First published in 1905, the House of Mirth shocked many by its candour. Lily Bart moves in the shallow, new-moneyed class of New York society in which men make the money and women spend it. There amongst the glib diversions of the newly rich, she seeks a husband who can not only maintain her in this charmed existence, but can also provide unstinting admiration.
It began in a women's club in London on a February afternoon. A discreet advertisement in The Times, addressed to "Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine..." lures four very different women away from the dismal British weather to San Salvatore, a castle high above a bay on the sunny Italian Riviera. There, the Mediterranean spirit stirs the souls of Mrs Arbuthnot, Mrs Wilkins, Lady Caroline Dester, and Mrs Fisher, and remarkable changes occur.
"Oh, Gosh! What a Delightful Surprise!"
Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923-2014) wrote brilliant novels about what love can do to people, but in her own life the lasting relationship she sought so ardently always eluded her. She grew up yearning to be an actress, but when that ambition was thwarted by marriage and the war, she turned to fiction. Her first novel, The Beautiful Visit, won the John Llewellyn Rhys prize - she went on to write 14 more, of which the best-loved were the five volumes of The Cazalet Chronicle.
"A rather depressing life"
May's second marriage to Colonel Herbert Brown-Lacey is turning out to be a terrible mistake. Her children find the Colonel's presence oppressive.
The story follows the life of Tina, a young woman caught between the mother who adopted her - the beautiful, upstanding Delia - and her true mother, her plain, unmarried ‘aunt’ Charlotte, who gave Tina up to provide her with a socially acceptable life. The three women live quietly together until Tina’s wedding day, when Delia’s and Charlotte’s hidden jealousies rush to the surface.
"Touching story, well read"
gentle romance begins innocently enough in the stalls of a London theatre where Catherine is enjoying her ninth and Christopher his thirty-sixth visit to the same play. He is a magnificent young man with flame-coloured hair. She is the sweetest little thing in a hat. There is just one complication: Christopher is 25, while Catherine is just a little bit older. Flattered by the passionate attentions of youth, Catherine, with marriage and motherhood behind her, is at first circumspect, but finally succumbs to her lover's charms.
"Narrator is Wonderful!"
Inspired by an old photograph album to investigate the life of a lost relative, a man finds himself on a journey that traverses the 20th century, leading him from an American asylum to the shores of the Dead Sea. Adapted by Edward Kemp from W G Sebald's acclaimed novel about the experiences of Jewish emigrants.
"special performance of a special story"
Dairy farmer Robin Meredith has just buried his Californian wife Caro who, though a central figure at the farm for more than twenty years, had remained a mystery to the family. With Caro gone, her adopted daughter Judy feels cut adrift. To Robin’s brother, Joe, Caro had been the emblem of a freedom he’d glimpsed in America and his grief is far deeper than the family suspects. Even Robin and Joe’s parents, entrenched in the adjoining farm, feel suddenly vulnerable to time and change as well.
"Death as a Lesson in Living"
Marie Antoinette's dramatic life-story continues to arouse mixed emotions. To many people, she is still 'la reine mechante', whose extravagance and frivolity helped to bring down the French monarchy; her indifference to popular suffering epitomised by the (apocryphal) words: 'let them eat cake'. Others are equally passionate in her defence: to them, she is a victim of misogyny.
"10/10, will read again. "
Eugenia, an American expatriate brought up in Europe, arrives in New England with her brother Felix, hoping to find a second husband. Their sophisticated airs cause quite a stir with their affluent, God-fearing American cousins, the Wentworths - and provoke the disapproval of their uncle. Eugenia wins the attentions of Robert Acton, the most appropriate suitor in the area, while also seducing her younger cousin, Clifford. Felix's luxurious romantic ways find acceptance with the American women - particularly Gertrude Wentworth.
"excellent book -bron exceptional"
Anne and Edmund Cornhill have a happy marriage and a charming house. They are content, complete, absorbed in their private idyll. Arabella, who comes to stay one lazy summer, is rich, rootless and amoral - and, as they find out, beautiful and loving.With her elegant prose the author traces the web of love and desire that entangles these three; but it is Arabella who finally loses out.
"Tedious story, but worth it to hear Eleanor Bron ."
Simon Russell Beale stars in this BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of John le Carré's first novel, which introduced his most famous character, George Smiley. This dramatisation, set in London in the late 1950s, finds Smiley engaged in the humdrum job of security vetting. But when a Foreign Office civil servant commits suicide after an apparently unproblematic interview, Smiley is baffled. Refusing to believe that Fennan shot himself, Smiley decides to investigate.
Her name is Dinah. In the Bible her fate is merely hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the verses of the Book of Genesis that recount the life of Jacob and his dozen sons. The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah's voice, it opens with the story of her mothers, the four wives of Jacob, each of whom embodies unique feminine traits, and concludes with Dinah's own unforgettable story of betrayal, grief and love.
"Not just for girlies"
A new BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of the novel by Agatha Christie, first published in 1961.Mark Easterbrook learns of a mysterious organisation called the Pale Horse, and in the village of Much Deeping he is told of the organisation's supernatural connections. A piece of paper with a list of names seems to foretell the deaths of several people, and Mark must discover what connects them all, and who is behind the strange powers of the Pale Horse.
"Different yet the same"
When Tess Durbeyfield is driven by family poverty to claim kinship with the wealthy D'Urbervilles and seek a portion of their family fortune, meeting her 'cousin' Alec proves to be her downfall. A very different man, Angel Clare, seems to offer her love and salvation, but Tess must choose whether to reveal her past or remain silent in the hope of a peaceful future.
Joseph and Harriet Blackstone emigrate from Norfolk to New Zealand in search of new beginnings and prosperity. But the harsh land near Christchurch where they settle threatens to destroy them almost before they begin. When Joseph finds gold in the creek he is seized by a rapturous obsession with the voluptuous riches awaiting him deep in the earth.
"An almost perfect experience"
Eugenia, an American expatriate brought up in Europe, arrives in rural New England with her charming brother Felix, hoping to find a wealthy second husband after the collapse of her marriage to a German prince. Their exotic, sophisticated airs cause quite a stir with their affluent, God-fearing American cousins, the Wentworth's - and provoke the disapproval of their uncle, suspicious of foreign influences.
"wonderful novel, wonderful reader, poor recording"
A BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Virgil's sweeping epic, starring Ralph Fiennes as Aeneas and Derek Jacobi as the Narrator. One of the classics of all time, The Aeneid was Virgil's last and greatest work. In it, he recounts in vivid imagery the legendary origin of the Roman Empire. The story begins after the Greeks have destroyed the city of Troy. The Trojan Prince Aeneas, defeated and depressed, leads his remaining citizens to a new land and a new destiny foretold by the Gods.
"Would love an unabridged version!"
Archie Logan, a country doctor, and his wife Liza lead an orthodox-seeming life, and everything is well until Archie's father, a widower for over 30 years, falls in love. His choice, a woman of powerful charm, has a profound effect on all the Logans, adults and children alike. The house and family turn from being a refuge to being a cage. Archie and Liza risk losing everything they have built.
Four spine-tingling short stories from masters of the genre, read by Michael Maloney, Eleanor Bron and Andrew Sachs: 'The Phantom Coach' by Amelia B. Edwards; 'The Judge’s House' by Bram Stoker; 'The Tapestried Chamber' by Sir Walter Scott; 'The Man of Science' by Jerome K. Jerome.