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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!
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.