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Farewell

Farewell by Honoré de Balzac

Farewell by Honoré de Balzac

In his startling and tragic novella Farewell, Balzac adds to the 19th century’s literature of the hysterical woman: sequestered, confined in her madness; mute, or eerily chanting in her moated grange. The first Mrs Rochester lurks in the wings; the Lady of Shalott waits for the shadowy reflection of the world outside to shatter her illusion. Freud’s earliest patients will soon enter the waiting-room in their turn.

Whilst out hunting two friends come across a strange waif-like woman shut up in a decaying chateau which one of them dubs “the Palace of the Sleeping Beauty”. Soon we are dragged back to the terrible masculine reality of the 1812 retreat of Napoleon’s army from Moscow and the grotesque massacre that was to traumatize the heroine, parting her from her lover.

Their reunion is more desperate still, as the earlier event is recreated in a bizarre and vain attempt to root out madness and compel the return of happiness…

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Zuleika Dobson

Zuleika Dobson by Sir Max Beerbohm

Zuleika Dobson by Sir Max Beerbohm

A wickedly funny satire on undergraduate life in Edwardian Oxford’ in which the entire student body of Oxford university including the young, handsome aristocrat the Duke of Dorset falls hopelessly in love with Zuleika who is visiting her grandfather, the warden of Judas college, and ultimately commit mass suicide at the end of ‘Eights Week.

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The Romance of a Christmas Card

The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The Romance of a Christmas Card by Kate Douglas Wiggin

The story of the mission of two Christmas cards written by a minister’s wife. These cards find their way to two straying sheep from the village fold, who hear through the message in the words, and the little scenes on the cards, the compelling voice of home. There was inspiration and good cheer in the cards, and from them came, in one case reformation, in the other romance.

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The Wanderer – Volume 4

The Wanderer - Volume 4 by Fanny Burney

The Wanderer – Volume 4 by Fanny Burney

This is the fourth and final novel by Fanny Burney, the author of Evelina, Cecilia, and Camilla. “Who is “Miss Ellis?” Why did she board a ship from France to England at the beginning of the French revolution? Anyway, the loss of her purse made this strange “wanderer” dependent upon the charity of some good people and, of course, bad ones. But she always comforts herself by reminding herself that it’s better than “what might have been…” This is not only a mystery, not at all. It’s also a romance

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North and South

North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

North and South by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Set in Victorian England, North and South is the story of Margaret Hale, a young woman whose life is turned upside down when her family relocates to northern England. As an outsider from the agricultural south, Margaret is initially shocked by the aggressive northerners of the dirty, smoky industrial town of Milton. But as she adapts to her new home, she defies social conventions with her ready sympathy and defense of the working poor. Her passionate advocacy leads her to repeatedly clash with charismatic mill owner John Thornton over his treatment of his workers. While Margaret denies her growing attraction to him, Thornton agonizes over his foolish passion for her, in spite of their heated disagreements. As tensions mount between them, a violent unionization strike explodes in Milton, leaving everyone to deal with the aftermath in the town and in their personal lives.

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Gawayne and the Green Knight

Gawayne and the Green Knight by Carlton Miner Lewis

Gawayne and the Green Knight by Carlton Miner Lewis

Charlton Miner Lewis’ version of Gawayne and the Green Knight, a late 14th century alliterative romance, is written in modern language telling the story of the Green Knight’s challenge to Gawayne, and the romance between Sir Gawayne and Lady Elfinhart. The name Gawayne is often also spelled Gawain.

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A Pair of Blue Eyes

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

A Pair of Blue Eyes by Thomas Hardy

The book describes the love triangle between a young woman, Elfride Swancourt, and her two suitors from very different backgrounds. Stephen Smith is a socially inferior but ambitious young man who adores her and with whom she shares a country background. Henry Knight is the respectable, established, older man who represents London society.

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Doctor Thorne

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope

Doctor Thorne is the third of Trollope’s Barsetshire novels, and unlike some of the others, has little to do with the politics and personalities of the Church of England, or politics on the national level (though there is lots of politicking in the mythical county of Barsetshire itself). The plot revolves around the illegitimate Mary Thorne, who has been lovingly raised by her uncle, a country doctor, and who, as she comes of age, finds herself wondering whether she is a lady (in the county sense of the term). Frank Gresham, son of the squire of Greshamsbury, is in love with her (much against the wishes of his noble de Courcy relatives at the Castle), but she dismisses his affection at first as mere puppy love, thereby setting the scene for a series of entanglements, social, romantic, and of course, financial and propertied (never far from the action in Trollope’s works). Their resolution, of course, makes up the meat of the novel. One critic has remarked that in Doctor Thorne Trollope succeeds in one of the most difficult tasks an author of fiction can face: how to make genuinely good people genuinely interesting, so that they engage not only the sympathies but also the interest of readers.

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The Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems

The Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales, and Other Poems by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer (two of them in prose, the rest in verse). The tales, some of which are originals and others not, are contained inside a frame tale and told by a group of pilgrims on their way from Southwark to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral.

The themes of the tales vary, and include topics such as courtly love, treachery, and avarice. The genres also vary, and include romance, Breton lai, sermon, beast fable, and fabliau. The characters, introduced in the General Prologue of the book, tell tales of great cultural relevance.

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Diary of a U-Boat Commander

Diary of a U-Boat Commander by Sir Stephen King-Hall

Diary of a U-Boat Commander by Sir Stephen King-Hall

Captain Karl von Schenk of the Kaiser’s Navy is a stereotypical German nobleman – supremely self-confident, touchy about the divisions of class and any infringement on his place. He thinks he is handsome, has a suitably manly physique, an excellent singing voice, and a facility with writing. His wartime service related in his diary is a series of triumphs over harrowing circumstances, bringing his boat back in spite of the best efforts of the Royal Navy to stop him.

His one vulnerability is a young lady he meets on leave in Bruges, Belgium. Although she is the trophy girlfriend of a German colonel who could cause him much harm if he were to find out, von Schenk pursues his Zoe with Teutonic straightforwardness. And both he and the reader are entirely blind-sided by the unexpected thunderclap that puts an end to the sweet affair.

Stephen King-Hall, a Royal Navy officer during the war and writing as “Etienne”, penned this book as if he had simply discovered it on a surrendered submarine. In fact, some editions of the book list the author as “anonymous.” King-Hall’s knowledge of naval affairs lend authority to this yarn of men that go to the sea in ships that sink… on purpose.

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