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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.
Stunningly gorgeous short stories and wonderful illustrations make for an absolute treasure trove of a book. I have quite simply fallen in love with Foxfire, Wolfskin, it makes my heart sing. Discover 13 short stories about shapeshifting women, the shortest story being three and a half pages long. All are “either reimaginings of older tales, or contain characters, beings and motifs which appear in older tales”. On opening the book, I felt as though I was walking into an age old story, the descriptions are startling, vivid, touchable. I began with Wolfskin, which is sharp and edgy, it hurts, it feels… right. After finishing Wolfskin, I immediately read it again, this time out loud. I fell headlong in once more, and at the extraordinary end, emotional goosebumps skitter-scattered down my arms. All of these stories have a unique strength to them and I disappeared into each one. Just a note on the accompanying illustrations by Helen Nicholson. They are fresh, original, and yet have that same age old feel of the stories. At the very end you will find notes on each tale, the inspiration behind them and where the idea appears in folklore. Foxfire, Wolfskin is full of beautiful stories that take hold, bite, leave their mark and I adored it so much I had to add it as one of my picks of the month!
Suffused in the haunting longings and losses of complex, compelling Mari, The Jeweller shines with mysterious originality. Mari is a market stallholder in a West Wales seaside town whose wares come from clearing the houses of the dead, and who spends hour after hour fashioning a perfect emerald. Throughout, the language is exquisitely vivid, the story dappled with shocking, jarring moments, such as when Mari is publicly accused of being responsible for a man’s death, and the depiction of her pet monkey’s degeneration. And then there’s the unexpected discovery that leads to a reunion that releases Mari to a new life. Gleaming with precise lyricism (kudos to translator Gwen Davies, who rendered it from the original Welsh), this mesmeric novel has a truly mythic quality.
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.
And so I step up, into the darkness within; or else the light. When the van door slammed on Offred's future at the end of The Handmaid's Tale, readers had no way of telling what lay ahead. With The Testaments, the wait is over. Margaret Atwood's sequel picks up the story 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead. 'Dear Readers: Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in.' Margaret Atwood.
A beautifully engaging novel that both broke and truly captured my heart. We travel with Laure through three time frames, from Prague of 1986, through to Paris of today. She finds love, and founds a museum based on promises broken, discarded, forgotten. Elizabeth Buchan writes with such eloquence, compassion and meaning. I felt, really felt the history and heartache. The past and the present somehow balance, as they move backwards and forwards slowly cutting snippets of information free. I fully existed in each moment, almost forgetting another point existed until I found myself there and became immersed once more. I really cared about the characters, including the museum, the idea is captivating, and so completely believable I feel as though I should be able to walk through its doors. The Museum of Broken Promises is for a me a must-read, I’ve chosen it as one of our star books, and one of my picks of the month, it is quite simply, glorious.
A captivating, amusing, yet provocative novel set in the Scottish Highlands. If you have read a book by John D. Burns before, it is likely to have been one or both of his memoirs, The Last Hillwalker and Bothy Tales. The author has spent much of his life walking and climbing in the mountains, here he turns his hand to fiction, and ponders the future of the landscape he so loves. We enter what could be called a battle, between environmental protesters and landowners, with the two main characters seasoned hillwalkers. From winter (much beloved by our author), turning through the seasons back to winter again, we spend time on a fictional island in the Scottish Highlands. Using his knowledge, his passion for our wild places John D. Burns has written an engaging and satisfying read. I actually recommend starting with his memoir The Last Hillwalker, as it really sets the scene, and you can appreciate the experience and love that has gone into Sky Dance.
A hard-hitting punch of a crime thriller is waiting to be discovered, but also within the pages lies a provocative and emotionally stunning read too. This debut was the winner of the 2018 Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and believe me, I can completely understand why. Lelle has been driving the silver road looking for his missing daughter for three years, his endless search consumes his very being. Within the first page I knew I had fallen in love with the writing, which is exquisitely translated. The words connected with my very being, I could feel the words, look around me and see my surroundings. Stina Jackson balances the dark and light quite beautifully, while tense and foreboding, there is also a silvery thread of hope to be found that thrums gently in the background. The cover of The Silver Road beckons, it leads to a read that emotionally connects, opens feelings and allows access to thoughts. Oh, and that ending… the ending sent goosebumps shivering down my arms. A highly recommended read indeed and one of my picks of the month.
Gosh, this is an absolute treat of a debut novel, so different, so compelling, so fabulously readable! Circling a past that isn’t actually that long ago, the Cold War battle between the USA and USSR intertwines with the background tale to the novel that became Doctor Zhivago. The prologue wonderfully and thoroughly sets the scene. The story spins and spins again, and as several tales are told from different perspectives, we hear from an unknown voice in the typing pool, from a muse, from a carrier… Women take centre stage, even when in a supportive role. Lara Prescott kept my attention as taut as razor wire throughout, the words ganging up to give my thoughts little shoves. I have been left with a thirst for more information about the history of this time, yet thoroughly satisfied by the tale on offer. The Secrets We Kept is many things, spy story, love story, cold war story, it is also an eloquent, surprising read and highly recommended.
This is such a special read, not only different, it is also so incredibly moreish and readable. I picked Louis and Louise up and didn’t put it down until I had turned the final page. I’m not often stuck for words on how to describe a fabulously gorgeous book, but this might just be one of those times when I don’t quite do it justice! Julie Cohen has created a fascinating premise, with one life, lived as both Louis and Louise, not separately but concurrently. I wanted to read this novel, almost before I had even heard of it! Starting in 1978 Louis and Louise are born in Maine, from birth we see them grow, their friends and family surrounding and a part of them. Julie Cohen writes so beautifully, what may sound complicated, actually just flows. Picture a fascinating DNA like strand, twisting beautifully together, creating one story from two, or two stories from one… yet it isn’t separate, it is one cohesive whole. Louis and Louise has an edge, a beautiful, sharp, provocative edge, I absolutely adored it and have picked it as both a Liz Robinson pick of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Ellwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Ellwood was “intelligent and hardworking and a credit to his race”, and driven by the wisdom of Martin Luther King: “We must believe in our souls that we are somebody, that we are significant, that we are worthful, and we must walk the streets of life every day with this sense of dignity.” At high school - where the books were defaced by racist slurs written by white students who knew where their old books were headed - Ellwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Ellwood never got to go. One mistake sees him sent to Nickel Academy where he’s “swiftly appalled” by the low level of education. “I am stuck here, but I’ll make the best of it,” he resolves, invoking Dr King for strength. It’s not long before Ellwood realises that rather than being a place that seeks to transform boys into “honorable and honest men”, the school is fuelled by violent abuse - “Nickel was racist as hell - half the people who worked here probably dressed up like the Klan on weekends” - and many kids disappear from this horrendous environment. While Elwood grasps onto Dr King’s “Do to us what you will and we will still love you” mantra, his friend Turner subscribes to the notion that survival is dependent on them adopting their tyrants’ cruelties. Like Ellwood himself, this novel has a steady, direct tone, underpinned by resolve and dignity in the face of inhumane abuse. Traversing timeframes, and with a stop-you-in-your-tracks ending, this stunning book from the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad exposes oft-hidden historical horrors with poised humanity, and shows-up the ricocheting, inter-generational resonance of institutional racism and abuse.
Staring unflinchingly into the abyss of slavery, this spellbinding novel transforms history into a story as powerful as Exodus and as intimate as a lullaby. Sethe, its protagonist, was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but 18 years later she is still not free. She has too many memories of Sweet Home, the beautiful farm where so many hideous things happened. And Sethe's new home is haunted by the ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Filled with bitter poetry and suspense as taut as a rope, Beloved is a towering achievement.
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.
Fresh and different, yet age-old and wise, this searing novel explores all the emotions summed up by the term grief. Rose Gregory has been prescribed rest after a double bereavement, the retreat she attends at a Monastery is not the peaceful embrace she was hoping for. Grief is a highly personal reaction to loss, yet the writing opened up and allowed me entry. Sylvia Colley notes the small details that matter, that enabled me to see, to feel, to almost touch her descriptions. It feels as though the author has an inner connection to, and full awareness of what it is to feel grief. As Rose looks backwards, and surfs memories from her childhood on, she actually travels forward, and I was with her every step of the way. Ask Me to Dance is a touching, beautiful novel that wrapped itself into and around my thoughts.
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.