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Found 53 results

  1. Middlemarch by George Eliot

    We're having another group read for the English Counties Challenge, and this time we've decided on Middlemarch by George Eliot. It comprises eight books within the one volume, so we're going to try and read one book at a time, but we're unsure about timing, so for the first book, we're aiming to read it in over the next three weeks, and then see how the timing has worked, and go from there. We'll be discussing our progress along the way, so there will be spoilers! Synopsis (from the back cover): George Eliot's most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to a pedantic scholar Casauban; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose pioneering medical methods, combined with an imprudent marriage to the splendid beauty Rosamond, threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrade, hiding scandalous crimes from his past. As their stories entwine, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama, hailed by Virginia Woolf as 'one of the few English novels written for grown up people'. Please feel free to join in! We may find we need to change the timescales as we go along, but will update this first post to say what instalment we're currently reading, with links to where each discussion starts, but please bear in mind, there will be spoilers! BOOK ONE: Miss Brooke (chapters 1-12) reading until Sunday 22nd Feb 2015 BOOK TWO: Old and Young (chapters 13-22) reading until Sunday 22nd Mar 2015 - spoilers for Book 2 start here. BOOK THREE: Waiting for Death (chapters 23-33) reading until Sunday 12th Apr 2015 - spoilers for Book 3 start here. BOOK FOUR: Three Love Problems (chapters 34-42) reading until Sunday 3rd May 2015 - spoilers for Book 4 start here BOOK FIVE: The Dead Hand (chapters 43-53) reading until Sunday 24th May 2015 - spoilers for Book 5 start here BOOK SIX: The Widow and the Wife (chapters 54-62) reading until Sunday 15th June 2015 - spoilers for Book 6 start here BOOK SEVEN: Two Temptations (chapters 63-71) reading until Sunday 5th July 2015 BOOK EIGHT: Sunset and Sunrise (chapters 72-85) and FINALE reading until Sunday 26th July 2015 All reading dates subject to change after discussion.
  2. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens is one of the books we've chosen in the English Counties Challenge, and I thought it would be good to read along with some other people, a few chapters at a time. Janet looked it up and found out that the book was originally published in 19 monthly instalments, so that seems a good basis to start the read along. We're going to try and read one instalment per week, and we can chat about it and discuss our progress along the way. Synopsis: Around the central story of Nicholas Nickleby and the misfortunes of his family, Dickens created some of his most wonderful characters: the muddle-headed Mrs Nickleby, the gloriously theatrical Crummles, their protege Miss Petowker, the pretentious Mantalinis and the mindlessly cruel Squeers and his wife. Nicholas Nickleby's loose, haphazard progress harks back to the picaresque novels of the 18th century - particularly those of Smollett and Fielding. Yet the novel's exuberant atmosphere of romance, adventure and freedom is overshadowed by Dickens' awareness of social ills and financial and class insecurity. Please feel free to join in! This is the first time I've done a social read-a-long, so we may find we need to change how we do it as we go along, but will update this first post to say what instalment we're currently reading, with links to where each discussion starts, but please bear in mind, there will be spoilers! Part I chapters 1–4: reading until Sunday 31/8/14 - spoilers for this section start in next post (#2) Part II chapters 5–7: reading Mon 01/9 to Sun 07/9 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#9) Part III chapters 8–10: reading Mon 08/9 to Sun 14/9 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#13) Part IV chapters 11–14: reading Mon 15/9 to Sun 21/9 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#13) Part V chapters 15–17: reading Mon 22/9 to Sun 28/9 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#16) Part VI chapters 18–20: reading Mon 29/9 to Sun 05/10- spoilers for this section start in this post (#17) Part VII chapters 21–23: reading Mon 06/10 to Sun 12/10 - spoilers for this section and the next start in this post (#25) Part VIII chapters 24–26: reading Mon 13/10 to Sun 19/10 - see above Part IX chapters 27–29: reading Mon 20/10 to Sun 26/10 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#30) Part X chapters 30–33: reading Mon 27/10 to Sun 02/11 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#34) Part XI chapters 34–36: reading Mon 03/11 to Sun 09/11 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#45) Part XII chapters 37–39: reading Mon 10/11 to Sun 16/11 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#48) Part XIII chapters 40–42: reading Mon 17/11 to Sun 23/11 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#51) Part XIV chapters 43–45: reading Mon 24/11 to Sun 30/11 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#54) Part XV chapters 46–48: reading Mon 01/12 to Sun 07/12 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#56) Part XVI chapters 49–51: reading Mon 08/12 to Sun 14/12 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#57) Part XVII chapters 52–54: reading Mon 15/12 to Sun 21/12 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#60) Part XVIII chapters 55–58: reading Mon 22/12 to Sun 04/01/15 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#63) Part XIX-XX chapters 59–65: reading Mon 05/01 to Sun 11/01 - spoilers for this section start in this post (#64) All reading dates subject to change after discussion.
  3. WORCESTERSHIRE The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall Synopsis: A powerful novel of love between women, THE WELL OF LONELINESS brought about the most famous legal trial for obscenity in the history of British law. Banned on publication in 1928, it then went on to become a classic bestseller. Stephen Gordon (named by a father desperate for a son) is not like other girls: she hunts, she fences, she reads books, wears trousers and longs to cut her hair. As she grows up amidst the stifling grandeur of Morton Hall, the locals begin to draw away from her, aware of some indefinable thing that sets her apart. And when Stephen Gordon reaches maturity, she falls passionately in love - with another woman. Other Worcestershire books: Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
  4. WILTSHIRE Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope Synopsis: Trollope's comic masterpiece of plotting and backstabbing opens as the Bishop of Barchester lies on his deathbed. Soon a pitched battle breaks out over who will take power, involving, among others, the zealous reformer Dr Proudie, his fiendish wife and the unctuous schemer Obadiah Slope. Barchester Towers is one of the best-loved novels in Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire series, which captured nineteenth-century provincial England with wit, worldly wisdom and an unparalleled gift for characterization. The second book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire. Other Wiltshire books: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon Brideshead Revisted by Evelyn Waugh
  5. WEST YORKSHIRE Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë Synopsis: Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, situated on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before; of the intense relationship between the gypsy foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw; and how Catherine, forced to choose between passionate, tortured Heathcliff and gentle, well-bred Edgar Linton, surrendered to the expectations of her class. As Heathcliff's bitterness and vengeance at his betrayal is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past. Other West Yorkshire books: Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  6. WEST SUSSEX Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons Synopsis: 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 doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organise other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and ruthless parody of rural melodramas and purple prose, Cold Comfort Farm is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time. Other West Sussex books:
  7. WEST MIDLANDS Middlemarch by George Eliot Synopsis: George Eliot's most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial English community prior to the Reform Bill of 1832. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfilment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; passionate, idealistic and penniless artist Will Ladislaw; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past. As their stories interweave, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama. Other West Midlands books: The Rotters' Club by Jonathan Coe What Hetty Did by J. L. Carr Nice Work by David Lodge
  8. WARWICKSHIRE Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes Synopsis: Thomas Hughes’ novel about the mischievous but kind-hearted schoolboy Tom Brown inspired other school novels, including Frank Richards’ Billy Bunter stories and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The novel begins at Tom’s childhood home in the Vale of the White Horse, where he spends his days out in the fields with his pony. This early idyllic setting it set up as a contrast to the stresses that Tom undergoes later at Rugby boarding school when he encounters the bully Flashman. Tom is helped through his struggles by his friends Harry ‘Scud’ East and the frail but brilliant George Arthur, whom Tom protects, and who ultimately helps Tom develop into a young gentleman ready for Oxford university. Other Warwickshire books: Kenilworth by Sir Walter Scott The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
  9. TYNE AND WEAR Another World by Pat Barker Synopsis: At 101 years old, Geordie, a proud Somme veteran, lingers painfully through the days before his death. His grandson Nick is anguished to see this once-resilient man haunted by the ghosts of the trenches and the horror surrounding his brother's death. But in Nick's family home the dark pressures of the past also encroach on the present. As he and his wife Fran try to unite their uneasy family of step- and half-siblings, the discovery of a sinister Victorian drawing reveals the murderous history of their house and casts a violent shadow on their lives . . . Other Tyne and Wear books: The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall Skellig by David Almond
  10. SURREY Emma by Jane Austen Synopsis: Beautiful, clever, rich - and single - Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protégée Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen's most flawless work. Alternative: The War of the Worldsl by H. G. Wells (link to book discussion thread) Other Surrey books: A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
  11. The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells Synopsis: Cylinders land on earth and the invaders, from Mars, with their huge, round bodies and tentacles, start to vaporize the people of Earth. Houses, towns and cities are soon destroyed in a spiral of violence, creating civil panic and mass evacuations before a foul black smoke is released by the aggressive alien force. But the fightback must begin, and it comes from an unexpected quarter. H.G. Wells' classic tale of invasion has stirred our imagination for over a hundred years. Its intense mix of realism and fantasy continues to prick at anyone interested in a great adventure story by a master storyteller. Go to main Surrey thread
  12. STAFFORDSHIRE The Old Wives' Tale by Arnold Bennett Synopsis: First published in 1908, The Old Wives' Tale affirms the integrity of ordinary lives as it tells the story of the Baines sisters--shy, retiring Constance and defiant, romantic Sophia--over the course of nearly half a century. Bennett traces the sisters' lives from childhood in their father's drapery shop in provincial Bursley, England, during the mid-Victorian era, through their married lives, to the modern industrial age, when they are reunited as old women. The setting moves from the Five Towns of Staffordshire to exotic and cosmopolitan Paris, while the action moves from the subdued domestic routine of the Baines household to the siege of Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Other Staffordshire books: Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
  13. SOUTH YORKSHIRE A Kestral For A Knave by Barry Hines Synopsis: Life is tough and cheerless for Billy Casper, a disillusioned teenager growing up in a small Yorkshire mining town. Violence is commonplace and he is frequently cold and hungry. Yet he is determined to be a survivor and when he finds Kes, a kestrel hawk he discovers a passion in life. Billy identifies with her proud silence and she inspired in him the trust and love that nothing else can. Intense and raw and bitingly honest, A KETREL FOR A KNAVE was first published in 1968 and was also madeinto a highly acclaimed film, 'Kes', directed by Ken Loach. Other South Yorkshire books:
  14. SOMERSET Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore Synopsis: First published in 1869, Lorna Doone is the story of John Ridd, a farmer who finds love amid the religious and social turmoil of seventeenth-century England. He is just a boy when his father is slain by the Doones, a lawless clan inhabiting wild Exmoor on the border of Somerset and Devon. Seized by curiosity and a sense of adventure, he makes his way to the valley of the Doones, where he is discovered by the beautiful Lorna. In time their childish fantasies blossom into mature love—a bond that will inspire John to rescue his beloved from the ravages of a stormy winter, rekindling a conflict with his archrival, Carver Doone, that climaxes in heartrending violence. Beloved for its portrait of star-crossed lovers and its surpassing descriptions of the English countryside, Lorna Doone is R. D. Blackmore’s enduring masterpiece. Other Somerset books: Persuasion by Jane Austen Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding Far Distant Oxus by Arthur Ransome
  15. SHROPSHIRE Summer Lightning by P. G. Wodehouse Synopsis: The Empress of Blandings, prize-winning pig and all-consuming passion of Clarence, Ninth Earl of Emsworth, has disappeared. Blandings Castle is in uproar and there are suspects a-plenty - from Galahad Threepwood (who is writing memoirs so scandalous they will rock the aristocracy to its foundations) to the Efficient Baxter, chilling former secretary to Lord Emsworth. Even Beach the Butler seems deeply embroiled. And what of Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe, Clarence's arch-rival, and his passion for prize-winning pigs? With the castle full of deceptions and impostors, will Galahad's memoirs ever see the light of day? And will the Empress be returned...? Other Shropshire books: A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters Precious Bane by Mary Webb
  16. RUTLAND Set In Stone by Robert Goddard Synopsis: Recovering from the recent death of his wife in a tragic accident, Tony Sheridan goes to stay with his sister-in-law, Lucy, and her husband, long-time friend Matt Prior, at their new home in the country - Otherways. It is a strange, circular, moated house, the only surviving creation of an eccentric and reclusive Edwardian architect. Disturbed by memories of his wife, and a growing attraction to Lucy, Sheridan is also troubled by weird and vivid dreams. He learns that a murder committed at Otherways in 1939 still has a strange and malign power over those living in or near the house, as does a later scandal surrounding the murderer's brother, a nuclear scientist who defected to the Soviet Union. These and other mysteries forewarn Sheridan of disaster as he and Lucy embark on a passionate affair. But disaster, when it strikes, is far worse than a wrecked marriage or a friendship betrayed. In uncovering the truth about Otherways, Sheridan realises too late that he is merely adding to the list of its victims - and that those closest to him may soon be among them. Other Rutland books:
  17. OXFORDSHIRE The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford Synopsis: Oh, the tedium of waiting to grow up! Longing for love, obsessed with weddings and sex, Linda and her sisters and cousin Fanny are on the lookout for the perfect lover. But finding Mr Right is much harder than any of the sisters had thought. Linda must suffer marriage first to a stuffy Tory MP and then to a handsome and humourless communist, before finding real love in war-torn Paris. . . Other Oxfordshire books: Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson Some Tame Gazelle by Barbara Pym Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter
  18. NOTTINGHAMSHIRE Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence Synopsis: Banned and vindicated, condemned and lauded, Lady Chatterley's Lover is D.H. Lawrence's seminal novel of illicit passion and forbidden desire. This Penguin Classics edition is edited with notes by Michael Squires and an introduction by Doris Lessing. Lady Constance Chatterley feels trapped in her sexless marriage to the Sir Clifford. Paralysed in the First World War, Sir Clifford is unable to fulfil his wife emotionally or physically, and encourages her instead to have a liaison with a man of their own class. But Connie is attracted instead to Oliver Mellors, her husband's gamekeeper, with whom she embarks on a passionate affair that brings new life to her stifled existence. Can she find true love with Mellors, despite the vast gulf between their positions in society? One of the most controversial novels in English literature, Lady Chatterley's Lover is an erotically charged and psychologically powerful depiction of adult relationships. Other Nottinghamshire books: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire by Howard Pyle Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe
  19. NORTHUMBERLAND The Stars Look Down by A. J. Cronin Synopsis: The Stars Look Down was A.J. Cronin's fourth novel, published in 1935, and this tale of a North country mining family was a great favourite with his readers. Robert Fenwick is a miner, and so are his three sons. His wife is proud that all her four men go down the mines. But David, the youngest, is determined that somehow he will educate himself and work to ameliorate the lives of his comrades who ruin their health to dig the nation's coal. It is, perhaps, a typical tale of the era in which it was written – there were many novels about coal mining, but Cronin, a doctor turned author, had a gift for storytelling, and in his time wrote several very popular and successful novels In the magnificent narrative tradition of The Citadel, Hatter’s Castle and Cronin’s other novels, The Stars Look Down is deservedly remembered as a classic of its age. Other Northumberland books: Ruined City by Nevil Shute The Throwback by Tom Sharpe
  20. NORTHAMPTONSHIRE Mansfield Park by Jane Austen Synopsis: Adopted into the household of her uncle, Sir Thomas Bertram, Fanny Price grows up a meek outsider among her cousins in the unaccustomed elegance of Mansfield Park. Soon after Sir Thomas absents himself on estate business in Antigua (the family's investment in slavery and sugar is considered in the Introduction in a new, post-colonial light), Mary Crawford and her brother Henry arrive at Mansfield, bringing with them London glamour, and the seductive taste for flirtation and theatre that precipitates a crisis. Other Northamptonshire books: Mistress Masham's Repose by T. H. White Voice of the Fire by Alan Moore
  21. NORTH YORKSHIRE Dracula by Bram Stoker Synopsis: When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client's castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: a ship runs aground on the shores of Whitby, its crew vanished; beautiful Lucy Westenra slowly succumbs to a mysterious, wasting illness, her blood drained away; and the lunatic Renfield raves about the imminent arrival of his 'master'. In the ensuing battle of wills between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries - led by the intrepid vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing - Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire. Alternative: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot (link to book discussion thread) Other North Yorkshire books: A Month in the Country by J. L. Carr Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
  22. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot Synopsis: Fresh out of Glasgow Veterinary College, to the young James Herriot 1930s Yorkshire seems to offers an idyllic pocket of rural life in a rapidly changing world. But from his erratic new colleagues, brothers Siegfried and Tristan Farnon, to incomprehensible farmers, herds of semi-feral cattle, a pig called Nugent and an overweight Pekingese called Tricki Woo, James find he is on a learning curve as steep as the hills around him. And when he meets Helen, the beautiful daughter of a local farmer, all the training and experience in the world can’t help him… Go to main North Yorkshire thread
  23. NORFOLK The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley Synopsis: 'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there' When one long, hot summer, young Leo is staying with a school-friend at Brandham Hall, he begins to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, the beautiful young woman up at the hall. He becomes drawn deeper and deeper into their dangerous game of deceit and desire, until his role brings him to a shocking and premature revelation. The haunting story of a young boy's awakening into the secrets of the adult world, The Go-Between is also an unforgettable evocation of the boundaries of Edwardian society. Other Norfolk books: Love on a Branch Line by John Hadfield Restoration by Rose Tremain Devices and Desires by P. D. James
  24. MERSEYSIDE An Awfully Big Adventure by Beryl Bainbridge Synopsis: It is 1950 and the Liverpool reporatory theatre company is rehearsing its Christmas production of Peter Pan, a story of childhood innocence and loss. Stella has been taken on as assistant stage manager and quickly becomes obsessed with Meredith, the dissolute director. But it is only when the celebrated O'Hara arrives to take the lead, that a different drama unfolds. In it, he and Stella are bound together in a past that neither dares to interpret. Other Merseyside books: Educating Rita by Willy Russell (play)
  25. LINCOLNSHIRE The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot Synopsis: If life had no love in it, what else was there for Maggie? Tragic and moving, The Mill on the Floss is a novel of grand passions and tormented lives. As the rebellious Maggie's fiery spirit and imaginative nature bring her into bitter conflict with her narrow provincial family, most painfully with her beloved brother Tom, their fates are played out on an epic scale. George Eliot drew on her own frustrated rural upbringing to create one of the great novels of childhood, and one of literature's most unforgettable heroines. Other Lincolnshire books: Jack's Return Home by Ted Lewis