In their own words or from the pen of a biographer, the lives of others hold a magnetic intrigue. Indulge your curiosity here… Read and find out more about the lives of well-known figures.
'When the person who loves the alcoholic declares their powerlessness, it is not about their own relationship with alcohol, nor necessarily about their own relationship with the alcoholic: it is about the alcoholic’s relationship with alcohol.' Robert Lockhart – piano virtuoso and former musical director of the National Theatre – met Louisa Young for the first time when they were both just 17. Their on-off relationship lasted for decades during which time Louisa also achieved great success with her Costa short-listed novel My Dear I wanted to Tell You and the sequels The Heroes’ Welcome and Devotion. You Left Early is an engaging, thought-provoking and challenging account of a partner struggling to survive a relationship with a man who has an ‘evil twin’, an alter-ego addicted to alcohol. Louisa Young has a gift, an ability to put into words and describe a subject that many, many people have been affected by, either though personal addiction or as a family member or friend. This book isn’t simply entertaining, it is an education. Reading it will leave you with understanding, sympathy and knowledge. It is a fascinating tale – of how to survive and what drives that ‘Evil Twin'.
I think all of us at some time in our lives when we reach a certain age worry a little about cancer. I think the thought, “how will I react” crosses our minds occasionally. That this brave lady chooses to make her ordeal so public, she produced video diaries and tweets and now her written diary, has helped thousands. At the end of the book she encloses some messages of thanks, a few from those who didn’t make it. It is tear-jerking but it is also laced with humour. Throughout, whenever possible, she kept working, collecting the kids from school and running her hectic household with the enormous support of her wonderful partner. During the end stages of thirty sessions of chemo, she had to drive forty-odd miles round trip between work and school collection for a ten minute appointment her local hospital couldn’t do. Well she was certainly a fighter, although that is not what she calls herself. She believed talking about it really helped alleviate the fear and despair. She was diagnosed shortly after she started hosting a daily news and current affairs show for BBC2 and takes us through her fascinating work as well as the 301 days of treatment. A brave lady.
April 2018 Book of the Month The nostalgic memoir of a young man, eldest of fourteen, growing up in 40s Wednesbury. The heartbreaking true account of his son struggling to come to terms with his father's dementia. A tribute to the unbreakable bond between father and son. 'At once a touching tribute to a beloved music-loving dad with Alzheimer’s and a poignant portrait of the love between a father and son, this written-from-the-heart memoir will warm the soul, and undoubtedly further the author’s magnificent endeavour to raise awareness of this devastating disease. Simon McDermott’s cherished dad, Ted, was born in the Black Country in 1936 and always loved singing. In his early twenties, following National Service, Ted seized an opportunity to air his voice publicly by becoming an announcer for Walsall Football Club, which provided him with plenty of opportunities to entertain the crowd, while coming up with ideas to draw more women to matches. Also enjoying stints as a Butlin’s redcoat and singing in clubs up and down the country, Ted never lost his love of music - not after settling down and working in a factory, and not after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013. In fact, as Simon discovered during drives to calm his dad’s angry outbursts, singing has the power to bring back the old Ted. And so Simon posted a clip of his dad, the clip went viral and now, one single and full-length album later, Simon and Ted have raised over £150,000 for The Alzheimer’s Society. Peppered with moving and amusing family anecdotes from all stages of Ted’s life, and suffused in love and light through even the most harrowing moments, this heart-wrenchingly honest memoir is powerfully compelling, and should offer succour to others in similar situations.'
`The American girl has the advantage of her English sister in that she possesses all that the other lacks...' - Titled Americans On 6th November 1895, the young and brilliant heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt wedded the near-bankrupt Charles Spencer-Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough. A dazzling yet miserable match was made - one which glittered above all others for high society's unofficial marriage brokers who, in a single year, initiated and manipulated a series of spectacular transatlantic pairings. Injecting millions of dollars into the ailing aristocracy; fame, money, power and prestige were all at play. Characterised by scandal, illicit affairs, spurned loves and unexpected deaths, The Million Dollar Duchesses reveals the machinations which led to these most influential matches between America's heiresses and Britain's elite. The Gilded Age was a tumultuous period for society's most eligible.
'Shocking and entertaining. The surprising story of the campaigning women who changed Britain.' Virginia Nicholson When Mrs Pankhurst stormed the House of Commons with her crack squad of militant suffragettes in 1908, she wore on her hat a voluptuous purple feather. This is the intriguing story behind that feather. Twelve years before the suffragette movement began dominating headlines, a very different women's campaign captured the public imagination. Its aim was radical: to stamp out the fashion for feathers in hats. Leading the fight was a character just as heroic as Emmeline Pankhurst, but with opposite beliefs. Her name was Etta Lemon, and she was anti-fashion, anti-feminist - and anti-suffrage. Mrs Lemon has been forgotten by history, but her mighty society lives on. Few, today, are aware that Britain's biggest conservation charity, the RSPB, was born through the determined efforts of a handful of women, led by the indomitable Mrs Lemon. While the suffragettes were slashing paintings and smashing shop windows, Etta Lemon and her local secretaries were challenging `murderous millinery' all the way up to Parliament. This gripping narrative explores two singular heroines - one lionised, the other forgotten - and their rival, overlapping campaigns. Moving from the feather workers' slums to the highest courtly circles, from the first female political rally to the first forcible feeding, Mrs Pankhurst's Purple Feather is a unique journey through a society in transformation. This is a highly original story of women stepping into the public sphere, agitating for change - and finally finding a voice.
April 2018 Book of the Month A searingly honest memoir of the uplifting highs and crushing lows of a life spent policing on the front line. A Sunday Times top-five bestseller 'This is a remarkable book . . . profound and deeply moving . . . It has as much to tell us about mental illness as it does about policing' Alastair Stewart A candid, objective, cooly passionate, and often unsettling account of policing from a police officer. John Sutherland joined the Met in 1992 aged 22, we see snapshots of his life as an officer, as he progresses up the career ladder, as he deals with all the horrors and glory a life in blue has to offer. From the very first page my attention was sucked in whole, I come from a family of blue, married blue, and spent 20 years as a member of police support staff. Even then, I was on the edge of understanding, I didn't ever have to run towards danger, tell someone a loved one had died, sit with death, experience the bitter lows, the jubilant highs of being a police officer, yet John Sutherland takes you there. As we read we step in and out of a series of events that have all added up to create this man, it isn’t a glittery or gory descriptive feast, but it doesn't have to be, he simply and clearly gives you a connection, and an understanding that under that uniform is flesh and blood and feelings. One thing is abundantly clear, this man loves his job, he feels the continued effort is worth it, and yet it very nearly broke him. It is truly captivating, whether you nod, smile wryly, and wish he could have been your boss, or feel the shock and admiration as you learn what our police are exposed to day after day. ‘Blue A Memoir’ is a worthwhile and fascinating read, I really do recommend it with my heart and soul. John has written an epilogue to his story, which has been included in the paperback of ‘Blue A Memoir’. He speaks with his normal good sense, and he has the remarkable ability to put into words the thoughts and feelings so many officers struggle to properly articulate. He speaks from the heart, and his words made me cry. I wish him every success in his future, and whatever path he decides to explore, I’m quite sure to the many who know him, follow him on twitter, and read his blog, he will forever remain a true inspiration. Liz visited the Chiddingstone Castle Literary Fesitval where John Sutherland gave a talk. To read more about the festival, head over to her Blog Post.
No one is born a leader. But through sheer determination and by confronting life's challenges, Ant Middleton has come to know the meaning of true leadership. In First Man In, he shares the core lessons he's learned over the course of his fascinating, exhilarating life. Special forces training is no walk in the park. The rules are strict and they make sure you learn the hard way, pushing you beyond the limits of what is physically possible. There is no mercy. Even when you are bleeding and broken, to admit defeat is failure. To survive the gruelling selection process to become a member of the elite you need toughness, aggression, meticulous attention to detail and unrelenting self-discipline, all traits that make for the best leaders. After 13 years service in the military, with 4 years as a Special Boat Service (SBS) sniper, Ant Middleton is the epitome of what it takes to excel. He served in the SBS, the naval wing of the special forces, the Royal Marines and 9 Parachute Squadron Royal, achieving what is known as the `Holy Trinity' of the UK's Elite Forces. As a point man in the SBS, Ant was always the first man through the door, the first man into the dark, and the first man in harm's way. In this fascinating, exhilarating and revealing book, Ant speaks about the highs and gut-wrenching lows of his life - from the thrill of passing Special Forces Selection to dealing with the early death of his father and ending up in prison on leaving the military - and draws valuable lessons that we can all use in our daily lives.
From the Horse’s Mouth
… or the Groom’s
There are people who just read biographies, interested only in the details of the lives of real people. There are others, like us, who enjoy dipping a toe, every now and then, into the deep inviting waters of the biography pool, to see first-hand the experiences of a person, past or present, who captures our imagination or pique’s our interest. From the First Man on the Moon to the latest winner of a jungle-based reality TV programme; sport-star to leading politician; religious leader to Arctic explorer, the choice is vast!
Sign up for our emails to stay up to date with the latest releases, thumb through our monthly Book of the Month recommendations, or search the name of someone who’s life you want to know all about and we’ll help you take that look through the keyhole into the intimate world of someone fascinating.
Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you’re never too far away from your next great read, great events, competitions and discounts? Sign up for our free emails and let the passion of our experts guide you to some wonderful new reading.
That book you loved has finally come to an end. Where do you go next? With our unique Author Like for Like tool, you’ll discover other authors guaranteed to be right up your street. Login, sit back, put your feet up and enjoy.
Reading Groups! Let us help you find your next hot topic. Visit our Special Section bursting with thought provoking titles and get an extra 5% discount if you buy 5 or more copies.