EWL Book Editorials--

Monday, October 24, 2005

An Enemy of the People by Ibsen (Norwegian, 1883)

Philosophical play about a doctor who tries to warn people that the town baths are polluted, only to be vilified by town officials because the baths are important to the town’s economy.

Anil’s Ghost: by Michael Ondaatje

Set in Sri Lanka during the bloody sectarian wars of the 1980’s and 90’s, the novels heroine is a former Sri Lankan trained in forensic anthropology, sent on a human rights fact finding mission to her homeland. With her partner, she discovers a corpse whose body reveals clues to political murder and intrigue that threatens not only her job, but her life.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The narrative centers on the adulterous affair between Anna and Count Vronki, a young bachelor. A parallel love story involving courtship and fulfilling marriage provides rich counterpoint to Anna’s tragedy.

The Arabian Nights (Arabic, 1450)

Collection of Magical tales based on Arabic folk stories.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A family beset by jealousy, pride, and hatred, disintegrates into parricide, a crisis that tests the extremes of Christianity and atheism.

Candide by Voltaire (French, 1666)

Ribald novel of a naïve young man who, through a series of outrageous adventures, learns that this may not be the “best of all possible worlds,” as his optimistic tutor had taught him.

The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekov

The members of an aristocratic family in this play are unwilling and unable to face the loss of their property. Their plight depicts the decline of the powerful Russian landowners following the end of the feudal system in 1861.

Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx

Written with Friedrich Engles as the official platform of the International Communist League; this short book expresses Marx’s belief in the inevitability of conflict between social classes and calls on the workers of the world to unite.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A desperate young man plans the perfect crime- the murder of a despicable pawnbroker, an old woman no one loves and whom no one will mourn. Is it not just, he reasons, for a man of genius to commit such a crime, to transgress moral law if it will ultimately benefit humanity? So begins one of the greatest novels ever written: a powerful psychological study, a terrifying murder mystery, a fascinating detective thriller infused with philosophical, religious, and social commentary.

Cry, The Beloved Country by Alan Paton

The novel probing the tensions within the apartheid segregation system of mid-20th century South Africa.

Cyrano de Bergerac by Rostand (French, 1897)

Comic play about a hot-tempered solider whose enormous nose keeps him from succeeding with the ladies until one, Roxanne, is able to see the beauty within him.

Decameron by Boccaccio (Italian, 1353)

Collection of short stories, some bawdy, supposedly told by a group of young aristocrats waiting out the plague in Florence.

Doctor Faustus by Marlowe (English, 1588)

Dramatic verse play about what happens when a Renaissance man sells his soul to the devil and then wants out of the deal.

Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes

Widely regarded as the world's first modern novel, and one of the funniest and most tragic books ever written. Don Quixote chronicles the famous picaresque adventures of the noble knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza, as they travel through sixteenth-century Spain.

Emma by Jane Austen

"Emma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her." One may be tempted to wonder what Austen could possibly find to say about so fortunate a character. The answer is, quite a lot. For Emma, raised to think well of herself, has such a high opinion of her own worth that it blinds her to the opinions of others.

The House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende

Here, in an astonishing debut by a gifted storyteller, is the magnificent saga of proud and passionate men and women and the turbulent times through which they suffer and triumph. They are the Truebas. And theirs is a world you will not want to leave, and one you will not forget.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Prince Myshkin is thrust into a society more concerned with wealth and power than with the ideals of Christianity. He finds himself at the center of a violent love triangle. Extortion, scandal and murder follow, testing Myshkin’s moral feelings.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This is the saga of an orphan girl forced to make her way alone in the world, from Lowood School to Thornfield, the estate of the majestically moody Mr. Rochester, and beyond. Jane Eyre's sorrows, triumphs, and love are woven together in an almost magical way that keeps you reading until the end. There is mystery, suspense, and drama in this book, and also humor and happiness.

July’s People by Nadine Gordimer

“An unforgettable look into the terrifying tacit understandings and misunderstandings between blacks and whites.” The author, a South African is winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Taking us from Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy to the present, The Kite Runner is the unforgettable, beautifully told story of the friendship between two boys growing up in Kabul. Raised in the same household and sharing the same wet nurse, Amir and Hassan nonetheless grow up in different worlds: Amir is the son of a prominent and wealthy man, while Hassan , the son of Amir's father's servant, is a Hazara, member of a shunned ethnic minority. Their intertwined lives, and their fates, reflect the eventual tragedy of the world around them. When the Soviets invade and Amir and his father flee the country for a new life in California, Amir thinks that he has escaped his past. And yet he cannot leave the memory of Hassan behind him.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Set in Paris in the 1830’s, this epic novel introduces the character Jean Valjean, a noble peasant who is imprisoned for stealing a loaf of bread. The novel explores the Parisian underworld, battles between good and evil, and ultimately is a criticism of French political and judicial systems.

Lysistrata by Aristophanes (Greek 4th century B.C.)

A racy play about what happens when the women of ancient Greece withhold sex in order to get their men to stop waging war.

Medea by Euripides

In this tragedy of vengeance, Medea is a passionate woman whose love turns to hate when her husband deserts her. It climaxes with her killing her two sons.

The Misanthrope by Moliere (French 1666)

Humorous verse play about the little lies that people tell to be polite in society and the one man who refuses to play the game.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez

This Latin American novel portrays seven generations in the lives of the Buendia family in the mythical town of Macondo. Nobel prize winning author.

Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo

This difficult, but fascinating tale of magical realism tells the story of Juan Preciado who searches for his father in the town of Comala where he meets the ghost of his father’s past, condemned to purgatorial existence in a land that has been poisoned by Paramo’s greed and hate. Death does not bring an end to their suffering but only an extension of it. From beyond the grave they continue to be afflicted by the tantalizing vision of a paradise from which they are forever excluded.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

A novel about love and marriage among the English country gentry of Austen’s day. The hero’s pride and in his social class conflicts with the heroine’s prejudice against him based on first impression.

The Prince by Machiavelli (Italian, 1532)

Philosophical essay on the science of statecraft, often called a guidebook for dictators.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

The most autobiographical of Hesse's works, Steppenwolf is the profoundly memorable and affecting story of Harry Haller--an evocative portrayal of the wrenching conflict between the needs of the flesh and the spirit and a searing appraisal of Western civilization.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Relates the adventures of a young Englishman who gives his life during the French Revolution to save the husband of the woman he loves.

Tartuffe by Moliere (French, 1664)

Humorous satirical verse play about a hypocritical scoundrel who attempts to use his false religious fervor to steal the young wife of a gullible man.

The Trial by Franz Kafka

In this novel a man is tried for a crime he knows nothing about, yet he feels guilty and is executed.

Tristan and Iseult (various versions, 12th century A.D.)

Tragic romantic tale of Iseult, a young maiden promised in marriage to a king, Tristan, the loyal friend to the king who is supposed to deliver Iseult, and the forbidden love that blossoms between them.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

One of the masterpieces of English Romanticism; this is a novel of love and revenge. The demonic passion of the hero-villain Heathcliff destroys his beloved Catherine, her family and eventually herself.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

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