201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208 & 209: Mr Kafka, and Other Tales; Monsignor Quixote; When I Lived in Modern Times; The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; Plain Tales from the Hills; The Age of Innocence; A Chess Story; Nightmares of Eminent Persons, and Other Stories; and The Man of Feeling

Set in post-war Prague, Bohumil Hrabal’s stories in Mr Kafka, and Other Tales are deeply, deeply peculiar, but strangely mesmerising nonetheless. I don’t think I can really do them justice – let’s just say that you’d be unlikely to find anything quite like them anywhere else. “The rest is all just warming up the soup … More 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 208 & 209: Mr Kafka, and Other Tales; Monsignor Quixote; When I Lived in Modern Times; The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency; Plain Tales from the Hills; The Age of Innocence; A Chess Story; Nightmares of Eminent Persons, and Other Stories; and The Man of Feeling

195, 196, 197, 198, 199 & 200: All the Sad Young Men; The Pat Hobby Stories; The Great Gatsby; Forgotten Fitzgerald; Tristan and Isuelt; and Mrs Miniver

I think it’s probably pretty indisputable that Fitzgerald was a very talented writer – observant, stylish, and funny – but my lasting impression after this binge was that he wasn’t a very positive-minded one. As a general rule, things go wrong for his characters (the odd exceptions are hugely refreshing, though). All the Sad Young … More 195, 196, 197, 198, 199 & 200: All the Sad Young Men; The Pat Hobby Stories; The Great Gatsby; Forgotten Fitzgerald; Tristan and Isuelt; and Mrs Miniver

184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193 & 194: Phantastes; Black Mischief; Death on the Cherwell; Dracula; Pride and Prejudice; Tales of the Otori; Breakfast at Tiffany’s; The Princess Bride; and The Old Man and the Sea

Phantastes is George MacDonald’s extremely peculiar attempt to create what he called a modern fairy-tale. It’s not like the vast majority of fantasy fiction; it’s a meandering, dreamlike tour of Faerie, a place sinister and delightful in equal measure. It’s a mythopoeic project, and it’s baffling and wonderful all at the same time. “We’ve got … More 184, 185, 186, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 192, 193 & 194: Phantastes; Black Mischief; Death on the Cherwell; Dracula; Pride and Prejudice; Tales of the Otori; Breakfast at Tiffany’s; The Princess Bride; and The Old Man and the Sea

179–183: Psmith

When I reached these five, I had to take a moment to get the sheer delight back under control. They really are something very special indeed. Early Wodehouse (the last of them, Leave It to Psmith, was published in 1923, before the first Jeeves books though not before the character’s first appearance), these novels trace Wodehouse’s … More 179–183: Psmith

173, 174, 175, 176, 177 & 178: The Inimitable Jeeves; The Castle of Adventure; Carry On, Jeeves; The Sea of Adventure; Journey to the River Sea; and Jeeves in the Offing

I have said before, and it continues to be the case, that I regard myself as being on something of a sacred mission to spread the Good News of Wodehouse’s non-Wooster work. It’s very important to note that that’s not because I don’t love them. I do. Jeeves and Wooster are glorious comic creations. I’m just … More 173, 174, 175, 176, 177 & 178: The Inimitable Jeeves; The Castle of Adventure; Carry On, Jeeves; The Sea of Adventure; Journey to the River Sea; and Jeeves in the Offing

167, 168, 169, 170, 171 & 172: Mulliner Nights; Animal Farm; Bachelors Anonymous; Doctor Sally; The Heart of a Goof; and Quick Service

Time for a Wodehouse smorgasbord with a dash of Orwell. (I’m also in quite a lot of pain at the moment, though not as much as sometimes, so forgive me for rushing these.) First, I’m going to take you back to Mr Mulliner, that implacable raconteur of the Angler’s Rest. I have, of course, gone … More 167, 168, 169, 170, 171 & 172: Mulliner Nights; Animal Farm; Bachelors Anonymous; Doctor Sally; The Heart of a Goof; and Quick Service

162, 163, 164, 165 & 166: Mrs Dalloway; The Lost Art of Letter Writing; The House at the End of Hope Street; The Colour of Magic; and The Light Fantastic

As we are a doomed race, chained to a sinking ship (her favourite reading as a girl was Huxley and Tyndall, and they were fond of these nautical metaphors), as the whole thing is a bad joke, let us, at any rate, do our part; mitigate the sufferings of our fellow-prisoners (Huxley again); decorate the … More 162, 163, 164, 165 & 166: Mrs Dalloway; The Lost Art of Letter Writing; The House at the End of Hope Street; The Colour of Magic; and The Light Fantastic

154 & 155: The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Queen and I

Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense. It’s not surprising that, when it was first published, The Picture of Dorian Gray was decried as immoral, nor that it was produced as evidence at Wilde’s trial for gross indecency (which resulted in a sentence of two years of hard labour, and The Ballad … More 154 & 155: The Picture of Dorian Gray, and The Queen and I