Favorite Authors

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The Pantheon


As a child, while my parents were traveling,  I was occasionally farmed out to the homes of their  friends.  One blustery winter night, in the snug attic bedroom of  Mrs. Kilduff's huge and somewhat frightening house, I found her now grownup son's copy of David Copperfield.   It was a magic moment, and the beginning of a lifelong relationship.  I too felt like an abandoned child in the Rookery, meeting for the first time, my brother David.  Fortunately, things went a bit better for me than for David - my parents returned and I was not consigned to a blacking factory.  


Charles Dickens


I would be hard put to select my favorite Dickens novel, as I have different favorites in different ways.  Our Mutual Friend is so..... complete!   Arabella Wilfer is a far cry from the cardboard angels of Dickens' early works.  She is a real woman with foibles and fatuous fancies, rather than the impossibly virtuous mannequin that we find in many early novels.  And Rosa Budd... she was destined to be one of the really great 19th century characters if Dickens had been able to complete the work.   So many of Dickens' creations would be instantly recognizable if one met them in the street.  "Oh, my lungs and liver!" 




 One thing I love is a good mystery.  And one thing Wilkie Collins does is write the absolute best mystery - that is The Moonstone, or course.  Really, it is the first detective novel, and is still untopped.  Another thing I love is a gothic thriller, and while not the first, The Woman in White is certainly one of the best.  I can't say THE best, because there is Uncle Silas to consider.  His other books are somewhat uneven, but all fun to read.  If weird characters and quirky humor  are your game, Collins is your man.  

Wilkie Collins





 I was thinking about how to characterize Trollope, and my first thought was "clean!"  Not in the prudish sense, but in the sense of smooth, pellucid .   His novels just flow, and hence are impossible to put down.  In my opinion,  the last two Barset novels - The Small House at Allington, and Last Chronicles of Barset -  are really one, and together are perhaps rival Our Mutual Friend as the greatest novel of the 19th century.  Well, maybe not quite!

Anthony Trollope

These novels have characters who come to life - characters  so well rounded that, as in Middlemarch, one forms one's own opinion of them,  rather than accepting the attitude of the author.  The same may be said of many of the characters in the Palliser novels.  They have a life of their own.  





Irish Favorites

Elizabeth Bowen 

I know that I loved Bowen, and read a huge number of her novels, but it was a long time ago.  I am now inspired to reread them, and will report back when I have.  



Sheridan LeFanu

Uncle Silas is the gothic novel to top all others -  even better than Dracula.  No vampires here, but the  wickedest governess in literature.  Le Fanu does do vampires, however, and his are beautiful ladies preying on other beautiful ladies.  What more could one want?




James Joyce

Note that Marilyn apparently is reading the Molly Bloom soliloquy.  Did she read the whole book, or just skip to the naughty bits?  I bet she read it all.  



Iris Murdoch

Murdoch combines heavy-duty philosophy with brilliantly developed characters, and if that is not enough for you, she tells a thrilling tale!  Real literary page-turners!  The blurb of one of her books said, "adultery, incest, murder, castration....."  After my daughter read it, she said disappointedly, " But there was no castration."  It must have been emotional.  



Somerville and Ross 

Irish cousins writing about life in the Irish country side.  Written with kind-hearted  humor depicting lots of weird characters -from the Anglo-Irish upper classes to the country folk, and of course, including  the dogs, the horses, and even the cats.  The Real Charlotte is stunning!  One of the great novels of the 19th century.  



Honor Tracy 

Once again, life in the Irish country side and in Dublin - this time, the humor not always so kind hearted, but bitingly funny.  



Oscar Wilde

What can one say?  I adore Oscar Wilde. The plays, of course, are supremely amusing, but his fiction, Dorian Gray and the Fairy Tales, are true morality tales.  They are sometimes extremely disturbing pictures of modern greed and obtuseness.  



19th (my favorite) Century favorites



Jane Austin





Charlotte Bronte



George Eliot



Mrs. Gaskell



Thomas Hardy



Nathanial Hawthorne



 William Makepeace Thackeray



Mark Twain

Can this be the world's greatest novel?  Better than Dickens' Our Mutual Friend?  That would be hard to say, but surely one or the other is the tops.



20th Century favorites 


Margaret Drabble



EM Forster



LP Hartley



Thomas Mann

reminds me of Roman Polanski in several ways.  Not  only are their works brilliant and immensely enjoyable, but each one is totally different from the others.  Mann has consistent themes - the dark-eyed sensitive intellectual vs. the blue-eyed worldly success, but his novels are totally individual.  The romance of Royal Highness, the dark brooding of Dr. Faustus, the witty Transposed Heads, the wondrous Joseph and His Brothers - each is nothing like the others.



John Mortimer

 Very funny, and, thankfully, very prolific!

Anthony Powell




Barbara Pym

The apex of domestic novels.  A typical Pym crisis might be - who maneuvers to sit next to the vicar at tea!   As good as Jane?  I think maybe so.  I was once was practicing the organ in church, and far below, the ladies were arguing about placement of the flowers.  I later said to the office manager, 'that was a very Barbara Pym discussion you were having down there."  She said - "It didn't matter what they decided - I knew that I could change them after the others left."   Tres Pym.



Paul Scott

The Raj Quartet may be a milestone in 20th English novels.  Told from various points of view, these four novels trace the downfall of the British Raj in the forties - following the fate of several families, both Indian and English through the troubled and violent years.  



Joanna Trollope 

I was undecided as to whether these novels belonged here or on my "favorite trashy novels" page. Trollope is mistress of the modern domestic drama - troubles  with ex-spouses and their children, or with the coping problems of one's own children, etc.  The Brass Dolphin is a Romance, written under a nom de plume.  Set in Malta during WWII, it is a real page turner. 



Mary Wesley

Wesley published her first novel when well into her seventies.  These are lovely books, sensitive and intelligent.  These tales of everyday people caught up in seemingly insuperable domestic crises, can be depended upon to end well, with the evil ones getting their just deserts (sometimes that is simply a snub, but a satisfying snub.)




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