I Capture the Castle
'I write this sitting in the kitchen sink...'
This is the diary of Cassandra Mortmain, which tells of her extraordinary family and their crumbling castle home. Cassandra's father was once a famous writer, but now he mainly reads detective novels while his family slide into genteel poverty. Her sister Rose is bored and beautiful, and desperate to marry riches. Their step-mother Topaz has habit of striding through the countryside wearing only her wellington boots. But all their lives will be soon be transformed by the arrival of new neighbours from America, and Cassandra finds herself falling in love...
BACKSTORY: Get to know Dodie Smith, and be inspired to keep your own diary!
Buy the Book
Tess of the d'urbervilles
A heartaching portrayal of a woman faced by an impossible choice in the pursuit of happiness, Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles is edited with notes by Tim Dolin and an introduction by Margaret R. Higonnet in Penguin Classics.
When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future. With its sensitive depiction of the wronged Tess and powerful criticism of social convention, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, subtitled 'A Pure Woman', is one of the most moving and poetic of Hardy's novels.
Based on the three-volume first edition that shocked readers when first published in 1891, this edition includes as appendices: Hardy's Prefaces, the Landscapes of Tess, episodes originally censored from the Graphic periodical version and a selection of the Graphic illustrations.
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), born Higher Brockhampton, near Dorchester, originally trained as an architect before earning his living as a writer. Though he saw himself primarily as a poet, Hardy was the author of some of the late eighteenth century's major novels: The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), Far from the Madding Crowd (1874), and Jude the Obscure (1895). Amidst the controversy caused by Jude the Obscure, he turned to the poetry he had been writing all his life. In the next thirty years he published over nine hundred poems and his epic drama in verse, The Dynasts.
If you enjoyed Tess of the D'Urbervilles, you might like Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, also available in Penguin Classics.
'The greatest tragic writer among the English novelists'
Buy the Book
Never Let Me Go
In one of the most acclaimed and strange novels of recent years, Kazuo Ishiguro imagines the lives of a group of students growing up in a darkly skewered version of contemporary England. Narrated by Kathy, now 31, Never Let Me Go hauntingly dramatises her attempts to come to terms with her childhood at the seemingly idyllic Hailsham School, and with the fate that has always awaited her and her closest friends in the wider world. This is a story of love, friendship and memory, Never Let Me Go is charged throughout with a sense of the fragility of life.
Buy the Book
The Night Circus
This is a novel of magic and love that is enchanting readers far and wide with the spectacular power of its imagination. In 1886, a mysterious travelling circus becomes an international sensation. Open only at night, constructed entirely in black and white, Le Cirque des Reves delights all who wander its circular paths and warm themselves at its bonfire. Although there are acrobats, fortune-tellers and contortionists, the Circus of Dreams is no conventional spectacle. Some tents contain clouds, some ice. The circus seems almost to cast a spell over its aficionados, who call themselves the reveurs - the dreamers. At the heart of the story is the tangled relationship between two young magicians, Celia, the enchanter's daughter, and Marco, the sorcerer's apprentice. At the behest of their shadowy masters, they find themselves locked in a deadly contest, forced to test the very limits of the imagination, and of their love...
Buy the Book
Colm Toibin's Brooklyn is a devastating story of love, loss and one woman's terrible choice between duty and personal freedom.
It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.
Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home - and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma - a devastating choice between duty and one great love.
'With this elating and humane novel, Colm Toibin has produced a masterwork' Sunday Times
'The most compelling and moving portrait of a young woman I have read in a long time' Zoe Heller Guardian, Books of the Year
'Magnificent' Sunday Telegraph
'A work of such skill, understatement and sly jewelled merriment could haunt your life' Ali Smith TLS, Books of the Year
When you are finished why not read the companion novel Nora Webster.