We’ve all heard of classic films that you should see before you die and classic fiction that really must be read but what of contemporary fiction? Sometimes viewed as second rate writing there area huge number of modern day authors that deserve a mention. I’ve chosen some of my all time favourites and hope you’ll have as much enjoyment from reading these as I have done over the years.
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being
A young woman in love with a man torn between his love for her and his incorrigible womanizing one of his mistresses and her humbly faithful lover–these are the two couples whose story is told in this masterful novel. In a world in which lives are shaped by irrevocable choices and by fortuitous events, a world in which everything occurs but once, existence seems to lose its substance, its weight. Hence, we feel “the unbearable lightness of being” not only as the consequence of our private actions, but also in the public sphere, and the two inevitably intertwine.
John Irving – The World According To Garp
Made into a film with a young Robin Williams but the book is so much better. The book revolves around the life and times of T. S. Garp, the bastard son of Jenny Fields — a feminist leader ahead of her times. This is the life and death story of a famous mother and her almost-famous son. It is a novel rich with “lunacy and sorrow”; yet the dark, violent events of the story do not undermine a comedy both ribald and robust. From the mothers associations with extreme feminist groups who have cut out their tongues in protest of a rape victim, to the novel within the novel that Garp is writing. The death of Garp’s son proves a pivotal point in the novel as he attempts to reconcile with his unfaithful wife at the same time. You’ll laugh out loud and weep in sadness.
Audrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife
When Henry meets Clare, he is twenty-eight and she is twenty. Henry has never met Clare before; Clare has known Henry since she was six. Impossible but true, because Henry finds himself periodically displaced in time, pulled to moments of emotional gravity from his life, past and future. Henry and Clare’s attempts to live normal lives are threatened by a force they can neither prevent nor control, making their passionate love story intensely moving and entirely unforgettable. The Time Traveler’s Wife is a story of fate, hope and belief, and more than that, it’s about the power of love to endure beyond the bounds of time.
Paulo Coelho – The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom points Santiago in the direction of his quest. No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within. Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transformation power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts
J.D Salinger – Catch In The Rye
Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two haemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.” His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.