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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.
Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2013. The new novel from the author of The Finkler Question, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2010. Zoo Time is a novel about love - love of women, love of literature and love of laughter.
The new novel from the author of The Finkler Question, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2010. Zoo Time is a novel about love - love of women, love of literature and love of laughter.
A major new novel about a gypsy woman exiled for betraying her people, from the prize-winning author of DANCER
We were first introduced to the young Calvin Becker on holiday in Italy in Portofino where lust and longing clashed with his religious upbringing in one of the most delightful novels Iâd read for a long time. Iâve had to wait eight years for the boy to reappear only a couple of years older and on holiday again. His family seem more zealously religious than ever and Calvin, bless him, more lusty, but still innocent at 14. Donât read this if you are a little pious as the church does come in for a bit of a bashing but do read it if you want a perfect gem of a rites-of-passage comedy. I truly loved it.Comparison: John Harding, Nick Hornby, David Nicholls.Similar this month: Matt Beaumont, Jim Keeble.
This is Helen Dunmore’s first novel and although some of her later novels have been more widely read and more obvious commercial bestsellers, this one is an outstanding piece of writing that will truly stand the test of time. During World War I, D.H. Lawrence and his wife moved to Cornwall where they became the subject of intense suspicion from the locals and this forms the inspiration for the novel centering on Clare, a young girl who comes under the influence of the Lawrences. Dunmore is superb at evoking characters from the past and yet making you feel relaxed in their company and the situations these characters are found in are captured perfectly as well.
Ghost. Ape. Living dead. Young and albino, Chipo has been called many things, but to her mother - Zimbabwe's most loyal Manchester United supporter - she had always been a gift. On the eve of the World Cup, Chipo and her brother flee to Cape Town, hoping for a better life and to share in the excitement of the greatest sporting event ever to take place in Africa. But the Mother City's infamous Long Street is a dangerous place for an illegal immigrant and an albino. Soon Chipo is caught up in a get-rich-quick scheme organised by her brother and the terrifying Dr Ongani. Exploiting gamblers' superstitions about albinism, they plan to make money and get out of the city before rumours of looming xenophobic attacks become a reality. But their scheming has devastating consequences. Set in the underbelly of a pulsating Cape Town, Meg Vandermerwe's Zebra Crossing is an arresting debut and a bold, lyrical imagining of what it's like to live in another person's skin.
August 2010 Guest Editor Veronica Henry on Zazie in the Metro... As a teenager I went through a horribly pretentious phase of reading existential literature. A lot of it was heavy going but not this, by Dadaist Raymond Queaneau. The story of a little girl who goes to say with her flamboyant uncle in Paris, the wordplay, even in translation, is phenomenal.
The novelisation of Youth (La Giovinezza) - an original film by Paolo Sorrentino, starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz. In a luxury spa hotel in the Swiss Alps, octogenarian friends Fred Ballinger and Mick Boyle look back on their eventful and successful lives as composer and film director, surrounded by a host of colourful and eccentric fellow guests, ranging from a South American football legend to a famous Californian actor and a reigning Miss Universe. Ballinger is there simply to enjoy his retirement, while Boyle is working with five scriptwriters on his last film, which he hopes will be his masterpiece... Click below to view the trailer for the film adaptation of this book which opens in the UK on January 29 2016.
Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2010. Set in a Finnish sanatorium where women retreat with problems real and imaginary this debut is dark, claustrophobic, tense and menacing. A dramatic and brilliantly told story but not one to try if you are looking for a light hearted read.
As the summer ends the autumn mist begins to roll off the water towards Simone’s home, a chilling metaphor for the turn of events which are about to engulf her life. This is a story about relationships and blackmail, past and present lives, intertwined in a haunting, intense thriller. Do not expect the fast pace of a “whodunit” though, this is a novel which slowly and eerily unravels almost as if we are watching in slow motion as each moment effects the next.
Winner of the 2014 Guardian First Book Award. Winner of the 2014 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. This magnificent collection takes us to Glanbeigh, a small town in rural Ireland - a town in which the youth have the run of the place. Colin Barrett's debut does not take us to Glanbeigh alone; there are other towns, and older characters. But each story is defined by a youth lived in a crucible of menace and desire - and each crackles with the uniform energy and force that distinguish this terrific collection.
Winner of the 2014 Guardian First Book Award. Boy racers speed down the back lanes; couples haunt the midnight woods; young skins huddle in the cold once. The Peacock has closed its doors. Here the young live hard and wear the scars. It matters whose sister you were seen with. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, it matters a very great deal.
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.