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This is where you will find stunning books from literary masters past and present. Literary fiction doesn’t just mean good or valued, as brilliant writing can be found in any genre. These are serious stories with high artistic qualities that strike at the heart of what it is to be human.
An extraordinarily readable and fascinating exploration of ourselves, of what it is to be human. This is a novel that feels completely unique, it is also one that made me consider, ponder, wonder. Open the pages and discover our Earth, yet different, it is 1990 and a British Police Inspector is called to investigate the killings of a species in the Delta, South America. I started to read and was immediately taken away from everything I knew, or thought I knew. Chris Beckett has created a world that is at once distinctively familiar and peculiar, the otherworldly aspect encouraged my thoughts to travel in unexpected directions while I viewed human interaction playing out in typical fashion. Police officer Ben is full of shade and contrast, I found the different strands that knitted and weaved together as the different characters came into play so intriuging. There is a subtlety at play here, the descriptive detail is beautiful, if a little unsettling at times, and I felt I was being allowed to discover the Delta at my own pace. ‘Beneath The World, A Sea’ is different, it is so different that I am still thinking about it, it stirred up feelings and has left them whirling.
Wakenhyrst is a glorious darkly gothic feast of a read, and I really had no option other than to choose it as one of my picks of the month. Folklore and superstition are bound up in the Fens, Maud Steame has grown up there, surrounded by gossip, rumours and terrible secrets, will releasing her story set her free? Michelle Paver excels in quietly setting fear loose and disquiet scurrying free. Simply and beautifully descriptive, words leave the page and settle together to gradually create an entire picture. I found myself hooked, then completely snared as Maud’s life unfolds over 60 years revealing the very essence of her being. I feel deeply connected to Maud, and she continues to exist in my thoughts. Wakenhyrst is a fascinating, deeply emotional, and surprisingly beautiful read, I highly recommend stepping inside and setting your feelings free to explore.
A formally innovative work of modernist fiction, Virginia Woolf's The Waves is edited with an introduction by Kate Flint in Penguin Modern Classics. More than any of Virginia Woolf's other novels, The Waves conveys the full complexity and richness of human experience. Tracing the lives of a group of friends, The Waves follows their development from childhood to youth and middle age. While social events, individual achievements and disappointments form its narrative, the novel is most remarkable for the rich poetic language that expresses the inner life of its characters: their aspirations, their triumphs and regrets, their awareness of unity and isolation. Separately and together, they query the relationship of past to present, and the meaning of life itself. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) is regarded as a major 20th century author and essayist, a key figure in literary history as a feminist and modernist, and the centre of 'The Bloomsbury Group'. This informal collective of artists and writers, which included Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry, exerted a powerful influence over early twentieth-century British culture. Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to the poetic and highly experimental novel The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography, including the playfully subversive Orlando (1928) and A Room of One's Own (1929) a passionate feminist essay. If you enjoyed The Waves, you might like Woolf's Mrs Dalloway, also available in Penguin Classics. 'A book of great beauty and a prose poem of genius' Stephen Spender 'Full of sensuous touches ... the sounds of her words can be velvet on the page' Maggie Gee, Daily Telegraph
From the award-winning poet and playwright behind Barber Shop Chronicles, The Half-God of Rainfall is an epic story and a lyrical exploration of pride, power and female revenge. There is something about Demi. When this boy is angry, rain clouds gather. When he cries, rivers burst their banks and the first time he takes a shot on a basketball court, the deities of the land take note. His mother, Modupe, looks on with a mixture of pride and worry. From close encounters, she knows Gods often act like men: the same fragile egos, the same unpredictable fury and the same sense of entitlement to the bodies of mortals. She will sacrifice everything to protect her son, but she knows the Gods will one day tire of sports fans, their fickle allegiances and misdirected prayers. When that moment comes, it won’t matter how special he is. Only the women in Demi’s life, the mothers, daughters and Goddesses, will stand between him and a lightning bolt.
This haunting tale of a child’s faltering navigation of her poverty-stricken upbringing in rural Australia crackles with grit, beauty and poignant truths of the human heart. The world is a bleak and bewildering place for Justine. Born “back to front”, she also sees words the wrong way round. “My words were breech like me. Every year finished and I never caught up.” Abandoned by her mother and with her unhinged, unreliable father largely absent, she lives in poverty with her war-traumatised grandfather, Pop. While Justine is isolated and neglected, she experiences some of life’s joys though her friendship with Michael, a bright spark of a boy who’s written off for his disabilities and cruelly known to his classmates as “spastic elastic”. Theirs is a truly life-affirming relationship, a beautiful bond built on understanding and kindness in Justine’s otherwise brutal world. Then there’s fellow outsider Aunty Rita, who lives in the city but offers Justine a helping hand, inviting her to call whenever she needs to, though Justine can’t decipher Rita’s phone numbers – Justine’s moments of light are typically quick to fade and flicker out. Emotionally isolated and disoriented by the dysfunctional adults in her life, Justine’s voice is acutely involving, her naïve perspective poignant with real-life rawness. What a feat of suspenseful and tautly lyrical storytelling this is, a moving story that ends on a note of bittersweet hope.
'An unapologetic novel of ideas which is also wise, funny and paced like a thriller' Observer The magnificent new novel by bestselling award-winning Kate Atkinson In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever. Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence. Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of this country's most exceptional writers. 'How vehemently most novelists will wish to produce a masterpiece as good' Telegraph
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2019 Lucy has been writing her dissertation for nine years when she and her boyfriend have a dramatic break-up. After she hits rock bottom, her sister in Los Angeles insists that Lucy dog-sit for the summer. Staying in a gorgeous house on Venice Beach, Lucy can find little relief from her anxiety - not in the Greek chorus of women in her love addiction therapy group, not in her frequent Tinder excursions, not even in Dominic the dog's easy affection. Everything changes when she becomes entranced by an eerily attractive swimmer while sitting alone on the beach rocks one night. But when Lucy learns the truth about his identity, their relationship, and Lucy's understanding of what love should look like, take a very unexpected turn.
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2019 Exploring themes of ownership and abandonment, Eleanor Anstruther's bestselling debut is a fictionalised account of the true story of Enid Campbell (1892-1964), granddaughter of the 8th Duke of Argyll. Interweaving one significant day in 1964 with a decade during the interwar period, A Perfect Explanation gets to the heart of what it is to be bound by gender, heritage and tradition, to fight, to lose, to fight again. In a world of privilege, truth remains the same; there are no heroes and villains, only people misunderstood. Here, in the pages of this extraordinary book where the unspoken is conveyed with vivid simplicity, lies a story that will leave you reeling.
At once lyrical and sparse, intimate and expansive, delicate and sharp, this collection is the final work of a late, great writer who understood and articulated the subtle complexities of the human heart in each of her novels, poems and stories. The themes here will be familiar to Dunmore aficionados – friendship, family, folk at life’s liminal junctures. Take Nina, whose tales portray a young woman teetering into a new phase of life. She’s a naïve and lonely seventeen-year-old living in a drab bedsit, unsure of what to do, but making do and on the brink - one hopes - of finding her place in the world. Indeed, many of these stories explore life’s big transitions, and how individuals live with such precariousness, as in “A Night Out”, a life-affirming tale of two widows’ unforeseen unity beneath the stars. There’s much tenderness too, characters who awaken affection, a personal favourite being glorious Auntie Binnie, an unassuming companion to an old lady who blooms as an artist later in life (“Portrait of Auntie Binbag, with Ribbons”). While Dunmore’s devotees will adore this treasure, I’d also recommend it wholeheartedly as an introduction to her exquisite writing.
Unusual, stunning, stinging, a book to fall into, to flinch from, to be carried away by. When Bonnie and her family seek sanctuary in a cliff-top house, she meets Dominic who hides away in plain sight, both hurting and seeking a release, their lives collide. It took me a few pages to adjust to, and fall into sync with the glorious writing style, which felt as though it bypassed the page and instead reached straight into my mind. Fiona Vigo Marshall has the ability to describe things so richly and beautifully that sometimes it isn't immediately obvious that the subject itself isn't necessarily beautiful. The raw and elemental style, when linking with the lyrical descriptions allowed me to feel, really feel the words as they met inside me. Things that aren’t immediately obvious become obvious, so take patience by the hand, allow the story to wander at its own pace, release yourself to the exploration, and let the feelings created settle before moving on. ‘Find Me Falling’ is an emotional read, and while sometimes uncomfortable, is most definitely a reading journey worth taking, I loved it!
Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Bring a timeless treasure from Mark Twain to another generation. Miffed about being made to whitewash the fence on a Sunday morning, Tom Sawyer tricks his friend to do the work for him, while he sits on the pavement, happily munching an apple. So begins the series of Tom's adventures and misadventures. Orphaned and staying with his Aunt Polly, the mischievous Tom manages to create quite a stir in the small village. He runs away to an uninhabited island, falls in love, digs up treasure, and saves an innocent man. The book will take older children through a journey of evolving friendships, budding romance, and thrilling adventures. European English spelling/language conventions