Virginia Woolf is one of the most important 20th century novelists. Best-known for her novels Mrs. Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, and the book-length feminist essay A Room of One’s Own, Woolf’s pioneering impact on prose writing was her use of stream of consciousness, a narrative technique that attempted to depict the variety and multiplicity of human thought. Experimenting with form, plot mechanics, and character, Woolf’s stylistic virtuosity and intense lyricism of everyday struggles–set against the backdrop of war and trauma–continues to reverberate with writers and readers of the 21st century.
A deeply humane author of reflective and sensuous books, Lawrence is best known for his novels Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Born to a poor mining family in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire in 1885, Lawrence’s prolific authorship–including novels, short stories, poetry, and collected letters–draws heavily on his provincial childhood and give his realistic character studies compelling authenticity. Following the success of his first two novels, Lawrence’s subsequent novels–The Rainbow, Women in Love, and Lady Chatterly’s Lover–were highly controversial and banned in the U.K. because of their challenging depictions of gender, sexuality, economic disparity, and romantic and familial relationships.
Nominated for the Nobel Prize on 16 different occasions, Edward Morgan Forster is best remembered for his novels examining class disparity and British colonialism, notably in A Room with a View, Howards End, and A Passage to India. Today Forester’s work is perhaps best remembered through the film adaptations of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory: A Room with a View (1985), Maurice (1987), and Howards End (1992).
A fiercely intelligent moral ironist fond of satirizing high society–notably in A Handful of Dust and Decline and Fall–his greatest work, Brideshead Revisited (1945), saw Waugh exploring theological themes of divine grace and nationalistic nostalgia for English aristocracy.
In an essay written in the summer of 1946, George Orwell (the pen name of Eric Arthur Blair) wrote: “Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write.” The book, begun shortly after, was the classic dystopian novel 1984, published in 1949. It would prove his last book; he died of tuberculosis in 1950. Both a moving love story and a harsh critique of modern totalitarianism, 1984 was anything but a failure and has remained a timeless tale of desire and individuality in the face of fascism.
Throughout his 67 years of writing, Graham Greene’s novels–totally over two dozen–received widespread literary acclaim and mainstream popularity. Fond of stories chronicling character’s moral and spiritual anxieties in the face of modernity, Greene is best known for his serious Catholic novels (Brighton Rock, The Path and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter and The End of the Affair) and his international espionage thrillers (The Confidential Agent, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana, The Human Factor, and the screenplay for The Third Man). As a young man, Greene converted to Catholicism and his faith would deeply influence his novels. During WWII, Greene served under the British Secret Service in Sierra Leone, experiences that would inspire his spy thrillers.