Snow in the Garden
by Shirley Hughes
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
The Kindness by Polly Samson Pub Bloomsbury 8.99
At the outset of this assured second novel by Polly Samson we encounter Julian, prematurely aged at only 29, in a state of deep anguish at the loss of his lover, Julia, and their daughter, Mira. He drifts through his Sussex childhood home, consumed by their absence. Empty photograph frames, beds which no longer hold his sleeping family, this is a house echoing with regrets – but the details of his loss are a mystery. Polly Samson has received much praise for her short story collections and this compelling novel, lyrical but deftly rooted in reality, is a set of interlocking stories which lead the reader to piece together the mystery at the heart of the book while at the same time provide great insight into the inner lives of the protagonists.
The Kindness wears its structural complexity lightly, the voice and the pace so assured that it seems remarkable that this is only Samson’s second novel. It’s a rare achievement to create a book that is at once a wise and tender meditation on the nature of love and disappointment, and a page turner that will keep you awake into the small hours” – Observer
Helen Simonson sets her new novel, “The Summer Before the War,” in the summer of 1914 when Europe is contemplating the unthinkable – a German invasion of Belgium. In the English seaside town of Rye the residents are agog at the arrival of the new Latin teacher, Beatrice Nash —a bright, attractive and fiercely independent orphaned daughter of academic parents who is not prepared to endure uncritically the social restrictions that prevail in the town that later inspired E F Benson’s Lucia novels. Fans of Simonson’s “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand,” will once again enjoy the perceptive social comedy in this lively and engaging book which gains added depth as we are drawn inexorably towards the effects on the town’s inhabitants of the onslaught that will ravage a generation.
Helen Simonson will be in discussion with authors Polly Sampson and Suzanne Joinson at a Festival event on May 23rd at 7.30pm in the Gluck Studio, Chantry House. Access from Elm Grove Lane.
A welcome return to longer picture books from Emily Gravett, after her delightful series for toddlers featuring Bear and Hare, ‘Tidy’ tells the story of Pete the badger, a slightly OCD woodland character who gets a bit carried away when he starts to tidy up the forest, with disastrous but amusing consequences! Sumptuously illustrated and with a resounding environmental message, this book is a real treat for 3-5 year olds.
Emily will be at the bookshop on the launch date of the book – April 7th, tickets priced £2 per child.
Sunjeev Sahota’s first novel Ours Are The Streets gained him a place on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists list of 2013 and this his second novel was longlisted for the 2015 Man Booker prize. Pertinent in view of the situation in Calais and Greece, this novel, set in Sheffield, is a brilliant depiction of the aspirations and daily struggles of three Indian men sharing accommodation with a group of other migrant workers and, in another part of the city, a devoutly Hindu Indian woman trapped and compromised by her marriage of convenience. The novel moves skilfully between India and England, initially taking the form of short stories and novellas about the characters in childhood and in the present day, and then as the main protagonists’ lives intermingle, the narrative gains further strength and opens still more the question of Western responsibilities to those less fortunate. An engrossing and humane read.
Yasmin is fifteen, fat and in her words “a freak”, compulsively drawn to beautiful Alice Taylor whom she feels compelled to protect from afar, with far reaching consequences. An unsettling but at times comic portrayal of an obsession, this debut novel by former film editor Tasha Kavanagh grips and disturbs.
Published as adult fiction but could be read by older teenagers.
Anne Jaccob is the daughter of a well-to-do family, though material comforts do nothing to soften a life pinched by misery and neglect. Her father cares nothing for her, her mother is exhausted and absent through her many confinements, and they are all grieving in their own ways for Anne’s baby brother. Denied emotional solace at home and desperate to escape the suitor her father has picked for her, Anne starts to look outside for excitement and affection. She settles on Fub, the butchers’ boy, hardly a suitable match for a young lady. Hardened by grief and made reckless by desire, Anne pushes herself off on a course there’s no turning back from…
Don’t let Janet Ellis’s cosy demeanour fool you, this is a dark, twisting tale of grief, lust and violence in Georgian London, and one unforgettable heroine’s warped attempt to escape the stifling claustrophobia of the female sphere.
Published last March, this exciting and contemporary thriller follows the fortunes of Dan, a young boy worried that his father is returning to a life of crime, and Aliya, who has escaped with her family from Afghanistan to a run-down housing estate in London and finds her brother implicated in what appears to be a terrorist plot.
Aliya manages to persuade Dan to help her try to prove her brother’s innocence but their investigations become increasingly complicated and dangerous, affected also by Dan’s secret concerns that his father may be involved. A really well written and involving tale, with convincing and sympathetic lead characters and a tense and at times quite frightening plot.
Recommended for age 11 upwards.
Creative collaborators Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz were behind the wonderful ‘A Place to call Home’ plus many other clever picture books. ‘I am Henry Finch’ is a funny and original take on the philosophy of Descartes… ‘I Think Therefore I am’.
One day, the repetitive rhythm of the Finch flock’s existence is turned upside down. Little Henry Finch is suddenly struck by A Thought. The Thought changes everything… in fact, Henry’s Thought saves the day, and before long, the whole flock are buzzing and chattering with Thoughts!
Fabulously funny, quirky and intelligent picture book, perfect for 3 to 6 year olds, whether budding philosophers or not!
Look no further if you’re hoping to banish the February blues with a laugh-out-loud feel-good novel!
Meg Rosoff, author of many bestselling Young Adult novels including the stunning ‘How I Live Now’, makes her first foray into writing for adults with this charmingly wry story set in New York. I completely fell in love with her confused and hapless hero, Jonathan, fresh out of university and making his first tentative steps into being a ‘proper person’.
Jonathan arrives in New York to begin his new, adult life and is amazed to find himself in proud possession of both an apartment (barely legal) and a job in advertising (soul destroying). He is just about holding it together when the arrival of two doggie flatmates, an ultimatum from his bossy girlfriend, and a strange attraction to a new co-worker of indeterminate gender threaten to overwhelm the delicate balance of his life!
What follows is a hilarious, romantic and wise caper, as Jonathan tries to figure out his philosophical bafflement at life, love, and the mysteries of the canine mind….I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions, and I can already picture the charming Nora-Ephron style rom-com it will no doubt become. But don’t let this put you off – Meg Rosoff’s writing fizzes with life, her observation is sharp, and Jonathan is a most endearingly comic character.
Hardback out 11/2/16.
Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life (which won the Costa book award in 2013) introduced readers to the Todd family of Fox Corner and told the multiple stories of Ursula, as she died, or not, countless times. It was a dazzling, inventive book that probed at the dark heart of the Second World War and its effect on those who died and those who survived. A God in Ruins (this year’s Costa winner) is a ‘‘companion’ piece rather than a sequel’ according to Atkinson and takes up the story of Ursula’s younger brother Teddy, the golden boy, their mother’s favourite, the wartime hero who died returning from a bombing raid in Life After Life. He gets another chance here, a wife, a daughter, grandchildren, an ignominious end in a nursing home – the ‘afterwards’ he never thought to have. Although the narrative skips back and forth through time, it is Teddy’s war that is the heart of the book, and his heart remains inside a Halifax bomber. The effect the war had on him and therefore on his monstrous (but amusing) daughter Viola and her own children is played out in subtle, poignant and surprising ways.
From her earliest work Atkinson displayed an exuberant delight in the stuff of storytelling, and in A God in Ruins, as well as its predecessor plays with form in a masterly way with serious intent and to great effect. This is a wonderful, heart-breaking book about life, family, war and its effects on a generation and the lives of those who followed.
Longlisted for the Booker prize, this thoughtful and engaging novel, Andrew O’Hagan’s fifth, explores with a fresh voice universal themes of age, memory, war and love. Former documentary photographer Ann lives in sheltered accommodation in Ayrshire, while her grandson Luke serves in Afghanistan encountering in real life the scenarios that he and his war fodder contemporaries relished on Xbox games. When he returns disillusioned and trying to forget the disturbing scenes that he has experienced (robustly described by O’Hagan), he finds himself tasked with helping his grandmother, in contrast, retrieve past memories and long-kept secrets and questions of veracity in image and recall gain an added resonance.
It’s a measure of O’Hagan’s compassion that after balancing these stories of war and family – braving the battlefield and braving the passing of time – the ultimate note is hopeful and almost gentle, of something that seems real and vital. The Guardian