Fifty Classics in 25 words each

Fifty Classics

Henry James: The Turn Of The Screw

Does a governess see two ghosts corrupting two children, or is she barking up the wrong tree? You decide. The author won't be telling you.

Arthur Miller: Death Of A Salesman

WILLY: Gee, what great business! (Music). Everything stinks. (Music). Honey, I just realised! I sold myself a great turkey! LINDA: Boys, what was that crash?

William Golding: Lord Of The Flies

Take one plane-load of innocent kids. Stir. Fester for a few weeks until savage. Reduce slowly until thoroughly blooded. Then rescue very lightly. That's life!

J.R.R. Tolkien: The Lord Of The Rings

Ring, ring. Who's there? Hobbity-hup! That's another fine myth we've gotten into, but after wizard prangs, the only good orc's a dead orc. Mordor merrier.

Julian Barnes: A History Of The World In 10 and a half Chapters

1 Noah Problem. 2 Jonah Of Ark. 3 Making Space. 4 Battle Of Gericault. 5 Moon Overboard. 6 Smell Ararat. 7 Sinking Feelings. 8 God Off. 8 [Love]. 9 History As Lifeboat. 10 Novel For Sail.

F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

Neighbour Nick watches Gatsby try to pluck Daisy, but it's the jazz age, so Gatsby winds up face down in the pool. Not so great.

Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights

Heathcliff loses his adopted parents, sister and brother, their respective husband and wife, and his son, and wife. Cheerful stuff, with wonderful scenery.

Laurence Sterne: The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy

Madam, I beg your leave; where was I? My giddy uncle! Is that the time! I must conceive at once. 'Tis codswallop; here's an END.

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

Jane is to marry Rochester. Slight hitch: he's already married, so she moves away. Later, reader, Wife One burns Rochester out, so she forgives him.

Daphne Du Maurier: Rebecca

Last night I remembered: De Winter is very cold, and it's murder down by the bay, but we get on like a house on fire.

Franz Kafka: Metamorphosis

Gregor wakes up, late for work. Even worse, he's a beetle. His family is less than pleased, until finally he drops dead. Free at last!

Shakespeare: Hamlet

She loves him, she loves me not. Have grave concerns about Uncle. Still, que sera sera. No need to keep Mum. We're all bonio: fact.

John Bunyan: Pilgrim's Progress

If I could fly with the wings of the bluebird as she sings - I'm a daydream believer. Now I have a Zion organiser. Thank God.

Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Dere Godde, we wente to Kente, to telle talle tales, which, by the wey, we didde, and we were wel plesed. Wishe yow were here.

Ford Madox Ford: The Good Soldier

The American narrator tells a sad story about his wife leaving him for a noble Englishman. Both die. The narrator rather misses the point, eh?

Unknown: Beowulf

Do the monster mash. Do the monster's mother's mash. Swear, sworn, sword. Then get mortal with a dragon, fifty years later. Geat stuff.

William Langland: Piers Plowman

I'm Piers Plowman. I dig all day. Various are my visions. Government's godless. Prayer is promising. I loathe alliteration. But I'm stuck with the stuff.

Mark Haddon: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time

The dog was dead, so I was in my prime number. Don't take away my mum and dad. Divide and rule. It all adds up.

Lewis Carroll: Alice In Wonderland

Daddy wouldn't buy me a bow-wow. But I've got a little cat, and it turned into a rabbit, a dodo, a hatter, a queen. Freaky!

Thomas Hardy: The Return Of The Native

Dorset lad Clym makes good with diamonds, but decides to dig the heath instead. His dark-eyed wife Eustacia is appalled! Dorset is death to her.

Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse

Let's go to the lighthouse, but first let me have a good think about things in general, very interesting, I wonder if I, oh botheration.

Lynne Truss: Eats Shoots And Leaves

Greengrocer's, do not they give you the yip's. I'd like to see them comma cropper. Give them colonic irrigation. I blame the parentheses. Full stop.

Flora Thompson: Lark Rise To Candleford

I was born quite near Oxford, all flora, not much fauna. Then I went away to work for The Post Office. That wasn't so rosy!

George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-Four

Winston hears thirteen o'clock while he's working for a spin-doctor, after which he should have smelt a rat. Luckily his Brother takes care of him.

Jane Austen: Emma

When the vacant mind becomes engaged, it numbers the wrong rings, but it is not a vain hope to have a man Knightley. Emma correct?

Mary Shelley: Frankenstein

My creation's escaped! Damn! If I had known he was going to be called Clint Eastwood, I wouldn't have made a Man With No Name.

T.S. Eliot: The Waste Land

This place is completely deserted. /Or is it a beach? It's perverted. /Is it all Dada? /No, it's much harder. /Notes keep you all disconcerted.

D.H. Lawrence: Lady Chatterley's Lover

She's gone off Cliff, so she goes and comes with the keeper, who's game. Does he speak dialect? Coarse he is. More tee-hee, my Lady?

Herman Melville: Moby Dick

I am whaling, I am whaling, all alone, across the sea. Tensing, flensing, cleansing, and Ahab goes up the spout. No time to be blubbering.

Roald Dahl: Fantastic Mr. Fox

On my way to pick a pot of Basil, they gave me the brush-off, but I knocked the stuffing out of their chickens. Boom Boom.

Frederick Forsyth: The Day Of The Jackal

He's all over the pitch, on the right wing, looks like a chance, he wants a shot at de Gaulle, oh! how did he miss!

Doris Lessing: Children Of Violence

I was born in Rhodesia, but as I grow up, I should like to be a communist, or not, some time in the future, anyway.

Sue Townsend: The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13�

I am in love with Pandora's box, and Mum and Dad are daft as brushes. Rats, I've given away my secret. Leicester we don't forget.

John Galsworthy: The Forsyte Saga

With a bit of Forsyte, you can make a decent bit of money on property, but do children understand mortgages? Pah! They're off Soames' homes.

Jane Gardam: The Queen Of The Tambourine

Dear Joan, do you exist? Do I exist? I have written all these letters, but all I have is grandeurs of delusion. Yours dottily, Eliza.

Ian McEwan: Enduring Love

Joe sees a big balloon. Jed sees a big balloon. Clarissa sees a big balloon. Do they have fun? You had better read the appendix.

Joseph Heller: Catch 22

Yossarian is thinking about giving up flying, but rules say he must be mad to think that, which is in itself crazy. But that's rules.

Ken Kesey: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest

McMurphy is not mad, and nor is the Chief. But the Nurse is, and so is the hospital, so McMurphy is lobotomised. The Chief escapes.

E. Nesbit: The Railway Children

Three children lose Father (jailed), and slum it in the country, until a kindly rail-passenger helps Father - and a Russian refugee - to justice.

Caryl Churchill: Top Girls

Five women in history and myth talk over the plight that they share with a Thatcherite go-getter, and they also talk over each other, too.

Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden

An orphan finds that Yorkshire folk are tough but tender, and she nurses her hidden, sickly cousin to health, which proves nature's good for you.

Christina Rossetti: Goblin Market

Goblins gobbling fruit, goblins very naughty, yummy scrummy, very ripe, dribble dribble, sisters kissing, very strange, what would Noddy and Big Ears make of it?

Anna Sewell: Black Beauty

A foal and his mummy are soon parted. It's knackering in the town, but I hope I will get properly grassed up in the end.

Oscar Wilde: The Importance Of Being Earnest

Algernon is not who he seems, so jacks in being Algernon. Jack is in Ernest. Lady Bracknell has never been to Bracknell. She's a handbag.

Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island

Long John Silver and Jim Hawkins and a parrot make their way to an island on an old map. Object: pieces of eight. Success: partial.

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

He's a complete con. Help! Miss Havisham is a con, too. I go to London, but Estelle says toodle, Pip. What larks. That'll teach me.

Harold Pinter: The Caretaker

He come up to me, what you mean, I'm in charge, he said so, you said so, what's the problem. Oy, get your pause off.

Homer: The Odyssey

Odd issues for Odysseus, as he leaves Troytown, and heads for Lady Penelope. No sirens on his boat, but they blow his horn. Go Homer!

The Bible

In the beginning, there was nothing, would you Adam and Eve it? Afterwards, we begat and begat. Babylon for holidays. Christ Almighty, what a revelation.

Beatrix Potter: The Story Of Peter Rabbit

Bunny strips off to nick cabbages. Great Scot! He's after me! Felt all flopsy and mopsy when I got home, and was sent to bed.

From The Independent