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Politics, Power & Protest: Novels That Shaped Our World

The Politics Power & Protest novels are stories about the ideas, people and power struggles that shaped worlds. Many feature characters with ideas out of step with their societies, from Atticus Finch's attitudes to class and race in To Kill A Mockingbird to Bernard Marx's dissatisfaction with the world order in Brave New World.

A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini | The story of a friendship between two women, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter, and the great acts of heroism within small lives.

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The two main female characters... were kind of inspired by my collective sense of what women in Afghanistan went through, particularly since the withdrawal of the Soviets and the breakout of anarchy and extremism and criminality.
Khaled Hosseini, Time, 2008

Brave New World – Aldous Huxley | In the future, the World Controllers have created the ideal society through genetic engineering and brainwashing. Bernard Marx alone harbours a longing to break free.

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Brave New World was a far shrewder guess at the likely shape of a future tyranny than Orwell’s vision of Stalinist terror... 1984 has never really arrived, but Brave New World is around us everywhere.
SF author JG Ballard, 2002

Home Fire – Kamila Shamsie | A contemporary retelling of Sophocles’ Antigone, Home Fire is a searing tale of love, politics, family and enmity, confronting one of the defining issues of our age.

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I believe in the notion of being a good citizen, which means you follow the laws unless, as in the case of Antigone, they're very unjust laws and then you take part in civil disobedience and non-violent protest.
Kamila Shamsie

Lord of the Flies – William Golding | In this, his first novel, William Golding gave the traditional adventure story an ironic, devastating twist. First published in 1954, Lord of the Flies is now recognised as a classic, one of the most celebrated of all modern novels.

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I spent 10 years imitating other writers, then I realised that I was merely writing other people's novels rather than my own. It wasn't until I was 37 that I grasped the great truth, that you have to write your own books.
William Golding, 1959

Noughts & Crosses – Malorie Blackman | Perfect for fans of The Handmaid's Tale and The Power, Noughts & Crosses is the incredible first novel in iconic author Malorie Blackman's ground-breaking four-part YA series.

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When I get an idea for a story, I tend to get the general plot in my head first, but for me, the characters make or break a story.
Malorie Blackman

Strumpet City – James Plunkett | First published in 1969, Strumpet City has repeatedly been described as one of the greatest Irish novels of all time. Centring on the seminal lockout of 20,000 workers in Dublin in 1913, Strumpet City encompasses a wide sweep of city life.

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Strumpet City's defining characteristic is its humanity. It is driven by Plunkett's empathy for the suffering poor of Dublin's slums, but those characters do not have a monopoly on suffering.
Colin Murphy in the Irish Times, 2013

The Color Purple – Alice Walker | Set in the deep American South between the wars, The Color Purple is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation.

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Reading Alice Walker's book in my early 20s blasted open a door which I'd thought was locked and barred to me. Actually, it blasted open a door I didn't even appreciate existed - a door that could lead to a writing career of my own.
Malorie Blackman, 2014

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee | To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition.

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It's shot through with injustice... everything is bad. It's a very bleak and noir situation. I think what Harper Lee was doing was criticising that entire Southern 1930s culture, and she's saying 'It's all got to go'.
Author Lee Child, 2010

Unless – Carol Shields | At once the discomfiting, ultimately consoling story of one family’s loss and a searing portrait of life at the dawn of the 21st Century, a daring novel from the undisputed master of extraordinary fictions about so-called ‘ordinary’ lives’.

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Endings are never really endings. They're just there for the shape of the book.
Carol Shields

V for Vendetta – Alan Moore | Set in a futurist totalitarian England, a country without freedom or faith, a mysterious man in a white porcelain mask strikes back against the oppressive overlords on behalf of the voiceless.

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I’m not sure how much real, articulate dissent the contemporary internet is capable of fostering. Still, it’s with us and clearly isn’t going away. It’s my hope that an alternative culture could emerge that is not so completely in thrall to the internet.
Alan Moore

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