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The Four Greatest Novels in English

This is a subjective view, of course, but these are the novels that I nominate as the four best ever in English. Even if you disagree, I'm sure you will agree that they are all must-reads. Click on the link and order them from Amazon - or you can just read my review.

  James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)
Every sentence of Ulysses is deeply layered with meaning. While the day in the life of Leopold Bloom is told as an odyssey, the joy lies in the details. Depth is often found in humour—and the book is very funny indeed. Skits of Dublin life are followed by devastating parodies of English literature, while the concluding pages—wierd though they may be—are compelling and affirming. This is a book that stays with you for life.
  Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851)
Moby Dick is also deeply layered. Religion and science vie for attention with literature and folklore; the monotony of the sea is broken by the thrashing excitement of a whale hunt, and every tiny part of the ship refers backwards or forwards, within or beyond the novel, to a network of anecdote, allusion, textuality, and supposition. The jokes come thick and fast, but this is, of course, a deeply serious book about the human condition as well.
  Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1852-3)
Bleak House is the finest example of the nineteenth-century social novel. Dickens sets out to prove that society is an organic unity and not merely a collection of individuals. The novel examines all classes of society, from Jo the homeless crossing sweeper to the aristocratic Dedlock family, and shows how all are interconnected and interdependent. The social satire is biting and often hilarious and most of the characters are sharply drawn.
  Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)
This is the perfect love story: a tale of misunderstanding, misplaced pride, and blind prejudice, but also a tale of atonement and forgiveness; of mistakes rectified. It is gloriously comic and deeply serious, while its central characters, Lizzy Bennett and Mr Darcy, remain fully realised personalities. No wonder, then, that this is one of the most popular novels ever written. If you have not yet read it, now is the time...

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* This page last updated 16 September 2007 *