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Book at Bedtime: A BBC Radio Collection by Charlotte Bronte, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, Jerome K. Jerome, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Ford Madox Ford & F.M. Mayor
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Length 26 hours 32 minutes
Language English
Narrators Juliet Stevenson, Samuel West, Anne-Marie Duff, Alan Cumming, Amanda Hale, Hugh Laurie, Stephen Rea, Douglas Hodge & Toby Stephens

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A bumper collection of accessible classics from the perennially popular BBC Radio 4 series

This diverse, wide-ranging anthology features readings of 10 of the greatest books in the English language, taken from the BBC's Book at Bedtime and performed by a stellar cast of narrators. Here are nearly 27 hours of sensational stories, from iconic romances and humorous travelogues to pioneering Modernist masterpieces and compelling explorations of the human heart. Comprising much-loved favourites as well as neglected classics, this genre-spanning selection has something for everyone.

This collection includes abridged readings of:

Persuasion by Jane Austen: Anne Elliot and Captain Wentworth get a second chance at love following their broken engagement seven years earlier. Read by Juliet Stevenson.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë: An orphaned young woman discovers romance when she meets the charming Mr Rochester. Read by Anne-Marie Duff.

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy: Independent Bathsheba Everdene must contend with three very different suitors all vying for her affections. Read by Douglas Hodge.

Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson: Stephenson's travelogue from his 12-day hike, taken to distance himself from his love affair with a married woman. Read by Alan Cumming.

The Aspern Papers by Henry James: A nameless narrator goes to Venice to persuade American poet Jeffrey Aspern's lover to let him read Aspern's letters. Read by Samuel West.

Three Men on the Bummel by Jerome K. Jerome: The Three Men in a Boat return for a bicycle tour through the German Black Forest. Read by Hugh Laurie.

Dubliners by James Joyce: Form-defining stories about life in Dublin at the start of the 20th century. Read by Stephen Rea.

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford: Two couples, two marriages; both seemingly perfect. But beneath the surface lies deception and betrayal. Read by Toby Stephens.

The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor: Mary has spent thirty-five years taking care of others, but with the arrival Robert Herbert her quiet, ordered existence is changed forever. Read by Juliet Stevenson.

Orlando by Virginia Woolf: A playful mock biography of a chameleonic historical figure, immortal and ageless, who changes sex and identity on a whim. Read by Amanda Hale.

First published 1817 (Persuasion), 1847 (Jane Eyre), 1874 (Far from the Madding Crowd), 1879 (Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes), 1888 (The Aspern Papers), 1900 (Three Men on the Bummel), 1914 (Dubliners), 1915 (The Good Soldier), 1924 (The Rector's Daughter), 1928 (Orlando)

© 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

Charlotte Brontë was born on 21 April 1816. Her father was curate of Haworth, Yorkshire, and her mother died when she was five years old, leaving five daughters and one son. In 1824 Charlotte, Maria, Elizabeth and Emily were sent to Cowan Bridge, a school for clergymen's daughters, where Maria and Elizabeth both caught tuberculosis and died. The children were taught at home from this point on and together they created vivid fantasy worlds which they explored in their writing. Charlotte worked as a teacher from 1835 to 1838 and then as a governess. In 1846, along with Emily and Anne, Charlotte published Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell.After this Emily wrote Wuthering Heights, Anne wrote Agnes Grey and Charlotte wrote The Professor. Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey were both published but Charlotte's novel was initially rejected. In 1847 Jane Eyre became her first published novel and met with immediate success. Between 1848 and 1849 Charlotte lost her remaining siblings: Emily, Branwell and Anne. She published Shirley in 1849, Villette in 1853 and in 1854 she married the Rev. Arthur Bell Nicholls. She died the next year, on 31 March 1855.

Jane Austen was born in Steventon rectory on 16 December 1775. Her family later moved to Bath, then to Southampton and finally to Chawton in Hampshire. She began writing Pride and Prejudice when she was twenty-two years old. It was originally called First Impressions and was initially rejected by the publishers and only published in 1813 after much revision. She published four of her novels in her lifetime, Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1816). Jane Austen died on 18th July 1817. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were both published posthumously in 1818.

Henry James was born on 15th April 1843 in Washington Place, New York to a wealthy and intellectual family and as a youth travelled between Europe and America. His first novel, Watch and Ward, was published in 1871 after first appearing serially in Atlantic Monthly. After a brief period in Paris, James moved first to London and then later to Rye in Sussex. He became a British citizen in 1915 to declare his loyalty to his adopted country as well as to protest against America's refusal to enter the war on behalf of Britain. Henry James was a prolific writer and critic and from around 1875 until his death he maintained a strenuous schedule of publications in a variety of genres: novels, short story collections, literary criticism, travel writing, biography and autobiography. He died in 1916.

James Joyce was born in Dublin on 2 February 1882, the eldest of ten children in a family which, after brief prosperity, collapsed into poverty. He was none the less educated at the best Jesuit schools and then at University College, Dublin, and displayed considerable academic and literary ability. Although he spent most of his adult life outside Ireland, Joyce's psychological and fictional universe is firmly rooted in his native Dublin, the city which provides the settings and much of the subject matter for all his fiction. He is best known for his landmark novel Ulysses (1922) and its controversial successor Finnegans Wake (1939), as well as the short story collection Dubliners (1914) and the semi-autobiographical novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916). James Joyce died in Zürich, on 13 January 1941.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was born in London. She became a central figure in The Bloomsbury Group, an informal collective of British writers, artists and thinkers. In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. She wrote many works of literature which are now considered masterpieces, including Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, Orlando, and The Waves.

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