Ranging all the way from Aaron’s Rod to Zuleika Dobson, via The Devil Rides Out and Middlemarch, literary connoisseur and sleuth John Sutherland offers his very personal guide to the most rewarding, most remarkable and, on occasion, most shamelessly enjoyable works of fiction ever written.
He brilliantly captures the flavour of each work and assesses its relative merits and demerits. He shows how it fits into a broader context and he offers endless snippets of intriguing information: did you know, for example, that the Nazis banned Bambi or that William Faulkner wrote As I Lay Dying on an upturned wheelbarrow; that Voltaire completed Candide in three days, or that Anna Sewell was paid £20 for Black Beauty? It is also effectively a history of the novel in 500 or so wittily informative, bite-sized pieces.
Encyclopaedic and entertaining by turns, this is a wonderful dip-in book, whose opinions will inform and on occasion, no doubt, infuriate.