The Bees

The Bees

The Bees – Laline Paull– 4th Estate £8.99
As astonishing debut novel, deservedly garnering critical acclaim and award shortlist nominations, from British playwright Laline Paull, who resides in East Sussex.
Flora 717 is born into the lowest ‘kin’ (caste) of her Hive. However her abnormally large size and ability to speak, when the rest of her kin are mute, singles her out for the attention of her Hive’s priestesses. She is permitted to rise through the ranks of the Hive’s hierarchies to become a ‘forager’, even being admitted to serve the exalted Queen, and ultimately becoming both saviour and challenger of her Hive’s fanatically controlled regime.
‘The Bees’ is both a meditation on totalitarian regimes, bringing to mind Margaret Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in its portrayal of a female-led society in which only the chosen may breed, and a fascinating insight into the hive mentality and the chemical, pheromone-soaked world of insect society. It is quite incredible how lyrically yet precisely Laline Paull renders the essential ‘bee-ness’ of scent-based communication, and immerses the reader so deeply in what is essentially an alien consciousness.
A timely subject, given the present peril of our bee populations.
Mind-blowingly imaginative, gripping and unique – my first absolute must-read this year!
Gudrun

The Midnight Dress

The Midnight Dress

The Midnight Dress by Karen Foxlee
 Hot Key Books £7.99
Another story that adds to the dramatic tension by starting at the end. This book was originally ordered by us for a customer who wanted to check whether it was suitable for her 10 year old daughter, who had loved the very enjoyable Ophelia and the Marvellous Boy, also by this author. It wasn’t, but it is a wonderful read for teenagers from age 13 or 14. Set near Cairns, the novel follows the progress of 15 year old Rose Lovell who lives a wandering and dislocated life travelling with her father, an artist with a drink problem. Turning up at the aptly named Paradise Bay with their ramshackle caravan as her father goes through a rare dry period, she is reluctantly drawn into friendship with relentlessly and volubly friendly school beauty Pearl. Rose even finds herself joining in with the annual search for the most beautiful dress to wear at the Harvest Parade and encounters an odd and story-filled old woman who helps her sew a magical and stunning midnight blue dress. The novel is lyrical in its superb evocation of the natural world and the mysteries of love, and humorous in its treatment of sardonic young Rose, but there is also a dark undercurrent indicated from the start, so be warned, handkerchiefs at the ready!
Also a warning for parents. It does contain a little bad language, but not an inordinate amount and it does not detract from the general beauty of the writing.
Sara

Missing Microbes

Missing Microbes

Missing Microbes by Martin Blaser. One World Publications £8.99
A terrifying and timely examination of antibiotic resistance and what can be done to halt it. In 2014 the World Health Organization issued the grim warning that we are on the cusp of a ‘post-antibiotic era’, and Martin Blaser guides us through the science behind this modern crisis. Crisply argued, accessible and beautifully written, his arguments focus not on antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’, but on the damage being done to the teeming ecosystems within each one of us, and he calmly sets out a sensible plan for reclaiming our microbial balance. Essential reading for doctors, scientists and laymen alike.
Gudrun

Flood of Fire

Flood of Fire

Flood of Fire
Amitav Ghosh
John Murray £20
It is 1839, and in British India, there are fortunes to be made by exporting Indian opium to China. But tensions are mounting as the Chinese Emperor realises the damage that the drug is doing to the population. With hostilities mounting, the colonial government declares war, and British ships start sailing east from Bengal into the middle of the first Opium War. The Hind is one of the vessels requisitioned, and aboard are a motley group of travellers. Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company, leading his men, Zachary Reid, a young American sailor in search of wealth and his lost love and Shireen Modi, a widow risking her reputation to travel to China alone to find the truth about her husband’s death and recover his possessions. On the voyage, connections are come to light, and the travellers’ pasts are revealed to be as tangled together as their futures.
This is the third of Amitav Ghosh’s Booker nominated Ibis trilogy set in India and China before and during the Opium Wars, and it is as enthralling and all-consuming as the first two novels.

At Hawthorn Time

At Hawthorn Time

At Hawthorn Time by Melissa Harrison pub Bloomsbury £16.99
This story begins at the end with a scene showing a long straight road running through the fields to a little village called Lodeshill. On the road two cars lie wrecked – one wheel, upturned, still spins.
A couple have recently moved to Lodeshill from London, their marriage in difficulties. A young lad who has lived in the village all his life dreams of leaving it behind and a vagrant farm worker in flight from a bail hostel arrives on foot in the village. Their lives become intertwined. All four of them are trying to find ways to belong in the modern countryside.
Throughout the book Melissa Harrison accurately and charmingly describes the natural world and our need to belong. The suspense increases towards the end of the story as you become concerned about each of the characters you have met. Each time somebody gets into a car you wonder if they are the victims of the tragic car crash described at the beginning of the book. This is an unsentimental story of loss and love. Gill.

Breakfast – Morning, noon and night by Fern Green.

Breakfast – Morning, noon and night by Fern Green.

Breakfast – Morning, Noon & Night by Fern Green. Hardie Grant £18.99
We are spoilt for choice with new cookery books this month, with delicious looking Asian and Thai recipe books just in, but this one has to take the crumpet!
Breakfast, that sorely neglected meal, is the focus of this beautifully-presented and mouth-watering recipe book. With sections dedicated to ‘on toast’, ‘hungover’, ‘indulgent’, ‘baked’ and ‘for a crowd’ and featuring adventurous recipes like ‘smoked trout, ricotta and new potato rolled omelette’, sweet treats like ‘spiced Granny Smith fritters’ and global imports such as ‘Moroccan Eggs’ the owner of this wonderful book will have no excuse to reach for the cereal ever again!

Wolf Border

Wolf Border

The Wolf Border by Sarah Hall
Faber £14.99
Rachel Caine is returning to home to Cumbria from her job monitoring wolves in Idaho for the first time in six years. The Earl of Annerdale, rich and eccentric, is determined to have the country’s best wolf expert working on his pet project. And her mother is dying. The Earl offers her a job overseeing the reintroduction of grey wolves to his estate but she initially refuses. Her resistance is soon overcome, however, and Rachel soon finds herself back in the landscape of her childhood, trying to negotiate the oddities of, and protests against, the wolf project and her own uneasy relationship with her brother and the shade of her mother.

It is a tale of returning and of borders. The wolves return to their ancestral home and to their place in our imaginations. In returning to the landscape of her childhood, Rachel is able to begin to rebuild her connection to her brother, and to start to make sense of her relationship with her mother. Borders are everywhere, from the wolf border of the title, to the border between England and Scotland at a time of upheaval, and as in all Hall’s work, the thin, sometimes permeable line between human, animal and landscape.
For fans of Angela Carter, Ted Hughes, Kathleen Jamie.

Coastlines

Coastlines

Patrick Barkham is a nature writer and Guardian journalist, and is the author of two previous critically acclaimed books, ‘The Butterfly Isles’ and ‘Badgerlands’. ‘Coastlines’ traces the story of the most beautiful areas of the British coast, preserved for us by the National Trust, and the struggle to protect this natural heritage from human destruction and tidal erosion.

Patrick proves a most engaging and knowledgeable companion, as he walks 742 miles of beaches and coastal paths, and reflects on what it means for us to live in a country which is ‘more edge than middle’. Mixing chatty personal recollections and fascinating historical nuggets with evocative, lyrical passages on natural history and geology, ‘Coastlines’ is an enjoyably eloquent read, and I cannot wait to hear more coastal tales when Patrick appears at our Sussex Produce Company Author Supper in Steyning on April 15th. Gudrun

Jolley-Rogers and the Cave of Doom

Jolley-Rogers and the Cave of Doom

We LOVE Jonny Duddle and his pirate tales which are perfect for 4-6 year olds! This is the second chapter-book instalment about the eccentric pirate family, the Jolley-Rogers, following on from the best-selling picture books ‘The Pirate-Cruncher’ and ‘The Pirates Next Door’.

While the Jolley-Rogers are enjoying a day at the beach, little sister Nugget toddles into a cave. When she doesn’t come out again, Mum goes in to find her. And, when Mum doesn’t return, Dad follows.
Jim Lad is suspicious and sends Bones the dog to Dull-on-Sea to find Matilda before he too ventures in to the cave. Jim Lad soon discovers a magical haul of treasure inside the cave has bewitched his family. Will the cave’s spooky inhabitant, a sinister sea witch, keep them prisoner forever, or can Matilda and Bones come to the Jolley-Rogers’ rescue?

Perfect as a first read-aloud chapter book for 4-5 year olds, or for 6-7 year olds making their first forays into independent reading. Gudrun.

Winter Horses

Winter Horses

This beautifully recounted story tells of a young orphaned Russian Jewish girl’s incredible bravery as she fights to save two rare horses from extermination by the Nazis when German troops arrive at a former wildlife reserve in the Ukraine, home to the almost extinct Przewalski’s horses. In the midst of a freezing winter, Max, the devoted caretaker of the reserve, finds himself first helping to hide young Kalinka and the two remaining horses and then sending them on a perilous journey through the frozen Ukrainian forest to escape. Intensely gripping and at times heart-rending in its depiction of the suffering in war-torn Russia, it’s an absolute must for horse-loving children who need more substantial stories than tales about gymkhanas! Ideal for ages 10 – 14. Sara.

Oi Frog!

Oi Frog!

Our favourite new picture book, by the always amusing Kes Gray (of ‘Super Daisy’ fame) Cat bossily tells frog that he can’t sit on a mat because frogs must sit on logs. Then follows a hilarious rhyming list of which animals must sit on what as frog is made to feel more and more ignorant by know-all cat, with a final and very funny uncomfortable resolution for the poor chap. Sara.

‘Hilarious illustrations and rhymes which are easy to recite and join in. Everyone will love it.’ – The Guardian

A God in Every Stone

A God in Every Stone

Kamila Shamsie’s last novel, Burnt Shadows, was probably my favourite book of 2009, so I was excited about her new title, A God in Every Stone.

Burnt Shadows elegantly and resonantly connected Nagasaki, partition and Guantamo Bay, and A God in Every Stone is similarly epic in scope, taking the reader from ancient Persia to the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire and the troubled end of British colonial rule in India.  On the eve of the First World War, a young British woman, Vivian Rose Spencer, joins an archaeological dig in Turkey and falls in love. Thousands of miles away, a Pashtun soldier, Qayyum Gul, is learning about brotherhood and loyalty in the British Indian Army. A year later, Viv has been separated from her lover by the war, and become a nurse, and Qayyum has survived the bloodbath at Ypres, but lost an eye. They meet on a train to Peshawar, unaware that their lives will connect in ways that only become clear many years later…

This is an excellent, ambitious novel of empires and their aftermath, and how individuals get caught up in the tide of history. Alice

The Celtic Myths – A guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends.

The Celtic Myths – A guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends.

This beautifully produced small hardback is an absolute treasure trove! Miranda Aldhouse-Green, a Professor of Archaeology at Cardiff University, skilfully weaves together evidence from manuscripts, artefacts and Iron-Age archaeology to explore the world of the ancient Celts and their mythology.

Beginning with a discussion of how the myths were transmitted and by whom, she then moves on to vividly recount a very comprehensive selection of Irish and Welsh myths, taking in well-known figures such as King Arthur and the giant Cuchulainn, as well as a host of more obscure tales. She examines their key themes and motifs, before finishing with a look at how these myths survived the advent of Christianity, and the influence of monastic chroniclers on the tales, which were often adapted and re-spun for a Christian audience.

Clearly presented, with two-colour illustrations, drawings, photographs and boxed features, the book is accessible enough for a reader new to Celtic mythology, but also contains enough new research and analysis to satisfy even the most expert mythologist! A really perfect gift for those curious about our nation’s Celtic origins. Gudrun