The Master and Margarita
One of the most popular Russian novels of the 20th century, The Master and Margarita blends surrealism and political satire with a dazzling cast that includes Satan, Pontius Pilate and a talking cat. This careful abridgement of a new translation is read by the charismatic Julian Rhind-Tutt.
The Spanish Bride
When Brigade-Major Harry Smith meets the beautiful Juana Maria, a spark is kindled, and she rides with the troops on his campaigns. Set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, Georgette Heyer’s novel is both a stirring true love story and a dramatic account of Wellington’s Spanish battles.
DH Lawrence’s classic novel follows the lives and loves of three generations of the Brangwen family as their world is transformed by industrialization, culminating in the passionate, headstrong sisters Ursula and Gudrun’s struggle to grasp a higher form of existence, symbolized by the rainbow.
Around the World in Eighty Days
Having made a wager at his gentlemen’s club in London, Phileas Fogg, along with his long-suffering manservant Passepartout, sets off on the race of a lifetime – to circumnavigate the globe in exactly 80 days. In pursuit is Detective Fix, convinced that Fogg is a bank robber. Read by Bill Homewood. Unabridged.
The Vicar of Wakefield
‘A Book of Job transferred to 18th-century bourgeois England’, Goldsmith's tale begins with Charles Primrose, his wife and four children in their tranquil rural parish: an idyll to be shattered by bankruptcy, seduction and prison. Whether a story of suffering and fortitude or a satire of 18th-century life, the novel's appeal has never faltered. Read, unabridged, by Nicholas Farrell.
The Playboy of the Western World
Although a celebration of Irish life, language and humour, Synge’s comic masterpiece was seen as morally offensive and patronizing towards the Irish peasantry when it was premiered in 1907: it provoked not only controversy but actual rioting. This recording is of a classic production, with a cast led by the Irish actors Siobhan McKenna and Cyril Cusack. 2 CDs; total time 1hr 27mins.
The Cellist of Sarajevo
During the Siege of Sarajevo, a cellist plays at a site where many have died, while enemy snipers besieging the city try to kill him. Galloway’s bestselling novel revolves around the cellist, following three citizens as they go about their lives, risking death with every simple journey. Read by Gareth Armstrong.
In Mary Shelley’s powerful Promethean fable, Dr Frankenstein’s experiment and its terrible outcome is told through the letters of an English explorer who met the doomed scientist as he pursued his monster into the Arctic wilderness. Read by Daniel Philpott, Roger May and Jonathan Oliver.
Written in Reading Gaol, De Profundis is Oscar Wilde's letter to Lord Alfred Douglas, whose relationship with Wilde had led to the writer’s trial and imprisonment for ‘gross indecency’. In the first part, Wilde reflects on Douglas’s vanity and his own weakness, but goes on to describe how his ordeal has brought a deeper wisdom. The work is read here by Simon Russell Beale.
Black British and Caribbean Poets Read their Own Work
Poets of the Caribbean diaspora, such as E A Markham, Grace Nichols and Benjamin Zephaniah, have contributed powerfully to the poetry scene in Britain since the latter part of the 20th century, their work often responding to the harsh realities of the immigrant experience. This 2-CD anthology collects studio recordings from the British Library archive, including previously unissued live performances by Linton Kwesi Johnson, Jean 'Binta' Breeze and Michael Smith.
Birds in Town and Village
WH Hudson (1841-1922) was a founder member of the RSPB whose books helped to popularize birdwatching as a pastime. This set of six CDs presents an unabridged reading by Neville Jason of one of Hudson's charming accounts of the hours he spent absorbed in studying birds' behaviour and listening to their songs; he also observes the actions of predators and appeals for his Edwardian contemporaries to pay greater attention to conservation. 6 CDs 7hrs 23mins
Edge of Eternity
Ken Follett's epic The Century Trilogy follows the experiences of families across the globe during the 20th century's most tumultuous events, and this final novel explores the impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Civil Rights movement and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Read by John Lee. Abridged.
The Lady Elizabeth
The Lady Elizabeth is the daughter of Henry VIII, but disinherited and declared a bastard after the execution of her mother. How the young Elizabeth survives the savage world of Tudor politics, inherits the throne and becomes queen is the subject of Alison Weir's novel. It is read here by Emma Fielding. Abridged.
The Climax of an Empire
The Pac Britannica trilogy is Jan Morris's accessible and entertaining narrative history of the British Empire from the accession of Queen Victoria to the death of Winston Churchill. A snapshot of the Empire at the Diamond Jubilee, this second volume looks at what it comprised – from adventurers and politicians to communications and infrastructure – but also examines the jumble of ideologies within it and how they affected its 370 million people. Read by Roy McMillan. Unabridged.
Rip Van Winkle
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and The Pride of the Village
This famous tale by Washington Irving (1783–1859) is set before and after the American Revolutionary War and tells of a Dutch villager who went wandering in the Catskill Mountains, fell asleep and awoke 20 years later – after the Revolution – to find the world much changed. Rip van Winkle and two more short stories are read here by Adam Sims. Unabridged.
Return to Steam (Audio CD)
There are few sounds as evocative as a steam locomotive, and although these recordings were made between 1972 and 1974 on preserved lines, they transport us back to the earlier age of steam. There are two audio CDs: Steam Specials includes the sounds of Green Arrow and the Flying Scotsman; the second features locomotives on the Severn Railway, among them Class 5 No. 45110 'RAF Biggin Hill' and Pannier No. 5764. 2 CDs total running time 89 min.
The First World War in Poetry
The actor Rory Kinnear reads a selection of war poetry ranging from the early patriotic optimism of John Galsworthy to the suffering and disillusion of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The CD features works by 24 poets, both soldiers and civilians, including Robert Graves, Ivor Gurney, Rudyard Kipling and Edith Nesbit.1 CD duration 76 min.
They Should Have Asked My Husband
Pam Ayres has been delighting the world with her very personal form of poetry since the mid-1970s. This set features some of her best-loved poems and stories, as performed in a one-woman show at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, including 'Yes I'll Marry You My Dear' and 'Oh, I Wish I'd Looked After Me Teeth'.
A Portrait in Letters
Compiled and introduced by David Timson, this portrait presents Dickens's letters arranged in 'chapters' that portray the many sides to his personality and work, including his travels, the social causes he supported, romantic love and domestic life. The unabridged letters are read by the actor and Dickens biographer Simon Callow.
Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
Thomas De Quincey's powerful autobiographical study describes the psychological effects of his addiction to opium: childhood experience turning into dreams, at first euphoric, but becoming horrific as dependence on the drug deepened. Published in 1822, the book brought De Quincey literary fame and was an important influence on later writers. It is read here by Gunnar Cauthery. Unabridged.
The Essential Edgar Allan Poe
Stories. Poems. Biography
Although stories such as The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart and The Murders in the Rue Morgue have remained popular to this day, Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) felt that his vocation was poetry. This collection includes both stories and poems, plus a biography of Poe. The works are unabridged and read by Kerry Shale, William Roberts and John Chancer.
Henry Fielding's bawdy and hilarious parody of Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740) transforms the eponymous innocent virgin into a shameless slut and predatory social climber intent on marrying Squire Booby. The unabridged novel is read here by a cast led by Clare Corbett as Shamela. 2 CDs 1hr 30mins
The Golden Notebook
Set in London in the late 1950s, this novel by the Nobel laureate Doris Lessing (1919–2013) describes the challenges of life in the aftermath of war. It follows the psychological turmoil of Anna, a novelist and a single mother – as Lessing was – struggling to cope as her personal life and political certainties collapse around her. The Golden Notebook (1962) is read here by Juliet Stevenson. Unabridged.
Against a background of social stagnation, apathy and outmoded institutions, Dickens uses a gallery of vivid characters to show that it is individuals and their acts of kindness, love and generosity that can revitalize society. This Complete Classics unabridged edition of Little Dorrit is read by Anton Lesser. 28 CDs 35hrs 15mins
Probably Victor Hugo's best-known work, Les Misérables (1862) is set in Paris between 1815 and the Paris Rebellion in 1932. It tells the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who redeems his early crime by showing compassion, forgiveness and, ultimately, his courage on the rebels' barricades. This vast novel is presented here in an abridged version, read by Bill Homewood, with music by Berlioz and Honegger.
The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm
With a head full of brilliant ideas and wild inventions which never work out quite as planned, Professor Branestawm sets off with his friend Colonel Dedshott on a series of adventures involving wild waste paper, burglars and screaming clocks – among other disasters. First published in 1933, the unabridged classic tales of Branestawm are read here by Martin Jarvis. Age 7+
The Final Count
A Bulldog Drummond Adventure
Published in 1926, this fourth novel in Sapper's Bulldog Drummond series finds the seminal action hero Bulldog Drummond having to prove the innocence of a chemical warfare inventor whose weapon mysteriously goes missing. Roy McMillan reads the unabridged novel and recommends it as 'a pounding good adventure story', never mind Bulldog's imperial attitudes from another era.
Sense and Sensibility: A Novel
Jane Austen explores the psychology of romantic love as she tells the story of Mrs Dashwood and her daughters Elinor and Marianne - one full of good sense, the other prone to romantic notions. The novel was first published in 1811; this abridged version is read by Juliet Stevenson. 3 CDs 3hrs 45mins
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
Ian Holm narrates the famous tale of Dr Henry Jekyll and the elixir which he hoped would help him explore the hidden depths of his personality. Jekyll's experiments coincided with the appearance of Mr Edward Hyde on London's streets; but how are the two men related and how can the evil Hyde be stopped? 2 CDs, running time 2.5 hours.
The Reluctant Tommy
In the First World War, Ronald Skirth was an ordinary tommy serving in the trenches; but on the Flanders battlefield he had a strange epiphany and became a pacifist. His war became one of small acts of sabotage, committed at huge risk to his own life. Compiled from Skirth's wartime letters and journals and his memoir, this is the story of a young man sticking to his principles in impossible circumstances. The abridged audio version is read by Daniel Weyman.
Science Fiction Writers
Douglas Adams on Desert Island Discs, Ursula K LeGuin interviewed on Woman's Hour, Kurt Vonnegut talking on Third Ear in 1990.... Originally broadcast on BBC radio, these interviews feature ten of the really great science fiction writers talking about their art. The other seven writers are Isaac Asimov, Brian Aldiss, Doris Lessing, Michael Moorcock, JG Ballard, Arthur C Clarke (another Desert Islander) and Ray Bradbury. One CD: duration 73 minutes.