The Night Ship

The Night Ship

A mesmerising, hard-hitting and heart-wrenching historical novel, based on a real shipwreck in 1629, which interweaves the parallel stories of two unforgettable child narrators, 350 years apart.
The Night Ship of the title is the Dutch merchant vessel Batavia, which set sail to the Spice Islands (present-day Indonesia) in 1628. Aboard are over 300 souls: sailors, soldiers, merchants, wives & children, including our narrator, 9-year-old Mayken, travelling with her beloved nurse-maid Imke to join her father on his Batavian estate, following the death of her mother in Holland. Feisty Mayken soon wins the hearts of all on board, both above and below deck. As the months of gruelling sailing tick by, conditions deteriorate in the sweltering heat, and Imke becomes gravely ill. Mayken becomes convinced that a monster, the Bullebak, has bitten Imke, and is still lurking aboard, and her investigations below deck also reveal simmering tensions and mutinous intentions amongst the crew. When the Batavia runs aground and is wrecked on a coral reef, Mayken is amongst the survivors who eke out a living on a tiny island, but the horror is just beginning…
350 years later, in 1989, this same island has become the home of a small community of Australian crayfisherman, living roughly in beachfront shacks. 9-year-old Gil has just arrived on the island, sent to stay with his reclusive grandfather Joss, after the death of his mother. Gil becomes fascinated by local folklore about the little ghost-girl May, and ancient Aboriginal legends about the monster Bunyip, and here lie the stitches that weave the two stories delicately together. Gil’s unconventional ways and dark past do not endear him to the islanders, who already have a bitter feud against his surly grandfather, and tensions begin to escalate, until the island erupts in violence, echoing the horrors of its history.
The Night Ship is a jaw-dropping story about the beauty and horror of human nature, rendered in exquisite prose, and Gil and Mayken will stay with you forever!

The Book of Form and Emptiness

The Book of Form and Emptiness

The Book of Form and Emptiness is award winning Ruth Ozeki’s fourth novel, following the sucess of My Year of Meats, All Over Creation and A Tale for the Time Being. It was longlsited for the women’s prize for fiction 2022.

After the death of his musician father, thirteen-year-old Benny Oh begins hearing voices, each holding a range of emotions. He must seek refuge in a public library, meeting a wonderful cast of characters and his very own book. Narrations from a variety of characters give a fly on the wall style feeling, through Benny’s journey of listening to what truly matters in life.

Combining a vast and unforgettable blend of characters, with important and varied themes, The Book of Form stands out as an important and exciting read, which is deeply moving and greatly imaginative.

Homegoing

Homegoing

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, and the Sunday Times bestseller and a BBC Top 100 Novels that Shaped Our World

Homegoing follows two sisters, one is sold into salvery, while the other is a slave trader’s wife. The lives and experiences of these characters shape the generations that follow. The generational impact of two people’s lives echoes the important messages and themes of the novel. The settings ground the characters into their bleak or wonderful lives. The novel explores important ideas head on, and is an important read.

Homegoing is rich with symbolism and homes a vivid cast of characters. The novel is a page turning masterpiece, which is gripping from the opening page; a vital read for all.

Notes from Deep Time

Notes from Deep Time

A fascinating dive into the world we inhabit every day, Helen Gordons newest book, ‘Notes from Deep Time’, is an extensive look at the layers of the earth, giving unique ideas with a personal style of writing. Seeking a fresh perspective on her own life, Gordon set out to read that narrative. Her expedition takes her across the world, discovering something new at every corner; at every step, she finds that the ground beneath our feet isn’t always as it seems.

The book encompasses ideas as large as fossils hidden deep within London, to more overlooked geology such as chalk. Through it all, Gordon places a unique view into the world. Every chapter is unique, and an easily digestable read.

A greatly enjoyable and informative book. It is a love letter to travel and endulges in every corner of geology, creating a must read.

Circus of Wonders

Circus of Wonders

The captivating second novel from Elizabeth Macneal, author of the best-selling The Doll Factory, set in the colourful circus world of London’s 19th Century pleasure gardens.

Country girl Nell picks violets for a living, in a quiet coastal village. Set apart from her community by the birthmarks that speckle her skin, she finds solace in the sea. But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped – her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own ‘leopard girl’. It is an agonizing betrayal, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers,she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her. But what happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, can he detach himself from the terrible secret that binds him to his tyrannical brother?

A really enjoyable novel, which vividly evokes 19th Century London, and captivating look into circus life. The novel is at once a tender love story, an exploration of difference & disability, and a rip-roaring good read! For fans of Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist & Stacy Halls’ The Familiars.

The Promise

The Promise

This latest novel by Damon Galgut,  shortlisted for the Booker Prize, charts the decline of a white family during South Africa’s transition out of apartheid. The Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for — not least the failed promise to the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. After years of service, Salome was promised her own house, her own land… yet somehow, as each decade passes, that promise remains unfulfilled.

Promise pushes the titular word to its limits, creating a powerful and moving story, which makes use of it’s third person narrative to switch between characters suddenly yet elegantly, emphasising the conflict between them and the resentment they hold.

Encompassing the years 1986 – 20128 in the lives of the Swart family, the omniscient narrator abruptly darts from one character’s consciousness to another shifting from the third to second to first person – creating a challenging but always absorbing read.

Seed

Seed

A warm-hearted, joyful story about the power of hope and imagination and believing in the impossible.

Marty doesn’t have new white trainers or a games console. He doesn’t have much of his own at all, unlike his mum, who has billions of things: newspapers, holey shoes, rusty lawnmowers, broken picture frames – she keeps EVERYTHING! Marty does his best to look after her and finds solace hanging about with his spritely grandfather, on his allotment. On Marty’s birthday, Grandad, with a glint in his eye, gifts Marty a very special seed. Grandad hasn’t been this excited since he invented the bum scratcher 2000 or thought he’d brewed wonder fuel from rhubarb leaves! The seed grows bigger and bigger, and launches Grandad, Marty and his best friend Gracie on an impossible, wondrous plan fuelled by love, hopes and dreams….

With a touch of ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ magic, this sweet story will appeal to 8-11 year-old readers who like Jenny Pearson and Lisa Thompson. Fun fact – this is Caryl Lewis’ first English-language book – she is a multi-award-winning Welsh language novelist and scriptwriter who also wrote the brilliant BBC Wales detective series, Hinterland.

Noah’s Gold

Noah’s Gold

Now out in paperback, this latest novel by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, author of Millions, Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth, and many more award-winning children’s books, is complete comedy gold, wrapped up in an exciting story full of mystery and suspense.

Eleven-year-old pipsqueak Noah is famed in his family for making gadgets malfunction. When he accidentally stows away on his older sister’s Geography field trip, the minibus Satnav goes haywire and the kids find themselves marooned on an uninhabited island. 6 kids. 1 remote island. No adults (their teacher has vanished!) They’re hungry. Their phones don’t work – they CAN’T LOOK ANYTHING UP! – and, somehow … Noah has broken the entire internet!!  There’s no way of contacting home …. Disaster!

The story is exciting and genuinely believable, the interplay & dialogues between the different teenage characters are pure comic genius, and the recurring theme of our reliance on technology is thought-provoking, and will hopefully spark family discussions. 100% HILARIOUS!

Lively illustrations by Steven Lenton add to the charm. Perfect for readers of 8-11 years.

Drawn to Nature

Drawn to Nature

Since its publication in 1789, Gilbert White’s Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne has never been out of print. Throughout the intervening 233 years, White’s text has inspired the many and varied artists who have illustrated different editions of his classic account of his observations of the wildlife of his home in Selborne, Hampshire.

Simon Martin, director of Pallant House Gallery in Chichester has brought together many of these illustrators in this gorgeously produced and illustrated book. From Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, whose detailed engravings adorned the first edition, to Thomas Bewick, whose famous bird engravings were used without permission in a later one, to twentieth century artists such as Claire Leighton, Agnes Miller Parker, Eric Ravilious, John Nash and John Piper, right through to talented contemporary artists such as Mark Hearld, Alice Patullo and Emily Sutton.

 A beautifully produced art book to treasure.

The Dance Tree

The Dance Tree

A spellbinding historical novel set near Strasbourg in the 16th Century – inspired by the real events of the so-called ‘Dancing Plague’. In the midst of a blisteringly hot, pestilent summer, pregnant Lisbet tends the bees on her husband’s farm, until the peace is disturbed by the return of Agnethe, her sister-in-law, from seven years’ penance in a nunnery for a crime no one will name. Lisbet is moved by the stoic young woman and becomes determined to discover her secret. Meanwhile, both women are intrigued by rumours of a frenzy of women dancing for days in Strasbourg’s market square, and against a backdrop of mounting religious hysteria and superstition, passions are ignited and dangerous deceptions are uncovered. Simply perfect writing; raw, immersive and compelling, this story will haunt you for days. Review by Gudrun.

Bad for Good

Bad for Good

A gripping, gritty and absorbing crime novel set in Brighton. Graham Bartlett spent 30 years in the police, as a detective, firearms commander, and city police chief in Brighton & Hove, and now works as a crime-consultant for writers including Peter James, Elly Griffiths and Dorothy Koomson. Bad for Good is his first crime fiction novel, following 2 best-selling ‘true crime’ books.

Detective Superintendent Joanne Howe has a complex and sensitive case on her hands: the murder of a promising young footballer, who just happens to be the son of her colleague, D.I Phil Cooke. Against the backdrop of a city wrought by violence and crime, and a police force hamstrung by government cuts, Joanne must contend with blackmail, a disturbingly brutal gang of vigilantes, and deep-rooted police corruption as she tracks down Harry’s killer. As you might expect, the plotting, characters and local details are grainy and authentic – and Graham isn’t shy about packing a political punch amongst the intrigue.

 For fans of Peter James! Graham Bartlett will be talking about BAD FOR GOOD with fellow crime-writer Lesley Thomson at the Steyning Centre on Friday 24th June. Tix from the Steyning Bookshop.

China Room

China Room

Mehar and her new sisters-in-law are married to three brothers, but as the men come to them in darkness and their days are veiled, they don’t know which sister has which husband. In their small, claustrophobic world, filled with sweeping and pounding and kneading and baking, a mistake and a deception ignite a passion that has far reaching consequences. 60 years later, Mehar’s great grandson, escaping demons of his own, seeks sanctuary on the family’s old farm.
Spare and atmospheric, a haunting tale of forbidden love.

Sentient

Sentient

Ask a child to name their senses, and they will probably come up with the same five as you. Smell, taste, sight, hearing, and touch were first described as the five senses by Aristotle over two thousand years ago. However, with the advent of modern neuroscience, these senses have been joined by the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth senses, and many more. Jackie Higgins takes us on a fascinating journey around the ways in which we perceive the world, using the extraordinary perceptive powers of animals as our guide. From the incredible colour vision of the mantis shrimp to the extraordinarily sensitive nose of the star-nosed mole, and the ability of the barn owl to locate prey in darkness, and the cheetah’s sense of balance, to a spider’s body clock, these incredible animal studies illuminate our own sentience.

Humankind

Humankind

Essential reading for anyone feeling full of despair in these difficult times, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman’s fresh take on human nature is heartening and optimistic.   

From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, in religion, fiction, science, psychology and sociology, we have been taught that human beings are by nature selfish and governed by self-interest. In ‘Humankind’, Rutger Bregman makes a revolutionary new argument: People are essentially GOOD, and their actions naturally tend towards kindness and altruism.  

Chapter by chapter, going back through 200,000 years of human history, Bregman re-evaluates and re-examines some of the most famously pessimistic events and case-studies; from the real-life Lord of the Flies to the Blitz, a Siberian fox farm to an infamous New York murder, Stanley Milgram’s Yale shock machine to the Stanford prison experiments, he finds persuasive new evidence for humanity’s essential decency. If we begin to believe in fundamental human kindness and altruism, we may be able to achieve true change in society.  

For fans of Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari 

Crowfall

Crowfall

An exciting new standalone fantasy adventure from the inventive imagination of Vashti Hardy, author of ‘Brightstorm’ and Wildspark’ and one of our FAVOURITE local authors, who is just going from strength to strength!

Orin Crowfall lives on the island of Ironhold, an orderly island committed to industry, with a strict hierarchical structure, where everyone knows their place. Ironholders pride themselves in their taming and harnessing of nature, reflected in their motto “industry brings prosperity”. Sensitive Orin is employed as a server to the elite Engineers, the rulers of Ironhold, but his first love is nature – he has a talent for nurturing plants, and he has made an incredible discovery – at the very heart of Ironhold is a living, natural being – the Eard – which nourishes and provides for the Island. When Orin uncovers a dark secret about the Engineers relationship with the Eard, both his life and the future of Ironhold are in grave danger, and he must flee for his life!

Orin and his animatronic robot friend Cody escape Ironhold on a small boat, but are pursued by a terrifying sea monster and buffeted by tremendous storms until they find themselves washed up on the shores of an incredible new island world …The island of Natura seems like a paradise, but who can Orin trust, and how will he return to Ironhold and save his family before everything is destroyed?

A really enjoyable story, full of excitement, with plucky, lovable characters, and Vashti Hardy’s characteristic gift for incredible world-building, ‘Crowfall’ is also a powerful environmental fable with a thought-provoking message about ecological balance.

Summerwater

Summerwater

Sarah Moss is a writer of rare accomplishment whose mastery of the messy complexities of the interior monologue is pitch-perfect. ‘Summerwater’ is an intense, beautifully-written, and devastating story, set over a 24-hour period in a faded Scottish cabin park.  

As the rain hammers down outside, in short vignettes we are introduced to the inhabitants of the holiday cabins; a woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a teenage boy chances the dark waters of the loch in his kayak; a retired couple head out despite the downpour, driving too fast on the familiar bends…. Nobody has any phone signal, and the world feels very far away, leading to a claustrophobic sense of dread… we know something bad is going to happen, but to whom.. and when?  

There are tender moments – Moss is an astute observer of family life and domestic tensions, there is acerbic humour, there are moments of limpid beauty in her observations of nature, and bubbling throughout, the tensions between this group of strangers simmer and then boil over…. No more spoilers – you HAVE TO read it!  

The Secret Detectives

The Secret Detectives

When Isobel Petty is orphaned, she finds herself being taken away from her home in India and sent to live with a distant uncle in England. On board the S.S. Marianna, she witnesses a shocking act – somebody being thrown overboard in the middle in the night. But when the ship’s captain insists that nobody is missing, Isobel and her two new reluctant friends must solve two mysteries – the identities of both the murderer and the victim – before they reach England and the culprit has the chance to escape.  

Isobel is a brilliantly created unlikeable heroine, victim of a childhood both indulged and ignored, who gradually has her sharp corners knocked off by the two long suffering friends she has met on the voyage, and by the life lessons that she learns along the way. Inspired by The Secret Garden and the golden age of crime writing, The Secret Detectives is perfect for fans of Robin Stevens and Katherine Rundell. For children aged 9 upwards who like historical fiction and a good long read with plenty of mystery and humour. 

V for Victory

V for Victory

A real gem! Lissa Evan is a supremely gifted writer – astute, funny and warm – for both children and adults. We loved her comedic novel, ‘Crooked Heart’, which introduced Vee, a suburban con-woman, and ultrabright orphan Noel as they joined forces in the unlikely setting of Hampstead village during the second World War. Following on, ‘Old Baggage’ told the tale of Noel’s Suffragist godmother Mattie, and now we are back with Vee and Noel towards the end of the war when, unsurprisingly, their lives become even more complicated….

It’s late 1944. Hitler’s rockets are slamming down on London with vicious regularity and it’s the coldest winter in living memory. Allied victory is on its way, but it’s bloody well dragging its feet.

In a large house next to Hampstead Heath, Vee Sedge is just about scraping by, with a herd of lodgers to feed, and her young charge Noel ( almost fifteen ) to clothe and educate. When she witnesses a road accident and finds herself in court, the repercussions are both unexpectedly marvellous and potentially disastrous – disastrous because Vee is not actually the person she’s pretending to be, and neither is Noel.

How I Saved the World in a Week

How I Saved the World in a Week

A nail-bitingly thrilling survival drama for readers of 8-12 years by the author of ‘The Boy in the Tower’.

Rule Number 1: Always be Prepared…. Billy’s mum isn’t like the other mums. She’s a scientist, for starters, and takes Billy out of school to train him in the Rules of Survival. But after her obsession goes too far, Billy is sent to Bristol, to live with a dad he barely knows.

Billy settles in well and even makes his first ever friends, but his new, life is rudely interrupted by a strange and terrifying phenomenon … is it a virus? An alien shape-shifting life form? People are turning into strange, scary grey creatures and chaos is breaking out. Billy, his dad, and his new friends have to flee the city. Billy realises that THIS is what his mum was preparing him for. Can Billy reach his mum’s ‘Safe Haven’ in time, and will she even be there? Can he reunite his family … and where are his friends?

Exciting, powerful and emotional; a perfect book for fans of Ross Welford.

Adam 2

Adam 2

One of the best middle-grade fiction novels I have read this year! An exciting science fiction thriller for ages 9+.

In a bleak future world, torn apart by a civil war between humans and advanced A.I robots, some scavenging children come across a cute little robot, locked in a basement. Adam 2 has been locked away for 200 years, and knows nothing of the war between robots and humankind. He has been programmed to faithfully serve humans, and quickly bonds with the children. Soon, by virtue of his human-style loyalty, he is accepted into the human camp.

Adam’s unique position – trusted by the humans, yet essentially an A.I, earns him friends & enemies in both camps, and it becomes clear that he holds the key to the war, and the power to end it – to destroy one side and save the other. But which side is right? Adam must decide who – and what – he really is.

A really thrilling story, full of thought-provoking issues, and Adam 2 is a truly unforgettable and adorable character. Will appeal to fans of Philip Reeve.

When we Got Lost in Dreamland

When we Got Lost in Dreamland

A moving and exciting story of brotherhood, friendship & the power of dreams!

Imagine having the ability to step inside your dreams, to consciously control the action and the setting, and even meet your friends there! When 11-year-old Malky accidentally steals a strange device, the ‘Dreaminator’, he and his younger brother Seb begin sharing wild dream adventures…. But the device is unstable, and soon things take a nightmarish turn, with Seb lying in a coma, trapped in his dream, and Malky awake and unable to reach him. With the help of his friend Tenzin, her mystical Tibetan grandma, and a dying old man, Malky must face his darkest unconscious fears and take a leap into the void.

This is an absolutely BRILLIANT rollercoaster adventure, fast-paced, funny, inventive and heartfelt. Ross Welford’s cast of quirky and lovable characters and warm humour manage to make an unbelievable story completely plausible. I have adored ALL Ross Welford’s books, but I think this one just may be my favourite!

For readers aged 8-12 (ish!)

Entangled Life

Entangled Life

A really fascinating book, which blew our minds! The facts that fungi are closer to animals than plants, that they can solve a maze by the most efficient route, that they can have hundreds of different genders, the revelations come thick and fast. One of those books that entirely changes the way we see the world and often feels closer to philosophy than natural history. Amazing!

Surfacing

Surfacing

Poet Kathleen Jamie’s latest collection of luminous, clear-eyed essays is a profound meditation on humans’ place in history and within the natural world. From a 500 year old Inuit village being gradually revealed by warming summers in Alaska, to the shifting sand dunes uncovering the minutiae of domestic Neolithic life in Scotland, to a small Tibetan dog in the town of Xiahe and a diagnosis of cancer, worlds shift and reveal themselves as Jamie considers our connections to the past, the nature of memory and forgetting, the tethers that bind us and the ways in which we cut loose. A good counterpoint to Robert Macfarlane’s immersive and occasionally terrifying Underland. Really wonderful!

Review by Alice.

Buy here: https://www.steyningbookshop.co.uk/books/books-for-adults/non-fiction-for-adults/nature/surfacing/

The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Plane

The Garden Jungle: or Gardening to Save the Plane

There have been some fabulous natural history books published this year, and this is one of my favourites. Dave Goulson, professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, takes us through the ways in which the average garden can support the myriad of creatures that dwell within it, delving deep into the private lives of hoverflies, ants, ladybirds, worms, and far more. Entrancing, polemical and very entertaining, this is a book for anyone with even the tiniest garden, window box, or passing interest in the natural world.

Review by alice.