A Life in Art – Alison Milner Gulland

A Life in Art – Alison Milner Gulland

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.

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A Thousand Moons

A Thousand Moons

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.

The Runaways

The Runaways

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

Wakenhyrst

Wakenhyrst

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!

 

 

 

Our Castle by the Sea

Our Castle by the Sea

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.

Unsheltered

Unsheltered

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.

Family Lexicon

Family Lexicon

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.

Poems to Live Your Life By

Poems to Live Your Life By

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.

Evening in Paradise

Evening in Paradise

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.

A Muddy Trench: A Sniper’s Bullet

A Muddy Trench: A Sniper’s Bullet

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.

 

I am the Seed that Grew the Tree

I am the Seed that Grew the Tree

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

Snow in the Garden

Snow in the Garden

Snow in the Garden

Snow in the Garden

by Shirley Hughes

Walker £12.99

Collected here is a charming collection of stories, poems, crafts and recipes, all with a Christmas theme, from one of our best children’s authors, Shirley Hughes. With her trademark illustrations and gentle wit and empathetic understanding of a small child’s viewpoint, this is the perfect way for 3-6 year olds to get excited about Christmas.

 

 

How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time

Tom Hazard may look like an ordinary 41 year old History teacher, but he has a dangerous secret. Owing to a rare genetic condition, he is old. Over 400 years old. From Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, to sailing the South Seas with Captain Cook and sipping cocktails with F Scott Fitzgerald, he has lived a long but lonely and rootless existence.
With the help of millennium-year-old Heinrich from the Albatross society, Tom and the other ‘Albas’ change their identity every few years to avoid attracting suspicion from the regular human ‘Mayflies’. In return for this financial and logistical support they must abide by the society’s doctrine; not to lay down roots, and not to risk detection by falling in love.
As Tom struggles to escape the many pasts which constantly threatens to engulf his fragile grip on the present, he begins to question the rules he has lived by for so long…
Wow! Matt Haig has done it again! Since his last novel for adults, ‘The Humans’, Matt Haig has written a top-ten non-fiction bestseller (‘Reasons to Stay Alive’), a YA sci-fi novel (‘Echo Boy’) and two best-selling children’s books….but he has not lost his touch for poignant thoughtful commentary and sophisticated plotting!
‘How to Stop Time’ is an absolutely spell-binding, century-hopping novel, full of wise insight into the human condition and brimful with compassion and warmth. Absorbing, compelling, and moving, a perfect page-turner which I gulped down in just a few days and immediately wanted to read again!

The Lost Girl

The Lost Girl

Last year we were very fortunate to host Carol Drinkwater, the charming former actress and author of a series of books about her olive farm in France when she was launching a debut novel, The Forgotten Summer, an atmospheric family drama set on a Provence vineyard estate. Now we have her keenly awaited second novel, one that she was very excited about when we met her. Set in present day France where a mother drawn to Paris to search for her missing daughter finds herself caught up in a terrorist attack which devastates Paris, this intriguing story draws on the experience of France both now and in the immediate post war era. A page-turning summer read.

Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship

Ravilious & Co: The Pattern of Friendship

In the 75 years since Eric Ravilious’s untimely death in the Second World War, he has become one of the most popular and important artists of the twentieth century. His association with Edward Bawden is well known, but his wider circle included artists, friends and lovers who influenced and supported each other in many different ways. Mainly brought together by Paul Nash’s teaching at the Royal College of Art, the group included his wife Tirzah Garwood, Peggy Angus, Enid Marx, Helen Binyon and others. Andy Friend’s fascinating and ambitious group biography traces the links and influences between them, giving more prominence to the women in the group than has perhaps been done before, and illuminates the shared experiences that gave rise to some of the finest art and design of the period. Plentifully illustrated, this book is as beautiful as it is enthralling.

The Dog, Ray

The Dog, Ray

A thoughtful, charming and moving children’s novel about friendship, grief, reincarnation and life as a dog.
When 12 year old Daisy is involved in a fatal car crash, she wakes up in a heavenly waiting-room, where she is allocated a new life, and finds herself back on earth…in the body of a dog. After escaping her owners she sets off on a mission to find her real family, pairing up with a friendly human runaway, Pip, who is searching for his father. Daisy’s gradual adjustment to her new canine senses, her fading memories of her old human life and her devotion to Pip are portrayed with gentle humour and sensitivity, and there is plenty of excitement along the way, as she and Pip evade capture and overcome disappointment on their quest.
Perfect for 8-12 year old readers.

Detective Dog

Detective Dog

We’re very excited about this one… Britain’s best-selling picture book author and local resident, the wonderful Julia Donaldson has chosen to collaborate with one of our favourite illustrators, Sara Ogilvie, to create a fantastic, fast-paced romp, The Detective Dog.
‘There once was a dog with a keen sense of smell. She was known far and wide as Detective Dog Nell.’
Nell can sniff out the solution to any mystery with her amazing nose, she solves any crime and also looks after her messy boy owner Peter, retrieving his belongings from the most unlikely places. That’s what she does Tuesday to Sunday, but on Mondays Nell has another very important job – she follows the smell of books and goes to school with Peter and listens to the children read.
When all the school’s books disappear, who better to sniff them out than Detective Dog Nell?
This an absolutely lovely story in praise of books and libraries and children and dogs, illuminated by Ogilvy’s fabulously expressive drawings.

Our Endless Numbered Days

Our Endless Numbered Days

Winner of the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize for Fiction this is a striking and absorbing first novel inspired by the true life story of Robin van Helsum, a Dutch boy who walked out of a German forest in 2011 claiming to have survived there with his father
The novel opens with the young narrator Peggy, aged 17, finding herself back in London trying to resume a normal life with her mother and the younger brother she never knew she had, after living for nine years in remote German mountains with her increasingly unhinged survivalist father who abducted her when her mother, a distant and self-absorbed concert pianist, was away on tour.
Told in flashback the novel transports us from Peggy’s seemingly idyllic and comfortable childhood to the often gruesome realities of surviving in the wild, creating in the wilderness an atmosphere that is claustrophobic but also strangely liberating. The carefully crafted unsettling novel builds a tension that would be unbearable were it not for the fact that we know that the vulnerable child survives, albeit having lost her childhood.
A most impressive debut that lingers in the mind for some time.
The bookshop book group’s pick for August.

Strange Star

Strange Star

From the author of In Darkling Wood and The Girl Who Walked on Air comes an enjoyably creepy story inspired by the summer when Mary Shelley created Frankenstein. There is a growing body of young readers who are great fans of this writer, a former secondary school teacher who creates deftly plotted involving stories with believable characters and enough complexity to challenge without baffling.
Suitable for ages 9-12

Squirrel Pie (and Other Stories)

Squirrel Pie (and Other Stories)

Another book to contain a squirrel recipe, surely a first for the Bookshop reviews! This is renowned food writer Elisabeth Luard’s collection of stories of food from around the world. From bush-tucker in Australia, to snails in Crete, squirrel pot-pie from the grey squirrel’s native habitat of the forests of North America, to Ethiopian injeera, Elisabeth’s travels and encounters with food provide a collection of fascinating anecdotes, recipes and drawings. Charming and entertaining.

The Wild Life

The Wild Life

Following the purchase of a run-down Herefordshire farm, and encouraged by dreams of roast duck with wild mushroom sauce, as well as a combination of being utterly broke, with natural bounty around him, farmer John Lewis-Stempel, whose previous book Meadowland was a runaway success, decides to eat only wild food for a year. It must be hunted or foraged by himself from his own forty acres, and may not include food produced by agriculture. His wife bans him from using the freezer, so he also has to rely on traditional preservation techniques. This book is the story of his year, his (often monotonous) meals, and the methods he uses to procure them. A lot of rabbit, also squirrel, snails, pigeon and trout are consumed (but mainly rabbit), as well as what many people this of as weeds – chickweed, silverweed and dandelions. The long hours spent hunting for food, and even longer ones preparing it, ultimately hone his perceptions, his tastebuds, and draw him closer to the land and to himself. Fascinating.
Alice

A Little Life

A Little Life

This is the story of four ambitious, talented friends who meet at college, and then move to New York to make their way in the world. Malcolm is a diffident aspiring architect, JB paints acclaimed pictures of his friend, Willem waits tables and auditions for parts and brilliant, enigmatic Jude is working at the district attorney’s office. As their careers and relationships develop, Jude becomes the centre of the narrative, his past slowly and devastatingly revealed, the dark centre of the circle of friendship. This is outstanding book built in layers of quiet, subtle and heart-breaking detail.

Meadows at Great Dixter and Beyond

Meadows at Great Dixter and Beyond

Meadows: At Great Dixter and Beyond by Christopher Lloyd and Fergus Garrett
Pimpernel Press £30
This is a sumptuous new edition of Christopher Lloyd’s classic book on meadows. Starting with the origins of meadows in history, art and literature, Lloyd goes on to describe in detail the different types of meadow and prairie, how to create and maintain them, and his own efforts at Great Dixter, the garden that was his life’s work. Fergus Garrett, current head gardener at Great Dixter, who worked closely with Lloyd, and continues his work after his death has contributed a lengthy new introduction, which looks at the ongoing developments in their grassland management, and the resurgent interest in ecology and wildlife habitats.
Come and hear Fergus talk about the book and his gardening life at Great Dixter on May 27th in the Big Top at 11am as part of the Steyning Festival. The book will be available at the special Festival price of £20.