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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.
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.
So beautifully written, the chills prowl with unexpected menace to climb inside your thoughts, to lurk and provoke. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died at the age of 5, Juliette, convinced that her son is still in the house turns to a group of occultists, while Richard searches for the remains of a hangman’s oak tree opposite their home Starve Acre. Andrew Michael Hurley doesn’t waste a single word, each forms a web to create a picture as he captures the essence of a thought or thing. As the story grows, as the oak planted itself in my minds eye, the unsettling force of grief came to settle over everything. I sank into this tale and couldn’t leave, reading from the deep, dark and incredibly soulful first page through to the startling last in one heady afternoon. Folklore gathers in the background, grief preys on the unsuspecting, and a compelling story unfolds. Highly recommended, I have chosen Starve Acre as one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
I haven't read all 24 stories from The Canterbury Tales, however I did study a number at A Level, and all these years later they are still with me. I initially marched over the words, puzzled the meaning, took the structure apart, but, but… Then the moment arrived when it all became clear! I actually saw five of the tales performed in a play using traditional language and a vivid, vibrant clarity appeared and gave meaning. From then on I would read the stories out loud and I could understand the pattern, the feel, the thoughts, the greed, corruption and saucy moments. These are wondrous tales, let yourself fall into them as they come to life in a way that could well open your eyes, they certainly opened mine. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
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. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
November 2012 Guest Editor Kate Mosse on Wuthering Heights... Powerful and elegiac, a novel of drama, passion and compelling characterisation. Most exceptional of all, though, the brilliance of Bronte’s descriptions of landscape and light on the Yorkshire Moors has had a major influence on my writing about southwest France.
35 years after the release of The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood takes us back to Gilead. Following three characters we are introduced to perspectives outside of those of the Handmaids. This is a terrific book that rounds out Gilead and tells of its downfall as opposed to being a direct sequel. A perfect book for anyone who wants to learn more about this restrictive, dystopian regime and for anyone who wants the questions they had at the end of The Handmaid's Tale answered.
At once sweeping and intricate, this dazzling second novel by the author of Booker-shortlisted The Fishermen is stage-managed by an enthralling mythic narrative voice, an Igbo spirit whose physical host is our main protagonist, Chinonso. Chinonso and Ndali are fated from their first encounter when he persuades her not to throw herself to her death. They meet again and fall passionately in love but coming from wildly different worlds - he a chicken farmer, she wealthy and highly educated - their relationship is slammed by Ndali’s powerful family. Though humiliated by them, and advised by his uncle and friends to forget this apparently impossible love, Chinonso persists, taking monumental steps to improve his chance of being accepted as a suitable husband for Ndali. Far away, in an unfamiliar land, he’s faced with the despair of betrayal, then offered a fortifying hand of hope, “the rope that pulls a drowning man out of the deep sea and hauls him on to the deck of a boat”. Excruciatingly, though, he’s never far from the battering blows of fate. Brutally tragic, this raw and rich tale tells of the all-consuming nature of love, the perilous rising ripples of revenge and desperation, and the cost of holding on. It’s an acutely affecting storytelling masterwork. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
When Levi and Charlotte McAllister’s mother dies, she suffers the post-death fate experienced by many a McAllister woman. After cremation, she re-appears and bursts into flame on the lawn. Fearing his sister is headed for the same end, Levi swears to “bury her whole and still and cold”, which prompts Charlotte to flee southward “towards the bottom of the earth”. What follows is a cleverly twisting story that crackles with intrigue and invention as the lives of an assortment of compelling characters collide. There’s the wildly eccentric coffin maker Levi commissions to make Charlotte’s casket, and the hard-drinking female detective he employs to track her down. There’s the wombat-farmer slipping into insanity, and the young woman who works for him and changes Charlotte’s life. Raw and real, yet also suffused in otherworldly magic, the author has conjured an elemental mythological landscape alongside the true-world Tasmanian setting. I raced through these blistering pages, but this is a book I shall undoubtedly return to.
Sparked by the author’s reading about a real reform school in Florida, this deeply affecting novel centres around the unforgettable Elwood Curtis. “Raised strict” by his grandmother, Elwood 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 - Elwood thrives under a teacher who lets him know of an opportunity to go to the local black college. But Elwood 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 Elwood 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 Elwood 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.
If you have watched the film, then forget all you know! For me, the film came first, then I read the book and the two are as different as different could be. This is actually the second book in the Leatherstocking Tales written by Cooper. Just one piece of advice, remember that The Last of the Mohicans was written in 1826, and set some 75 years before that, so there are parts that will likely make you squirm. This is a trip into the past and all that goes with the mindset of those times. Having said that, I find this book endlessly fascinating and yes, I would recommend it. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
This unique, incisive novel is an emotionally engrossing road-trip reinvention of Moby Dick with female characters, and a gripping mystery about what main protagonist Dinah is running from to find her place to call home. Seventeen-year-old Dinah has lived her whole life on a commune and now feels compelled to flee everything she’s ever known. After being home-schooled, a recent period in mainstream schooling has turned her world upside-down, as has turbulent upheavals at home, and then there’s the mystery of what happened between Dinah and new friend Queenie. She shaves off her hair, adopts a new name and flees, illegally driving a VW campervan (her version of Moby Dick’s Pequod ship) with a cantankerous one-legged neighbour for company. While driving, Dinah confronts her many demons, most of which stem from her confusing sense of identity. She’s mixed race, but feels neither black nor white, and she’s attracted to boys and girls. The road is bumpy, with many revelations and confrontations along the way. Eventually, though, Dinah realises that “the road that took you away has led you all the way back home”. This is a smartly-crafted novel with real resonance, a story that honestly and empathetically imparts an uplifting message to “Always be yourself first…find yourself and be yourself”. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A very special and beautiful read that left my heart full of feelings. When she was young, Mona’s Dadda told her there was a trick to time, as she revisits the past can she reshape her future? Having fallen in love with Kit de Waal’s first novel My Name is Leon (do read it, it’s simply gorgeous), I just had to get myself a copy of The Trick to Time. I thought I would read a crafty few chapters before going out, however the words caught me to them and held on. I completely forgot I was meant to be leaving and was just a little late! I adore Kit de Waal’s writing, it reaches inside, to hidden depths of awareness I wasn’t even sure existed, and nudges them awake. She has a gift with words, seemingly simple, building thoughts and feelings until they develop into a heartfelt, vividly intense moving picture. As Mona visits the past, lives in the present, and looks to the future I found myself alongside her every step of the way. The Trick to Time is a book I will keep close to hand to reread again and again, and I imagine that I will discover a slightly different version each time I step inside the pages. Highly recommended, I have chosen it as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.