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There is no Next Episode of The Secret Life of Books planned.
Dr Janina Ramirez unravels Edmund Spenser's Elizabethan epic The Faerie Queene to reveal how this fantasy world of elves, nymphs and questing knights was written in the midst of the brutal Tudor occupation of Ireland, and how the writer's growing disillusionment with the conflict was coded into the poem's restless vers
Nicholas Parsons, a lifelong fan of Edward Lear, revisits the book that gave the world The Owl and the Pussycat to explore the fine line between joy and melancholy in Lear's writing and discover how the epileptic, bronchial, asthmatic depressive pioneered a new kind of poetry that married brilliant wordplay with astonishing artwork.
Multi-award-winning actor and director Fiona Shaw explores the genesis of her all-time favourite book, The Mill on the Floss, and discovers how the scandal that caused George Eliot (born Mary Ann Evans) to take a male pen name was also played out in the plot of her classic novel about a woman's thwarted intellectual ambitions and conflicting sexual desires.
Performance poet and former heroin addict John Cooper Clarke explores Thomas de Quincey's autobiographical classic Confessions of an English Opium Eater, and discovers how his fellow Mancunian's addiction memoir avoids the cliches of modern 'misery-lit' in favour of something much more unsentimental and psychologically complex.
Best-selling chronicler of modern country life, Joanna Trollope traces the roots of her favourite book Cider with Rosie to uncover how Laurie Lee blended fact and fiction in his wistful elegy to a disappeared rural world - and reflect on why a book with such dark, hard-edged undercurrents continues to have such a popular appeal.
Former journalist and keen amateur sailor John Sergeant takes to the water in the wake of the plucky young heroes of Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons, and learns how a globe-trotting foreign correspondent and acquintance of Lenin and Trotsky came to perfect a new, more authentic kind of children's literature that featured real children doing real things in real places.