Père Goriot
by Honoré de Balzac

Inverted bildungsroman set in Paris circa 1830. Balzac loves Paris and Parisian high society, and he does a wonderful job of creating humorous melodrama. This novel has several climactic moments, a superb villain (like a dark Rhett Butler), and shows the desperation of both wealth and poverty.

Balzac is the self-described physiologist of society. His use of the phsyiological metaphor to examine the function of the social body is an uncanny precurser to sociology. He uses scientific detail and minute examination of motives to great effect.

Women in Love
by D. H. Lawrence

The hyperkinetic emotional and psychological energy that informs characters actions becomes a constant element in the narration and dialog. It is stream of consciousness, on one hand, and a rant on the other. But it cannot be reduced to just a rant. It is a novel with plot, character development, climax, and denouement, but it has another aspect unique among any other novels by any other author I have ever read: it effects a subconsious upwelling via occult methods.

Lawrence uses repetition, strings of adjectives and modifiers, and intense focus on revealing denied powerful emotions in the characters to effect a catharsis in the reader. He is rumored to have been a student of mystical texts, the Cabala in particular, for word formulas to bring about certain states of mind in the reader. He is effective.

I read it and immediately had profound realizations about my relationship with my partner, and gained deep insight into how we use close emotional relationships to work out out own issues.

The novel is a work of genius, to me. To some it is just annoying.

Crime and Punishment
by Feodor Dostoevsky

It's about socialism. Didn't know that either. Compare the actions of Raskolnikov with those of the communist revolutionaries (Lenin, et al). A system of government that uses violence as a legitimator, with the good intention of spreading wealth, can succumb to happenstance (shit can happen) and the whole thing can go wrong. Those in any way involved in the violence and killing inherit some heavy karma.

Excellent psychologial novel. The question in this murder mystery is not "who" but "why".

Oliver Twist
by Charles Dickens

Interesting social commentary and symbolism, i.e., Fagin as Devil, but lacks any growth or development in the protagonist. Not as interesting asPère Goriot or Crime and Punishment.