No catches, no fine print just unadulterated book loving, with your favourite books saved to your own digital bookshelf.
New members get entered into our monthly draw to win £100 to spend in your local bookshop Plus lots lots more…Find out more
Jennifer Johnston is one of the foremost Irish writers of her, or any generation. She has won the Whitbread Prize (THE OLD JEST), the Evening Standard Best First Novel Award (for THE CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS), the Yorkshire Post Award, Best Book of the Year (twice, for THE CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS and HOW MANY MILES TO BABYLON?). She has also been shortlisted for the Booker Prize with SHADOWS ON OUR SKIN.
Not every death is a tragedy. Not every silver lining is intact. Annie's father is dead. She isn't sorry. A rich and domineering man, he was always more passionate about money than the happiness of his wife and child. And when his lovely, fragile wife Jude died in mysterious circumstances when Annie was still very young, her father sent her to school in England, and tried to ensure that Jude was never mentioned again. Now, at last, his days of tyranny are over. And so Annie leaves London and goes back to Dublin, to the house in which he lived and her mother died, where she makes the first of several startling discoveries: he has left her the house she hated. Now, just when she thought she was free of him, she is expected to make a new life in Ireland, and live as he would have wished. Does she dare to defy him one more time? And who will be able to tell her the truth about her mother's life, and death, before she has to decide?
A good, rounded little tale hiding a dark secret that the reader guesses long before it is revealed. Jennifer Johnston is huge in her native Ireland, has won the Whitbread Prize (The Old Jest), was shortlisted for the Man Booker (Shadows on our Skin) and won prizes for The Captains and the Kings. She is a wonderful writer but this, although lovely, is not her best.Comparison: William Trevor, Jane Gardam, Shena Mackay.Similar this month: Colleen McCullough, Fannie Flagg.
The classic World War One novel, available as a Penguin Essential for the first time. Alec and Jerry shouldn't have been friends: Alec's life was one of privilege, while Jerry's was one of toil. But this hardly mattered to two young men whose shared love of horses brought them together and whose whole lives lay ahead of them. When war breaks out in 1914, both Jerry and Alec sign up - yet for quite different reasons. On the fields of Flanders they find themselves standing together, but once again divided: as officer and enlisted man. And it is there, surrounded by mud and chaos and death, that one of them makes a fateful decision whose consequences will test their friendship and loyalty to breaking point.
One of Ireland's best-loved novelists returns with a haunting novella of love, loss and memory Flora's father has been killed in the Battle of El Alamein, one of the many victims of the Second World War. For Flora and her mother, life will never be the same again. Now, it's just Flora - and Nellie, the family's life-long housekeeper - left; to reminisce in old age, and what really happened between Flora and her brother, Eddie, at the end of that long Irish summer. Appearing now with Jennifer Johnston's classic novel, TWO MOONS In a house overlooking Dublin Bay, Mimi and her daughter Grace are disturbed by the unexpected arrival of Grace's daughter and her boyfriend. While Grace's visitors focus her attention on an uncertain future, Mimi must begin to set herself to rights with the betrayals and disappointments of the past.
Flora's father has been killed in the Battle of El Alamein, one of the many victims of the Second World War. For Flora and her mother, life will never be the same again. At least they have their memories, of the love he showed them, the Desert Lullaby that he sang, the legacy of the well-stocked wine cellar lurking beneath their cavernous home.Now, it's just Flora - and Nellie, the family's life-long housekeeper - left; to reminisce in old age, to float and drift over the joys, losses and mysteries of childhood. Flora's brother, Eddie, is also gone. Who, now, will believe the story of the grey silk dress, and of what really happened between Eddie and Flora at the end of that long Irish summer?Intimate, elegiac and profoundly moving, Naming the Stars is an exquisite story of love, loss and memory from one of Ireland's best-loved writers.
Whitbread Literary Awardwinning novelist Jennifer Johnston's story of two young Irish men, whose defiant friendship spans class and, later, rank at the onset of World War IBorn to an aristocratic family on an estate outside of Dublin, Alexander Moore feels the constraints of his position most acutely in his friendship with Jerry Crowe, a Catholic laborer in town. Jerry is one of the few bright spots in Alec's otherwise troubled life. The boys bond over their love of swimming and horses, despite the admonitions of Alec's cold and overbearing mother, who scolds her son for venturing outside of his class. When the Great War begins, he seizes the opportunity to escape his overbearing mother and taciturn father, and enlists in the British army. Jerry, too, enlistsnot out of loyalty to Britain, but to prepare himself for the Republican cause. Stationed in Flanders, the young men are reunited and find that, while encamped in the trenches, their commonalities are what help them survive. Now a lieutenant and an officer, Alec and Jerry again find their friendship under assault, this time from the rigid Major Glendinning, whose unyielding adherence to rank leads the two men toward a harrowing impasse that will change their lives forever.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize: In the midst of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, a young schoolboy struggles to escape the destruction storming around himInside his home in Derry, Joe Logan's life is ruled by his tormented father; outside, by the tension and violence of the Troubles. Sometimes his father makes him run errands despite the nearby reports of gunfire. Other times his mother, afraid to be alone with her volatile and war-wounded husband, confines Joe to the home. A bright and sensitive young man, Joe finds solace and freedom in writinga pursuit encouraged by Kathleen Doherty, a young teacher at a nearby school whom he meets and befriends. In Kathleen, Joe has found a friend who understands him, makes him laugh, and allows him to forget his burdens for a time. But everything changes when his brother, Brendan, arrives home from London, newly energized to join the raging fray, and cavalierly bringing the war straight into their home.
A powerful novel, by one of Ireland's preeminent writers, of two damaged people and their fateful, restorative friendship For Laurence, trauma came in the form of a random act of violence that claimed his wife and daughter a decade ago. For Clara, it was something she has kept hidden, confined to her own memory and unknown to those closest to her. By chance, they meet atop a cliff overlooking Dublin Bay, where Laurence finds Clara standing uncomfortably close to the edge. Days later they encounter each other again, this time at a pub, and begin a tentative friendship rooted in their kindred heartbreak. Through conversations at once witty, somber, and cuttingly honest, they find a soothing sense of connection and respite from their own lonely grieving. Poignant and engrossing, The Gingerbread Woman is a stirring novel of love and mourning, and of the unlikely friendship that leads two broken people toward a renewed sense of hope.
Grappling with the loss of her brother three decades prior, a woman digs into her family's past and uncovers generations of betrayal, half-truths, and secrecyImogen's brother, Johnny, disappeared thirty years ago, ostensibly the victim of a drowning accidenta story to which everyone but Imogen subscribes. Johnny was too good of a swimmer, she reasons, and his body was never found. Imogen alone believes that he is still alive. To get to the truth, she dives into her memory and her family's history, all the way back to World War Iera Ireland and the long-buried events that forever changed them.Lyrical, gripping, and compact, This Is Not a Novel is Imogen's first-person account of her search. Portrayed through fragments of memory, letters, and poetry, the book is not only a retellingit is an appeal to Johnny, wherever he is, to come back home.
Winner of the Whitbread Literary Award for Best Novel: In the wake of the Great War, a young woman's life is turned upside down when she befriends a soldier of the grisly struggle on Ireland's horizonNancy lives with her aunt and ailing grandfather in a seaside town not far from Dublin. Eighteen and about to go to university, Nancy has spent her summer consumed in part by unrequited thoughts of her first love, Harry, a man eight years her senior. Nancy's one haven is the beach, where she has discovered an abandoned hut and claimed it as her personal sanctuary. One day, she arrives there to find that her inner sanctum has been invaded by a grizzled and desperate-looking man whom she names Cassius. An IRA foot soldier on the run, Cassius becomes something of a father figure to Nancy, and in a pivotal moment she agrees to deliver a message for hima decision that will change her life forever.A beautiful coming-of-age novel set against the nascent Irish Troubles, The Old Jest is an award-winning portrait of loyalty, loss, and of one fateful encounter that propels a young woman into adulthood.
After a shocking accident, one family gathers for an unforgettable Christmas overflowing with secrets and revelations in this deeply felt novel by one of Ireland's foremost modern writersHenry has been estranged from his children since his divorce with their mother, Stephanie. But when a car accident claims the life of his second wife and leaves him with partial amnesia, Henry embarks on the fraught journey of making amends. As the family gathers for Christmas dinner, Henry's memory comes back in starts and stopsthe wedges that drove his daughter, Ciara, away; the slow onset of his mother's dementia; the real cause of his break with his ex-wife.A tragicomedy of near-Shakespearean proportions, Foolish Mortals is at once a novel of the mending of a dysfunctional family and a portrait of the modernizing gradient blending old Ireland into new.
Winner of the Author's Club First Novel Award: Alone with melancholic memories of his past, a widower finds new life after striking up a friendship with a village boy In County Wicklow, south of Dublin, Mr. Prendergast lives alone in the Big House of his village. A remnant of the long-gone days of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, Prendergast's mansion has been witness to many of the most important years of his life, including his childhood, marked by his mother's open preference for his older brother, Alexander. Following Alexander's death in the First World War, Prendergast traveled the world, returning home decades later to a greatly changed place. Now in the 1970s, his wife and daughter are both gone, leaving the house an empty monument to his isolation and melancholy. But when the young, redheaded Diarmid arrives on Prendergast's doorstep, the boy's thrill at the house's history sparks an unlikely friendshipone that revives in Prendergast a sense of vitality and sets in motion a final, fateful confrontation with the outside world he'd shunned for so many years.
Seeking solace in the wake of her husband's death, a woman embarks on a new life on the Irish coast, where her mysterious new neighbor offers a rekindled sense of happiness, however short-livedHelen moved to a small ocean-side village for the isolationto be alone with the waves, birds, and changing seasons. Newly widowed, she spends her days painting in her glass-walled studio atop a hillside on Ireland's northwest coast. From her perch she can study the rocks and dunes of the land sloping into the sea, the fishing boats rocking in the tide, and the railway station, abandoned for forty years, now being refurbished by Roger, an Englishman and veteran of the Second World War. Her friendship with Roger develops slowly, but in tandem with her growing affection for him is an intractable suspicion over his past. As the Troubles continue to settle over Ireland, Helen experiences sparks of happiness with Roger. Meanwhile, her son Jack, a radical living in Dublin, is increasing his involvement with an impassioned group of Irish guerillas, unwittingly setting in motion a series of events that lead to a shocking conclusion for both him and his mother.
Jennifer Johnston's powerful novel of 1920s Ireland and one woman, on her deathbed, looking back on the tragic day that changed the course of her lifeIn northwest Ireland, eighteen-year-old Miranda Martin lives in a country estate home with her father. A recent widower, he spends his days consumed by a project to reforest their tranquil Donegal surroundings. Miranda, on the cusp of adulthood, spends her summer engrossed in a chaste but passionate courtship with a local boy named Cathal. Members of the Anglo-Irish class and the Protestant Ascendancy, Miranda and her father are sympathetic to the burgeoning movement for home rule. On the other side of the argument is Miranda's brother, Andrew, a soldier in the British military during the First World War. On leave from service, Andrew has come home with his friend and fellow soldier, Harry. Their fateful visit, recalled by Miranda years later, is marked by tensions over the family's disparate politics and culminates in a heartrending cataclysm foreshadowing what's to come for Ireland in the twentieth century.
From Costa prizewinning and Booker-shorlisted Jennifer Johnston comes a beautifully crafted, alluring tale of family and secrets. Not every death is a tragedy. Not every silver lining is intact. Annie's father is dead. She isn't sorry. A rich and domineering man, he was always more passionate about money than the happiness of his wife and child. And when his lovely, fragile wife Jude died in mysterious circumstances when Annie was still very young, her father sent her to school in England, and tried to ensure that Jude was never mentioned again. Now, at last, his days of tyranny are over. And so Annie leaves London and goes back to Dublin, to the house in which he lived and her mother died, where she makes the first of several startling discoveries: he has left her the house she hated. Now, just when she thought she was free of him, she is expected to make a new life in Ireland, and live as he would have wished. Does she dare to defy him one more time? And who will be able to tell her the truth about her mother's life, and death, before she has to decide?
A compelling novel of complicated love, from one of Ireland's greatest living writers. It is the Second World War, and tragedy strikes many families in Ireland. But it is also a thrilling time in which to be a child and Polly, spending months at her grandparents' house by the sea, barely notices the adults' grief and their efforts to escape the tyranny of religion and family expectation. However, in time Polly too will have a secret. No one else knows the location of her beloved uncle, Sam, barely older than Polly herself, who is meant to be in Cambridge but is dreaming of Communist Cuba, while his decimated family fears losing another son. And, as Polly shyly approaches womanhood, her love for Sam turns into something more explosive.
A brilliant story of the secrets we keep. Desmond Fitzmaurice is a mysterious literary giant of the thirties whom no one has seen for years. Caroline is a London journalist, and hasn't the faintest interest in going to Dublin to interview him. That his life story will feature 'lots of sex and some violence', as the old man claims, seems farcical. She'll stay for a couple of nights, extract what she can and try to make his life sound interesting. But in Desmond's quiet house, his quiet life, Caroline discovers much, much more than she bargained for...
Alec and Jerry shouldn't have been friends: Alec's life was one of privilege, while Jerry's was one of toil. But this hardly mattered to two young men whose shared love of horses brought them together and whose whole lives lay ahead of them. When war breaks out in 1914, both Jerry and Alec sign up - yet for quite different reasons. On the fields of Flanders they find themselves standing together, but once again divided: as officer and enlisted man. And it is there, surrounded by mud and chaos and death, that one of them makes a fateful decision whose consequences will test their friendship and loyalty to breaking point.