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This is it. The place for the greatest writing: stories that transcend all other ‘genres’. Literary fiction goes above and beyond any specific genre in order to deliver stories that strike at the heart of what it means to be human.
Forthright, funny Ayesha harbours dreams of being a poet and occasionally performs at a literary lounge, but her ambitions are somewhat hampered by her new teaching job and familial pressure to get married, a pressure that’s intensified by her stunning younger cousin’s countless marriage proposals. But Ayesha is adamant that she doesn’t want an arranged marriage, even if it means she might be doomed to spinsterhood. Then, courtesy of her best friend and a conference at her mosque, a few twists of fate throw Ayesha into contact with hyper-critical, conservative Khalid, who dresses like a time-traveller from several centuries ago and is utterly under his wealthy mother’s control. Cue much friction, farcical funniness and genuine soul-searching as Ayesha and Khalid embark on complex, intersecting journeys of discovery. Alongside serving up a sparkling love story, this debut also tackles meaty issues, from the rampant islamophobia of Khaled’s abhorrent boss, to the sexism Ayesha stands up to. Indeed, the criss-crossing sub-plots - both gritty and comic - keep the pages turning, and make this a treat for fans of romance with extra bite.
An extraordinarily readable and fascinating exploration of ourselves, of what it is to be human. This is a novel that feels completely unique, it is also one that made me consider, ponder, wonder. Open the pages and discover our Earth, yet different, it is 1990 and a British Police Inspector is called to investigate the killings of a species in the Delta, South America. I started to read and was immediately taken away from everything I knew, or thought I knew. Chris Beckett has created a world that is at once distinctively familiar and peculiar, the otherworldly aspect encouraged my thoughts to travel in unexpected directions while I viewed human interaction playing out in typical fashion. Police officer Ben is full of shade and contrast, I found the different strands that knitted and weaved together as the different characters came into play so intriuging. There is a subtlety at play here, the descriptive detail is beautiful, if a little unsettling at times, and I felt I was being allowed to discover the Delta at my own pace. ‘Beneath The World, A Sea’ is different, it is so different that I am still thinking about it, it stirred up feelings and has left them whirling.
Bold, beautiful, provocative… and I mean provocative in the very best possible way. One compromising photo is all it takes for the lives of two families to be forever altered by the decisions made and actions taken. Each chapter is headed by a character and they tell their own story, the voices are distinctive and undeniably theirs, you could actually start to read without seeing the chapter heading and know within a few sentences who was talking to you. This story just feels so incredibly real, from the social media reaction to the human emotions on display, each moment could be happening to someone right now, at this very second. Emily Giffin writes with consideration and considerable empathy, yet she doesn’t shy away from the darker side of society. I felt I was being allowed to find my own way, to reach my own conclusions, and loved how my thoughts skittered in my mind. This is so incredibly readable, in the US it was a New York Times bestseller and deserves to be a bestseller in the UK too. All We Ever Wanted leapt into my head and then danced into my heart, I really, truly loved it.
I’ll let you into a secret, I have a bit of a reading crush on Natasha Solomons as she writes such beautifully observed and engaging books. Each time I am transported, and her previous title ‘The Song Collector’ was one of my books of the year in 2015. I’m more than happy to announce that ‘House of Gold’ is another triumph. Set between 1911 and 1917 this is a story that reads on an epic scale. Europe sits at the forefront as World War One marches forwards, and for one particular family the Goldbaum’s, their whole existence is fractured and forever altered. In such a huge arena we meet Greta who is sent from Austria to England to marry a distant cousin, her thoughts and feelings create a touchable, emotionally rich and moving story. I felt her pain, the ache of loneliness, and her relationship with her husband and brother are exquisitely realised. I just sat and read from start to finish in one wonderful afternoon. ’House of Gold’ is an absolute treasure, it made me feel, it made me think, it made me realise the knife edge on which humanity sits is razor-sharp indeed.
Wakenhyrst is a glorious darkly gothic feast of a read, and I really had no option other than to choose it as one of my picks of the month. Folklore and superstition are bound up in the Fens, Maud Steame has grown up there, surrounded by gossip, rumours and terrible secrets, will releasing her story set her free? Michelle Paver excels in quietly setting fear loose and disquiet scurrying free. Simply and beautifully descriptive, words leave the page and settle together to gradually create an entire picture. I found myself hooked, then completely snared as Maud’s life unfolds over 60 years revealing the very essence of her being. I feel deeply connected to Maud, and she continues to exist in my thoughts. Wakenhyrst is a fascinating, deeply emotional, and surprisingly beautiful read, I highly recommend stepping inside and setting your feelings free to explore.
A witty, globally-scoped exposé of corporate greed and environmentalism told through an absorbing character-rich tale. Set during the 2008-banking crisis, Peter Mount is the CEO of a small London mining company, a role he likens to “being the ringmaster of a small circus.” His wife of 24 years is a Cambridge zoology graduate, whose predilection for holidays in “expensive resorts in distant locations” and life’s finer, pricier things are not quite sustained by Peter’s income. Then we meet Amy, a New Yorker with a former sizeable carbon footprint who’s “transformed into a dedicated, environmental activist” when the idyll of her retreat in rural Oregon is disrupted by the racket of mining trucks working a few kilometres away from her property. Astute on the personal, environmental and financial butterfly effects of capitalism, this expansive novel is packed with surprises and reveals the complex and often contradictory interplay between human and economic forces.
A formally innovative work of modernist fiction, Virginia Woolf's The Waves is edited with an introduction by Kate Flint in Penguin Modern Classics. More than any of Virginia Woolf's other novels, The Waves conveys the full complexity and richness of human experience. Tracing the lives of a group of friends, The Waves follows their development from childhood to youth and middle age. While social events, individual achievements and disappointments form its narrative, the novel is most remarkable for the rich poetic language that expresses the inner life of its characters: their aspirations, their triumphs and regrets, their awareness of unity and isolation. Separately and together, they query the relationship of past to present, and the meaning of life itself. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is regarded as a major 20th century author and essayist, a key figure in literary history as a feminist and modernist, and the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group'. This informal collective of artists and writers, which included Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) a passionate feminist essay. If you enjoyed The Waves, you might like Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, also available in Penguin Classics. 'A book of great beauty and a prose poem of genius' Stephen Spender 'Full of sensuous touches ... the sounds of her words can be velvet on the page' Maggie Gee, Daily Telegraph
The Moon Sister is the fifth epic story in the Seven Sisters series by the international number one bestseller Lucinda Riley. After the death of her father - Pa Salt, an elusive billionaire who adopted his six daughters from around the globe - Tiggy D'Apliese , trusting her instincts, moves to the remote wilds of Scotland. There she takes a job doing what she loves; caring for animals on the vast and isolated Kinnaird estate, employed by the enigmatic and troubled Laird, Charlie Kinnaird. Her decision alters her future irrevocably when Chilly, an ancient gipsy who has lived for years on the estate, tells her that not only does she possess a sixth sense, passed down from her ancestors, but it was foretold long ago that he would be the one to send her back home to Granada in Spain . . . In the shadow of the magnificent Alhambra, Tiggy discovers her connection to the fabled gypsy community of Sacromonte, who were forced to flee their homes during the civil war, and to `La Candela' the greatest flamenco dancer of her generation. From the Scottish Highlands and Spain, to South America and New York, Tiggy follows the trail back to her own exotic but complex past. And under the watchful eye of a gifted gypsy bruja she begins to embrace her own talent for healing. But when fate takes a hand, Tiggy must decide whether to stay with her new-found family or return to Kinnaird, and Charlie . . . The Moon Sister follows The Seven Sisters, The Storm Sister, The Shadow Sister and The Pearl Sister.
From the award-winning poet and playwright behind Barber Shop Chronicles, The Half-God of Rainfall is an epic story and a lyrical exploration of pride, power and female revenge. There is something about Demi. When this boy is angry, rain clouds gather. When he cries, rivers burst their banks and the first time he takes a shot on a basketball court, the deities of the land take note. His mother, Modupe, looks on with a mixture of pride and worry. From close encounters, she knows Gods often act like men: the same fragile egos, the same unpredictable fury and the same sense of entitlement to the bodies of mortals. She will sacrifice everything to protect her son, but she knows the Gods will one day tire of sports fans, their fickle allegiances and misdirected prayers. When that moment comes, it won’t matter how special he is. Only the women in Demi’s life, the mothers, daughters and Goddesses, will stand between him and a lightning bolt.
Meet Don Tillman, the genetics professor with a scientific approach to everything. But he's facing a set of human dilemmas tougher than the trickiest of equations. Right now he is in professional hot water after a lecture goes viral for all the wrong reasons; his wife of 4,380 days, Rosie, is about to lose the research job she loves; and - the most serious problem of all - their eleven-year-old son, Hudson, is struggling at school. He's a smart kid, but socially awkward and not fitting in. Fortunately, Don's had a lifetime's experience of not fitting in. And he's going to share the solutions with Hudson. He'll need the help of old friends and new, lock horns with the education system, and face some big questions about himself. As well as opening the world's best cocktail bar. Big-hearted, hilarious and exuberantly life-affirming, The Rosie Result is a story of overcoming life's obstacles with a little love and a lot of overthinking. If you liked The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, and The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, then you'll love The Rosie Project series.
The Chernobyl Privileges may seem like an odd title for a novel inspired by the devastating nuclear disaster of the 1980s in Chernobyl. But then, this is by no means an ordinary novel. Set in the present day, Anthony Fahey is lucky to be working at Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, where Britain's Trident nuclear weapons are kept. His expertise is valued over his complicated personal life and chequered employment history. Anthony's life begins to unravel, following an incident at the naval base. For obvious reasons, due to the nature of the work, he is unable to talk to his wife about the incident, but their marriage is already rocky following the death of her Father, and Anthony having to behave in a secretive manner is not helping. Anthony also believes that he knows better, and is more concerned about the incident than his superiors, so begins to challenge and defy orders, landing him in hot water on more than one occasion. No matter how much Anthony wants to believe that he is not defined by his past, it is inescapable and influences all he does. Back in 1986 Anatolii was just a child living in Ukraine when the nuclear incident took place in Chernobyl. First hand he witnessed the impact of the fallout on the first responders, including his Father. Anatolii didn't much want to leave Ukraine, but he wasn't given a choice, and was enforced into a new life in the UK, and a new identity 'Anthony Fahey'. Anthony believes that he can make a difference in his profession, and prevent something like Chernobyl happening again, but he does not understand that you cannot act against the government. Several chapters are interspersed with letters from Anatolii/Anthony's sister, and these are where we really get a first-hand view of how those still living in Chernobyl have been affected. This is a very thought-provoking novel, for those on both sides of the nuclear weapon/energy argument, and a highly recommended read.
This haunting tale of a child’s faltering navigation of her poverty-stricken upbringing in rural Australia crackles with grit, beauty and poignant truths of the human heart. The world is a bleak and bewildering place for Justine. Born “back to front”, she also sees words the wrong way round. “My words were breech like me. Every year finished and I never caught up.” Abandoned by her mother and with her unhinged, unreliable father largely absent, she lives in poverty with her war-traumatised grandfather, Pop. While Justine is isolated and neglected, she experiences some of life’s joys though her friendship with Michael, a bright spark of a boy who’s written off for his disabilities and cruelly known to his classmates as “spastic elastic”. Theirs is a truly life-affirming relationship, a beautiful bond built on understanding and kindness in Justine’s otherwise brutal world. Then there’s fellow outsider Aunty Rita, who lives in the city but offers Justine a helping hand, inviting her to call whenever she needs to, though Justine can’t decipher Rita’s phone numbers – Justine’s moments of light are typically quick to fade and flicker out. Emotionally isolated and disoriented by the dysfunctional adults in her life, Justine’s voice is acutely involving, her naïve perspective poignant with real-life rawness. What a feat of suspenseful and tautly lyrical storytelling this is, a moving story that ends on a note of bittersweet hope.
Literary fiction is a bit of a “catch-all” phrase. Some call it “Serious Fiction” but we prefer to think of it as all of the greatest stories ever told, all in one place. This is where you will find literary classics from literary masters past and present.
Why not have a look at our monthly featured titles for inspiration? Revisit old friends? Discover new ones? Or finally read that book that your friends have been banging on about for ages? Whatever your reasons, settle down with your favourite tipple, unwind and open your mind with the home-spun brilliance of authors like Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie, David Nicholls and Zadie Smith; or those from further afield: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Haruki Murakami, Ben Okri, Jostein Gaarder and so many more. There are obviously so many to choose from, you could get lost in the Sea of Choices.