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The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane (1895, L) – This is a short novel about war that is written by a person who has never been to the thick of a war. It ponders on the nature of fear, cowardice, courage and heroism with realistic impressions of battles. If you want to know what goes on inside the head of a soldier in action, pick this up.
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989, L) – I’m collecting the striped Vintage editions of Ishiguro’s back list but I haven’t really bothered to go through them. But by all means, let’s put this title, the first book that I ever discussed with our book club, on this list. It’s a meditative book on greatness and dignity through the silverware, I mean lens, of a butler.
Remembering Babylon by David Malouf (1993, H) – The first ever winner of the IMPAC Literary Prize, one of the richest awards in the bookish community. The themes of isolation and identity are depicted in a fragmented narrative about a European boy, raised by aborigines, who struggles for his place in the world when he is reacquainted with Western settlers.
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (1961, L) – A searing story about a middle-class couple who are ensnared by the trappings of their middle-class comforts. The Wheelers attempt to escape the dread that is gnawing at them, but the lure of further socio-economic advancement derails their plans, their marriage, and ultimately, their lives.
The Sea by John Banville (2005, M) – This is an enigmatic tale about Max who looks back on his childhood that is colored by his playmates, the siblings Chloe and Myles. He reconciles with a past that is culminated by the siblings’ swim to the sea, a swim that would change the rest of their lives. This is best read slowly because of its hypnotic, poetic prose.
The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978, M) – To put it bluntly, this is a love story populated not by dashing boys and dazzling girls, but by old people. And by old people, we mean people who should be legitimately retired. Charles Arrowby, former theater director, retires to a seaside house in seclusion only to be reunited with his first love. The characters in this novel are fully fleshed out and they let us see clearly the reasons behind the things that they do.
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011, L) – A short yet contemplative mind-bender that takes on the essence of history and the faulty nature of memory, this demands to be reread after finishing the unsettling last page. Tony Webster, in his old age, is given money and the diary of his friend from 40 years ago by the mother of his ex-girlfriend, also from 40 years ago. This unexpected reacquaintance with the past forces Tony to remember and rethink the events that happened among the four of them.
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (1949, L) – Port and Kit travel to the North African desert in an attempt to save their failing marriage. Their uninteresting friend, Tunner, tags along. Something happens to Port. Kit runs away. At this point, brace yourself as Kit does some crazy stuff while sinking in the quicksand of her existential anguish.
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx (1993, L) – Quoyle is left to raise his two daughters alone when his vile wife leaves him. He tries to start a new life by moving to their ancestral home somewhere in Canada. This is a moving novel of hope and redemption that is tightly tied to knots (granny knots, square knots, etc.), which are introduced at the start of each chapter and which are entangled in Quoyle’s life.
A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (1964, M) – George goes through what he assumes to be the last day of his life. We learn that he is a literature professor still grieving the death of Jim, his domestic partner. The loneliness that engulfs George is thickly pronounced without being overdone, and his resolve to end his life may or may not be swayed by his encounters with strangers, students, and friends.
Stay tuned for Part 8.
Format: [Title] ([Original Title]) by [Author] ([Publication Year, LSS Meter Level])
This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).