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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.
An affectionate, heartfelt, uplifting novel about the wonders of friendship and having a dream. Spend a full day at the 24-hour Cafe in London, meet the staff, and the customers too, sit for a while, observe, enjoy. I adored Libby Page’s first novel The Lido, rest assured this is equally as gorgeous, and a truly lovely, lovely read. The story unfolds beautifully, starting at midnight we meet Hannah and Mona, friends, flatmates, and waitresses who will be working double shifts to cover the 24 hours. Stella’s cafe is a little community in its own right, small stories are contained within, with perfectly observed characters entering and exiting the cafe. I felt so invested in all of them, yet it is the two waiting staff who really touched me. As Hannah’s shift comes to an end and Mona’s starts, this simple, yet full and rich story opens up and flies. The 24-Hour Cafe is full of compassion and warmth, yet it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of life. It has been chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month because it celebrates friendship and dreams in the best possible way.
An incredibly engaging, fascinating, and rather beautiful read, this book will stay with me for some time. A couple seek refuge after the Spanish Civil War and end up in Chile, where years later they again face exile. Covering the period from 1938 through to 1994, this is a story that crosses continents, examines topics such as fascism, war, and migration, yet is as intimate as intimate can be. I entered and thought no more about the fact that this was translated from Spanish by Nick Caister and Amanda Hopkinson, it is so clearly, simply, and fabulously done. Within the first few pages there were tears in my eyes. I couldn’t stop reading, thoughtful and sensitive, yet not afraid to focus on unbearable sorrow, this feels as though it could be a biography. As Isabelle Allende explains in the acknowledgments, while this is a novel, with fictional characters (though based on people she has known), the historical events and people are real. She says: “This book wrote itself, as if it had been dictated to me” and I truly felt that. A Long Petal of the Sea opened my eyes and my heart, and has left me wanting to know more. Coming as highly recommended by me, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book.
This intelligent, beautifully eloquent and powerful crime novel thoroughly provoked my feelings, and still remains in my thoughts. Mickey Fitzpatrick is a police officer patrolling the area she grew up in. Kensington in Philadelphia is known for drugs and sex workers, when a killer arrives on the streets, Mickey prays that her little sister doesn’t become a victim. The author Liz Moore has an intimate knowledge of the real Kensington, she has interviewed the people drawn there by drugs, written non fiction, and completed community work, she obviously cares a great deal for this neighbourhood and its people. Her novel set in Kensington has been a long time in the coming, she wanted to: “do this world justice”, to: “fairly represent”. As I started to read, the ‘list’ stopped me in my tracks, I read it again, pondered, and then moved on to the first two pages which hit my mind with a wallop and gave it a good shake. Mickey narrates her story, she is so clear, sharp, on point, and I could see, feel, taste her words. Kensington, Mickey and her family flooded my mind in short, fierce, expressive chapters of ‘then’ and ‘now’. I felt a connection to emotions, to this story, it truly spoke to me. I feel this novel will be one that I regularly return to, and I’ll take away something a little different each time. Long Bright River is a stunning read, it aches with poignant, vivid intensity and I absolutely loved it. There is no other option for me, than to choose it as a LoveReading Star Book, and a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month.
A lovely, heartfelt, oh so readable and occasionally quirky story containing huge empathy and thoughtfulness. Two teenagers, refugees without their parents, set off from Syria in the hopes of reaching the UK. I am a huge fan of Gavin Extence, as he has the ability to write with an incredibly light touch while exploring hugely provocative topics. His books often contain a waft of magic, not hocus pocus exactly, but something that makes you stop and think. The story here is told by 19-year-old Zain, older brother to 14-year-old Mohammed, and we meet them as they begin the swim from Turkey to Greece. Simply told, the words hit my thoughts with hammer-hard intensity, and yet there were smiles on hand too. There is a gentle compassion to be found in Zain, and as I read, I took him, and his football-loving brother to my heart. All I will say about the third absolutely fabulous character in this tale is that I won’t forget him! ‘The End of Time’ doesn’t preach, it lets you discover thoughts and feelings for yourself, it just exists, as it is, as the most wonderfully compelling and beautiful story. I have chosen ‘The End of Time’ as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month - it has a massive tick in the 'fabulous read' box from me. Gavin Extence is our author in the picture for July 2019, do take a look at the photos he chose in answer to our questions. Read our Putting Authors in the Picture blog post with Gavin.
If books were friends (and more than a few are) then I feel as though I have met the most wonderfully quirky forever friend. Gravity is the Thing is a complete joy of a book, and one that refuses to be pigeonholed into a genre. Abi, a Sydney cafe owner, has been invited to attend a retreat to learn the truth about ‘The Guidebook’, chapters have been arriving since she was a teen, and have kept her company in the darkest of times. The book floats between 1990 and 2010, and as Abi opens up her life, she revisits, examines, and searches for answers. Jaclyn Moriarty writes with the most beautiful eloquence, sharp pointed observations sit alongside the tightest of warm hugs. I wanted to meander, to wander, to eke out my reading time, and yet hoover up the words and the feelings they created in one heady go. I contemplated loss and grief, I smiled, laughed, and believed… oh how I believed! Gravity is the Thing is different (in the best possible way), and I predict that this will be one of my favourite books of the year. So, as well as being one of our Books of the Month, it has also been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book. It really is that gorgeous!
Well, this is one seriously addictive and fabulous read. Now that I have finished I feel bereft, exhilarated, and have one humdinger of a book hangover. Set in London, it is 1863 and private detective Bridie Devine is on the case of a stolen child. The prologue hooked me as surely as a fish on a line, I gaped, wondered, and leaned in for more. Descriptions opened with vivid intensity in my mind, creating the most glorious views. There is something about Jess Kidd’s writing that speaks directly to my soul, she knows how to lull, tickle, burn. She created a stinging tension, on a number of occasions leaving me hanging while popping into the past. I have to say that Bridie Devine is one of the most fabulous characters I’ve come across. She has taken up a somewhat boisterous lodging in my mind and she’s more than welcome! Information swirled around, making my thoughts whirl, adding to the torrent that I knew was surely coming. And oh, that ending! Things in Jars is a Victorian detective story with a difference, it crosses genres and set light to my imagination. It has been added to my list of favourite books. Bridie Devine to my list of favourite detectives. Jess Kidd has been confirmed on my list of favourite authors. Things in Jars is LoveReading Star Book, Book of the Month, and Liz Robinson Pick of the Month… Need I say more?
Thirty-year-old Shalini has lived a privileged life, but one beset by uncertainty. She was her erratic mother’s “little beast” and is struggling to come to terms with her tragic death. Adrift from work and the wider world, Shalini journeys to find Bashir, a travelling salesman she and her mother befriended through her childhood, tentatively hoping this will provide some understanding of her mother’s death. As Shalini’s journey unfolds in the present, a second narrative reveals her past with raw poignancy. On the road, Shalini’s faltering need to belong somewhere is revealed through her romantic imaginings of being part of a stranger’s family. And then, in Bashir’s remote Himalayan village, she becomes caught in a complex political situation, with the tangled conflict between her heart and conscience made powerfully palpable. While she feels “I had chosen this place, these people, this life, with its secrets and its violence, it’s hardness and its beauty”, Shalini recognises that she’s thrown Bashir’s family “into disarray with my invasion and my probing questions”. The writing is so exquisitely magnetic that I struggled to draw myself away from it, especially as Shalini’s story rose to an unexpected, pulse-quickening climax. This is the rare kind of novel that lingers long in the heart and mind, like a dream one feels compelled to return to.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
A different, emotionally beautiful and rewarding debut about love, hope, and all the strange little things that come together to make up a family. Augusta and Parfait, born on different continents into different worlds, both want to leave everything behind but does that ever solve anything? What a first sentence! Those few words stayed with me throughout the entire book, sitting, waiting, every now and then tapping me on the shoulder to say hello. I so love how this story unfolds, two separate tales, are they on a collision course or destined to remain forever apart? Joanna Glen has set intricate strands from the past coiling and twisting together through to the present to create a feeling of tension and mystery. While undeniably and wonderfully quirky, there is a real sense of warmth here, even when your heart may feel as though it is about to crack in two. As I read I found myself filling up with love for The Other Half of Augusta Hope. It has been chosen as a Debut of the Month and a LoveReading Star Book too, as it really is that gorgeous!
A blistering, satirical novel about life under a global media corporation that knows exactly what we think, what we want, and what we do - before we do. Self-anointed guru of the Digital Age, Guy Matthias, has become one of the world's most powerful and influential figures. Untaxed and ungoverned, his company 'Beetle' essentially operates beyond the control of Governments or the law. But trouble is never far away, and for Guy a perfect storm is brewing: his wife wants to leave him; malfunctioning Beetle software has led to some unfortunate deaths which are proving hard to cover up and a mystery hacker, Gogol, is on his trail. With the clock ticking- Guy, his aide Douglas Varley, conflicted national security agent Eloise Jayne, depressed journalist David Strachey, and Gogol, whoever that may be - the question is becoming ever more pressing, how do you live in reality when nobody knows anything, and all knowledge, all certainty, is partly or entirely fake?
Distorted Days looks at what happens after one of the worst events of your life takes place. Doris, Andy and Colleen all play a main role in this book as they come into each other's lives and discover the true value of friendship. I liked this book, it was a simple, short read that is perfect for enjoying over a weekend. I read this book in two sittings, interested to know how each of the characters' issues were going to be resolved. I found the characters endearing and, as you discover more about them, more complex. I would love to know more about Coleen's backstory, perhaps there's potential for another book? Initially, I struggled with the change of perspective between characters mid-chapter and I would have liked a bit more separation between the narratives to start with, then merging as the stories become more intertwined. I also found the repetition for Doris' drinking a bit unusual, I understand the feeling of falling back down the rabbit hole the author was trying to provoke but I think it was maybe a bit too big of a section to repeat, however with the connection made by her ex-husband at the end I do understand its relevance. In all, I think that Distorted Days is an enjoyable book for those who loved Three Things About Elsie, and Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine and similar style narratives. I'd be interested in reading Louise's second novel, out May 2020. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
An interesting opening to a story about a young woman looking for happiness. This book starts in a therapy style setting and Chloe is asked to recall her life, a job more easily done in the third person. Thus begins an introduction to Chloe's story. Chloe's early life was fraught, with serious illness and the after-effects including jealousy displayed by her elder sister. This book only tells part of the story, taking you from Chloe's early life to university. Her faith is tested throughout, and although she seemingly makes lots of friends, finding love proves a struggle. I admired Chloe's determination and strong will - she displays confidence in speaking up for herself against elders, dealing with the reaction of her father to her faith and her struggles and enduring perseverance with her studies. She Smiled leaves the door open for the reader to continue Chole's story in the sequel, She Smiled: Broken Yet. Time will tell whether Chloe will be able to finally feel "refreshed" and have everything fall into place for her. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
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.