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Monday, October 5, 2009

10 (20th century) novels that you can summarize the plot of in two lines. and completely miss what makes it good.

10. Remembrance of Things Past ( À la recherche du temps perdu) - Marcel Proust - 1913–1927

Summary: A man remembers large parts of his past, involuntarily. All because of an incident where he dips a madeleine into tea.

In a book where basically nothing happens except the very ordinary life of the narrator, the story still manages to capture one's attention. Also the author manages to make every experience, thought and emotion seem as something that everyone has either experienced or can relate to. Written with almost every word in the vocabulary, it is condensation of innumerable literary, structural, stylistic, and thematic possibilities.

9.Ulysses - James Joyce - 1922

Summary : The entire book follows a day in the life of Leopold Bloom on 16th June 1904 through the streets of Dublin.

A deceptively simple plot but while reading the plot itself becomes secondary or even forgotten. Most of what makes this book a classic are the hundreds of references and allusions to other works, structuring and experimental prose. If you can figure these out, even just some of them the humorous nature of the book is revealed. Even if you don't find it funny, finding out the clues are reward enough.

8.Lord of the Flies- William Golding - 1954

summary: A group of schoolboys crash onto a deserted island. They attempt to govern themselves.

This book discusses how civility created by man fails and how man shall always turn to savagery. But it does so allegorically. If you don't look into it too deeply, you can pass this off as a depressing way to look at a classic desert island scenario.And it is. But written during such uncertain times as the start of the Cold War, it's a lot more too.

7. Possession - A.S. Byatt - 1990

summary: Two present day academics follow a trail of clues from various letters and journals as they attempt to uncover the truth about the relationship between two Victorian Era poets.

The novel uses several styles such as letters and poetry. As well it satirizes modern academia and the nature of mating rituals. A book that is difficult to put down and also makes you realize the how much the written word can convey. At times it feels like you're seeing every detail , not just reading and imagining it.

6. A House for Mr. Biswas - V.S. Naipaul - 1961

Summary: A story about a man who continuously attempts to find success and is generally met with failure. Marries into a family and is dominated by it , until the only goal he can think of is his own house.

A novel by an author who tells it how it is. A sharp look at post colonialism as well as the state of affairs in Trinidad during that time. At times comic and at times tragic, it is a familiar story of events beyond control defining the major parts of a person's life. While the story is simple, themes such as establishing one's identity and overcoming obstacles are present.

5.The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway - 1951

summary: An out of luck Cuban fisherman struggles with a giant marlin out in the Gulf Stream.

A story about struggling against defeat and finding the real place of man in the natural world. Several references about Christianity are found, with comparisons of the main character to Christ. Ideas about life and death, respect for the opponent and dignity are also present. Such is the symbolism in the book that it can hardly be read without thinking it means something, and different readers will find that it means different things.

4. The Stranger - Albert Camus - 1942

Summary :
An emotionally detached young man learns that his mother's dead, gets engaged to his girlfriend for no particular reason and shoots an Arab because the sun gets into his eyes. Then he has monologues about philosophy while in prison.

A book which explores several philosophical schools of thought including absurdism, existentialism, atheism and nihilism. Written with short, terse sentences which make you feel as though there is much more beneath the surface than what is said. The story initially captures the reader but it is the idea that everything is absurd which remains.

3. The God of Small Things -
Arundhati Roy - 1997

It is a story about the childhood experiences of a pair of fraternal twins who become victims of circumstance.

The book is a description of how the small things in life build up, translate into people's behavior and affect their lives. Partly a protest against South Asian prudery which stands in the way of love, as well as an insight other aspects of Indian culture which still remain such as the caste system. Written from the point of view of children, it gives an original insight.

2. The Chronicles of Narnia- C. S. Lewis - 1950-1956

Summary: These books present the adventures of children who are magically transported to Narnia where they play major roles in its history.

A classic of children's literature. Obvious allegorical references to Christianity, beginning with Genesis in the first book and culminating in Appocalpse in the final, the character of Aslan also ressurects in the second book. More recently, it has been suggested that the books were representive of the seven medivial planets with characters having specific attributes of those planets. No one is entirely sure how much or even exactly what external influences affected the writing of the books.

1.Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck - 1937

summary: two displaced migrant ranch workers find a new job at a ranch during the great depression. they intend to save enough money to but their own land.

A book where one's own land represents independence and the achievement of the desire to be someone. A common theme shared by all the characters is that of dreams, where none of the major characters are content with their current situation. Loneliness is also a major part of each character as a consequence solitude. Underlying to the story is the powerlessness felt and how fate affects everyone, to the detriment of aspirations.

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