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An idealistic young man, the title character of Nicholas Nickleby is left to find work and to support and protect his mother and sister after his father's death leaves them penniless. After his cold-hearted Uncle Ralph turns down his pleas for help, Nicholas Nickleby is left to find his own way, opening him up to all manner of queer folk, rogues and scoundrels. Dickens shows himself not only to be a literary genius but a comic one as well.
The 1817 novel tells the story of Frank Osbaldistone sent to the Scottish Highlands to recover a debt owed to his father. While there he encounters Rob Roy MacGregor, the Scottish Robin Hood. Whilst based around an historical figure the story itself is pure fiction. The book was hugely successful when published and has spawned a number of film adaptations.
An extraordinary story of love and hope set in the early years of the 19th century. Silas Marner is wrongly accused and expelled from his community. He becomes a recluse who lives only to work and hoard his meagre pay. He seems trapped in this small dark life until the arrival of a young orphan sets in motion changes with unknowable consequences. The story was adapted by Steve Martin in his 1994 movie A Simple twist of Fate.
The novel tells the story of Tess whose fate is changed when her ne'er-do-well father tries to improve the family fortune via a misguided association with a local well to do family. Hardy's writing produces such empathy for Tess that one is compelled to continue reading even though it is unbearable to imagine where the story will go.
When first published in 1899 the work received a mixed critical reception; praise for its outstanding writing style and condemnation for it's frank presentation of the limits of a woman's role and its sexual openness. At the time the book only had one printing. After it's rediscovery in 1969 the book has been praised for its treatment of issues facing women and its wonderful style.
The Bleak House is Dickens' satire of a decaying society. Its story draws together a group of disparate people through the interminable suit of Jarndyce vs Jarndyce at the Court of Chancery. Often described as a savage, though also comic, critique of Victorian society.
Generally regarded as the masterpiece of his early writing The Portrait of a Lady has young American Isabel inheriting a large amount of money and gaining freedom to travel the continent. Here she falls under the influence of two expatriate Americans who want her money. The work has met continuing critical acclaim and remains the most popular of James' longer works.
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