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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.
A challenging and provocative read, with some hair-raising action. Rose Shaw is living with insomnia and trauma, when a diary unexpectedly lands in her possession she finds herself in serious trouble. The first few chapters really set the tone, as ‘before' plays out in gasp-inducing action, you may well find yourself camping out on the edge of your seat, waiting, waiting, waiting… When the moment comes, oh my! This story has more than its fair share of bigots which makes for uncomfortable reading. Other stories enter the fray, piercing feelings, creating biting tension. Perhaps best not to expect a factually accurate tale in terms of police procedure and there were times when my eyebrows nearly took flight, however for pure adrenaline, heightened emotions and drama, ‘Night by Night’ has it all. So settle down, pop disbelief to one side, just sink into the story and read!
An atmospheric, stormy beauty of a read which made me positively ache for the characters. As Frances lies on her deathbed she revisits the summer of 1969 when she met Cara and Peter at an abandoned country house, as the summer progresses vulnerabilities are highlighted and tragedy strikes. Claire Fuller peels open the lives of the characters with exquisite care. Feelings spin and slice across the page, freedom, isolation, menace all tumbling together in an uncertain dance. The house is a hugely important part of the tale, creating a setting that alternates between forsaken and decadent. Whenever the story left Lyntons, whether to the village beyond or the Frances of now, I felt an easing of pressure, I was able to relax muscles sitting in tense anticipation. ‘Bitter Orange’ sets a chilling yet poignant stage and allows access to the memories of the past, the emotions are touchable, the ending so perfect it hurt. Featured in Episode 5 of the LoveReading Podcast
Crossing cultures, continents and generations, this exquisitely involving exploration of frictions between family and friends, of love, loss and the criss-crossing complexities of life truly had me in its hold. In Ghana, sensible housegirl Belinda performs her domestic duties to perfection, with irrepressible eleven-year-old Mary shadowing her work. Mary brims with childish obstinacy, and with a daringly direct wisdom beyond her years. She’ll stamp her feet and curl her lip for attention or sympathy, but she’s also gloriously curious, a devoted, proud, joyously forceful bundle of humanity. Then Belinda is summoned to Brixton to befriend Amma, a privileged and troubled young woman. Amma initially refuses to play ball. She’s childishly rude, but they learn from each other and even confide their deepest secrets. When tragedy strikes, Amma rages: “The cruelty of the fucking world is proved fucking every day. The unfairness of life is just, like, unbelievable”. Ultimately, though, both young women evolve and broaden their outlook on the world and who they are. Alongside the heartfelt human drama, there’s much humour too, such as when Belinda describes Britain to Mary – it’s a peculiar place where cats “sleep in the bed with the white people” and “they kiss the animal as if it hasn’t roamed around the town eating sewage.” Her assessment of TV host Kilroy-Silk is hilarious too. He may seem “fully white”, but his “face is more orange then usual”. Poignant, finely-observed, funny and eloquent, this is an exceptional debut.
Subtle, experimental and moving, this novel invites multiple readings. Based on Alan Turing’s horrendous experiences as a gay man in early 1950s England, it’s narrated by Alec Pryor, a mathematician and former Bletchley Park cryptographer who’s been convicted of gross indecency after meeting young man Cyril at a fairground. Opting for chemical hormone injections rather than a prison sentence, this novel is Alec’s piercing, heartbreaking journal. His depiction of the fairground at which he meets Cyril is acutely poignant: “It is an erotic place, the fair. Everything about it - the mushrooming appearance, the concentration of energy, the ambush and occupation of common land…This is your chance, it says. Take it!” But for Alec, an erotically charged encounter at the fair leads to his undoing. After enduring chemical castration, Alec’s brilliant mind and deep heart – his very being – unravel. He is not who he was: “When I began to look better, like my old self, after the changing treatment stopped, I seemed to disappear from the inside. I felt as if I’d been replaced.” Necessitating reader devotion and careful consideration of every perfectly placed word, this is a piercingly affecting intellectual and emotional tour de force.
In the midst of war, he found love In the midst of darkness, he found courage In the midst of tragedy, he found hope The Beekeeper of Aleppo What will you find from his story? Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo - until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees. As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all - and perhaps this is the hardest thing they face - they must journey to find each other again. Moving, powerful, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit. Told with deceptive simplicity, it is the kind of book that reminds us of the power of storytelling.
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in the west of Ireland, but the similarities end there. In school, Connell is popular and well-liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation - awkward but electrifying - something life-changing begins. Normal People is a story of mutual fascination, friendship and love. It takes us from that first conversation to the years beyond, in the company of two people who try to stay apart but find they can't.
Penguin presents the audiobook edition of The Handmaid's Tale written by Margaret Atwood, read by Elisabeth Moss, with Bradley Whitford, Amy Landecker and Ann Dowd. READ BY ELISABETH MOSS, STAR OF THE HIT CHANNEL 4 TV SERIES The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs. Brilliantly conceived and executed, this powerful evocation of twenty-first century America gives full rein to Margaret Atwood's devastating irony, wit and astute perception.
Return to the world of the multi-million-copy bestselling Chocolat.... Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her 'special' child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend. But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse's relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist's across the square - one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own - all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence - even, perhaps, a murder...
Stop here to discover a terrific new voice in mystery and suspense, a voice owned by an established and truly eloquent author. Within a period of three weeks in 1993 the body of a young woman is discovered on the beach by teenagers Nell and Jude, then Jude disappears, twenty-five agonising years later Nell begins to uncover the truth. If you already love Dorothy Koomson, then you’re in for a real treat as she has combined her wonderful ability to observe human relationships with mystery and shivery suspense. The change in direction is beautifully subtle as her previous books have been moving this way and existing fans can still feel her unmistakable touch, yet she has opened the door to a whole new audience. Each short chapter remains very much in its moment as the story swings between the past and present. As I read and peeled each layer by exquisite layer I found surprises waiting to snare me, to make me exclaim and sit up. The characters are individual, fascinating (even when displaying hideous character traits), and Nell is an absolute delight to get to know. The Brighton Mermaid is a compelling, fabulously readable story full of energy and tenacity - highly recommended.
In the author’s alternate 1980s Britain (which he parallels with the current political climate), Britain has lost the Falklands War, Thatcher is fighting for her political life as Tony Benn’s socialism engenders feverish devotion from young voters, and the country is on the verge of leaving Europe. Alongside these tides of change Alan Turing has created a small quantity of expensive, advanced artificial humans called Adams and Eves. Enter our drifter protagonist, 32-year-old Charlie Friend, who blows most of his inheritance on an Adam. He and his younger girlfriend Miranda share in Adam’s co-creation, both of them having a hand in determining Adam’s personality. The first of many challenges come when Adam and Miranda have sex, which leaves Charlie angry and humiliated: “He was a bipedal vibrator and I was the very latest in cuckolds”. And then Adam betrays Miranda, revealing to Charlie that she’s been lying to him. Moral dilemmas and existential questions abound when it seems that Adam is in love with Miranda in a very human sense, a love that’s partly exhibited through his penning of thousands of heartfelt love haikus. Alongside the oft-explored questions around sentience and what it means to be human, this often entertaining novel provokes fresh thought through Miranda’s complicated, tragic past, the characters’ complex current love triangle, and the future she and Charlie might forge for themselves.
To some Kate Marsden (1859-1931) was an unsung female pioneer, a nurse who was so committed to eliminating leprosy that she travelled thousands of miles to investigate the disease in Siberia with the support of the Russian royal family. To others she was a fraudster who exaggerated her Siberian undertaking, a woman motivated by fame and a need to atone herself for illicit relations with a woman. This novel sees Marsden at the end of her life, haunted by fragmented memories. For Marsden, memory is “not a neatly packed trunk through which you may sift for items of interest. It is an unravelled ball of wool, tangled and confused.” Marsden’s account of her life here is indeed tangled and complex, poignant and fraught with disappointment. The flower she thinks holds leprosy-curing properties turns out to be “a soothing balm perhaps, but not the miracle I had been led to believe”. And then there’s her all-consuming love for Rose, whom she tries to protect: ”There’s no place in this world for us, you know that. We are judged and found unacceptable.” Part illuminating ode to an unsung heroine, part thought-provoking exploration of the nature of memory and legacy, this is a unique and captivating novel, and I am grateful to the author for evoking Kate Marsden’s story with such verve and tenderness.
A blast of a read, fast-paced and provocative. Laurie witnesses, then can’t help but investigate a horrifying incident, as events rocket beyond her control, violence follows her home. The first few pages sprint into heart-pumping action, my mind whirring, I then settled into the start of the story as it began six days earlier. I felt as though I was allowed to be a step ahead of Laurie, I was given a little more time to consider, consequently on occasion I wanted to shout a warning and almost stamp my feet in vexation as the tale unfolded, which added intensity to an already taut storyline. The sections set on the Underground were riveting, a real menace stalked the pages, dark and foreboding. I for one, will never ever want to be on my own down there! Toby Faber prodded and provoked my thoughts and feelings, deliberately muddying the waters of guilt and innocence, of standing in judgement. Close to the Edge is a thrilling ride, yet look beyond the obvious and you can find a challenging and stimulating read too.
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.