Vanity Fair


William Makepeace Thackeray - 1848
    A novel that chronicles the lives of two women who could not be more different: Becky Sharp, an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals; and her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family.

Little Dorrit


Charles Dickens - 1855
    As Arthur soon discovers, the dark shadow of the prison stretches far beyond its walls to affect the lives of many, from the kindly Mr Panks, the reluctant rent-collector of Bleeding Heart Yard, and the tipsily garrulous Flora Finching, to Merdle, an unscrupulous financier, and the bureaucratic Barnacles in the Circumlocution Office. A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens's maturity.

Felix Holt: The Radical


George Eliot - 1866
    But after the idealistic Felix Holt also returns to the town, the difference between Harold's opportunistic values and Holt's profound beliefs becomes apparent. Forthright, brusque and driven by a firm desire to educate the working-class, Felix is at first viewed with suspicion by many, including the elegant but vain Esther Lyon, the daughter of the local clergyman. As she discovers, however, his blunt words conceal both passion and deep integrity. Soon the romantic and over-refined Esther finds herself overwhelmed by a heart-wrenching decision: whether to choose the wealthy Transome as a husband, or the impoverished but honest Felix Holt.

The Way We Live Now


Anthony Trollope - 1875
    Trollope's 1875 tale of a great financier's fraudulent machinations in the railway business, and his daughter's ill-use at the hands of a grasping lover is a classic in the literature of money and a ripping good read as well.

The Man of Property


John Galsworthy - 1906
    But when she falls in love with Bosinney, a penniless architect who utterly rejects the Forsyte values, their affair touches off a series of events which can only end in disgrace and disaster.John Galsworthy tackles his theme of the demise of the upper-middle classes with irony and compassion.

The Moorland Cottage


Elizabeth Gaskell - 1850
    Through the example and guidance of her mother—who dotes on Edward constantly—and her mentor, Mrs. Buxton, Maggie learns that self-sacrifice is the key to living a fulfilled life. The precursor to and arguably the template for George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, this feminist masterpiece begs the question How much personal happiness can one forgo in the name of duty and devotion to another? Maggie’s love story, Edward’s perfidy, and the dramatic conclusion at sea all blend together seamlessly to make this story a timeless tale.

Shirley


Charlotte Brontë - 1849
    One is the shy Caroline Helstone, who is trapped in the oppressive atmosphere of a Yorkshire rectory and whose bare life symbolizes the plight of single women in the nineteenth century. The other is the vivacious Shirley Keeldar, who inherits a local estate and whose wealth liberates her from convention.A work that combines social commentary with the more private preoccupations of Jane Eyre, Shirley demonstrates the full range of Brontë's literary talent. "Shirley is a revolutionary novel," wrote Brontë biographer Lyndall Gordon. "Shirley follows Jane Eyre as a new exemplar but so much a forerunner of the feminist of the later twentieth century that it is hard to believe in her actual existence in 1811-12. She is a theoretic possibility: what a woman might be if she combined independence and means of her own with intellect. Charlotte Brontë imagined a new form of power, equal to that of men, in a confident young woman [whose] extraordinary freedom has accustomed her to think for herself....Shirley [is] Brontë's most feminist novel."

Agnes Grey


Anne Brontë - 1847
    Feeling helpless and frustrated, his youngest daughter, Agnes, applies for a job as a governess to the children of a wealthy, upper-class, English family.Ecstatic at the thought that she has finally gained control and freedom over her own life, Agnes arrives at the Bloomfield mansion armed with confidence and purpose. The cruelty with which the family treat her however, slowly but surely strips the heroine of all dignity and belief in humanity.A tale of female bravery in the face of isolation and subjugation, Agnes Grey is a masterpiece claimed by Irish writer, George Moore, to be possessed of all the qualities and style of a Jane Austen title. Its simple prosaic style propels the narrative forward in a gentle yet rhythmic manner which continuously leaves the listener wanting to know more.Anne Brontë, the somewhat lesser known sister, was in fact the first to finish and publish Agnes Grey under the pseudonym of Acton Bell. Charlotte and Emily followed shortly after with Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights.As Anne passed away from what is now known to be pulmonary tuberculosis at the age of just 29, she only published one further title; The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. As feminist in nature as Agnes Grey, Anne's brave voice resonates and permeates during one of the most prejudiced and patriarchal times of English history.

New Grub Street


George Gissing - 1891
    His novel is at once a major social document and a story that draws us irresistibly into the twilit world of Edwin Reardon, a struggling novelist, and his friends and acquaintances in Grub Street including Jasper Milvain, an ambitious journalist, and Alfred Yule, an embittered critic. Here Gissing brings to life the bitter battles (fought out in obscure garrets or in the Reading Room of the British Museum) between integrity and the dictates of the market place, the miseries of genteel poverty and the damage that failure and hardship do to human personality and relationships.

The Egoist


George Meredith - 1879
    He imagines us capable of disinterested curiosity in the behaviour of our kind.' In this, the most dazzlingly intellectual of all his novels, Meredith tries to illuminate the pretensions of the most powerful class within the very citadel of security which its members have built. He develops to their logical extremity his ideas on egoism, on sentimentality and on the power of comedy. Meredith saw egoism as the great enemy of truth, feeling and progress, and comedy as the great dissolver of artifice. The Egoist is the extreme expression of his recurrent theme: the defeat of egoism by the power of comedy.

East Lynne


Mrs. Henry Wood - 1861
    Ellen Wood played upon the anxieties of the Victorian middle classes who feared a breakdown of the social order as divorce became more readily available and promiscuity threatened the sanctity of the family. In her novel the simple act of hiring a governess raises the spectres of murder, disguise, and adultery. Her sensation novel was devoured by readers from the Prince of Wales to Joseph Conrad and continued to fascinate This edition returns for the first time to the racy, slang-ridden narrative of the first edition, rather than the subsequent stylistically 'improved' versions hitherto reproduced by modern editors.

The Awkward Age


Henry James - 1899
    Thrust suddenly into the superficial circle that surrounds her mother, the innocent but independent-minded young woman even finds herself in competition with Mrs Brookenham for the affection of the man she admires. Only an elderly bachelor, Mr Longdon, is immune to this world of scheming, and determines to rescue Nanda from its influences out of loyalty to the deep love he once felt for her grandmother. In The Awkward Age (1899), Henry James explores the English character, and the clash between old and new money with a light and subtly ironic touch to create a devastating critique of society and its machinations.

The Doctor's Wife


Mary Elizabeth Braddon - 1864
    Adultery, death, and the spectacle of female recrimination and suffering are the elements that combine to make The Doctor's Wife a classic women's 'sensation' novel. Yet it is also Braddon's most self-consciously literary work and her rewriting of Madame Bovary. Like Emma Bovary, Braddon's heroine, Isabel Gilbert, is trapped in a marriage to a man incapable of understanding her imaginative life. But Braddon's novel differs vastly from Flaubert's in the nature and consequences of Isabel's 'affair'.

Wuthering Heights


Emily Brontë - 1847
    For the Fourth Edition, the editor has collated the 1847 text with several modern editions and has corrected a number of variants, including accidentals. The text is accompanied by entirely new explanatory annotations.New to the fourth Edition are twelve of Emily Bronte's letters regarding the publication of the 1847 edition of Wuthering Heights as well as the evolution of the 1850 edition, prose and poetry selections by the author, four reviews of the novel, and poetry selections by the author, four reviews of the novel, and Edward Chitham's insightful and informative chronology of the creative process behind the beloved work.Five major critical interpretations of Wuthering Heights are included, three of them new to the Fourth Edition. A Stuart Daley considers the importance of chronology in the novel. J. Hillis Miller examines Wuthering Heights's problems of genre and critical reputation. Sandra M. Gilbert assesses the role of Victorian Christianity plays in the novel, while Martha Nussbaum traces the novel's romanticism. Finally, Lin Haire-Sargeant scrutinizes the role of Heathcliff in film adaptations of Wuthering Heights. A Chronology and updated Selected Bibliography are also included.

Ann Veronica


H.G. Wells - 1909
    Walking away from her stifling father and the social conventions of her time, she leaves drab suburbia for Edwardian London and encounters an unknown world of suffragettes, Fabians and free love. But it is only when she meets the charismatic Capes that she truly confronts the meaning of her new found freedom. Ann Veronica caused a sensation, damned in the press and preached against from the pulpits when it was first published due to Wells' ground breaking treatment of female sexuality. A fascinating description of the women's suffrage movement, Ann Veronica offers an optimistic depiction of one woman's sexual awakening and search for independence.