Learned By Heart: From the award-winning author of Room Clarissa, or the History of A Young Lady Jane Eyre Villette
The Chinese Garden A Little Princess Frost In May Matrix: THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A Separate Peace: As heard on BBC Radio 4 Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder A Fine Balance: The epic modern classic Rebecca
The Color Purple: Now a major motion picture from Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg Learned By Heart: From the award-winning author of Room Clarissa, or the History of A Young Lady Jane Eyre

Emma Donoghue - Books That Inspired Learned by Heart

By Picador

Emma Donoghue - Books That Inspired Learned by Heart

By Picador
Clarissa, or the History of A Young Lady

Clarissa, or the History of A Young Lady

Samuel Richardson

£25.00 £23.75

My partner and I got together thirty years ago because we were the only two nerds at a party who’d read the longest novel in the English language, Richardson’s 1748 stunner about a girl in peril. Clarissa and her passionate defender are an intense example of what they used to call ‘romantic friendship’.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

Charlotte Bronte

£10.99 £10.44

It would be hard to find a girls’ boarding-school novel that isn’t indebted to the savage and moving early chapters of Brontë’s 1847 coming-of-age story about a rebel orphan.

Villette

Villette

CHARLOTTE BRONT

£14.99 £14.24

Brontë’s much less well known 1953 novel about an English teacher in a Belgian school is really smart on the claustrophobia of life in a ‘total institution’, and offers a highly erotic variation on the school-play motif.

The Chinese Garden

The Chinese Garden

Rosemary Manning

£10.99 £10.44

Another excellent English boarding-school book, this 1962 novel is excellent on how homophobic panic disrupts the little Eden of intimacy among girls.

A Little Princess

A Little Princess

Frances Hodgson Burnett and Ethel Franklin Betts

£10.99 £10.44

This 1905 story about a seven-year-old exiled to an English girls’ school for her health vividly conjures up India as the lost domain of childhood happiness.

Frost In May

Frost In May

Antonia White

£9.99 £9.49

A stand-out among girls’ boarding-school novels for the way it presents the institution as its own little bizarre world of rules, rituals, pains and pleasures. It was the writing of this novel that got White expelled from the school she attended.

Matrix: THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Matrix: THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Lauren Groff

£9.99 £9.49

Set in a twelfth-century abbey, Groff’s brilliant 2021 study of female ambition captures the complexity of life in an all-female community where nuns work within and against a multitude of rules.

A Separate Peace: As heard on BBC Radio 4

A Separate Peace: As heard on BBC Radio 4

John Knowles

£8.99 £8.54

A 1948 classic, this is a high-stakes ethical drama about love, rivalry and rage among boys at school. It’s a war novel even though it all takes place before they sign up.

Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder

Evelyn Waugh

£8.99 £8.54

The early section of this 1945 novel, set at Oxford, is the most memorable part, because the rest is one long pang of nostalgia for those intimate, innocent days of homoerotic student life.

A Fine Balance: The epic modern classic

A Fine Balance: The epic modern classic

Rohinton Mistry

£9.99 £9.49

This 1995 saga of India in the 1970s does an exquisite job of parsing the social subtleties of class and caste; I’ll never forget the moment when an employer lets her workman drink from the same cup as her.

Rebecca

Rebecca

Daphne Du Maurier

£9.99 £9.49

The first line of Learned by Heart is a shout-out to the opening of du Maurier’s 1938 shocker, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,’ because I can’t think of another novel so achingly consumed by longing for a lost place made precious by all the young heroine went through there.

The Color Purple: Now a major motion picture from Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg

The Color Purple: Now a major motion picture from Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg

Alice Walker

£9.99 £9.49

For all its catalogue of sufferings, what I remember most vividly about this Pulitzer-winner from 1982 is Celie’s gradual claiming of selfhood as she writes letters to God – and the startlingly unexpected sweetness of her seduction by her husband’s mistress.

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