A compelling and personal look at the British novel through its greatest characters – the heroes, lovers, snobs and villains – by bestselling novelist Sebastian Faulks.
The publication of Robinson Crusoe in London in 1719 marked the arrival of a revolutionary art form: the novel. British writers were prominent in shaping the new type of storytelling – one which reflected the experiences of ordinary people, with characters in whom readers could find not only an escape, but a deeper understanding of their own lives.
But the novel was more than just a reflection of British life. As Sebastian Faulks explains in this engaging four-part literary and social history series, it also helped invent the British. By focusing not on writers but on the people they gave us, Faulks not only celebrates the recently neglected act of novelistic creation but shows how the most enduring fictional characters over the centuries have helped map the British psyche – through heroes from Tom Jones to Sherlock Holmes, lovers from Mr Darcy to Lady Chatterley, villains from Fagin to Barbara Covett and snobs from Emma Woodhouse to James Bond.
Sebastian Faulks examines and celebrates the most famous and best-loved of these dazzling fictional creations and their wider impact on British culture as a whole.
This is the story of the heroes, lovers, snobs and villains in all of us.
Part 1: The Hero
Bestselling author Sebastian Faulks presents a major four-part series on the brilliance of the British novel and its characters.
In this episode, Faulks looks at how the hero in literature and ideas of heroism have evolved over the last 300 years, from Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe to Martin Amis’s John Self.
With contributions from Simon Armitage, Brian Keenan, Ruth Rendell, John Carey, Robert Harris, Boris Johnson and Martin Amis.
Part 2: The Lover
In episode two of Sebastian Faulks’s series on the English novel, he looks at how literary lovers have taught us the truth about love, from Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy to Alan Hollinghurst’s Nick Guest.
With contributions from Helen Fielding, John Carey, Adam Phillips, Alain de Botton, Simon Schama, Rowan Pelling and Alan Hollinghurst.
Part 3: The Snob
Sebastian Faulks looks at how novelists from Jane Austen to Monica Ali have used snobs as their secret weapon.
With contributions from Tim Lott, Alain de Botton, John Carey and Monica Ali.
Part 4: The Villain
Sebastian Faulks looks at villains and how they have evolved over the last three hundred years from theatrical rakes like Lovelace in Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa to much more sinister yet much more ordinary characters like Barbara in Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal.