The novel is only one of many possible prose narrative forms. It shares with other narratives, like the epic and the romance, two basic characteristics: a story and a story-teller. The epic tells a traditional story and is an amalgam of myth, history, and fiction. Its heroes are gods and goddesses and extraordinary men and women. The romance also tells stories of larger-than-life characters. It emphasizes adventure and often involves a quest for an ideal or the pursuit of an enemy. The events seem to project in symbolic form the primal desires, hopes, and terrors of the human mind and are, therefore, analogous to the materials of dream, myth, and ritual. Although this is true of some novels as well, what distinguishes the novel from the romance is its realistic treatment of life and manners.
Its heroes are men and women like ourselves, and its chief interest, as Northrop Frye said, is “human character as it manifests itself in society.”.“If we read a book and it makes our body so cold no fire can ever warm us, we know that is poetry. If we feel physically as if the top of our head were taken off, we know that is poetry.”
Emily Dickinson defined poetry this way, and I think I can define a novel in a similar way: “If I read a book and life grows in it with all of its sound and tranquillity; fury and forgiveness; love and hatred; rising and falling, I know that is a novel. If I feel as I were taken to the furthest edge of being, I know it is a novel.”
While this is top ten list of the worlds greatest novels is open for personal taste, most people will agree that it is still a pretty inclusive list…
10. A Girl Named Disaster By Nancy Farmer
A Girl Named Disaster I read a book named A Girl Named Disaster. This book was about when a girl named Nhamo runs away with a stolen boat. She sailed through rivers and lakes and she goes to the islands. There’s action with wild animals and how a girl survived being alone for months. The main character is Nhamo. She lives in Mozambique Africa in a small village. Nhamo has to marry an old man and she doesn’t want to marry him. Ambuya told Nhamo to run away so she won’t get married. Nhamo runs away to find her father at the trading post. Nhamo stole a boat from Crocodile Guts. Crocodile Guts is a fisherman who died from eating raw meat. Nhamo sailed down the river on a boat and landed on an island with no trees or grass.
Nhamo went back out in the river. Nhamo landed on an island that is bigger than the other island. Nhamo made friends with baboons. Nhamo was making a treehouse and a scorpion bit her and she got sick for a few days. Nhamo felt really sad because she misses her family. Nhamo named a baboon Rumpy he’s missing a part of his tail and Rumpy has an injured foot. Rumpy got eaten by a leopard because of his injured foot. Nhamo got back on the boat sailed off the island. Nhamo made it to the border of Zimbabwe a person took her to a house and got food, medicine, and clean clothes. A person told Nhamo that her father is dead. Her father died from while he was making the largest tunnel. Part of the hill collapsed on him. Nhamo heard people saying she needs schooling. The setting of this book takes place in Mozambique Africa in the past about 6 or 7 years ago. Nhamo is going to the Trading Post in Mozambique to find her father.
She’s in a village called Efifi. Nhamo is a 13 year old girl who lives in Mozambique Africa. She is a hard worker because she has to do a lot of chores like washing, babysitting and weeding. Ambuya is Nhamo’s grandmother Ambuya told Nhamo to runaway when Ambuya is faking that she is sick. Ambuya takes care of Nhamo because her mother is gone. Aunt Chipo is Nhamo grumpy Aunt with long fingernails. Aunt Chipo is mean to Nhamo. Dr van Heerden is a scientist who studies bugs. Dr van Heerden says that Nhamo needs schoolings. Masivta is Nhamo pretty cousin. Masiva is Aunt Chipos oldest daughter and she also makes good clay. A very interesting book I read was A Girl Named Disaster it was an exciting adventure about how Nhamo travelled and how she survived. There are different kinds of wild animals in this book. If you like to read books about adventures I suggest read this book.
This story is captivating through Nhamo’s journey, which never seems to end. You will love this touching tale of trust, chances, love and friendship. The book also includes a great message on how strong family and the bonds of love and friendship are. This story tells all children that they should not give up – no lake is too wide or journey too long. As long as you believe in what you are doing and believe in yourself, you can do anything.
9. The Cairo Trilogy By Nobel Prize Winner Naguib Mahfouz
The Cairo Trilogy is a three-part family saga, centred around al-Sayyid Ahmad Abd al-Jawad and his family — his wife, his children (three sons and two daughters), and eventually his grandchildren. It covers the period from 1917 to 1944, and, though originally apparently conceived as a single novel, the tri-partite division is a logical one, as Mahfouz presents the story in distinct chunks, rather than one continuous whole: Palace Walk covers the period from 1917 to 1919, Palace of Desire jumps ahead and covers the period from 1924 to 1927, and Sugar Street covers the period 1935 to 1944.
The family is fairly old-fashioned, even for those times, but while they are devout they are not fanatical believers. The father figure is very strict, but outside the house leads a much freer life, enjoying wine, women, and song. Eventually, however, the old guard is supplanted by the younger generations, and The Cairo Trilogy effectively describes all the bumpy domestic and national transitions. Held together by one strong hand — al-Sayyid Ahmad’s — it is a grip that ultimately loosens, and by the end the family is, if not scattered, certainly fragmented, containing all the elements of modernity tugging Egypt in all different directions.
8. The Good Soldier Svejk By Jaroslav Hasek
The Czech author Jaroslav Hasek (1883-1923) created a legendary character in the protagonist of his comic novel The Good Soldier Schweik. He is a baffling phenomenon: a good soul who sees the world through a contorted lens. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, yet he accepts fighting for the emperor in World War I as a sacred duty.
“Hasek’s episodic novel describes the adventures of a soldier who is drafted into the Czech army despite the fact that he has been certified as retarded. Svejk becomes a batman (a kind of servant) to Lieutenant Lukas. He constantly gets himself and the Lieutenant into trouble because he always follows instructions to the letter. When he is told to wait at a railroad station, he misses the troop train and begins to try to find his regiment by walking in the wrong direction. He is arrested as a deserter but is sent back to his regiment where he is promoted to orderly. Later when he is sent to find billeting for the troops, he tries on a Russian uniform he finds and is arrested as a spy. He is threatened with hanging until an officer from his regiment recognizes him. Svejk’s misadventures are meant to show the follies of the military. Hasek died before he was able to complete the book.
7. Savushun By Simin Daneshvar
Savushun chronicles the life of a Persian family during the Allied occupation of Iran during World War II. It is set in Shiraz, a town that evokes images of Persepolis and pre-Islamic monuments, the great poets, the shrines, Sufis, and nomadic tribes within a historical web of the interests, privilege and influence of foreign powers; corruption, incompetence and arrogance of persons in authority; the paternalistic landowner-peasant relationship; tribalism; and the fear of famine. The story is seen through the eyes of Zari, a young wife and mother, who copes with her idealistic and uncompromising husband while struggling with her desire for traditional family life and her need for individual identity.
Daneshvar’s style is both sensitive and imaginative while following cultural themes and metaphors. Within basic Iranian paradigms, the characters play out the roles inherent in their personalities. While Savushun is a unique piece of literature that transcends the boundaries of the historical community in which it was written, it is also the best single work for understanding modern Iran. Although written prior to the Islamic Revolution, it brilliantly portrays the social and historical forces that gave pre-revolutionary Iran its characteristic hopelessness and emerging desperation so inadequately understood by outsiders.
6. Love And Longing In Bombay By Vikram Chandra
The five tales that make up the book are set up in one city of India, Bombay. Now the city has been renamed Mumbai, but let us not get bothered by it. Love and Longing in Bombay has been authored by Vikram Chandra but I have not read any other book by him.
Bombay or Mumbai is a city that evokes many images, crowded local trains, dirty sea beaches, waves of traffic and busy nightlife. It is also known as a city where dreams are made because many come there in search of employment or to make a name for themselves in the film industry of India, Bollywood. This was a gift to me from a dear friend, and I impatient to start with it. I found this book quite readable but not outstanding. The readable part comes from the stories being written very well but somehow to me, it looked as if they lack depth.
There are five stories in the book named Dharma, Shakti, Kama, Artha, and Shanti. All the five words above come from the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. Dharma means religion or duty. Shakti is power. Kama translates as sex, Artha means economic or of money and Shanti is peace.
The main strength of the book is its evocative narration that captures the settings of the stories well, be it a police investigation, parties thrown by women in Bombay high society or battles fought with the enemy. But the narration is not matched by depth in stories. I could feel it badly in Shakti where the love story between rival kids sounds clichéd and no amount of good language could warm me up to the characters in the story.
5. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin
This is one of those books that makes you ask yourself “Why didn’t I read this years ago?” Actually, I only heard about this story via Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin “Polonaise” and “Waltz” (excellent music). The synopsis sounded great, so I got the most convenient library copy and started it soon after I finished Blithedale.
First of all, the translation–it was a little too contemporary for me (words like “girlfriends”, “zen”, and the overuse of “modish” were rather irritating). But it was a good translation, so far as I can tell.
Now, the story. Well, where to begin? If popular “doomed love” stories like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, or Gone With the Wind left you *facepalming* in frustration, then you should give Eugene Onegin a try. It’s got all the drama of those other ones, but it’s way more romantic, melancholy, and climactic in general. The rhythmic, half-mournful, half-humorous poetry (in which the whole book is written) also helped make it a page-turner. The story itself was very sad, but beautifully written–half fantasy, half realism. And the ending! It was one of those climax endings, but it felt realistic and complete.
The two protagonists were pretty flawed, but they were also likeable. Onegin is the anti-romantic-hero–so disgusted by his previous experiences of love (in reality, just infatuation), that he’s converted his emotions to pride, and his life to solitude and idleness. At the same time, he’s a grey character; in his selfishness, there are glimpses of goodness, of a “better self”, so to speak. We never get to completely see his better character, though Tatyana seems to.
Tatyana is the real main character. She is probably the best portrayal of a heroine that a male author ever wrote–her weaknesses, strengths, and personality were brilliantly written and very believable. When put to the test, she’s a strong character who lives by her principles, putting duty and her parent’s wishes before her own. But it’s not easy and she’s not perfect; half of her is “sense”, the other half “sensibility”. She’s really a great, three-dimensional character.
Human nature, society’s expectations, and virtue make up the triangular conflict of Eugene Onegin; and there’s a lot in the story that’s open to interpretation, so whether you like it or not may depend on your interpretation. I was literally thinking about the book for a week afterwards. It makes you think about life and people’s choices; and it actually makes me grateful to live in a modern-day society. And the book is a “tragic love story”, but in some ways, it’s also inspiring, because the tragedy isn’t the ultimate end. It doesn’t have to be the end; and that was one point in the book that seemed very clear to me.
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” has a lot going on. To truly love and appreciate this novel, it is important that you have an understanding of the literary mode of magical realism. Nobel Laureate Garcia Marquez is often cited as the most iconic writer (and this particular novel as one of the strongest examples) of this style, which is best represented among Latin American writers. Magical realism juxtaposes logical real-life situations with fantastical elements.
Apart from the gripping style of prose, the novel’s plot also has much to offer. We follow the Buendia family over more than 100 years as they found the town of Mocando, lead it through revolution and political uprising, witness the industrial revolution, marry (sometimes to each other), give birth, die, compulsively feed on dirt, ascend into heaven pure and without sins and uncover mysterious prophecies that were once made by a Gypsy magic man. There’s never a dull moment with the Buendia’s!
“One Hundred Years of Solitude” provides a great case study in the cyclical nature of history. Members of the Buendia family are destined to repeat each other’s triumphs and mistakes. An unavoidable act of incestuous breeding begins the novel and also ends it (along with the family line). The repetition of names in the family line also drives home the point that we are all the same; we are all united in our paths. I did a quick count and found that this novel introduces twenty-two characters with the name Aureliano, five Jose Aracadios, and two each of Remedios, Ursula and Armanatra (pffew!).
As a reader, I most identified with the Buendia matriarch, Ursula Iguarin, the family’s binding agent. She presents the lesson that one can be surrounded by people but still feel utterly alone.
You may like this book if…you have enjoyed other works of magical realism like “Love in the Time of Cholera”, “Everything is Illuminated” or “The Famished Road”, you appreciate dramatic action-packed storylines, you enjoy stories that stretch the limits of reality, you are intrigued by mysterious prophecies and the promise of hidden treasure, you enjoy beautifully written—almost lyrical—prose, you can really identify with the themes of solitude, cyclical history and the unavoidability of fate.
3. Raja Gidh by Bano Qudsia
Raja Gidh, a phenomenal and classical novel written by Bano Qudsia. This novel not only delineates the long-term effects of “Rizq-e-Haraam” on the lives of human beings but helps in revealing some of the main reasons for dissatisfied and catastrophic life.
The characters in Raja Gidh are everyday characters (basically it’s us). The writer compares the ‘human nature’ with ‘Gidh’ (scavenger) and tries to convince the reader that humans are just like Gidhs (even worst than them). If a Gidhs eat meat of only dead animal so are humans, who always like to take advantages of weak /disturb and emotionally dead people. In trying to gain what is beyond his/her destination he often chooses the forbidden path which leads him to earn Rizq-e-haraam. The writer comprehensively explains the adverse effects of Rizq-e-haraam on the human’s genes mutation process. It could lead to insanity and abnormality which is then genetically transferred to next generations.
The second point which is strongly highlighted throughout the novel is the concept of “Ishq–e-Lahasil” (love with no destination). Love for forbidden desires always leads a person in earning rizq-e-haraam which in turn destroys one’s life and at the end, the person is left alone with nothing except his discontented life. In order to convince the reader on this point, characters of Qayyum and Semi Shah are introduced in the novel. Qayyum, a middle-class member of society falls in loves with Semi Shah, a liberal and beautiful woman who had a true love for her other class fellow. Due to some circumstances, Semi is unable to marry her beloved and this makes her emotionally upset and weak. During this time of depression and loneliness Qayyum takes physical advantage of Semi Shah but as always remains unsuccessful in emotionally moulding her love feeling towards him. This was Ishq-e- lahasil of Qayyum. He ran after someone who was never meant for him and his desire lead him towards the wrong path and he kept moving in the wrong direction and at the end was left alone with nothing but regret and dissatisfaction.
This novel strongly reflects on the negatives points of our society today. If only we can understand the concept and adverse effects of Rizq-e- haram and learn to strongly believe in Allah and the fate decided by him, we are likely to prosper as a good Muslim and a perfect member of society. I strongly recommend this novel to all and a lot of thanks to Bano Qudsia for such a great contribution to Urdu literature.
2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
This book really makes you take a good hard look at yourself and your behaviour, which is why I think a lot of people don’t like this book. It’s a lecture and most people don’t like to get lectured. I loved it. While I’ve never been a “looter,” I have made several irrational decisions in my life, which this 1000+ page lecture has helped me to stop doing. It teaches you to think with your mind, rather than your heart. It doesn’t make you an uncaring person. You still feel with your heart, but you think with your mind. Use your mind instead of expecting to get the rewards of others who do all the thinking. If everyone did this, the world would be perfect – that is the idea behind Ayn’s story. Of course, this will never happen. Ayn knew that. She just wrote a story about her ideal world. A lot of authors do that.
Yes, the book is wordy, but her words are genius in my opinion. I loved the long radio speech. Skip it if you are hating the book or better yet, stop reading it. Go out and smell the flowers instead. Is the story black and white? Definitely. Authors have different styles – people complain. If every author wrote in the same style, people would complain.
I can’t tell you how many co-workers I’ve met who complain about how the CEO is making so much money and they should get some of that money. Well, go to college, get a business degree and work you’re way up the corporate ladder if you want the CEO’s salary. Don’t sit around and expect those kinds of rewards because you work in accounts payable. You know what it takes, so do it and shut up. If it wasn’t for the person who created this company, you wouldn’t even have a job. I’m an administrative assistant making less money than the people complaining about wanting more money. It just makes me sick. But the people in Ayn’s story didn’t work for money. They loved their jobs. And she wasn’t saying you had to be a rich, corporate big shot to hold the world up. There were teachers and stay at home moms in her little world in the mountains.
Ayn has extremely valuable points and if you are someone who is constantly looking for something to criticize in every book, then don’t read it. If you can’t handle looking at your imperfections, don’t read it. If you have an open mind and are willing to learn something from every book and experience you have and grow as a person, then you will benefit from reading this book.
1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
A fictional classic by Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities is a story set in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The Defarges and the other revolutionaries exact terror on the French Republic, and Lucie Manette and her friends and relations were not spared. La Guillotine threatened to take away Darnay’s life after his arrival in Paris,but to Sydney Carton, that same instrument was the promise of renewal, and the hope of a better life for his love.
The text, containing many literary expressions and biblical references typical of classical texts, mocked the French revolution as a haphazard and blind process. The consistent descriptions of the chaotic political situation and arbitrary taking of lives made it even more convincing, not the least of which was the terse comment,“The whole jury [trying Charles Darnay], as a jury of dogs empanelled to try the deer”.
Yet, some speculate that Charles Dickens might have penned the novel to celebrate his seeking true love after he met and fell in love with his mistress when his marriage was on the rocks. Indeed, Dickens embodies this true love in Carton’s sacrifice for the happiness of Lucie.
Love between a man and a woman was not the only form of love explored in the novel. The text also delves into the relationship between kinship and marriage, “If my marriage were so arranged as that it would part us … I should be more unhappy and self-reproachful now than I can tell you.” Marked by vivid imagery, a portion of the text describes Lucie’s deep concern over reassuring her father of their being as close to each other after her marriage. This suggests the possibility of love between husband and wife not compromising the love between father and daughter.
The love present in the story contrasts with the profound hatred that Madame Defarge had against the Evrémondes, epitomised in her relentless pursuit to kill his descendents, and eventually, all his descendents’ relations. Her hunger for vengeance drove her to try taking the life of Charles Darnay repeatedly (an attempt that led her to her death), even when the latter had no part in the quietus of Madame Defarge’s kindred.
Therefore, it seems that Dickens suggests that hatred, like love, is an immensely powerful force. Ironically, it was both love and hatred that were responsible for the perishing of Carton.
In all, Dickens’ exploration of these major themes was inspiring and gripping. Yet, the author seems to be slightly biased in his ideology and handling of history.
Nonetheless, a reader would be able to gain a keener appreciation of the revolutionary context after going through this book, even without being a History aficionado: the engaging plot and writing would carry the reader through to the end. In all, A Tale of Two Cities is an insightful exploration of love and hate, good and evil, morality and
selfishness set against the French revolution—an approach that explained the opening line, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’.
If you wanted to add a novel to this list which one would you add to it?