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Classic Fiction Reviews

Looking for some Classic Fiction? Check below for reviews of items that are available in our collections to borrow.

Have you read any books yourself recently? Love it or hate it, we'd love to hear about it! Submit a book review here.

by Mary Shelley

"How to describe this classic horror story written by the teenaged Mary Shelley on a dare? The very first science fiction novel is beautifully written and grapples with the true nature of man and monster; what makes us human, what drives us to despair and evil, what awful deeds might we accomplish in the name of science? It is an exploration of dark places that lay in wait for those who are willing to explore in man's flawed and hubristic need to conquer the limits of nature.

"Frankenstein is, ultimately, the story of genius obsessed with a single driving focus to uncover the secrets of the universe with no thought of the price of success. Too late he finds that his creation, while superhuman, can never be more to him than beast and a mockery of mankind. Thus ensues a struggle for survival between man and monster that will take them to the end of the earth and destroy them both."

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Banned Books Week Book Review

‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’
by Lewis Carroll

"First published in 1865, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a classic of children's literature. Enjoyed by successive generations of kids and adults, the book is a masterpiece of surrealism, whimsy and fantasy.

"Most people will be familiar with the story of Alice, a 7-year-old who while sitting by a river bank sees a talking rabbit with a pocket watch rush by. Following the strange animal down its rabbit hole, Alice soon finds herself engaged in a surreal adventure with talking animals, smoking caterpillars, a mad tea party and even madder monarchs.

"What many may not know was that "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was banned in Hunan, China, in 1931. The censors apparently feared that animals acting like humans in the story would confuse children and lead to disastrous consequences."

Reasons for banning: Animals talking and acting like humans.

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Learn more about Banned Books Week and protecting our right to read by visiting the official website.

‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’
by John Buchan

"First published in 1915, Scottish author John Buchan's "The Thirty-Nine Steps" is a dated but fun read. It's a short novel that's perfect to read on a train, since the story can be easily followed without any deep concentration.

"The story is narrated by Richard Hannay, a Scottish man living in London. Hannay is an ordinary man who soon finds himself in an extraordinary situation. At the beginning of the novel he's bored with his job and longing to change his life. Within a few pages he finds himself accused of a murder he didn't commit and on the run from both the police and a group of mysterious foreign spies.

"The story moves along swiftly, and while enjoyably unpredictable, has a few too many amazing coincidences to be believable. However, it's an enjoyable read, written with a straightforward, cinematic flair that seems tailor-made for film adaptations. Unsurprisingly, it has been made into several movies, the most famous of which is an early Alfred Hitchcock film. Unfortunately, all of the film versions change the story considerably, in each case making it even more unbelievable and ridiculous than the original. So for a fun ripping yarn that won't take up too much of your time, avoid the films and read the book."

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‘The Tales of Max Carrados’
by Ernest Bramah

"A collection of classic detective stories featuring the great Max Carrados. Underestimated by his foes because he is blind, Carrados performs masterful feats of deduction using his finely honed senses that would turn Sherlock Holmes green with envy. This audiobook is a must listen, combining the mellifluous tones of Stephen Fry with the very best of the golden age of detective fiction."

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‘A Study in Scarlet’
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

""There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colourless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it." Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet.

"The Sherlock TV series sent me back to this book, and Conan Doyle really could write an absorbing tale. This was the first of the Sherlock Holmes stories and Sherlock has since become perhaps the most famous fictional character in the world.

"The story begins with Dr Watson, alone and recovering from a war wound, looking for a place to stay in London. He is tapped on the shoulder by an old acquaintance in the Bar of the Criterion and told of the existence of another who is also looking for someone to share the rent with. Watson is taken to St Bart's Hospital where he is introduced to Sherlock Holmes on New Year's Day, 1881. Holmes opens with, "You have been in Afghanistan I perceive" and demonstrates his powers of observation and deduction to the ever astonished Watson from the get go.

"The detective fascinates the doctor and Watson describes his unusual personality before the pair of them are enticed to investigate a baffling murder. A man,s body is found with a look of horror on his face. There is blood in the room but no sign of a wound on the victim. There is a wedding ring found loose on the corpse. On the wall is written "Rache". Watson records in excellent prose how Holmes goes about his detective work with a magnifying glass and measuring tape, finds the answer to this puzzle and leaves the bumbling detectives from Scotland Yard in his wake. The story, somewhat bizarrely, then shifts to Utah where we learn the backdrop of the story before we go back to 221B Baker Street and Holmes' brilliant final unravelling of the crime.

"The story is most enjoyable and well rewards the reader. Conan Doyle was still learning his craft when he wrote it, but it is a minor gem, succinct and with an intriguing plot.

"PS: As evidence of the fame of Holmes, there is a plaque in the Criterion that commemorates Watson being told about Holmes, and another in St Bart's Hospital that records their first meeting."

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‘The Iliad’
by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles

"The Iliad is a legend of literature. Homer's centuries old piece follows the Trojan Wars, and the siege of Troy. Robert Fagles' detailed translation of the legends Archilles and Hector makes for an epic read. Human brutality coupled with intriguing romance makes The Iliad a must-read for all."

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