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This genuinely fresh perspective on the Bennet household in Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ gives the reader a fascinating insight into the harsh working conditions below stairs two hundred years ago from the servants’ perspective. One servant in particular, Sarah, longs to escape the confines of her station and the unmitigating drudgery of domestic life, which chaps her hands raw and reins in her fertile imagination and intellect. With the arrival of two new male footmen, one at Longbourn and the other an ex-slave working for the Binghams at Netherfield, domestic life at Longbourn, ruled by the strict but tenderhearted Mrs.Hill, becomes disturbed through male rivalry for Sarah and the breaking up of long-held, rigid social convention. This beautifully told, atmospheric and beguiling novel is a ‘must read’.
This poignant crime novel follows the strange fate of Patrick Fort, an anatomy student with Asperger’s Syndrome. Patrick is haunted by the sudden death of his father when he was a child in a hit and run car accident. The culprit was never found. Patrick becomes obsessed with structuring that moment between life and death by cutting through dead bodies to find what caused their death. Patrick’s trauma is carefully paralleled with the condition of patients in apparent comas living in a suspended state of awareness without the ability to express themselves, not even the condition of their amnesia. The hunt for Patrick’s father’s killer draws him uncomfortably close to home in a shocking revelation and warm reconciliation which eventually frees him from his isolation. This intelligent, moving novel both explores and reveals the inner world of Asperger’s Syndrome in a way which is both humane and uplifting.
On the North Dakota reservation of Zoknapatawpha, an Indian woman is raped near the site of a sacred round house. She is traumatized and retreats to her bed, not talking to her husband, a tribal judge, her thirteen-year-old son Joe or the police. It is a complicated case: the attacker is discovered to be white and the exact location of the crime uncertain. If the attack took place on Indian land, tribal courts cannot prosecute because it falls under federal law. However, if it took place on land that belongs to the state national park, the state must prosecute. Undeterred, Joe and his father begin a quest for justice, using detective work and referring to the law books of a legal system that allows such injustices to occur. Told from Joe’s perspective as an older man, this moving coming-of-age narrative follows him as he is introduced to the realities of the adult world and the weight of his own Indian heritage. Filled with memorable characters, of which the elder traditional Indians stand out as sources of tribal wisdom, this book is the winner of the U.S. National Book Award.
Twelve-year-old Josy has an inexplicable illness and vanishes without a trace from her doctor’s office during treatment. Four years’ later, Josy’s father, psychiatrist, Victor Larenz, has withdrawn to an Isolated North Sea Island to deal with his loss. There he is visited by Anna Glass, a novelist who suffers from a mental health disturbance where all the characters she creates in her books become real to her. In her last novel, Anna wrote about a young girl with an unknown illness who vanished without trace. Viktor agrees to take Anna on as a patient in a final attempt to uncover the truth about his daughter’s disappearance but soon these sessions take a dramatic turn as the past is dragged back into the present with horrifying consequences. This chilling psychological thriller is a spellbinding masterpiece!
Following the exploratory tracks of ‘Runemarks’ and ‘Runelight,’ Joanne Harris returns to the fantasy world of the Norse in this witty retelling of its ancient myths through the perspective of the Trickster Loki. The god of fire, known for his mischievous pranks to downright evil misdeeds, begins his narrative with his recruitment in the underworld of Chaos. The ensuing tales follow his changing relationship with the Allfather Odin, his undermining of the various gods and his predestined part in the fall of Asgard. Loki states in the beginning of the book that this history is not an authorized version written in an old language, but rather in his own brash and sometimes irreverent style. Full of trickster humour, misbehaviour, fun and entertainment, ‘The Gospel of Loki’ again illustrates Harris’ brilliant gift at fantasy.
Nora Eldridge has always been a good, reliable and kind girl as a daughter, colleague, friend and employee. She teaches at an elementary school where everyone adores her, but her real passion is art. When an attractive new boy, Reza Shahid, appears in her classroom, her life is transformed as she is drawn into the orbit of his glamorous, artistic family. His father is a prominent Harvard academic and his mother an artist looking for someone to share her studio. It sounds like an ideal situation until Nora realizes that her liberation from her old life is not quite as it seems and she is about to suffer a betrayal more monstrous than anything she could have imagined. Messud’s scorching novel about enthrallment, ambition, envy and betrayal is a tour de force revealing a no longer invisible or silent ‘woman upstairs’.
It is Christmas Eve when fifteen year old Marnie and her younger sister, Nelly, are digging a hole in their backyard in one of the more deprived parts of modern-day Glasgow in order to bury their parents, Izzy and Gene, two abusive drug addicts who have died under mysterious circumstances. Having been neglected all their lives, the sisters are not particularly sad but their main concern is not to be taken into care and separated from each-other. They decide to keep quiet until Marnie is sixteen and can legally take care of Nelly. However, Lennie, their neighbour, an elderly gay man has just lost his partner and is haunted himself by a stupid mistake he made in the past. When Lennie realizes that the girls are on their own, he offers them food and shelter assuming their parents have abandoned them. Lennie needs someone to care for while the girls long for a person to look after them after years of abuse. Yet the buried bodies in the garden are always a threat, especially as Lennie’s dog is determined to dig them up. O’Donnell is skilled at tightening up the pressure on the sisters and creating a sense of dread throughout. By telling the story from the three different perspectives of Marnie, Nelly and Lennie, this touching novel of three lost people creating their own unique family is told in a very special, authentic and vivid style.
Meet Don Tillman, a thirty-nine-year-old professor of genetics, tall, intelligent and fit but with strong signs of Asperger’s Syndrome, who decides it is time to find a wife, so he launches The Wife Project. To find the right woman, he designs a sixteen-page scientifically valid questionnaire to filter out the drinkers, the smokers and the late- comers. One day after a series of disappointing dates, when Rosie Jarman comes into his office, Don assumes it is to apply for The Wife Project and duly discounts her because she smokes, drinks and is incapable of punctuality. But Rosie has no interest in becoming Mrs. Tillman. She is actually there to ask for Don’s help for her own quest because she needs his professional expertise in identifying her biological father. Forced out of his tightly structured routine, an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on The Father Project. Don is confronted with the whirlwind force of Rosie’s personality and thrown by the fact that he has such fun with someone who appears so inappropriate on paper, contrary to all his scientific evidence. This witty love story makes a brilliant read, even when it tends to reinforce gender stereotypes!
The ‘American Dream’ is very much alive, but certain groups have cultural advantages. According to Chua and Rubenfeld, the belief that ‘all are created equal’ that ‘self-esteem is the key to a successful life’ and that ‘American ideals lead to immediate gratification’ still holds true, although their groundbreaking research maintains that this ‘Triple Package’ is losing its edge. Certain groups in America perform better than others since they take advantage of opportunity. Chua and Rubenfeld explain how the Mormons, Indians, Nigerians, Chinese and Jews prove more successful than others in acquiring wealth, escaping from poverty and earning doctorates than other Americans. The authors also warn the reader that the triple package has a dark side and each element has a ‘pathological’ undertone if taken to extremes. They conclude that although the ladder to success should be climbed, one should eventually kick it away. While the power of opportunity is good, one needs to be aware from its danger. This book may transform the way you think about success.
With major political unions under pressure, the Soviet Union unravelled, the government of the United States appears dysfunctional and a much younger union, The European Union, is becoming more unpopular, Linda Colley examines a much older political union, which is also shows growing difficulties, the United Kingdom. This book analyses of continuous acts of union that have connected England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The author explores some attempted unions that have failed, such as the repeated attempts to unite Britain and America. Drawing on art, literature, politics, music, architecture and landscape in international comparisons, this book unpicks some of the identity stories that were deployed in the making of the UK. As Scotland may be on the verge of separating, and what is left of the UK could exit from the EU, it is time to reconsider and re-envisage acts of union and acts of disunion. This timely, lively analysis disentangles the false unities from the real disunities.
The decline of the West has been prophesied for a long time. We can see symptoms of decline all around us: the slowing growth, crushing debts, increasing inequality, ageing populations and antisocial behaviour. Renowned historian, Niall Ferguson, explains exactly what has gone wrong and argues that our institutions, which were once the four pillars of Western society – representative government, the free market, the rule of law and civil society – are degenerating. With his characteristic verve, long term perspective and historical insight, Ferguson analyses not only the causes of this stagnation but also its profound consequences and warns us that it will take heroic leadership and radical reform to prevent the eventual breakdown of our civilization.
Born in 1808 in New York as a free black man, Solomon Northup received a solid education, learned to play the violin, married, raised three children and worked various jobs in rural New York. However, his life was changed irrevocably in 1841 when he was drugged and kidnapped from his home by two visiting business men who promised him a job in Washington, DC. In chains and stripped of any identifying documents, he was eventually transported south to Louisiana where he was sold into slavery to a cotton plantation owner. He spent the following twelve years as a slave enduring the most brutal and humiliating treatment imaginable. When, against all odds, he finally managed to contact his family and was rescued in 1853, he was compelled to write down this gripping account of his years in captivity and his attempts to bring charges against the men who originally abducted him. This rare memoir, a profound and passionate abolitionist document from an involuntary inside informant, contributed to the debate over slavery in the years leading up to the American Civil War. This is an exceptional book both in tone and historical relevance.
This glittering pageant of charismatic ladies’ men from Casanova to Lord Byron challenges every preconceived notion about great lovers: great seducers are neither alpha-studs nor wealthy moguls; instead they radiate humour, intensity and sex appeal and, above all, they love women. With both wit and erudition, Prioleau cuts through the cultural lore about evil predators and reveals who these real masters of Eros actually are. This groundbreaking and provocative analysis, backed by brilliant research and a seductive verve, puts a new twist on that age-old question: what do women really want? This ‘must read’ offers a new synthesis about romantic love.
Reviews by Evelyn, Jayne, Kavin, Liz, Michaela and Ruth