The Secret Life of Books


July 11, 2016

Expired 3.0 10 x
Written in 1862 by the Reverend Charles Kingsley, The Water-Babies tells the story of a young chimney sweep called Tom who finds redemption amongst the pulsing life of the open ocean when he is transformed into an aquatic creature. Church of England vicar and former pop star Reverend Richard Coles dives beneath the surface...

July 4, 2016

Expired 3.0 10 x
Edith Nesbit is probably best known these days for The Railway Children, but her earlier book Five Children and It was even more influential, its blend of magic and the everyday paving the way for the Narnia stories and Harry Potter. A classic fantasy story about a group of siblings who discover a creature that can grant w...
Episodes 2015

November 16, 2015

Expired 3.0 11 x
Former journalist and keen amateur sailor John Sergeant takes to the water in the wake of the plucky young heroes of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, and learns how a globe-trotting foreign correspondent and acquintance of Lenin and Trotsky came to perfect a new, more authentic kind of children's literature that feat...

November 9, 2015

Expired 3.0 9 x
Best-selling chronicler of modern country life, Joanna Trollope traces the roots of her favourite book Cider with Rosie to uncover how Laurie Lee blended fact and fiction in his wistful elegy to a disappeared rural world - and reflect on why a book with such dark, hard-edged undercurrents continues to have such a popular a...

November 2, 2015

Expired 3.0 15 x
Performance poet John Cooper Clarke explores Thomas de Quincey's autobiographical classic Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and discovers how his fellow Mancunian's addiction memoir avoids the cliches of modern 'misery-lit' in favour of something much more unsentimental and psychologically complex.

October 26, 2015

Expired 3.0 6 x
Multi-award-winning actor and director Fiona Shaw explores the genesis of her all-time favourite book, The Mill on the Floss, and discovers how the scandal that caused George Eliot (born Mary Ann Evans) to take a male pen name was also played out in the plot of her classic novel about a woman's thwarted intellectual ambiti...

October 19, 2015

Expired 3.0 8 x
Nicholas Parsons, a lifelong fan of Edward Lear, revisits the book that gave the world The Owl and the Pussycat to explore the fine line between joy and melancholy in Lear's writing and discover how the epileptic, bronchial, asthmatic depressive pioneered a new kind of poetry that married brilliant wordplay with astonishin...

October 13, 2015

Expired 3.0 7 x
Dr Janina Ramirez unravels Edmund Spenser's Elizabethan epic The Faerie Queene to reveal how this fantasy world of elves, nymphs and questing knights was written in the midst of the brutal Tudor occupation of Ireland, and how the writer's growing disillusionment with the conflict was coded into the poem's restless verse.
Episodes 2014

6. Frankenstein

Expired 3.0 13 x
Some 200 years since it was written, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is now shorthand for the horrors of science run amok. But when author and anatomist Professor Alice Roberts returns to the 18-year-old Mary's manuscripts, she finds someone concerned with the very act of creation itself. She also discovers clues of another wr...

5. Jane Eyre

Expired 3.0 16 x
Journalist and novelist Bidisha was fascinated by Bronte's Jane Eyre as a teenager, but re-reading the story as an adult left her feeling uncomfortable. What Bronte had to say about sex and race was darker and more disturbing than she remembered.
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