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.
Prepare for your heart to break… this is a powerful, evocative tale of life during the Nazi occupation of Jersey in the 1940’s. The first page made me flinch, yet I couldn't, didn't want to stop reading. Ten year old Claudine, herbalist Edith, fisherman Maurice, and Dr Carter see very different sides of the occupation, using such different characters stops it from being a sweeping historical tale, instead it’s personal, intimate, penetrating. Caroline Lea’s pen gives you a massive shove as you read, and doesn't apologise for it as your stomach goes into free fall. ‘When the Sky Fell Apart’ is at times a truly uncomfortable read, yet it deserves to be read, not only for the blast of reality from the past, but also as a warning for the future. ~ Liz Robinson March 2017 Debut of the Month.
Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2017. A surprising, emotional, and courageous novel, one where the words and feelings gradually unwind from the page and take up residence in your mind. Set in Nigeria during the 1980s, this is a story that at first feels like a window into another world, yet one that is somehow recognisable, as feelings are translatable, wherever they may be felt. Yejide desperately wants a child, her entire world collapses when her in-laws insist on her husband Akin marrying a new wife, in order to bear him children. We see the couple, feel their thoughts, the hurt and sorrow on both sides. I couldn't stop reading, yet the rawness, the pain was in every turn of the page. Unexpected revelations smacked into my awareness, turned my thoughts, captivated me further. Ayobami Adebayo, in her debut novel, writes with a clear and simple intensity. ’Stay With Me’ is utterly compelling, provocative, and a truly beautiful read. ~ Liz Robinson March 2017 Debut of the Month. Click here to read Ayobami Adebayo discuss her debut novel Stay with Me.
March 2017 eBook of the Month. Powerful and expressive, this is an extraordinary tale, based in reality, set in the London underworld of the 1720’s. Edgeworth Bess is in Newgate, as she tells her story via a third party, more than one person’s life is revealed in all its sordid, beautiful wonder. Jake Arnott has the ability to create a living, punchy, violent world, it feels real, it feels as though the events are taking place now. The language of the time is startling, at first I delved into the glossary at the back, in a very short time though, I didn't need to refer to it, I lived, breathed and felt the words. There are a number of real people at large here, their stories are, to be honest, quite gobsmacking, yet in this fictional setting, with this gloriously assured writing, they felt even more substantial and undeniably physical. ‘The Fatal Tree’ is a vibrantly striking tale, it is, quite simply, a cracking read and I highly recommend it. ~ Liz Robinson Click here to read a Q&A with Jake Arnott.
March 2017 Book of the Month. Frankie studies art and then works in a gallery in Dublin. The owner only issues part-time contracts for graduating students so after a year she is out of work. Depression and the cusp of mental breakdown follow. She’s twenty-five. She goes home and then persuades her mother that she can care-sit her deceased grandmother’s bungalow while it is on the market. It is here, through the death of a robin, that she decides to commence on an art project photographing dead wild animals, predominantly roadkill. We get the badly produced black and white, grainy photos in the text plus a whole lot of conceptual art references which, in the author’s notes, we are encouraged to look up for we have been given the character’s memory of that part of her studies in “I test myself” sections. Doom and gloom set in. She loses weight and reflects on her childhood and nature, these are the highlights of the book. Her mother is a saint. Unlike the author’s sparsely written first novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither, which developed slowly and was immensely poignant and uplifting, this one is long and dense as Frankie tries to cope with a world that is wrong and a sadness that is crushing her. The result is an extraordinary meditation on art, loneliness and life. I believe it is semi-autobiographical. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
March 2017 Book of the Month. A novel of loneliness and insecurity. We can see what the poor woman, Sonja, must do. She cannot. It takes an act of kindness for Sonja to grab her life. Getting to that stage we have a stream of consciousness, much reminiscing of her childhood and episodes from the parts of her life which she believe sustain her; massages, driving lessons (that’s where the title comes from) and translating a famous Swedish crime writer’s work into Danish. The author is a much respected young Danish literary writer whose short stories, Karate Chop, won prizes. She also has four novels under her belt. This is the first to be translated into English. Short (188 pages), unsettling and perceptive, it’s not an easy read. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
In her last novel, The Last Runaway, Tracy Chevalier returned to her American roots for the first time, setting her story on the Ohio frontier in 1850. At the Edge of the Orchard opens in similar circumstances: James Goodenough, whose family had originally settled in Connecticut from England brings his family to Ohio to carve out a new life for them in the Black Swamp in 1838. His ancestors had brought a graft of an Orange Pippin and James – via regular encounters with Jonny Appleseed – has done so too, setting himself ultimately on a course against his wife Sadie. As swamp fever gradually picks off their children and they wrestle daily with survival, Sadie wants nothing more than to lose herself in applejack, made from the ‘spitter’ trees that James rejects and attempts to civilise and graft into ‘eaters’, and particularly into his precious pippins. This course will see their family engulfed in tragedy and fifteen years later we pick up with their youngest son, Robert who has been running west since the trying to escape his memories of what happened, taking solace in a very different kind of tree – the redwoods and sequoias of California. But Robert’s past catches up with him and he’s forced to confront what he’s running from and work out for himself that you can’t run for ever. A fascinating insight into early American life written with Tracy’s trademark style and panache. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017. Already being acclaimed as one of the most exciting new debuts of 2017, Emily Fridlund's History of Wolves is a brilliant coming-of-age novel that will appeal to fans of The Girls and The Virgin Suicides. Linda, age 14, lives on a dying commune on the edge of a lake in the Midwest of America. She and her parents are the last remaining inhabitants, the others having long since left amid bitter acrimony. She has grown up isolated both by geography and her understanding of the world, and is an outsider at school, regarded as a freak. One day she notices the arrival of a young family in a cabin on the opposite side of the lake. She starts to befriend them, first their four-year-old son Paul, and then his young mother Patra, who is also lonely and isolated. For the first time she feels a sense of belonging that has been missing from her life. Leo, the father, is a university professor and an enigmatic figure, perpetually absent. When he returns home, Linda is shunned by the family unit. Desperate to be accepted again, she struggles to resume her place in their home and fails to see the terrible warning signals, which have such devastating consequences.
March 2017 Debut of the Month. This haunting re-telling of the Selkie legend begins on a night when “moonlight silvered everything, casting doubt and shadow”, and a young fisherman, Donald, sees a pod of seals transform into “young women, lithe and graceful”. When they notice him, all but one of the mysterious sisters return to the sea. Now alone, Donald subjects her to a terrible act of violence. “They were maidens, ready for mating,” his mother explains when he brings her home. “You’ve made your bed, and now you must lie in it”. Pregnant with his child, Maihri (as they name her) and Donald are duly married, but convincing the hostile, fearful villagers to accept her otherworldliness is no easy task.While Mairhi shows herself to be brave, bold and able to defend herself, and while Donald is gentle, kind and desperate to atone his wrongdoing, Mairhi’s silent entrapment in a world that is not hers gives this richly eloquent reinterpretation an eerily tragic edge that lingers long after the last page has been turned. Fans of folktale retellings and magic realism will surely welcome this addition to their collections. ~ Joanne Owen A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... 'A good proportion of my list falls into the crime/thriller genre, but what defines every book I publish, regardless of its ‘category’, is excellent writing. When I was sent Su Bristow’s Sealskin, I was, quite simply, blown away. With exquisite grace, mesmerising descriptions and insights, and some of the most entrancing, beautiful prose I have ever read, Su retells the legend of the selkies, bringing it into the modern day and examining its multifold layers. At the heart of this story is a shocking act of violence, and yet Su manages to create a deep and powerful love story from the horror, to provide redemption for her characters, to express the real meaning of healing, forgiveness, community and family. It is a book that you will cherish, with passages you will underline. You will be breathless as you read it, and reach for the tissues when the final, heartbreaking scenes are played out. You will remember this book. Sealskin really is that good, and Su Bristow is undoubtedly one of the most talented authors of our generation.' ~ Karen Sullivan, Orenda Books Click here to read a Q&A with Su Bristow.
Shortlisted for The Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2017. A gloriously readable and emotional fictional tale based on the relationship between Dutch maid Helena Jans van der Strom and philosopher, mathematician and scientist Rene Descartes, in 17th century Amsterdam. Helena tells her own story, and we have intimate access to her thoughts and feelings as she learns the magic of words, writing and thinking beyond the obvious. It feels as though Guinevere Glasfurd has seen into the heart and soul of Helena, as though this really could be her story. The author also has the gift of shaping the outside world, of painting a vivid picture of life in these times. Sending thoughts skittering down unexpected paths and opening up the world of Descartes, ‘The Words In My Hand’ is a truly lovely and captivating debut. ~ Liz Robinson Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2016. Costa judges comment: “Glasfurd brings the 17th century Netherlands to vivid life in this sensitive, compelling tale of love and loss.”
Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017. Three women are at the heart of this beguiling, elemental novel, in which the dialogue dances, and the force of Irish fairy lore weaves its eerie, all-consuming ways through a superstitious rural community in the early nineteenth century. Nóra’s husband was “a fit man, in the full of healthy” when he dropped down dead at a crossroads reserved for the burial of suicides. Nóra has already lost her daughter this year, and now cares for her grandson Micheál who, inexplicably, has ceased speaking and walking. In the words of Mary, the young girl who comes to work for Nóra, he’s like a “strange scarecrow”, “a baby’s plaything, made from sticks and an old dress”. The locals whisper that he’s a changling, that his mother was carried away by the Good People (the fairies), that he played some part in his grandfather’s untimely passing. Terrified of him, (Nóra’s nights are “shattered with the boy’s screaming”), and at her wits end, she takes the desperate measure of whipping Micheál with nettles, thinking the sting will make him move. It’s then that a neighbour says Nóra must seek advice from Nance of the Fairies. With her wise woman’s knowledge of herbs and spirits, Nance is “a pagan chorus”, “the gatekeeper at the edge of the world”, and has healed many a person in need. Although the new priest “has the word out against her”, healing is what she does, and so Nance agrees to “put the fairy out of [Micheál]”. As further misfortunes are blamed on the child, the three women work to restore him amidst an atmosphere charged with increasing hostility.Inspired by a real-life event, this is an absolutely stunning account of a poor community clinging to superstition and ritual in order to make sense of their isolated world. Chilling, and charged with earthiness, I loved it. ~ Joanne Owen The Walter Scott Prize Judges said:‘This is a marvelously physical evocation of rural Ireland, which is deeply personal without ever being mawkish. With a cracking good narrative, Hannah Kent has conjured up an entire world that most of us would never see or know about, and has created three entirely different female characters who resonate long beyond the novel. The hold of the church and of superstition over the people is both totally believable and plausible.'
Shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2017. An enthralling work of literary fiction exploring Samuel Beckett’s life in Occupied France. It’s autumn, 1939 and a young writer has returned to Paris, and to Suzanne, his lover and anchor. “He didn’t have to come back. But here he is”, a “pale and wounded Irish man”, without the necessary papers, but ready to make an impact with his art, ready to do something of worth. Then Paris falls, his friend (James) Joyce departs, and soon “Paris isn’t Paris any more”. Associates are taken, Gestapo presence is ever more pervasive and, at huge risk, he joins the Resistance, while also questioning the value of a writer’s work.Throughout, the writing possesses an effecting sparseness, from the early domestic scenes with the writer’s family, “all shiny buckled shoes and neat cardigans”, to the bleakness of Occupied France (the hunger, the acts of cruelty, the creeping fear and despair). This novel is both a profound portrayal of an artist’s inner life, and of his engagement with the ravaged world outside. It’s also a testament to a spirit of survival, to finding “decency amongst the ruins”. ~ Joanne Owen The Walter Scott Prize Judges said: ‘We loved the quiet, lyrical, beauty of this novel and its skilful recreation of Samuel Beckett’s years in France throughout the Second World War. It’s illuminating about Beckett’s individual heroism and humanity. The descriptions of France under occupation are always surprising and moving as he (and Baker) chart the horror, despair, starvation and uncertainty of those years with a writer’s eye. Central to the narrative is Beckett’s love for Suzanne, the young French woman he eventually married. The strain of five years of war, their escape from Paris, their long walk to Roussillon and their repeated separations takes a heavy toll on their relationship. But through all of this their quiet love survives.’
In a Nutshell: Personal awakenings on a transformational summer trip | An insightful coming-of-age story about a bisexual teenager’s first experience of love in all its dizzying bliss and complexity. Fifteen-year-old Aki is determined to stop putting things off, and determined to stop living hypothetically: “If I wanted my life to change, then I had to do something. Or at least try.” With that firmly in mind, Aki and best friend Lori make a pact “to have a fling” during their summer trip to Mexico with her dad’s church mission. And that’s where she meets Christa. While Aki’s known that she’s bi for a while, she’d “never known it was possible for a person to look as cute as Christa did”, and the attraction is mutual. But, as the hypothetical starts to get very real and very intense, the young women have some serious complications to deal with, not least the fact that Christa might just have a boyfriend back home, and very strict parents she’s terrified of coming out to. Alongside its elegant portrayal of sexual awakening and safe sex, the novel also explores Aki’s inspirational political stirrings (she oversees a big debate at the summer camp, and becomes passionate about health care issues). As Aki remarks near the end of the tale, “I could do anything. All of us could. We were only as limited as we let ourselves be”, which is a rather wonderful message of hope to come away with. ~ Joanne Owen
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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.
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