Top 10 comic novels according to Christina Koning

Christina Koning will know something about books! She is the judge of McKitterick Prize and has been the books editor for The Times and Cosmopolitan, and on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour.
Northanger Abbey
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Northanger Abbey

by Jane Austen

About the book:  Northanger Abbey Jane Austen No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard-and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings-and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on-lived to have six children more-to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features-so much for her person; and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind. She was fond of all boy's plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush. Indeed she had no taste for a garden; and if she gathered flowers at all, it was chiefly for the pleasure of mischief-at least so it was conjectured from her always preferring those which she was forbidden to take. Such were her propensities-her abilities were quite as extraordinary. She never could learn or understand anything before she was taught; and sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid.

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Scoop
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Scoop

by Evelyn Waugh

About the book:  Lord Copper, newspaper magnate and proprietor of the Daily Beast, has always prided himself on his intuitive flair for spotting ace reporters. That is not to say he has not made the odd blunder, however, and may in a moment of weakness make another. Acting on a dinner party tip from Mrs. Algernon Stitch, Lord Copper feels convinced that he has hit on just the chap to cover a promising war in the African Republic of Ishmaelia. So begins Scoop, Waugh's exuberant comedy of mistaken identity and brilliantly irreverent satire of the hectic pursuit of hot news.

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Right Ho, Jeeves
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Right Ho, Jeeves

by P. G. Wodehouse

About the book:  Right Ho, Jeeves is a novel by P. G. Wodehouse, the second full-length novel featuring the popular characters Jeeves and Bertie Wooster, after Thank You, Jeeves. It also features a host of other recurring Wodehouse characters, and is mostly set at Brinkley Court, the home of Bertie's Aunt Dahlia. It was first published in the United Kingdom on October 5, 1934 by Herbert Jenkins, London, and in the United States on October 15, 1934 by Little, Brown and Company, Boston, under the title Brinkley Manor. Before being published as a book, it had been sold to the Saturday Evening Post, in which it appeared in serial form from December 23, 1933 to January 27, 1934, and in England in Grand Magazine from April to September 1934. Wodehouse had already started planning this sequel while working on Thank You, Jeeves. (Wikipedia)

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The Pursuit of Love
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The Pursuit of Love

by Nancy Mitford

About the book:  Nancy Mitford's The Pursuit of Love is one of the funniest, sharpest novels about love and growing up ever written. 'Obsessed with sex!' said Jassy, 'there's nobody so obsessed as you, Linda. Why if I so much as look at a picture you say I'm a pygmalionist.' In the end we got more information out of a book called Ducks and Duck Breeding. 'Ducks can only copulate,' said Linda, after studying this for a while, 'in running water. Good luck to them.' Oh, the tedium of waiting to grow up! Longing for love, obsessed with weddings and sex, Linda and her sisters and cousin Fanny are on the lookout for the perfect lover. But finding Mr Right is much harder than any of the sisters had thought. Linda must suffer marriage first to a stuffy Tory MP and then to a handsome and humourless communist, before finding real love in war-torn Paris. . . 'Utter, utter bliss' Daily Mail

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Lucia's Progress
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Lucia's Progress

by E. F. Benson

About the book:  English novelist, biographer, memoirist, archaeologist and short story writer, best known now for the Mapp and Lucia series, written relatively late in his career. Benson's first novel was Dodo (1893), which was an instant success, and followed it with a variety of satire and romantic and supernatural melodrama. He repeated the success of Dodo with the same cast of characters a generation later: Dodo the Second (1914), "a unique chronicle of the pre-1914 Bright Young Things" and Dodo Wonders (1921), "a first-hand social history of the Great War in Mayfair and the Shires". Benson was also known as a writer of atmospheric, oblique, and at times humorous or satirical ghost stories, which were often first published in story magazines such as Pearson's Magazine or Hutchinson's Magazine, 20 of which were illustrated by Edmund Blampied. These "spook stories", as they were also called, were then reprinted in collections by his principal publisher, Walter Hutchinson. His 1906 short story, "The Bus-Conductor", a fatal-crash premonition tale about a person haunted by a hearse driver, has been adapted several times, notably in 1944 (in the film Dead of Night and as an anecdote in Bennett Cerf's Ghost Stories anthology published the same year) and in a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone. The catchphrase from the story, "Room for one more", even spawned an urban legend, and also appears in the 1986 Oingo Boingo song, "Dead Man's Party". H. P. Lovecraft spoke highly of Benson's works in his “Supernatural Horror in Literature”, most notably of his story "The Man Who Went Too Far". Benson's David Blaize and the Blue Door (1918) is a children's fantasy influenced by the work of Lewis Carroll. "Mr Tilly's Seance" is a witty and amusing story about a man flattened by a traction-engine who finds himself dead and conscious on the 'other side'. Other notable stories are the eerie "The Room in the Tower" and "Pirates". Benson is also known for a series of biographies/autobiographies and memoirs, including one of Charlotte Brontë. His last book, delivered to his publisher ten days before his death, was an autobiography entitled Final Edition.

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Cold Comfort Farm
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Cold Comfort Farm

by Stella Gibbons

About the book:  When sensible, sophisticated Flora Poste is orphaned at nineteen, she decides her only choice is to descend upon relatives in deepest Sussex. At the aptly named Cold Comfort Farm, she meets the doomed Starkadders: cousin Judith, heaving with remorse for unspoken wickedness; Amos, preaching fire and damnation; their sons, lustful Seth and despairing Reuben; child of nature Elfine; and crazed old Aunt Ada Doom, who has kept to her bedroom for the last twenty years. But Flora loves nothing better than to organize other people. Armed with common sense and a strong will, she resolves to take each of the family in hand. A hilarious and merciless parody of rural melodramas, Cold Comfort Farm (1932) is one of the best-loved comic novels of all time. Includes an introduction by Lynne Truss, and a letter from the author to Anthony Pookworthy in the foreword.

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The Towers of Trebizond
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The Towers of Trebizond

by Rose Macaulay

About the book:  This story describes the experiences of a group of people on a trip to Turkey. Aunt Dot is set on the emancipation of Turkish women through the encouragement of a wider use of the bathing hat, whilst Laurie's only object is pleasure.

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Lucky Jim
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Lucky Jim

by Kingsley Amis

About the book:  Penguin Decades bring you the novels that helped shape modern Britain. When they were published, some were bestsellers, some were considered scandalous, and others were simply misunderstood. All represent their time and helped define their generation, while today each is considered a landmark work of storytelling. Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim was published in 1954, and is a hilarious satire of British university life. Jim Dixon is bored by his job as a medieval history lecturer. His days are only improved by pulling faces behind the backs of his superiors as he tries desperately to survive provincial bourgeois society, an unbearable 'girlfriend' and petty humiliation at the hands of Professor Welch. Lucky Jim is one of the most famous and influential of all British post-War novels.

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The History Man
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The History Man

by Malcolm Bradbury

About the book:  Malcolm Bradbury’s classic skewering of 1970s academia, hailed by the New York Times as “an encyclopedia of radical chic as well as a genuinely comic novel” Among the painfully hip students and teachers at the liberal University of Watermouth, Howard Kirk appears to be the most stylish of them all. With his carefully manicured mustache and easygoing radicalism, Kirk prides himself on being among the most highly evolved teachers on his redbrick campus. But beneath Kirk’s scholarly bohemianism and studied cool is a ruthless, self-serving Machiavellian streak. A sociology lecturer who outwardly espouses freethinking nonconformity, Kirk is himself vain and bigoted, dismissing female students and colleagues while releasing vitriol against those who contradict him, particularly his clever, wayward wife, Barbara, the long-suffering mother of his two children. A funny and incisive satire of academia and ideological hypocrisy, The History Man is one of Malcolm Bradbury’s most acclaimed novels and remains just as sharp and witty today as when it was first published.

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The Rachel Papers
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The Rachel Papers

by Martin Amis

About the book:  Charles Highway, a precociously intelligent and highly sexed teenager, is determined to sleep with an older woman before he turns twenty. Rachel fits the bill perfectly and Charles plans his seduction meticulously, sets the scene with infinite care - but it doesn't come off quite as Charles expects...

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