By: Patricia Duncker
Berlin, September 1872. The Duncker brothers, Max and Wolfgang, own a thriving publishing business in the city. Clever, irresponsible Max is as fond of gambling and brothels as the older, wiser, Wolfgang is of making a profit.
When Max's bad habits get out of hand, Wolfgang sends him to the Spa town of Homburg, to dance attendance upon a celebrity author - the enigmatic Sibyl, also known as George Eliot. As enthralling and intelligent as her books, she soon has Max bewitched.
Yet Wolfgang has an ulterior motive: for his brother to consider Sophie von Hahn, daughter of a wealthy family friend, as a potential wife. At first, Max is lured by Sophie's beauty and his affectionate memories of their shared childhood. But Sophie proves to be nothing like the vision of angelic domesticity Max was expecting. Mischievous, wilful and daring, Sophie gambles recklessly and rides horses like a man.
Both women have Max in thrall - one with her youth and passion, the other with her wisdom and fierce intelligence. Out of his depth, Max finds himself precariously balanced between Sophie and the Sibyl. What's more, Sophie worships the great novelist of questionable morals - and is determined to meet her.
A compelling Victorian novel and a playful meditation on the creation of literature, Sophie and the Sibyl balances a tale of courtship and seduction with a fascinating, lively imagining of the writer George Eliot at the end of her boldly unconventional life, and the height of her fame.
Published on 21 April 2016.
Published by: Bloomsbury Paperbacks
It's the midsummer ball at Oxford, and a group of men and women - friends since university days - have gathered under the stars. Included in this group is David Crimond, a genius and fervent Marxist.
Years earlier the friends had persuaded David to write a philosophical and political book on their behalf. But opinions and loyalties have changed, and on this summer evening the long-resting ghosts of the past come careering back into the present.
Published in 2003.
The Sea is John Banville's Man Booker prize-winning exploration of memory, childhood and loss.
When art historian Max Morden returns to the seaside village where he once spent a childhood holiday, he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Grace family had appeared that long-ago summer as if from another world.
Mr and Mrs Grace, with their worldly ease and candour, were unlike any adults he had met before. But it was his contemporaries, the Grace twins Myles and Chloe, who most fascinated Max. He grew to know them intricately, even intimately, and what ensued would haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that was to follow.
Published in 2008.
Drawing on history, literature, and his own experience of unrequited passion, Love is a thinly disguised picture of the author’s innermost feelings.
Stendahl’s obsession with Mathilde Viscontini Dembowski is at the heart of this book. For her part, she neither returned his love nor understood him. In an attempt to expain his feelings to her—and to exorcise his love—he dissects his passion.
Bringing together the conflicting sides of his nature, the deeply emotional and the coolly analytical, Stendhal constructed a work that is both acutely personal and universally applicable.
Published in 1975.