This is a lovely exploration of the complicated natural history of the eel, and of those entangled in its slimy coils, from Aristotle and Freud, to the author and his father. After nearly two and a half thousand years of study, we now know the rough outline of the eels’ lifecycle. It is born as a willow-leaf shaped larva in the Sargasso Sea, drifts across the Atlantic to the rivers of Europe, becoming a glass eel, and then a yellow eel, spending decades in murky freshwater, before undergoing its final transformation to a silver eel and travelling four thousand miles back across the Atlantic to breed in its birthplace. However, no-one has ever seen an eel reproduce, or been able to give a complete account of their metamorphoses, or even seen a mature eel in the Sargasso Sea. And no-one really knows why they are disappearing. This is a beautiful and fascinating book, its gentle melancholy coming from the fact that it is in fact an elegy, to Svensson’s father, and their relationship – conducted largely through eel-fishing – and perhaps to the eel itself, whose catastrophic declines may never recover.
From Emma Donoghue, the international bestselling author of Room, comes Akin, a brilliant tale of love, loss and family, enjoyed by our evening book group in August.
A retired New York professor’s life is thrown into chaos when he takes his great-nephew to the French Riviera, in hopes of uncovering his own mother’s wartime secrets.
Noah is only days away from his first trip back to Nice since he was a child when a social worker calls looking for a temporary home for Michael, his eleven-year-old great-nephew. Though he has never met the boy, he gets talked into taking him along to France. This odd couple, suffering from jet lag and culture shock, argue about everything from steak hache to screen time, and the trip is looking like a disaster. But as Michael’s ease with tech and sharp eye help Noah unearth troubling details about their family’s past, both of them come to grasp the risks that people in all eras have run for their loved ones, and find they are more akin than they knew.
Written with all the tenderness and psychological intensity that made Room a huge bestseller, Akin is a funny, heart-wrenching tale of an old man and a boy who unpick their painful story and start to write a new one together.
‘If Room forced home truths on us, about parenthood, responsibility and love, Akin deals with similar subject matter more subtly, but in the end just as compellingly‘ – Guardian
Sussex-based author and illustrator Sophy Henn is a firm local favourite having wowed local primary schools with her highly entertaining author visits for her previous series, the hilarious Bad Nana books. Her young fans will be delighted that she’s now back with the first in a new series for readers aged 7-10.
‘Pizazz’ is a 9 year old girl who just happens to have … SUPER POWERS!
If you think being born into a family of super-heroes sounds cool, think again! Pizazz has to wear the same flappy-caped outfit EVERY DAY, it’s a PAIN always having to go off to save the world at inconvenient times, sometimes she doesn’t want to ALWAYS be the good guy, and try explaining your WEIRD super-hero family to friends at your new school….! And don’t even ASK about Pizazz’s superpower…
Snappy, fast and funny, with absolutely BRILLIANT illustrations, Pizazz is a highly entertaining read for children aged 7+.
A new novel from Lisa See, the New York Times bestselling author of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, set in the fascinating, unforgettable world of the formidable female pearl divers of Jeju, a small Korean island.
Mi-ja and Young-sook are best friends who come from very different backgrounds. When they are old enough, they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective, led by Young-sook’s mother.
As the girls take up their positions as baby divers, they know they are beginning a life of excitement and responsibility but also danger. Despite their love for each other, Mi-ja and Young-sook’s differences are impossible to ignore. Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, and she will forever be marked by this association. Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers in their village.
The Island of Sea Women is an epic set over many decades, beginning during the period of Japanese colonialism in the 1930s and 1940s, through World War II, the Korean War and its aftermath, right up to the modern era of cell phones and wetsuits for the women divers.
Little do the two friends know that after surviving hundreds of dives and developing the closest of bonds, forces outside their control will push their friendship to the breaking point. This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a fascinating upside-down world, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the
‘No one writes about female friendship… with more insight and depth than Lisa See‘ Sue Monk Kidd, author of The Secret Life of Bees
What happened to the women we were supposed to become?
Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come.
They are electric. They are the best of friends.
Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be.
Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life? The most razor-sharp and heartbreaking novel of the year, EXPECTATION is a novel about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel.
‘Profoundly intelligent and humane. Deserves to feature on many a prize shortlist‘ GUARDIAN
99% of women will identify with this, apparently!
In the small town of Crozon in Brittany, a library houses manuscripts that were rejected for publication: the faded dreams of aspiring writers. Visiting while on holiday, young editor Delphine Despero is thrilled to discover a novel so powerful that she feels compelled to bring it back to Paris to publish it. The book is a sensation, prompting fevered interest in the identity of its author – apparently one Henri Pick, a now-deceased pizza chef from Crozon. Sceptics cry that the whole thing is a hoax: how could this man have written such a masterpiece? An obstinate journalist, Jean-Michel Rouche, heads to Brittany to investigate. By turns farcical and moving, The Mystery of Henri Pick is a fast-paced comic mystery enriched by a deep love of books – and of the authors who write them. Quaint and very French. From the Walter Presents series.
The Infinite by Patience Agbabi. Canongate £7.99
The Infinite is the first children’s novel by Nigerian-born poet Patience Agbabi, and it’s a thoroughly entertaining time travel eco-adventure, perfect for ages 9-13.
Elle Bibi Imbele is a ‘Leapling’ – she was born on 29th February of a leap year. Moreover, she possesses ‘The Gift’ – the amazing ability to leap through time! But she is also autistic, is bullied at school, and is struggling to learn control of her ‘gift’. On her 12th birthday, she and other Gifted Leaplings from her special academy perform a jump through time to the Time Squad Centre, Year 2048. In this future world, which is vegan and carbon neutral, the Time Squad are Guardians of Chronology who stop time-criminals from changing the course of eco-history… but it soon becomes clear that all is not well; Leaplings have been disappearing, and the Time Squad Guardians are behaving suspiciously. Elle and her best friend Big Ben become mixed up in an extraordinary adventure, trying to track down missing Leaplings and get to the bottom of a devious plot.
This is a fast-paced, enjoyable and twisty story, enlivened by the engagingly quirky characters of Elle, Big Ben, and Elle’s Nigerian Grandma. Patience Agbabi cleverly incorporates the two heroes’ autistic traits and obsessions into the plotline, which ultimately play a huge part in saving the day!
No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. Anderson Press £7.99
Susin Nielsen is rapidly becoming our favourite writer for the hard-to-reach spot between kids’ books and hard-hitting ‘YA’. She writes with humour, empathy, and sensitivity, and creates authentic, relatable yet quirky characters who jump right into your heart!
Felix Knutsson is almost 13. He is a bright kid with a knack for trivia, and he’s crazy about a Canadian TV quiz show called ‘Who, What, Where, When?’ But Felix has a secret: he and his mum, Astrid, are living in a van. As the chill of a Canadian winter descends, the novelty of ‘city camping’ has most definitely worn off and it’s getting harder to hide the secret from his best friends, Winnie and Dylan. Felix is beginning to realise that, although his mum is a great person, she may not be the greatest parent. But if he can get accepted as a contestant on ‘Who, What, Where, When?’ maybe he can be the one to turn their fortunes around?
A hugely enjoyable, gripping story, tackling issues such as the poverty trap and the ‘hidden homeless’ with gentle humour and compassion, and which is ultimately about the redemptive power of human kindness. Ages 11+.
Recursion by Blake Crouch. Pan Macmillan £8.99
‘Recursion’ is the perfect lockdown page-turner!
Blake Crouch may just have invented something totally new – his genre-bending novel ‘Recursion’, is a mash-up of mind-blowing sci-fi and suspenseful thriller, embedded within a deeply emotional love story.
The novel is a fresh take on the core themes Crouch explored in his previous thriller ‘Dark Matter’ – temporal reality, memory, and what it means to be human. The story opens with what appears to be an epidemic of false memory syndrome, driving its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived. Detective Barry Sutton and neuroscientist Helena Smith’s paths cross while investigating the phenomenon, and Helena is on the verge of a stunning discovery. They embark on a looping mission through time and alternate realities to confront their enemy and prevent the world being trapped in a loop of ever-growing chaos.
A brilliantly inventive, thoughtful, and surprising thriller, which was gulped down in 2 days!
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. Bloomsbury 8.99
‘Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was? I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer.’
Living in their beloved “Dutch House” a lavishly decorated folly of a mansion so named because of the original owners, Danny and his brilliantly acerbic and protective sister Maeve are thrown together when their mother walks out leaving them with their “impenetrable mystery” of a father. The bond is cemented when a “wicked stepmother” arrives and the pair are eventually ousted from the house. Twisting back and forth across five decades the novel paints an intimate, poignant and sometime humorous portrait of a family and its complex relationships, focussing on the two siblings who have found a precarious sanctuary in each other when they are failed by the adults who were supposed to nurture them.
“ The Dutch House brilliantly captures how time undoes all certainties.” The Guardian
Just out in March 2020 in paperback, this spell-binding fantasy novel by the supremely talented Frances Hardinge will suck you in and hold you in its grasp you like one of the many-tentacled sea-Gods who inhabit the story.
Frances Hardinge is the Costa-award-winning author of The Lie Tree and Skinful of Shadows. Deeplight, like those novels, is categorised as Children’s or YA fiction, but, like Philip Pullman’s, her books transcend age limits and I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants to be transported on an adventure to the darkest ocean depths.
The story is set in the Myriad Isles, a scattering of islands peopled by sea-faring folk, many of whom make their living by scavenging the ocean depths for traces of ‘God-ware’ – powerful, magical fragments of the underwater Gods who once terrorised the isles.
When scavenger boy Hark and his best friend Jalt happen upon one such relic, they realise its’ value, but have no idea of the dark power it will exert… until it is too late, and Hark must face up to the fact that he has compromised not just who Jelt is, but what he is . . .
A dark, bewitching tale, which raises big questions about faith, friendship, loyalty, and what it means to be human.
I wolfed this astonishing, heart-rending novel down in a couple of days! An entrancing and beautifully-written novel by an author who has hitherto written for teenagers.
‘The Mercies’ is based on the real-life drama of a storm near the fishing village of Vardo in Northern Norway in 1617, which wiped out the male population of the small village, leaving the heart-broken women to fend for themselves, which they do, quite ably, until a Scottish Commissioner is sent North to tame their unseemly ways. The growing friendship between the Commissioner’s young wife, Ursa, and Maren, a feisty village woman, forms the centre-piece of the novel, which gathers pace as the full horror of the Commissioner’s mission becomes clear. An incredible glimpse into the havoc wreaked in a God-fearing fishing village by superstition and prejudice at the time of the Witch Trials.
‘Beautiful and chilling’ – Madeline Miller, author of Circe
A familiar face on our TV screens, Sally received great acclaim for her debut novel, The Sealwoman’s Gift, in 2018. Now we are pleased to introduce her second novel, The Ninth Child, a spellbinding tale which blends fact with fiction, history with folklore, and science with superstition, as it draws together the story of 17th Century minister Robert Kirke and Sally’s own great-grandmother. Set on the banks of Loch Katrine, where a huge engineering project is underway to deliver clean water to disease-ridden Victorian Glasgow and the hills echo with explosive blasts, The Ninth Child follows Isabel Aird, coming to terms with childlessness and attempting to start a new life with her engineer husband in this bleak but striking environment. When Isabel encounters a mysterious stranger who watches her every move, the foundations of her life grow increasingly less sure. Set in a pivotal era when engineering innovation flourished but women’s role was still muted, The Ninth Child blends folklore with historical realism in a masterly narrative. ‘An extraordinarily immersive read’ Guardian ‘Richly imagined and energetically told’ Sunday Times
When I heard from Jeremy Knight, Curator of Horsham Museum, about the secret project dreamed up by Robin Milner Gulland, husband of Washington artist Alison Milner-Gulland, to produce a book to accompany a retrospective exhibition in honour of her 80th birthday, I was absolutely thrilled because she is one of my favourite artists. With the help of art expert Rupert Toovey, a long-time fan, they have put together a delightful record of the wide-ranging work of this remarkable artist. There is a little story behind each piece, from the ancient legends of Chanctonbury Ring to the icons of Russia and the sad history of Syria. Here in this book we have a brief taste of a life full of adventure and creative exploration, with work both figurative and abstract, masterfully rendered in paint, pastel, collage or ceramics. As this quiet and indomitable artist says “I don’t paint to sell – I do it because I want to say ‘look, I’ve seen this, look at it’. It either sells or it doesn’t. Some will see what I see and if they don’t, well tough!” This lovingly produced book gives a wonderful opportunity to appreciate this philosophy at first hand.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE TO ORDER VIA THE LOCAL INTEREST SECTION OF OUR ONLINE STORE
The eagerly awaited sequel to the Costa Award winning Days Without End by one of Ireland’s greatest writers and current Irish Laureate.
A Thousand Moons extends the sequence of Barry’s eight novels, which touch each time on the worlds of two families – the Dunnes and the McNultys. In this novel, as in Days Without End, we meet with Thomas McNulty and John Cole, American Civil War soldiers, now a couple, living on a tobacco farm in Tennessee. Their adopted Sioux daughter Winona is the narrator this time, and we follow her journey as she deals with the consequences of a violent act against her. Full of memorable characters and written in Barry’s gorgeous lyrical prose, dreamy yet unflinching when confronted by the darker side of humanity, this is a wonderful book.
Fatima Bhutto, born in Syria and educated in the USA and the UK, is the niece of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and came to public attention with her memoir Songs of Blood and Sword which accused her aunt of the “moral responsibility” for her father’s assassination. Her powerful writing is used to good effect in The Runaways, her second novel, a story of three young people in Pakistan and England all of whom are disaffected in some way and experiencing a feeling of alienation which leads them to be exploited by skilful jihadis. This is an engrossing, exciting and truthful novel which, while not excusing the choices made by the protagonists, makes us aware of the vulnerabilities which can propel young people into catastrophic choices.
“burns with controlled indignation at the state of our world” Financial Times
Michelle Paver’s new novel is an outstanding feat of story-telling, firmly rooted in the Gothic tradition, which pays homage to the late, great master of the ghost story, M.R James.
A preamble, set in the 60’s, introduces us to elderly spinster Maud, who has lived alone in a decaying manor house deep in the Suffolk Fens ever since the tragic day in 1913 when her father committed murder in a fit of insanity. He has since become infamous for a trilogy of Richard Dadd-style paintings featuring medieval demons, but upon his death, Maud finds herself the subject of prying journalists.
The rest of the book follows the story of Maud’s lonely childhood, back in the early 1900’s. We learn how Maud’s father had dominated and sexually exploited his vulnerable young Belgian wife, and see his belittling attitude towards Maud and his scorn for her attempts to win his approval by taking on the housekeeping duties after the death of her mother. Maud, a clever, scholarly girl, dreams of becoming her father’s amanuensis and begins helping him with his research into a medieval mystic, but he is unimpressed by her efforts. After her father discovers a medieval ‘Doom’ painting in the local graveyard – based on the real-life Wenhaston Doom, found under whitewash in the 1890s – he is beset by strange dreams and becomes convinced that unhallowed demonic forces have been unleashed by the painting.
Maud seeks solace from her father’s tyranny in the dank beauty of the Fens, her friendship with Clem, a kindly gardener’s boy, and her pet magpie, Chatterpie, but after her father forbids her liason and has the magpie killed she begins to turn against him. Struggling to understand his behaviour, which has become increasingly deranged, she turns to reading his diaries. As the demons of her father’s past are revealed to Maud, and us, by the diaries and he unravels still further, Maud must stand strong to save her beloved Fen and discover the truth about her father.
‘Wakenhyrst’ is a truly compelling story – the brooding, stifling air of menace in Maud’s home, and the sinister superstitions of the Fen dwellers are vividly evoked and provide an air of impending doom which gathers pace deliciously. Maud is a wonderful heroine, full of nascent Suffragist spirit. Best of all, the book skilfully balances the supernatural with the possibility that the horrors are psychological in origin, keeping the reader on a tightrope of uncertainty throughout. Spell-binding stuff!
Twelve-year-old Pet lives with her parents and older sister Mags, in a lighthouse on the South-East coast of England. It is autumn 1939 and when war breaks out, Pet’s happy family life begins to shiver and fracture. There are acts of sabotage in the local village and Pet’s German mother is accused of spying and interned as a dangerous enemy alien. An act of heroism leaves the girls alone and threatened with evacuation, protected only by the Sisters of Stone, an ancient stone circle with its own legends…This is a pacy, exciting and atmospheric story for 9-13 year olds which has an unusual take on the Second World War.
Willa Knox is a woman trying to hold things together. Her house, which has been left to her is crumbling about her family’s ears; she and her husband, having worked as university professors, are now unemployed, her son’s girlfriend commits suicide leaving a small, inconsolable baby. Raging against a world that can let these things happen, Willa nonetheless comes to find consolation in her blossoming relationship with her daughter, Tig and her baby grandson, and her obsession with the first occupants of her unstable house.
Interleaved with Willa’s story is the tale of Thatcher Greenwood, who lived in her house in 1871. A science teacher who wishes to educate his small town about the work of Darwin, he runs foul of the town’s Christian founder, who is more than happy with the status quo. He finds inspiration in his friendship with his neighbour, the enigmatic Mary Treat, a scientist and breaker of the mould of Victorian womanhood.
An interesting novel about reason and faith, the failures of capitalism, family and loss, from one of our favourite authors.
Giuseppi Levi is always shouting at his children and forcing them to march up mountains, his wife Lidia is always trying to slope off for a sit down. Their various children comply with their wishes, or not, all of them contributing to the routines and rituals, crazes, pet phrases, and stories, doubtful, comical, indispensable that make up a large Jewish-Italian family.
Written while Natalia Ginsburg was away from her family, and homesick for them, this lovely autobiographical novel, mainly composed of dialogue, builds layer by layer through repetition and pattern, a portrait of that family, their repeated phrases, the ties of affection and exasperation that bind them together. It is set against the rise of fascism in Italy through the 1920s and 30s, and the Levis, both Jewish and anti-fascist will have to ensure that their own family lexicon survives.
Chris Riddell, political cartoonist for the Observer, and prolific illustrator and writer of marvellous children’s books, has made a selection of his favourite classic and modern poems about ‘life, death and everything in between’. Exquisitely illustrated, this an absolutely beautiful book and the forty-six poems in this anthology have clearly been selected with great love.
Yeats and Christina Rossetti accompany poems from Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen, Carol Ann Duffy, Neil Gaiman and Roger McGough to create a very special collection.
Lucia Berlin’s collection of short stories, A Manual for Cleaning Women was published posthumously to great acclaim, and Evening in Paradise is a follow-up selection from Berlin’s remaining stories.
The stories are loosely autobiographical, arranged chronologically to follow the arc of Berlin’s life, and take us from a pair of seven year olds running a scam in El Paso, through the beauty and disillusionment of a young girl’s first romantic liaison, to young wives coping with kids, their husband’s addiction, abandonment, to a furious old woman on the roof of her own house while her family try to celebrate Christmas. Savage, funny, shocking and beautiful, they present some unforgettable images – the iridescent, sulphurous smoke of the smelter in a mining town, the yellow aromo blossom sticking to a couple’s skin – in concise writing that brings the reader up short with its power. The dark thread of alcoholism runs through many of the stories as well as the brighter threads of love, romantic and maternal, and of beauty found in the most unlikely places. Outstanding.
When Rosie and Robert Stewart’s mother died, they had to sort through the contents of her packed house. The last box in the attic, hastily emptied into plastic bags before the house clearance men came, proved to be a treasure trove, and a forgotten history. Hamish Mann had been their great uncle, unknown to them except as a single faded photo from their childhoods. The box was stuffed the brim with papers which contained Hamish’s brief life as an aspiring writer and soldier, before he died in the Battle of Arras in 1917.
The Stewarts enlisted the help of Steyning author Jacquie Buttriss to bring Hamish’s story to the wider public, and she has painstakingly pieced together his life, and with his own vivid accounts and poignant poems, has created a fascinating insight into life in the trenches and Hamish’s journey from teenage patriotic fervour, to the sadder, more fearful, wiser young man he became in two short years. A timely reminder of the horrors of war.
This a an absolutely gorgeous poetry anthology for children. There is a nature poem for every day of the year, laid out on each double page spread with a linking theme and beautiful illustrations. The poems range from simple nursery rhymes to longer ones, from poets such as WB Yeats, Carol Ann Duffy and Benjamin Zephaniah. A book that will be treasured for many years