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Clare Chambers was born in 1966, attended a school in Croydon, read English at Oxford and wrote her first novel while she was living in New Zealand. She is the author of Back Trouble, A Dry Spell and Learning to Swim, which won the 1998 Parker Romantic Novel of the Year award. She now lives in Kent with her husband and young family.
Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.
A feisty story of the ups and downs and sometimes near disasters of two teen sisters sent away from their home in Oxford to stay with an aunt in Brighton after sinister things happen at home. Younger sister Robyn, the sensible one, tells the entertaining story of how she tries to keep track of her highly attractive older sister who just wants to enjoy herself. Not difficult in a place like Brighton… This is the author’s first foray into writing for teens and it doesn’t disappoint.
34-year old Esther has devoted her life to looking after her adored paraplegic brother while illustrating the odd children’s book, waitressing and indulging routinely in her married lover. She’s content. Then a friend’s child jolts her memory and subsequently her life. We now backtrack to her shambolic childhood and her charismatic brother, before returning to follow their present predicament. With startling cameos, magical moments, eccentric characters and a zest for life that is truly infectious, this is an enchanting family saga, poignant, beautifully written, a must read.Comparison: Kate Atkinson, Katie Fforde, Lisa Jewell.Similar this month: Carmen Reid, Cecilia Ahern.
One of Stylist's books of the summer 'Perfect' India Knight 'A very fine book... It's witty and sharp and reads like something by Barbara Pym or Anita Brookner, without ever feeling like a pastiche' David Nicholls 'This is one of the most tender, beautiful books I have ever read. Please, please order it now. I honestly don't want you to be without it. It is exquisite' Lucy Mangan 'A gorgeous, gentle novel about love and loneliness set in the 1950s. If you're looking for something escapist and bittersweet, I could not recommend more' Pandora Sykes 'Brilliant: I found it incredibly absorbing... Many of our listeners will adore this book' Jane Garvey on BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour 'Remarkable... Small Pleasures is no small pleasure' The Times 'Chambers' eye for undemonstrative details achieves a Larkin-esque lucidity... There is compassion and quiet humour to be found in this tale of postwar Britain' Guardian 'An irresistible novel - wry, perceptive and quietly devastating' Mail on Sunday 'The 21st century heir to Jane Austen, Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Taylor' Amanda Craig, author of The Golden Rule 'Will draw you in from the first page and keep you gripped until the very end' Ruth Hogan, author of The Keeper of Lost Things 1957, south-east suburbs of London. Jean Swinney is a feature writer on a local paper, disappointed in love and - on the brink of forty - living a limited existence with her truculent mother. When a young Swiss woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. But the more she investigates, the more her life becomes strangely (and not unpleasantly) intertwined with that of the Tilburys: Gretchen herself, her husband Howard - with his dry wit and gentle disposition - and her charming daughter Margaret. But they are the subject of the story Jean is researching for the newspaper, a story that increasingly seems to be causing dark ripples across all their lives. And yet Jean cannot bring herself to discard the chance of finally having a taste of happiness. But there will be a price to pay - and it will be unbearable.
An intense and thrilling teen mystery set on a tranquil island where all seems perfect... Daniel has dark secrets and a troubled past. So when his family move to the island of Wragge, a gentle backwater where local life remains undisturbed he feels he's escaped. But outsiders aren't always welcome and the more Daniel tries to conceal, the more he reveals about sinister goings on. Does this picture perfect community have something even greater to hide? An explosive thriller that tingles with brooding menace and ignites as the clues fall into place...
Autonomy is fundamental to liberalism. But autonomous individuals often choose to do things that harm themselves or undermine their equality. In particular, women often choose to participate in practices of sexual inequality-cosmetic surgery, gendered patterns of work and childcare, makeup, restrictive clothing, or the sexual subordination required by membership in certain religious groups. In this book, Clare Chambers argues that this predicament poses a fundamental challenge to many existing liberal and multicultural theories that dominate contemporary political philosophy. Chambers argues that a theory of justice cannot ignore the influence of culture and the role it plays in shaping choices. If cultures shape choices, it is problematic to use those choices as the measure of the justice of the culture. Drawing upon feminist critiques of gender inequality and poststructuralist theories of social construction, she argues that we should accept some of the multicultural claims about the importance of culture in shaping our actions and identities, but that we should reach the opposite normative conclusion to that of multiculturalists and many liberals. Rather than using the idea of social construction to justify cultural respect or protection, we should use it to ground a critical stance toward cultural norms. The book presents radical proposals for state action to promote sexual and cultural justice.
On the brink of forty, newly single with a failed business, Philip thought he'd reached an all-time low. It only needed a discarded chip on a South London street to lay him literally flat. So, bedbound and bored, Philip naturally starts to write the story of his life. But the mundane catalogue of seaside holidays and bodged DIY, broken relationships and unspoken truths, reveals more surprises, both comic and touching, than Philip or his family ever bargained for. Even, perhaps, a happy ending ...
In 1976 four students took a trip to the desert. Now the repercussions of that fateful summer are coming back to haunt them... And repercussions are just what Guy doesn't need: his wife, Jane, is moving swiftly from slightly eccentric to downright peculiar, their three-year-old daughter seems set on destroying Jane's sanity, and now even God's gone quiet on him. As for Nina, she's having enough trouble with her son, James. He's got exams looming, a new girlfriend with pneumatic breasts and now, it seems, he's on drugs. Nina certainly won't welcome any ghosts from the past. Life isn't going smoothly for anyone. But when Hugo, long-forgotten agent of misfortune, threatens to pay them all a visit, disaster seems unavoidable.
Abigail Jex never expected to see any of the Radley household again. In dramatic contrast to her own conventional family, the Radley's were extraordinary, captivating creatures transplanted from a bohemian corner of North London to outer suburbia, and the young Abigail found herself drawn into their magic circle: the eccentric Frances, her new best friend; Frances' mother, the liberated, headstrong Lexi; and of course the brilliant, beautiful Rad. Abigail thought she'd banished the ghost of her life with them and the catastrophe that ended it, but thirteen years later a chance encounter forces her to acknowledge that the spell is far from broken ...