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on 22 January 2011
Twentyfive years ago as I'm writing this I finished university with a degree in English literature, and ever since I have kept on reading mostly English novels. But, strangely enough perhaps, I rarely, if ever, bothered to read books about those books. But then suddenly I somehow felt compelled to remedy this and ordered both this book and Patrick Parrinder's Nation and Novel: The English Novel from its Origins to the Present Day (which I'm reading now but haven't finished yet).

Not to waste anymore of your time: Eagleton's 'The English Novel, an introduction' is an absolutely fascinating book, which should give anyone even remotely interested in the subject matter hours of reading bliss. In its 337 pages are crammed so many insights and knowledge that I'm still a bit dazzled and most likely will read it a second time soon. True enough, the language and terminology are at times erudite and learned but it isn't as if you need a PhD. to be able to follow Eagleton's discourse, average intelligence and knowledge (like me, for instance) works just fine.

One minor quip perhaps: in fact the book's title 'The English Novel, an introduction' is a little bit misleading because, after a first introductory chapter ('What is a novel?', in which Eagleton does a lot more than attempt to define the subject of the other chapters), Eagleton concentrates on the major novelists, devoting chapters to:
- Daniel Defoe and Jonathan Swift
- Samuel Richardson and Henry Fielding
- Laurence Sterne
- Walter Scott and Jane Austen
- The Brontës
- Charles Dickens
- George Eliot
- Thomas Hardy
- Henry James
- Joseph Conrad
- D.H. Lawrence
- James Joyce
- Virgina Woolf

In all of these chapters Eagleton concentrates not so much on individual works but rather the entire 'output' of each author, outlining how in some cases they elaborated a single theme in different ways throughout their career, and in other cases how they evolved from one point of view to another. There's a short postscript too ('After the Wake') but in other words: no Thackeray, no Trollope, not to mention scores of other authors such as Elizabeth Gaskell, R.L. Stevenson, James Hogg, Smollett, Le Fanu, Maturin, and so on and so on... But as Eagleton himself clearly says in his preface his selection 'should not be taken to imply that only those English novelists presented between these covers are worth reading'.

All in all I found this a very very interesting book, giving me on the one hand lots of new insights into books I've already read, and on the other hand giving me a real appetite to read books I haven't come around to yet (such as Charles Dickes which I have, sadly, largely neglected until now). I rarely give 5 stars, but in this instance did not hesitate half a second. It's a regular feast from cover to cover!
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on 29 August 2015
This is an excellent book that provides an antidote to all of the rather precious, and sometimes specious, celebration of writers in the English canon. Where else will you hear it stated plainly that "Joyce was a socialist" and that Woolf, though a writer of vital importance, was an "odious snob". Writers are placed in the context of the ideas of the time and their contribution judged accordingly.
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on 4 April 2015
Wonderful just to dip into and to read alongside books by any of the authors featured and gain a much greater insight into them.
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on 8 February 2016
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on 7 October 2014
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on 9 February 2010
I would just like to say "THANK YOU" for your service.I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart!
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