Many thanks to Walter C for contributions to this page.
Les Misérables. By Victor Hugo. Les Misérables contains many plots, but the main thread is the story of ex-convict, Jean Valjean (known by his prison number, 24601), who becomes a force for good in the world, but cannot escape his dark past. The story starts in 1815 in Digne The peasant Jean Valjean has just been released from imprisonment in the Bagne of Toulon after nineteen years (five for stealing bread for his starving sister and her family, and fourteen more for numerous escape attempts). Upon being released, he is required to carry a yellow passport that marks him as a prisoner, despite having already paid his debt to society by serving his time in prison. Rejected by innkeepers, who do not want to take in a convict, Valjean sleeps on the street. This makes him even angrier and more bitter. However, the benevolent Bishop Myriel, the bishop of Digne, takes him in and gives him shelter. In the middle of the night, he steals Bishop Myriel’s silverware and runs away. He is caught and brought back by the police, but Bishop Myriel rescues him by claiming that the silverware was a gift and at that point gives him his two silver candlesticks as well, chastising him to the police for leaving in such a rush that he forgot these most valuable pieces. After the police leave, Bishop Myriel then “reminds” him of the promise, which Valjean has no memory of making, to use the silver candlesticks to make an honest man of himself. Valjean broods over the Bishop’s words. Purely out of habit, he steals a 40-sous coin from chimney-sweep Petit Gervais and chases the boy away. Soon afterwards, he repents and decides to follow Bishop Myriel’s advice. He searches the city in panic for the child whose money he stole. At the same time, his theft is reported to the authorities, who now look for him as a repeat offender. If Valjean is caught, he will be forced to spend the rest of his life in prison, so he hides from the police.
The History of Titus Groan. Based on the novels written by Mervyn Peake and on the recently discovered concluding volume written by his widow, Maeve Gilmore, the six one hour episodes chronicle Titus’ life from birth, through childhood and adolescence to his decision to renounce his title and embark on an exploration of the alien world beyond the confines of his home. Gormenghast – a vast stronghold of crumbling masonry steeped in immemorial ritual and inhabited with an extraordinary cavalcade of characters including the kitchen boy, Steerpike, who ruthlessly rises to the upper echelons of dynastic power through mischief and murder. It is a journey in search of identity that eventually takes Titus to a distant island where he encounters the man who is none other than his creator. Peake’s Gormenghast is both a fantasy world conceived by a unique and vivid imagination and a satirical allegory on the fancies, foibles and phobias of the world around us. The History of Titus Groan is broadcast to mark the centenary of Mervyn Peake’s birth in July 1911.
The Lost world. By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Professor Challenger, on an expedition to South America, shoots an animal that he claims is a pre-historic pterosaur. On his return to England, his fellow Professor, Summerlee, and most of the scientific establishment dismiss it as a hoax. However, an ambitious hunter and womaniser John Roxton and journalist Edward Malone are prepared to undertake the mission to find the truth. Challenger, Summerlee, Roxton and Malone set off for a Brazilian plateau in search of pre-historic life. They are joined by Reverend Theo Kerr and his niece Agnes Cluny. After finding the plateau, they become stranded and are attacked by a large carnosaur. This is later identified by Summerlee as a member of the family of Allosaur. Edward and Agnes are then chased by another through the forest. The group come across an Indian tribe and live harmoniously with them for several weeks. However, danger strikes again when the village is attacked. Is the expedition set to end in tragedy? And will the adventurers ever see home again?
Shadows Over Innsmouth. (R) By H P Lovecraft. Innsmouth is a town that was once prosperous, once important, but that gradually became irrelevant to the world around it. Mistakes were made by the original settlers that led to the sea’s encroachment onto the land, and the widening of salt marshes surrounding the town, leading to isolation from the settlements around it, like Arkham. At some point in the 19th century, a deal was struck between the members of the town and the Deep Ones, a race of sea-dwelling, amphibious, vaguely humanoid creatures who worshipped Dagon. As “The Shadow Over Innsmouth” opens, the narrator has decided to travel to Innsmouth to see examples of the colonial architecture that can still be seen in many of the houses there, but as his one-day excursion unfolds, he becomes more and more discomfited by what he observes there.
The Woman in White. By Wilkie Collins. The Woman in White is a mystery narrated by draughtsman and artist Walter Hartwright and various other characters within the tale. The story begins with Walter’s late night meeting of a woman dressed in white who he rescues from a group of pursuers. Walter goes to work in the service of the selfish and unpleasant Mr Fairlie as a drawing instructor and in doing so meets his niece Laura who strongly resembles the mysterious woman in white. Walter falls in love with Laura, but naturally there is a hitch. Laura does love Walter but is engaged to Sir Percival Glyde. Deceit, love and various unmaskings ensue that explain the strange confinement within an asylum of Anne Catherick. Tense adventures, villainy and gloriously fitting retributions are Collins’ remedies.
Alice Through the Looking Glass. (R) Alan Bennett reads Lewis Carroll’s enduringly popular story Alice sees another world in the looking glass and wishes she could go there – but when her wish comes true she embarks on a game of chess like she’s never known before! Her aim is to become Queen of the Chess Board, and in order to achieve it she takes counsel from Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Humpty Dumpty, the Lion and the Unicorn and a very helpful gnat.
Back Home. By Michelle Magorian. WW2 has just ended and twelve-year-old Rusty comes back home to Britain after being evacuated to the US. The greyness and bleakness of life in England is a shock, but even worse is adapting to the strict discipline of her family, including a brother she’s never met, after the warmth and openness of her adopted American family. Rusty is sent to an horrific boarding school, before finally running away as her search for happiness becomes more and more desperate.
The Maltese Falcon. By Dashiell Hammett. It’s San Francisco, 1928, and Sam Spade is a wisecracking, womanizing Private Investigator. Missing husbands and unfaithful wives are his usual stock-in-trade, but when the beautifully distressed Miss Wonderley calls he gets involved in a dangerous caper most people would run a mile from.Miss Wonderley asks Sam’s partner, Miles Archer, to shadow Floyd Thursby, whom she maintains has kidnapped her sister.But then Archer is shot dead, and Miss Wonderley’s story turns out to be a lie – just like her name, which is actually Brigid O’Shaughnessy. And Miss O’Shaughnessy keeps on lying. But one thing’s for sure: she does know about the Maltese Falcon, an ancient statuette which has attracted more than one interested party. With a bunch of heavies at his elbow and the police on his tail, Sam needs to think fast if he’s to outlive the person who killed his partner…Tom Wilkinson, Jane Lapotaire, Peter Vaughan and Nickolas Grace star in this stylish dramatization of Dashiell Hammett’s classic detective story.
Dead On Red. (R) John Lloyd-Fillingham reads Dick Francis’s novel. Gypsy Joe, a trainer who has a magical affinity with horses, has found a perfect jockey in the young and inexperienced Red Millbrook. The murder of the jockey unleashes a torrent of envy and hatred which has been running high in Joe’s stable. When Joe vows to find the killer he unwittingly makes himself the next target. Can his powers of intuition save him from the hatred that surrounds him? Resentment brings a hired hit-man to the world of the race-course. But one death leads to another and there’s no way back.
Howl’s Moving Castle. (R) By Diana Wynne Jones. In the land of Ingary, where seven league boots and cloaks of invisibility do exist, Sophie Hatter catches the unwelcome attention of the Witch of the Waste and is put under a spell. Deciding she has nothing more to lose, she makes her way to the moving castle that hovers on the hills above Market Chipping. But the castle belongs to the dreaded Wizard Howl whose appetite, they say, is satisfied only by the souls of young girls! There she meets Michael, Howl’s apprentice, and Calcifer the Fire Demon, with whom she agrees a pact. But Sophie isn’t the only one under a curse — her entanglements with Calcifer, Howl, and Michael, and her quest to break her curse is both gripping — and howlingly funny!
The Captain’s Wife. (R) By Juliet Ace. Mrs Potter feels she only exists as an appendage to her husband and wishes she could be more like the Captain’s wife. Patricia Hodge tells the tale of Maddy, a ‘Navy’ wife who moves from craving conformity to rebellion as the years pass.
Young Victoria. By Julie Ace. Originally in ten parts Young Victoria is a serial based on the letters and diaries of the young Queen Victoria, by Juliet Ace, With Imogen Stubbs, Adrian Lukis, Anna Massey and Christopher Cazenove.