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The Penguin English Library

Top Selected Products and Reviews


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"Thoroughly enjoyable" - by Assynteach (N.W. Sutherland, Scotland)
Don't let the length out you off. This is a thoroughly enjoyable read. There is a slight element of longuer about two thirds of the way through, but that is easily passed over with no loss either of enjoyment or plot.
I hadn't read it for (mumbles) decades, er, years and had forgotten several parts, including the ever-delightful Mrs O'Dowd "of the Molonys and Molloys", but most of all I'd forgotten how cleverly Rebecca manages to remain, as she and her supporters endlessly claim, 'pure' while obtaining all the advantages her detractors suggest are otherwise acquired. Her occasional fits of compassion and even kindness, providing they don't cost her anything, of course, make her a more rounded character than she would otherwise have been.
To a 21st century reader Amelia is, like almost all 19th century heroines, rather insipid and too feeble in both body and character to appeal much, but unlike ... full review

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"Peter Pan book" - by MS
Received in good condition. This book is sometimes very expensive to buy, but this one was very reasonable and a delight to read to a young child as it is a classic story.

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"Great starting point for Henry James" - by Mr. Rupert J. B. Smith (London)
Washington Square is a short, straightforward and (I think) very funny book. It's an excellent starting point for a further exploration of Henry James's fiction. I wish it had been the first one I read, but when I was a student my professors thought it was more appropriate to make us read the incredibly difficult ones like The Awkward Age and The Golden Bowl. This did James a massive disservice.

Washington Square is the story of a young women, Catherine Sloper, who falls in love with a beautiful young man who may or may not be a fortune-hunter. Torn in different directions by her cruel, uptight father and her silly, romantic aunt, Catherine attempts to follow her heart and become her own woman. It's a simple story, without many big surprises, but it's told with incredible insight and great humour. There's a direct line from Jane Austen to Washington Square - ... full review

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"Read this first" - by Lizzie
Read this before any other trollope novel. I love this. I love the characters and the story is excellent. Trollope shows in this book his great art of being able to concisely describe the human condition, emotion, behaviour, what people say, what they do, what they think. Wonderful start to the Barchester novels. Enjoy.

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"A very rewarding read of an old classic." - by Tone the Cone
I decided to read Great Expectations having seen a little bit of the 1946 film adaptation and thought what a great story. Having never read a Dickins novel before I thought at 55 years it was about time I did!
I have read a few novels by different authors from the 1800s and found that they read quite awkwardly, not so with this novel.
A great story, with the usual great Dickins characters. The film has large chunks of the story missing so it was still rewarding to read.
If you haven't tried reading an older classic author before I would recommend this book as a springboard Ito a different genre.

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"Beautiful edition of this wonderful book. Don't be afraid of Jane Austen, she is a joy to read." - by The Bookish Reader
I loved the characters, from the manipulative Fanny Dashwood to the handsome stranger in Willoughby and the boring yet kind Colonel Brandon. Marianne had extreme emotions, from falling in love immediately to almost dying of a broken heart. Elinor was the more sensible of the sisters, I felt she depicted Jane Austen in this novel.

There were several aspects of this novel which really represented the time it was written in; marriage and life expectancy. Otherwise this is a timeless story, filled with witty observations and characters you may recognise from your own life.

Marriage was a huge pre-occupation for women in Austen times, it determined everything about their lives. It wasn't just about who they married, it affected what their lifestyle would be, who they would socialise with, who their children could marry. Marrying for money was preferred (mostly by the brides) but everyone else involved didn't think it mattered, much ... full review

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"Charming" - by Sarah
I had no idea what a relief I'd find reading Little Women after all the teen romance/fantasy stuff I'd been indulging in recently.
After finding it a little hard to get into at first I soon became hooked and as obsessed with it as any book had ever grabbed me.
It was heart warming, engaging and completely charming. The characters were so well created that I genuinely felt I knew and loved them all entirely. It was a lesson to me in what good character writing really is.
This book also acted for me in a way few books do. It gave me cause to think I ought to do better in life, and not by preaching or scaremongering or causing despondency, but by demonstrating true goodness in the characters in a believable way. It wasn't goody two shoes cheesy cringeworthy goodness, I just loved them all in their virtues and vices and ... full review

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"Beautiful edition of this wonderful book. Don't be afraid of Jane Austen, she is a joy to read." - by The Bookish Reader
I loved the characters, from the manipulative Fanny Dashwood to the handsome stranger in Willoughby and the boring yet kind Colonel Brandon. Marianne had extreme emotions, from falling in love immediately to almost dying of a broken heart. Elinor was the more sensible of the sisters, I felt she depicted Jane Austen in this novel.

There were several aspects of this novel which really represented the time it was written in; marriage and life expectancy. Otherwise this is a timeless story, filled with witty observations and characters you may recognise from your own life.

Marriage was a huge pre-occupation for women in Austen times, it determined everything about their lives. It wasn't just about who they married, it affected what their lifestyle would be, who they would socialise with, who their children could marry. Marrying for money was preferred (mostly by the brides) but everyone else involved didn't think it mattered, much ... full review

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"Five Stars" - by Philotes (Scotland)
All good. I knew the book anyway but this is a nice edition.

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"Wonderful, accessible read" - by Tracey Madeley (Wrexham)
Fitzgerald’s narrator is Nick Carraway who starts the book with a quote from his father to always remember that people have not had the same advantages as him and as a consequence he always reserves judgement when he meets people. Nick is from a wealthy family and went to school with Tom Buchanan, but he still feels like an outsider as he has to work for a living. He looks to go into the bond market and rents an inexpensive house in the grounds of Gatsby’s mansion.

Tom and Daisy Buchanan are from a privileged class of bright young things. When we first meet Daisy she is lounging in a room with all the curtains open doing nothing. This fanciful idea of the curtain billowing, the ladies reclined with their skirts caught in the wind, as if being carried away in a balloon, fits perfectly with Daisy’s personality. “I’m paralyzed ... full review

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"Not as bleak as it sounds" - by Nina (Cumbria, England)
I love any Dickens book so I'm not impartial. However, the plot twists and turns, and there is a modern resonance within the story with the illegitimate child. Esther sounds a lovely woman who is justly rewarded for her patience, forbearance and integrity. Her mother is a study in aloofness hiding a broken heart behind her high station. Solicitors are not treated kindly by Dickens! as is not the only French character. I found it an easy read after the first couple of chapters when I had really settled down to an uninterrupted read. One does need time to appreciate Dickens's language for though he uses everyday words it is the order and punctuation that is so satisfying. My personal prefence is for long sentences broken by suitable punctuation rather than staccato writing favoured by so many modern writers. Yes, I ... full review

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"Umble" - by D. J. H. Thorn (Hull, UK)
This is only the fifth Dickens novel I've read (the others were 'Great Expectations', 'Bleak House', 'Dombey and Son' and 'Our Mutual Friend') and the first one I can say I thoroughly enjoyed. As usually seems to be the case with Dickens, there is no main plot, simply an account of the central character's development. Copperfield narrates his own life story from childhood to middle age, beginning as a gullible, often bullied innocent, and ending up a shrewd adult who retains his virtues.

I feel that the novel's main strength is its characterisation; the slimy Uriah Heep and the financially-challenged Wilkins Micawber are particularly well-drawn. Dickens also signposts several of the subplot outcomes without being explicit, which piques the reader's interest.

In what is a long novel, there are just two quibbles for me. One is Copperfield's attraction to Dora, who comes across as little more than an ornament, a twittering bird ... full review

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"A little long perhaps, but very fresh and entertaining" - by Didier (Ghent, Belgium)
Evelina is the (unacknowledged) child of Lord Belmont, and after the death of her mother has been raised by the clergyman Mr. Villars. Having turned sixteen, she is now about to 'enter into the world', and it is mostly Evelina herself who tells her story in a series of letters to her godfather Mr. Villars while she is in staying with friends (in London and diverse other places). At first everything seems perfect bliss: Evelina stays in charming company, goes to her first ball, the theater, the opera, etc. But soon she is confronted with the fact that there's more to 'the world' than this carefree existence in the company of nothing but the most charming people: some men, so it seems, have hidden agendas, and neither are all the women as decent as one might suppose. There is the jockeying for position, (cruel) humour at the expense of others, ... full review

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"An Entertaining and Enjoyable Read" - by Susannah B
When the young and pretty Lucy Honeychurch visits Florence with her much older and rather prim cousin Charlotte acting as chaperone, she is dismayed to find the rooms at the pension at which they are staying are without a view. Already staying at the pension is Mr Emerson (a middle-aged man of a lower social class than Lucy and Charlotte) with his son George, and Mr Emerson is very keen to offer Lucy and Charlotte his and George's rooms which are complete with the desired view over the Arno. Charlotte, though, is offended by Mr Emerson's over-familiar approach and refuses his offer, afraid that by accepting she will put herself and Lucy under an undesirable obligation to someone of a lower social standing. However, when Mr Beeb, an Anglican clergyman with whom Lucy has already become acquainted back in England, intervenes and assures Charlotte that Mr Emerson only ... full review

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"Foreshadowing Feminism" - by Christine Frost (Herefordshire)
Kate Chopin's short, beautifully written novel describes the evolution of a respectable New Orleans matron in the last year of the 19th century. Wife of a successful New Orleans businessman and mother of two, Edna Pontellier is first revealed to us as a wife with vague, unexpressed feelings of being discontent, undervalued and disillusioned with her apparently solid marriage and conventional upper middle class life. Spending the summer on an island resort, she meets and falls in love with Robert, and discovers unexplored depths of infatuation and erotic longing. Although unconsummated, the 'affair' haunts Edna upon her return to normal life at the end of the summer and she starts to rebel against the normal expectations placed upon her. When her husband's trip to New York on business leaves her alone with time and freedom to contemplate her life, she begins a process of reinvention that inspires her to re-visit ... full review