Littérature générale

  • Jane Eyre accepts a position as governess at Thornfield Hall and meets Mr. Rochester, the moody and cynical master of the manor. Growing up an unwanted orphan, Jane has known very little love in her life, but in spite of this, she has always been thoughtful and kind. Jane's and Rochester's apparent differences attract them to each other, but little does Jane know that something far more damaging than social statuses will keep them apart. Like the work of Janes Austen, `Jane Eyre' (1847) is a love story that holds up over time, and it is no wonder that it has been adapted so many times. Ruth Wilson from `The Affair' (2014) starred as Jane in 2003, and before he was James Bond, Timothy Dalton took on the role as the complicated Mr. Rochester. 2011 saw the most beautiful adaptation yet with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender in the leading roles.

  • "Men act badly sometimes without being much worse than others."

    Charlie Marlow from Conrad's previous adventure novel, `Heart of Darkness', is back, and he is trying to piece together and understand the life of Jim, a British seaman with a shameful past. Once a mate aboard a merchant ship carrying hundreds of Muslim pilgrims, Jim and the crew made the mistake of abandoning all the passengers, believing the ship would sink. But it did not, and the passengers lived to tell the tale.

    Praised by Virginia Wolf, Conrad's writing is ambitious, intriguing and humane. `Lord Jim' (1900) is a classic tale of redemption.

  • "It seemed to Ethan that his heart was bound with cords which an unseen hand was tightening with every tick of the clock."

    Finding himself in the small town of Starkfield for the winter, the narrator sets out to learn the tragic story of Ethan Frome. The townspeople, however, are hesitant to tell him much. But one night he seeks shelter from a bad weather in the house of non other than Frome himself.

    `Ethan Frome' (1911) is the beautifully written story of a loveless marriage and temptation, full of regret and raw emotion. Liam Neeson and Patricia Arquette are the leading roles in the 1993 movie of the same name.

  • Catherine is well on her way to becoming a spinster. She's 21 and part of New York's upper-class society, but she has never had a flirt and is plain-looking without the sparkling personality to make up for it. Or so her father thinks. Because when the handsome Mr. Morris Townsend catches her eye, Catherine falls head over heels in love with him. But does Townsend really like her back, or does he just like all the money she is set to inherit? Based on a true story as told to him by a friend, `Washington Square' (1880) is probably Henry James' most accessible novel. Fans of Jane Austen will definitely like this.

  • ´It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.` So opens Jane Austen´s second novel Pride and Prejudice, which was first published in 1813. It follows the story of Mr and Mrs Bennet and their five single daughters. The whole town is set aflutter by the arrival of prosperous Mr Bingley and his friend Mr Darcy, and as the prejudice of the latter hurts the pride of headstrong Elizabeth Bennet, friendship, love, and strife enfold. Perhaps the most beloved of all of Austen´s work, Pride and Prejudice has been adapted numerous times, including in the 1995 BBC mini-series featuring Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, and the 2005 movie adaption by Joe Wright with Keira Knightley in the role of Elizabeth Bennet.

  • Winner of the 1921 Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, "The Age of Innocence" is Edith Wharton's masterful portrait of desire and betrayal during the splendid Golden Age of Old New York. Everything in Newland Archer's easy life seems to be perfectly on track; he has a comfortable position in society, a high-powered job and a beautiful and well-bred fiancée, May Welland. But when May's mysterious cousin Countess Ellen Olenska returns to New York after leaving a terrible marriage, Newland soon falls deeply in love with her. Torn between duty and passion, expectation and scandal, Newland struggles to make an impossible decision. Against a backdrop of a New York on the cusp of modernization, Wharton's classic skewers the orchestrated customs and inflexible mores of the 1870s high society. Among the novel's many film adaptations, Martin Scorsese's 1993 film stands out, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer, Winona Ryder and Richard E. Grant.

  • An imaginative, clever, and mischievous boy named Tom Sawyer and his friend Huckleberry Finn witness a murder in a graveyard and Tom is forced to testify against the murderer, Injun Joe. Injun Joe escapes and when Tom and his crush Becky Thatcher meet him in a dark cave their hope of escape diminishes...

    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is a very well known and popular coming of age story concerning the American youth. Originally a commercial failure, the book ended up being the best selling of any of Twain's works during his lifetime. Although The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is sometimes overshadowed by its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the book is considered a masterpiece of American literature, and was one of the first novels to be written on a typewriter.

    Mark Twain was greatly inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writings and Tom and Huck's relationship is by many compared to that of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.

    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an 1876 novel by Mark Twain. It is the first book in the series of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), Tom Sawyer Abroad (1894) and Tom Sawyer, Detective (1896).

  • Buck is a beloved and pampered St. Bernard-Scotch Shepherd, living a life of luxuries with a rich and loving family in California. But one day a domestic servant steals and sells Buck, and he must now adapt to a whole new life as a sled dog in the Canadian wilderness. Adjusting becomes even harder when the vicious lead dog, Spitz, makes an enemy out of him. But Buck is not so easily defeated.

    `The Call of the Wild' (1903) is one of Jack London's most highly regarded masterpieces, now with a 2020 CGI-animated movie, starring Harrison Ford, Karen Gillian and Bradley Whitford, to its name.

  • When Lemuel Gulliver wakes up on an island after a shipwreck, tied on his hands and feet and with arrows pointed at him, you would think all hope is lost. But his captors are the size of a finger, their rope is as thin as thread, and their tiny arrows barely break the surface of his skin. This is not even as absurd as it gets on Gulliver's travels at sea, but, hilariously, he has no emotional response to any of it. Jonathan Swift's `Gulliver's Travels' (1726) is political satire at its best. Published shortly after Daniel Defoe's `Robinson Crusoe', it offers a very different view on humankind than Defoe's optimistic account, poking fun and in doing so opening the door for wider discussions.

  • Sense and Sensibility (1811) was Jane Austen´s first published novel. When their father dies the Dashwood sisters and their mother find themselves destitute and soon, under the influence of his greedy wife Fanny, their half-brother John forces them out of their home in Sussex and the bereaved women have to move to a distant relative´s cottage in Devonshire. The two oldest sisters Elinor and Marianne struggle with their newfound lower status, as they fall in love and face heartbreak. Elinor is responsible and restrained whilst Marianne is passionately romantic but both have to meet society´s expectations of respectable young ladies despite their hardships. As Austen writes, 'Young women who have no economic or political power must attend to the serious business of contriving material security'. Like ´Pride and Prejudice´ and ´Emma´, ´Sense and Sensibility´ features Austen´s trademark witty writing and was, amongst other, turned into the award-winning eponymous 1995 movie, featuring Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman.

  • "He struggled with himself, too. I saw it -- I heard it. I saw the inconceivable mystery of a soul that knew no restraint, no faith, and no fear, yet struggling blindly with itself."

    Aboard an anchored boat on the Thames a sailor named Charlie Marlow tells his fellow sailors a shocking story from his youth as a ferry boat captain traveling up the Congo River. It soon becomes clear to his audience that Marlow is more than a little obsessed with the brilliant ivory trader he met there, Kurtz. Though gifted, powerful and charismatic, the young Marlow suspected the man had gone mad.

    `Heart of Darkness' (1899) is a timeless book and a breathtaking story about the corruptive European colonialism. It is the inspiration behind the classic 1979 movie, Apocalypse Now starring Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen.

  • When an old sea captain dies mysteriously in his parent's inn, young Jim Hawkins finds a treasure map in the captain's possessions that will spark a wild and adventures treasure hunt. Joined by a handful of untrustworthy pirates, he meets the antagonistic Long John Silver, a character whose fame transcends the tale. With Treasure Island (1883), author Robert Louis Stevenson invented the modern image of the pirate, without which we likely wouldn't have experienced Johnny Depp as the infamous Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean. For more than a hundred years, Treasure Island has been finding its way to the screen. The first non-silent movie adaptation was directed by Victor Fleming, the director of The Wizard of Oz (1939).

  • "I too can play the madman, the fool, the hero; in short, any or everything to rescue her I love."

    The war between the British and the French is raging in North America. Amidst the chaos, a small party lead by Hawkeye, a white man raised by Natives, is trying to get the British Munro sisters safely to Fort William Henry. But not everyone in their party can be trusted, and their destination is not as save as it once was.

    A historically profound adventure story of brave and honorable men, `The Last of the Mohicans' (1826) is not to be missed. In 1993, it was famously made into an award-winning movie of the same name, starring the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis.

  • "True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid..." Dorothy is in a bit of a pickle. Her house has been swept away in a vicious tornado with just herself and her dog inside, and when she walks out the front door again, she finds that she is not in Kansas anymore. She is in the mysterious lands of Oz. Along with her new friends, a scarecrow, a tin man, and a lion, she sets out to find the Wizard, who is said to know how to get her home. But the Wicked Witch of the West has other plans for her. Inspired in part by 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', `The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' (1900) is one of the most beloved children's books of all time. It is highly associated with the iconic 1939 movie adaptation staring Judy Garland in which she sings the Oscar-winning song "Over the Rainbow".

  • "I think Silas Marner holds a higher place than any of the author's works," said Henry James of this classic George Eliot novel. When a little girl wanders into a random house one cold night, the lives of two different men are about to change dramatically. The house is owned by the town outsider, Silas Marner, and upon finding the girl's mother dead in the snow, he decides to adopt her. Little does he know that the girl's biological father is the rich Godfrey Cass, who now considers himself off the hook and free to marry the girl he loves. Published in 1862, Silas Marner is a simple and subtle story that explores the relationship between the individual and the community.

  • "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times," writes Charles Dickens in the opening of this dark and meaningful classic novel. It is the year 1775 and Jarvis Lorry is tasked with a secret mission for his employer. 17-year-old Lucie Manette joins him on his travels from London to Paris and is shocked to learn that her father is alive and has been released from eighteen years in a Paris prison. Set in the two metropolises just prior (and during) the French Revolution, Dickens paints a distinct picture of the social and political events of the time. `A Tale of Two Cities' is masterfully written, includes Dickens' perhaps greatest villain, and ties up everything in an especially satisfying ending.

  • In a time when poor Irish families struggled to feed their children, Jonathan Swift wrote an essay, which he published anonymously, making a few suggestions. He called it `A Modest Proposal' (1729) or `A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People from Being a Burthen to their Parents, or the Country, and for Making them Beneficial to the Publick.' The solution was simple: Fatten up the undernourished children and sell them as food for the rich. Everybody wins! Though written in a serious tone, the humour in this essay is undeniable, and so is its mocking of the heartless attitudes towards poor people.

  • "I returned to the City about three o'clock on that Monday afternoon pretty well disgusted with life. I had been three months in the Old Country, and was fed up with it." So opens John Buchan´s The Thirty-Nine Steps and with it he creates a whole new genre: the adventure novel. Richard Hannay, the protagonist, finds himself reluctantly drawn into a chain of events that drags him away from the civilisation of London and into the Scottish wilderness, where he is chased both by villains and by policemen.
    This book has been adapted countless times, the most famous one certainly being Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 version. Full of excitement and good humour, The Thirty-Nine Steps is a modern classic you'll never want to put down.

  • "It had never occurred to his honest, simple little mind that there were people who could forget kindnesses."

    Shortly after his father's death, the sweet and optimistic boy, Cedric, and his American mother discover that he is a lord and heir to a large fortune. His grandfather invites them to stay with him in England but wants nothing whatsoever to do with them. It does not take long for the loving boy to warm his grandfather's bitter heart, however, but conflict lurks just around the corner. Someone else is out to claim Cedric's inheritance.

    Considered the Harry Potter of its time, `Little Lord Fauntleroy' (1886) was a huge hit and massively influential on young boys in the 19th century.

  • "Men may keep a sort of level of good, but no man has ever been able to keep on one level of evil. That road goes down and down."

    A rich, old man has been mysteriously stabbed, and no one can figure out how it happened. There is no weapon in sight, no signs. However, there is something strange going on with his dog...

    This collection of mystery short stories is interesting and constantly surprising. Like Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown is extremely smart and observant, although he leans on his intuition far more than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's detective. Like Sherlock has Watson, Father Brown, too, has a companion: Flambeau. Who also happens to be a master thief.

  • Christopher Newman, a somewhat awkward but well-meaning American businessman traveling in Europe for the first time, meets and falls in love with the aristocratic young widow Claire de Bellegarde. But her French family does not like his American ways and oppose his offer of marriage. When he discovers a dirty family secret, however, the tables are suddenly turned. But what should he do with upper hand? Despite being one of Henry James earliest works, `The American' (1877) flows more like a contemporary novel than his later work, mixing social comedy and melodrama to perfection.

  • `What Maise Knew' (1897) should perhaps have been titled `Divorce for Dummies` instead. In this tense and clever novel, Henry James lays out with perfect clarity what not to do when your child becomes one of divorce, as in do the absolute opposite of everything Maise's parents do. Shuttled back and forth between her selfish mother and her vain father, Maise becomes a weapon in her parents' battle, a way for them to intensify their hatred of each other. Like Charles Dickens before him, Henry James seems to have been more invested in child welfare issues than most, and much of this story still rings true today. In 2012 it became a movie, set in the same year, with Julianne Moore and Alexander Skarsgård in leading roles.

  • A party of English people are headed for South America on a boat. One of them is 24-year-old Rachel Vinrace, a naïve and sheltered young woman. Rachel is taken under the wing of her aunt Helen, who sets out to teach Rachel "how to live". Maturing through conversations about politics, art, science, religion and relationships, Rachel eventually falls in love with Terence Hewet, a young writer. A haunting exploration of one young woman's mind, Virginia Woolf's first novel "The Voyage Out", published in 1915, shows the very beginnings of her experimental style. Told through steam of consciousness and shifts in focus between central and peripheral characters, this is the novel in which one of Woolf's most famous and beloved characters, Mrs. Dalloway, is first introduced.

  • When White Fang - part wolf, part dog - gets separated from his family, he must find a way to survive on his own. In a harsh Canadian environment that means kill or be killed. Tough surroundings and cruel masters make White Fang increasingly more aggressive and wild, but Weedon Scott, a kind gold hunter, sees the dog in him and attempts to tame him. Released in 1906, White Fang - companion novel to The Call of the Wild - was immediately successful, especially among younger readers. Ethan Hawke starred in the 1991 film adaptation as the wolfdog's friend, and in 2018, Netflix released a beautiful animated movie, introducing children to work of Jack London.

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