Great Novels: The World’s Most Remarkable Fiction Explored and Explained

DK. Oct. 2022. 256p. Tr $35. ISBN 9780744060089.
Gr 5 Up–An accessible and attractive introduction of worldwide realist fiction for serious adolescent readers and educators. Accompanied by lush photographs, drawings, and images of manuscript pages, Great Novels is global in scope and decenters the Anglo-centric literary tradition, beginning with The Tale of Genji and Journey to the West and ending with a range of texts, from Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle to Orhan Pamuk’s Snow. Each profiled novel includes a synopsis, cultural context, and a sample quotation. Chapters, divided by historical periods, include helpful directories with short descriptions of other important novels that readers may want to pursue. In providing an accurate survey of great fiction, texts traditionally appropriated by young readers, like Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, and Huckleberry Finn, nestle alongside decidedly mature subject matter of the perennially scandalous Les Liasons Dangereuses or The Sound and the Fury. Excellent overall, this work has a factor that might limit its appeal to students: it does not include enough culturally significant texts that appeal across adult and child readerships. Arguably, there are other more relevant titles regularly taught in high schools than Michel Houellebecq’s Atomised, which could make this a stronger choice for adolescent students.
VERDICT Gorgeous and accessible, this title may tempt younger readers but will be most useful to high school teachers and ambitious senior students seeking to diversify their reading lists.

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