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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.
From childhood in Germany and England to young womanhood in Ghana, this enthralling novel follows a steadfastly thoughtful Ghanaian forging her own identity in the face of fractured family ties, tragedy and colonial imperialism. Though of illustrious heritage, Maya’s childhood as an émigré is complex, uncomfortable and evoked with lyrical precision. Her beautiful mother is self-absorbed, always scented with “powdery luxury” and critical of Maya. ”It’s a pity my child did not take my beauty”, she tells her reflection before counselling Maya to “always look more than perfect. Not just good enough, but perfect”. And Maya receives conflicting messages from her father too. “Boys will not like you if you are too clever”, he tells her, while also criticising an eight out of ten mark: “Why not ten out of ten? You must always do your best.” The arrival of cousin Kojo changes everything. His impassioned talk of Ghana fuels Maya’s understanding of her mother country, her parents, and her own identity. She observes that Kojo’s knowledge “gave him the power to upset the order of things,” leading her to wonder, “Could I learn these secrets and codes, even though I did not grow up in our country?” When she and Kojo are sent to schools in England, Maya experiences the racism of peers who “touched my hair and stroked my skin and passed me round on their laps like a doll”, and Kojo is bullied. No wonder then that he decides that, “this is nothing but a small shitty island that doesn’t work properly. It’s a cold wet Third World country, but they made us think they were all powerful.” Later back in Germany, Maya is maddened by the cultural imperialism of her education: “I could not think of much that was more frightening than fitting into this pinched-in sterile world.” Maya’s story is at once arresting and nuanced, and suffused in an elegant sense of triumph when she returns to Ghana, where Kojo has been struggling to set-up a museum, and in time finds her voice and purpose through navigating a tangle of personal misfortune and cultural complexities.
This is what a reading experience is all about, Ness touches, tests, pushes, strokes, inspires, and I have given this little book my heart. I have hesitated about explaining the background to Ness, but have decided that to know doesn’t unduly shape thoughts. Orford Ness in Suffolk is a shingle island which is constantly changing due to the sea and weather. It is the site of an abandoned military base where research included nuclear weaponry during the Cold War. The author and illustrator know this place, and have created a powerful lyrical read where nature takes steps to stop a crime against the world. It is a wonderful heady mix of novella and poetry-prose, a fantasy creation of word and illustration that took up lodging in my mind. A hagstone, which allows a veiled glimpse to the future or past, sits centre stage throughout the book, the illustrations by Stanley Donwood allowing a viewing station, a pause, before the next taste of action. The words by Robert Macfarlane sing, they just beg to be spoken, to be heard. As I spoke the words, I had the feeling that I was setting them free, and at the final few pages a shiver of emotion skittered down my arms. Ness is a beautiful yet fierce and frightening call, containing a warning that we should be shrieking from the rooftops. I have chosen it as one of my Liz Robinson Picks of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
The clever, seductive, fact and fictional blended story of Truman Capote and the women he placed (and came to rely on) at the very centre of his life. Truman Capote (author of works including novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and non fiction piece In Cold Blood) could call among his friends and confidants the wealthy, famous and social elite. Their secrets were released to the world when he wrote a fictional piece that aired an awful lot of real life dirty laundry. Swan Song darts through the years, backwards and forwards, releasing information, filling in this breathtaking story. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott apparently took ten years to research, and four years to write Swan Song. Capote’s swans are deliciously stimulating, and speak as one, revealing betrayal, scandal and lives full of emotional and physical excess. It is so wonderfully gossipy and fascinating, it’s all too easy to forget this is a novel (even though seeped in fact). Swan Song is a beguiling, fascinating dream of a read, and comes as highly recommended by me.
WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019 Teeming with life and crackling with energy, told through many distinctive voices, this novel follows the lives of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and sparklingly contemporary, Girl, Woman, Other is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.
An absolutely delightful story ready and waiting to wrap you up in a delicious blanket of warming feel-good. Ellie thinks she is happy, assumes she is happy, but a present from a harp-making stranger heralds change. Oh I did enjoy this story, told in alternate chapters by Ellie and Dan, I settled myself into a comfy spot and stayed there until I had finished. Dan introduces himself in the most simple and beautiful way, he is able to see through clutter to the heart of things and I have to admit to rather falling in love with him. Hazel Prior doesn’t spell things out for you, instead I felt that I was able to explore and encouraged to contemplate. The descriptions of Exmoor, nature, and colour are particularly special, and I now find myself taking the time to look properly, to really see, to feel, to smile. Ellie and the Harp Maker is truly lovely and rather special, if you feel like a hug, then read this book!
An amusing satire on modern marriage and the mistakes that are made, all set around a beautiful Elizabethan house and estate and a private London Bank. You can see it all going wrong but not how the problems are resolved. Satisfying, luscious and highly absorbing. Anthony is a thoroughly decent man who is really too kind for his own good. A lovely read.Comparisons: Sydney Sheldon, Louise Bagshawe, Penny Vincenzi.
Penguin presents the audiobook edition of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World by Elif Shafak, read by Alix Dunmore. 'In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away...' For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life - friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .
'In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila's consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore. Her brain cells, having run out of blood, were now completely deprived of oxygen. But they did not shut down. Not right away...' For Leila, each minute after her death brings a sensuous memory: the taste of spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the long-awaited birth of a son; the sight of bubbling vats of lemon and sugar which the women use to wax their legs while the men attend mosque; the scent of cardamom coffee that Leila shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each memory, too, recalls the friends she made at each key moment in her life - friends who are now desperately trying to find her. . .
In the past year, the narrator of 10:04 has enjoyed unexpected literary success, been diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition, and been asked by his best friend to help her conceive a child. Now, in a New York of increasingly frequent superstorms and political unrest, he must reckon with his biological mortality, the possibility of a literary afterlife, and the prospect of (unconventional) fatherhood in a city that might soon be under water. In prose that Jonathan Franzen has called 'hilarious...cracklingly intelligent...and original in every sentence', Lerner's new novel charts an exhilarating course through the contemporary landscape of sex, friendship, memory, art and politics, and captures what is like to be alive right now.
September 2011 eBook of the Month.A magical and wonderfully inventive story about passion. An American in Paris falls in love with two women, one of whom he can only imagine, in this wonderful debut. A box full of century-old artifacts begins the love affair but why were they so conveniently put on his desk to find?It unlocks a dramatic and romantic story of a French woman who lived in Paris through both world wars and a present day story runs with it. The letters, jottings, photos etc are reproduced throughout the novel.
Nineteen Eighty-Four is a dystopian novel by the English writer George Orwell, published in 1948. The story, which focuses on the life of Winston Smith, was Orwell's vision of a totalitarian state which has absolute control over every action and thought of its people through propaganda, secrecy, constant surveillance, and harsh punishment
Inspired by George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four , 1Q84 is a magnificent and fully-imagined work of fiction - both a thriller and a moving love-story . It is a world from which the reader emerges stunned and altered. Book Three of 1Q84 is the final volume of Murakami's magnum opus. In Japan, Books One and Two were published on the same day with Book Three following a year later. All three books were received with huge excitement and became instant bestsellers. The UK publication reflects the pattern of the original publication with Books One and Two being released in one volume and Book Three following in a separate edition.
In order to reflect the experience of 1Q84's first readers, Harvill Secker is publishing Books One and Two in one beautifully designed volume and Book Three in a separate edition. A long-awaited treat for his fans, 1Q84 is also a thrilling introduction to the unique world of Murakami's imagination. This hypnotically addictive novel is a work of startling originality and, as the title suggests, a mind-bending ode to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four . (The number 9 in Japanese is pronounced like the letter 'Q'). The year is 1984. Aomame sits in a taxi on the expressway in Tokyo. Her work is not the kind which can be discussed in public but she is in a hurry to carry out an assignment and, with the traffic at a stand-still, the driver proposes a solution. She agrees, but as a result of her actions starts to feel increasingly detached from the real world. She has been on a top-secret mission, and her next job will lead her to encounter the apparently superhuman founder of a religious cult. Meanwhile, Tengo is leading a nondescript life but wishes to become a writer. He inadvertently becomes involved in a strange affair surrounding a literary prize to which a mysterious seventeen-year-old girl has submitted her remarkable first novel. It seems to be based on her own experiences and moves readers in unusual ways. Can her story really be true? Both Aomame and Tengo notice that the world has grown strange; both realise that they are indispensable to each other. While their stories influence one another, at times by accident and at times intentionally, the two come closer and closer to intertwining.
Madeleine Altimari is a sassy, smart-mouthed nine-year-old and an aspiring jazz singer, inwardly mourning the recent death of her mother. Little does she know that on Christmas Eve Eve she is about to have the most extraordinary day - and night - of her life. After bravely facing down some mean-spirited classmates and a galling rejection at school, Madeleine doggedly searches for Philadelphia's legendary jazz club The Cat's Pajamas, where she's determined to make her on-stage debut. Meanwhile, her fifth-grade teacher Sarina Greene is nervously looking forward to a dinner party that will reunite her with an old high-school crush. And across town at The Cat's Pajamas, club owner Jack Lorca discovers that his beloved haunt may have to close forever ...As these three lost souls search for love, music and hope on the snow-covered streets of Philadelphia, together they will discover life's endless possibilities over the course of one magical night. A vivacious, charming and moving novel, 2 A.M. At The Cat's Pajamas will swell your heart and have you laughing out loud.
War changes us all, and sometimes we no longer recognise ourselves...'Housekeeper or housewife?' the soldier asks Silvana as she and eight-year-old Aurek board the ship that will take them from Poland to England at the end of the war, to Janusz, her husband. But she isn't sure any longer that she is a wife of any kind or whether she has a house. After living wild in the forests for years, carrying a terrible secret, all Silvana knows is that she and Aurek are survivors. In Ipswich, Janusz is getting ready for the arrival of the wife and son he hasn't seen in six years. After fleeing Poland and the war that left him a deserter, he has found his family a house. He works hard planting a proper English garden to welcome them and to distract him from his own secret. But the six years apart have changed them all, and they must learn that love can't work unless there are no secrets. To make Aurek a real home, Silvana and Janusz will have to come to terms with what happened to them during the war, accept that each have changed immeasurably and allow their beloved but wild son to be who he truly is.
Shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award. Wickedly funny and devastatingly moving, 26a is an extraordinary first novel. Part fairytale, part nightmare, it moves from the mundane to the magical, the particular to the universal with exceptional flair and imagination. A coming-of-age novel with a difference.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017. A Maxim Jakubowski selected title. The contemporary magician of the post-modern and often quirky novel (maybe equalled by just Haruki Murakami) returns with a doorstepper at nearly 900 pages and apart from the initial concept, it proves wonderfully traditional, if not old-fashioned. From the moment of his birth, we follow the life, or rather the lives, of Archie Ferguson, a bright Jewish boy growing up in America from the 1940s to the 1960s. However, from a similar starting point, we are given four different versions depending on varying circumstances, as events run in parallel, relationships, fortunes and loves change according to the respective life stream. Ambitious but rewarding, an exquisite panorama of the way we live and feel seen through a microscope controlled by a writer in full control of his imaginative powers, which is not a metaphor as the character shares a birth date and a profession with Auster himself. An elegy for what could have been, might have been, could still be or should be. The choice is the reader's. ~ Maxim Jakubowski
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.