SIngapore Grip: the final book in JG Farrell’s Empire Trilogy.
The writer was drowned at the age of 44, but he left three novels which have come to represent the decline of the British Empire.
Great stories move and they challenge. They draw attention to diverse social and cultural issues and to the transformative potential of empathy. But they can be difficult too.
A legend, even in his own lifetime: stamps to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth.
Royal Mail/PA Archive/PA Images
Almost as soon as Dickens died in 1870, writers and illustrators began to take liberties with his life and career.
Illustration from Our Mutual Friend by Marcus Stone. Wood engraving by Dalziel.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
Dickens had some clever little narrative tricks, which become clear when his work is analysed as a single data set.
Hippocrates refusing the gifts of Artaxerxes. Engraving by Raphael Massard, 1816.
Bleach to defeat COVID-19 or fire to dispel plague, history is full of quack medicine.
Dudarev Mikhail via Shutterstock
A great novel transports you to a time and a place. Here are five of them.
Waxwork of Shakespeare by Madame Tussauds in Berlin.
Anton Ivanov via Shutterstock
New technology is helping archaeologists uncover details of the playwright's home, workplaces and his final resting place.
Martin’s Droeshout portrait of William Shakespeare (1623)
Bodleian Library, Oxford.
The Bard's plays have an unfair reputation for being hard. You're probably reading them in the wrong way.
Michael via Flickr
Some of the most exciting fiction and memoir is being done in the form of graphic novels. Here are some of the very best.
Pilots and air crew passing the time with books and newspapers.
S.A. Devon, RAF official photographer/Imperial War Museum
Books were an important weapon on the home front in the second world war.
A street during the Great Plague in London, 1665, with a death cart and mourners.
Written 60 years after the bubonic plague swept London, Defoe's account may have been a hoax, but it still rings true today.
Last year saw the first cohort of English literature students who were born in or beyond 2000 – the so-called digital generation. I wanted to know whether the classics still affected their lives.
Dickens After Death, John Everett Millais, June 10 1870.
Charles Dickens Museum
How two ambitious men put their own interests ahead of the great writer and his family in an act of institutionally-sanctioned bodysnatching.
Image courtesy of Lionsgate
The latest version of Dickens' classic is a refreshingly diverse tale of the triumph of the ordinary heroism over everyday evil.
Africa Studio via Shutterstock
Memoirs of the morning after: because literature tells us the hangover is about so much more than physical symptoms.
Jane Austen based on a portrait by her sister Cassandra.
When her contemporaries were engaging with European themes in their novels, Austen remained rooted in her home country.
A portrait of George Eliot at 30 by Alexandre-Louis-François d'Albert-Durade. Her masterpiece Middlemarch is often claimed to be the greatest novel in the English language.
Henry James called her a 'great, horse-faced bluestocking'. On the 200th anniversary of her birth, we celebrate George Eliot, a literary trailblazer with an endless appetite for ideas, living in a patriarchal time.
Currier and Ives 1875 print of Robinson Crusoe and his companion Friday.
Everett Historical via Shutterstock
Published in 1719, Robinson Crusoe was one of the first novels (in the modern sense) written in English. Some 300 years later, the complicated castaway and his misadventures continue to shape culture.
The Southern Ocean, as artists have uncovered, is also a treasure trove of cultural narratives.
Prismatic Jane Eyre/University of Oxford
What was a thoroughly English book has become a multilingual, ever-changing global text continually putting down roots in different cultures.