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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.
20th Anniversary Edition When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household. At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2019. A powerful, well-researched, fictional account exploring the trokosi tradition for the curious and the open-minded, from the award-winning author of The Book of Harlan. Abeo Kata lives a comfortable, happy life in West Africa as the privileged nine-year-old daughter of a government employee and stay-at-home mother. But when the Katas' idyllic lifestyle takes a turn for the worse, Abeo's father, following his mother's advice, places her in a religious shrine, hoping that the sacrifice of his daughter will serve as religious atonement for the crimes of his ancestors. Unspeakable acts befall Abeo for the fifteen years she is enslaved within the shrine. When she is finally rescued, broken and battered, she must struggle to overcome her past, endure the revelation of family secrets, and learn to trust and love again. In our global political landscape where children are treated as justifiable casualties in the struggle for power, Praise Song for the Butterflies is an unflinching tale of the devastation children are subject to when adults are ruled by fear and someone must pay the consequences. Spanning decades and two continents, this exquisite novel will break and heal your heart.
A gorgeous new edition of a playful, romantic fable by one of the twentieth century's master storytellers. From the age of twelve, the Baron Cosimo Piovasco di Rondo makes his home among ash, elm, magnolia, plum and almond, living up in the trees. He walks through paths made from the twisted branches of olive, makes his bed in a holly oak, bathes in a fountain constructed from poplar bark. An aerial library holds the books with which he educates himself in philosophy and mathematics. Suspended among the leaves, the Baron adventures with bandits and pirates, conducts a passionate love affair, and watches the Age of Enlightenment pass by beneath him.
An absolutely exquisite moment in reading time, and one to cherish. Concentrating on Leo and Lottie, from the world at war in 1916 to survival beyond, this is the last in the ‘West Country Trilogy’, however, The Redeemed can easily be read as standalone as I’ve stepped straight into the final book and adored it. I will admit that I do desperately want to read the first two now, and believe I will be able to do so without feeling as though I have missed out on the reading journey. Tim Pears writes with wonderful clarity, small details create a fully painted picture, every word matters and is perfectly placed. Life on board the battlecruiser came to stark realistic life while back in the West Country the farming community committed to the cycle of life. Leo and Lottie live in their moment, in their time, yet their story feels gracefully ageless and everlasting. With joy and heartache waiting to be discovered The Redeemed is an eloquent, gorgeous and fully satisfying read, it is quite simply, beautiful.
Doris lives a lonely life in Stockholm, her only human contact coming from daily carer visits and weekly Skype calls with her beloved grandniece Jenny, who lives in America. Since being given an address book by her dad as a child, Doris has kept a record of her life, noting all the people she’s loved, and all those she’s lost with “DEAD” written against their name. A smart dual narrative lays bare fascinating details of Doris’s life as she writes stories about her past for Jenny, with poignant developments also playing out in the present day narrative. We follow Doris as she’s sent to work for a wealthy Frenchwoman at the age of thirteen, a job that sets her on a path of exploration that continues through her life – modeling in Paris, meeting the love of her life, the outbreak of WWII, a reunion with her younger sister, a flight to America. Doris’s complex, rich life sees her crisscross the Atlantic, following her heart, experiencing near misses, loves lost, and loves re-found. When Doris is hospitalised, her life seems on the verge of crashing in both narratives, as Jenny makes her own journey across the Atlantic to be with the aunt she so loves. The novel’s beautiful ending makes the soul sing, the heart swell and the tears fall, and so I shall leave the last word to Doris: “Don’t be afraid of life, Jenny. Live. Help yourself. Laugh. Life isn’t here to entertain; you have to entertain life. Seize opportunities whenever they come along, and make something good out of them.”
Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2019 Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life in a society. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness. When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and whom he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters - leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make. Claire Adam’s devastating first novel compassionately brings to life different ways of experiencing the world. Like the Trinidadian landscape itself, Golden Child is both beautiful and unsettling; a resoundingly human story of aspiration, betrayal, and love.
Oh, what a truly beautiful read this is, though do prepare for your heart to ache, weep, and possibly even break. For the last ten years, Oliver Loving has been lying in a hospital bed, paralysed and non-communicative, is he trapped in his own mind, can a new test release him? Everyone wants answers, they also want to know what happened ten years ago, on the night of the school dance in Bliss, Texas… and what caused the tragedy that took place there. The story focusses on Oliver, his mother Eve, and brother Charlie, and how one event has trapped them, has maimed them all. Stefan Merrill Block writes so thoughtfully, an almost gentle lyrical quality caresses the pages, yet he encourages searching questions, for you to travel deeper, to look further. This is an emotional read, the writing touched me, deep inside my heart, and a part of Oliver Loving will remain there. Almost otherworldly, yet raw and true and full of heart, Oliver Loving is profoundly moving, and captivating, I highly recommend stepping inside the pages, and becoming one with the story. Oliver Loving is one of my picks of the month.
While Pride and Prejudice may sit at the top of many people’s favourite Jane Austen books, Emma has to be a contender for the title too. For me Emma has a little more bite, it isn’t quite as comfortable a read as Pride and Prejudice, and that makes it more interesting. In terms of lead characters Emma is right up there, she may be headstrong, snobbish, convinced she knows best, yet because of those characteristics, because she isn't perfect, she also feels so very real. Emma is a bright, beautifully written novel with real heart and I love it. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles. 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.
It's 1958 and Sylvia Blackwell is appointed children's librarian in the long-forgotten library in East Mole. Her enthusiasm to inspire the children and engender a love of reading doesn't quite go to plan when she falls in love and the town she grew to love turns on her. A gorgeously delightful and nostalgic book that makes you hanker back to a lost time when children's literature first stole your heart.
The unnamed narrator of this remarkable novel is a vulnerable, bookish eighteen-year-old who lives in a close-knit community beset by sectarian violence. Harassed by an older man she calls Milkman, she’s compelled to keep her encounter with this sinister figure a deeply buried secret. She’s isolated, silenced, and must remain silent, and it’s this that cuttingly resonates with the #MeToo movement, and also with the situation of many teenage girls whose early experiences of womanhood all too often involve fear, shame and secrecy. Many reviews of this novel speak of its “challenging” nature, its “difficult” experimentalism, but whether a reader finds it to be “difficult” very much depends as to how one engages with the narrator. It took a little while to fall in step with her rhythm, but I found her stream-of-consciousness voice compelling and richly rewarding. Sharp on the psychology of small communities and the repercussions of inaction, and quirkily comic to boot, this is an exhaustively exceptional novel.
In an age of gene splicing, stem cell research and Computer Artificial Intelligence, Mary Shelley’s dark gothic tale contains a stark warning message for us all in this modern age. The novel is as much about the struggle that Dr Frankenstein’s creature has with what it means to be human as it does about the creation of life itself. The key takeaway for the reader is just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Visit our '50 Classics Everyone Should Read' collection to discover more classic titles.
This book is Melmoth. It's pages reach out, take you by the hand and walks you through each of the character's lives, making you bear witness to moral complexities navigated by each character. The Interweaving narratives introduced with the strange manuscript bound me to this book and didn't release me until the final page. I still feel the tingle on the back of my neck - like the book is nearby, watching and waiting... Sarah Perry's writing is a lesson in the mastery of the English language, with the poetic fluidity of the River Elbe. Although this book is rather demure, it packs a real punch and manages to combine history, folklore and morality to create a thrilling allegory of ignorance and narrow sightedness.