A good book remains with you long after you’ve put it down. Following is a compilation of books hailed as some of the greatest pieces of fiction by literary critics alike:-
- Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856): Gustave Flaubert’s debut novel, Madame Bovary explores the life of Emma Bovary, a doctor’s ambitious wife who is constantly striving to live a life beyond her means. She is disgusted with her uninspired, vapid provincial life and goes on to have affairs with men more distinguished and exciting than her husband, Charles. Though the plot is rather simple, the genius of the book lies in its hidden patterns. It is now considered as one of the greatest pieces ever written.
- Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871): A study of provincial life, Middlemarch talks about the status of women, idealism, marriage, education and political reform through its several narratives. Considered as one of the masterpieces of English fiction, this novel is also a critique on the society and practices of UK in the 1830s.
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877): Considered the apex in realist fiction, Anna Karenina is declared by Time Magazine to be the “greatest novel ever written”. It explores the life of a married socialite called Anna Karenina and her affair with an affluent Count. A parallel plot traces the story of Konstantin Levin, a country landowner and his difficulties with his estate and marriage. The novel is written from a third person perspective and frequently contrasts the lifestyle of the two protagonists, Levin and Anna.
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (1884): Written in vernacular English, this novel is the sequel of Adventures of Tom Sawyer and is the story of Tom Sawyer’s friend Huckleberry Finn. This novel traces the theme of identity and race in a transitory setting.
- Ulysses by James Joyce (1922): Divided into eighteen episodes, Ulysses is often considered a seminal work in modernist literature. The novel draws parallels between its characters and those of Homer’s poem Odyssey. The book’s unique technique and prose rich with humour, pun and allusion make it a great piece of literature.
- The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925): This book traces the life of a millionaire Jay Gatsby and his undying passion for Daisy Buchanan. The novel explores the themes of transition, social upheaval, adultery and idealism. It was incorporated into high school curricula in the US and was made into a film in 2013.
- Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955): Lolita is a novel famous for its controversial subject- a 38 year old man’s sexual obsession with his 12 year old stepdaughter. While some are of the opinion that Lolita is an erotic novel at best, others argue it is a great piece of literature. It was adapted into films and plays several times.
- Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987): This is a deeply moving story of an African American slave called Sethe who kills her two year old daughter Beloved when slave owners try to capture her. Beloved’s ghost then returns years later to haunt the house where Beloved was killed and Sethe now lives alone with her daughter Denver. It went on to receive the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and was also adapted into a movie. This book will give you a shocking glimpse into the world of slavery and death.