in the most extreme circumstances. Emily Mann Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Orczy had huge success with her foppish, inane, kind-hearted, cold, proud, passionate and indefatigable Pimpernel and his wonderful wife Marguerite. Belief may need to be suspended as Orczy allows him to escape yet another tricky situation, but when the thrills are this swashbuckling, it is churlish to care. Flory, a timber merchant disillusioned with the Imperial racket, falls for a pretty girl sent out east to stay with her relatives.
Steeped in essence of Maugham and crammed with impressionistic descriptions of the Burmese landscape, it also harbours many an early signpost from the road that led to Nineteen Eighty-Four. DJ Taylor Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
Its staggering intellectual weight is what really leaves a dent, however, using the development of the V2 rocket in Nazi Germany as a starting point for a novel that is as densely packed as grey matter and equally mysterious. Victoria Segal Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Raspe himself lived a shadily picaresque life but could only have been an amateur compared with the baron, whose stories leap from the sublime to the ridiculous — then keep on jumping.
The soldiers reserve their hatred not for the enemy but the armchair warriors on the home front.
A literal hatchet job. Riobaldo, an old farmer living in the arid hinterlands of Brazil, tells the story of how he became the leader of a gang of bandits, revealing on the way that he may have sold his soul to the devil. After a duel with a wicked marquis leaves his friend dead, the young man stirs up discontent against the upper classes and is forced to become a fugitive, joining a wandering theatre troupe as disguise.
Those staples of historical adventures — honour, vengeance and dark family secrets — provide the kerosene; the political intrigue strikes the match. Dr Peter Syn is an Irish surgeon, peacefully plying his healing trade in the west country.
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The sentence is commuted to transportation to the Barbadoes. Pirates of the Caribbean adventures ensue, before a happy-ever-after in Devon. Buckles never swashed more dashingly. Others have been deeply irritated by this story of a young American Jew who visits Ukraine in search of the woman who saved his grandfather from the Nazis. What do they hate so much? After a series of bestselling Scottish novels, the Wizard of the North still anonymous to his contemporary readers turned to English history. The story is set in the 12th century, at the time of the crusades. King Richard has been captured on his return from the Holy Land.
Now less read than it deserves to be. The most famous animal story of the 19th century. The novelty of the work is that it is narrated by a horse apparently sexless , which is miraculously able to talk like a well-brought-up Victorian servant. Maus exploded not merely any preconceptions about appropriate subject matter for a comic strip, but also suggested that the unspeakable might best be rethought through unexpected means. Adam Newey Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop.
A much loved, popular novel that almost transcended the cult label. He meets and mocks both his fellow English travellers on their Grand Tours and the French philosophes whom he visits in their Paris salons Sterne, as the celebrated author of Tristram Shandy, had recently cut a swathe through fashionable Parisian society.
Oddly enough, these are usually attractive young women who are happy to have their pulses felt by a sympathetic gentleman. David Balfour, an orphan, comes to live with his villainous uncle, Ebenezer of Shaws. Having failed to murder his ward himself, Ebenezer has his nephew kidnapped, as a white slave, on the brig Covenant. The vessel runs down a rowing boat containing a Jacobite rebel, Alan Breck. He and David conspire to escape their captors and, on land, the brutal English soldiery who are still ravaging Scotland.
Alan takes refuge in France. Also on board their vessel, the Hispaniola, is the villainous, one-legged sea-cook, Long John Silver, who takes over the vessel. Without it, we would never have had Pirates of the Caribbean. Then on his last voyage he meets the Houyhnhnms, virtuous and perfectly rational talking horses, and his pride collapses into misanthropy and self-loathing. He and we are just Yahoos, the malevolent, cunning, libidinous beasts with whom the Houyhnhnms are fated to share their land.
Its dispassionate eye follows peasants, emperors, soldiers, and priests through decades, taking in life and death in all its forms. This is no heroic tale of good versus evil, of strategies and battle formations, but a vivid depiction of the banality, tedium and senselessness of war. Its everyman hero, Pierre played unforgettably on TV by Anthony Hopkins , blunders along, struggling to find meaning in his life, and each of the dozen or so central characters battle their own demons, searching for truth and peace.
Their struggles are timeless, as is the unforgettable love story at its heart. Imogen Tilden Buy this book at the Guardian bookshop. Huck escapes, and drifts by raft down the Mississippi, with a runaway slave, Jim.
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