The Golden Apples, By Eudora Welty

Golden, delicious, and plenty to chew on

Eudora Welty is perhaps best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Optimist's Daughter (1972), but for many The Golden Apples (1949) is her masterpiece.

A collection of interrelated short stories set in the fictional town of Morgana, Mississippi, the book never shirks from the social ills – racism, alcoholism and poverty – that scarred life in the American South during the early 20th century. But it is her vivid evocations of nature that linger. Welty's sentences, like her compatriot Faulkner's, often have a gnarled, opaque quality. Those who press on through the dense thicket are rewarded with images of sudden, limpid clarity: a swarm of bees forms a "funnelled shadow"; butterflies' wings flash "like duelers' swords".