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When Harry Clifton visits his publisher in New York and finds out that he has been elected as the new president of English PEN, he immediately campaigns for the release of fellow author Anatoly Babakov imprisoned for writing an insider book about Stalin’s brutality. Harry’s wife, Emma, is facing the repercussions of the IRA attack on the Buckingham, where she acts as chairman of Barrington shipping. Some board members blame Emma for the attack. Meanwhile, Harry and Emma’s son Sebastian is making a name for himself at Farthing’s bank and has proposed to the wealthy American Samantha. Sebastian’s good fortune attracts hatred from Adrian Sloan who will stop at nothing to remove Sebastian as his rival. With twist and turns, the compelling story of the Clifton and Barrington families continues, highlighting all the political and personal highs and lows, cuts and thrusts of both intertwining family fortunes. Essential reading for Archer fans!
The Circle runs everything concerning all your internet activity in one safe, visible location. No wonder it has become the most influential world-wide company. When Mae Holland secures a job at its glamourous Californian campus, she knows she has reached her life’s goal. However, the more her ideals and ambitions become aligned with those of the Circle, the closer she becomes to realising she has made a grave error of judgment. Behind the Circle’s glittering façade is the sinister truth that it is, in fact, seeking to remake the world in its own image. This gripping and highly unsettling satire paints a horrifying picture in inventive, vivid detail of a modern version of Orwell’s Brave New World.
Heir to the Plantagenets, Margaret Pole is a rival claimant to the Tudor throne. Suffocated in marriage to a loyal Tudor supporter, Margaret becomes guardian to Arthur, the young Prince of Wales and his beautiful young bride, Katherine of Aragon. Tragedy throws Margaret into poverty, yet the King’s death restores her to a place at Arthur’s brother, young Henry VIII’s court as lady-in-waiting to Queen Katherine. As the marriage between Katherine and Henry deteriorates, Margaret has to choose between her allegiance to the increasingly tyrannical Henry VIII or to her friend, his abandoned queen, because Katherine has not provided Henry with a male heir. Margaret herself is hiding a deadly secret that a curse was cast on the Tudor line and she is watching and waiting for it to come to pass. Gregory’s depiction of Henry VIII’s transformation from an indulged but charming golden prince to a sinister, embittered tyrant is perfectly pitched. A must read!
Every day Rachel takes the train into London, a commuter like the other passengers. The train stops at the same signal every day and she gazes through the window at the homes along the track near where she once lived. In time she becomes obsessed by a couple she sees living in one of them who seem to lead the perfect life, until one day Rachel sees something in their garden that destroys the fantasy. She finds out the woman, Megan, is missing. Even though Rachel knows her own life is so out of control with alcohol-fuelled memory lapses that she cannot trust her own judgment, she still becomes drawn into the investigation and into a murky world she thought was in her past. Paula Hawkins’ first thriller is reminiscent of a Hitchcock mystery, full of suspense, trust, betrayal and lies. Told from the perspectives of Rachel, Megan and Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband’s new wife, the strands of the story snarl into a tangled web as the lines between memory, imagination and reality blur. How well do we know someone? Or even ourselves? Hawkins keeps us guessing until the very end with its final, startling twist.
This excellent stand-alone novel from Nesbo, best known for his Harry Hole series, centres on Sonny Lofthus (aka the Son) who is serving a sentence at Oslo’s Staten Maximum Security Prison for two murders to which he confessed but did not commit. Sonny began using drugs after his police officer father, Ab, hanged himself, leaving a note where he confessed to having been a dirty cop. To manipulate and use Sonny to their advantage, prison officials, lawyers and police, all of them under the thumb of Oslo’s crime overlord the Twin, keep him supplied with heroin. When another inmate, however, who is dying of cancer, begs Sonny’s forgiveness after admitting a role in framing Ab and making his murder look like suicide, Sonny makes a brilliant escape and begins hunting down the people responsible for his father’s death, inadvertently getting in the way of the Twin. This is one of Nesbo’s deepest, richest and most exciting novels to date!
When an unmarked luxury yacht crashes into the harbour wall of Reykjavik, Iceland, the crew and the young family who were on board when the yacht left Lisbon have all vanished. Lawyer Thora Gudmundsdottir is hired by the young family’s parents to investigate and make sense of the rumour that the vessel was cursed from the start. Karitas, the glamour wife of the yacht’s former owner is also missing and who is the unidentified body washed up further along the shore? Throughout this gripping, claustrophobic novel, the sea plays a menacing role in claiming and consuming its victims. Thora is an appealing heroine with personal problems almost as complex as the ones she is trying to solve professionally. This gives the novel an added attraction which pulls the reader ever more closely into the anticipated horror revealed on the last page.
Set in rural Ireland in the sixties and seventies, against the backdrop of violent Catholic-Protestant clashes and other eventful happenings of that period, this is an atmospheric and emotional story of a forty-year-old widow, who has lost the love of her life. Maurice had rescued her from the stifling world into which she was born and she now fears she may be drawn back into it. She resents her neighbours’ well-meaning questions and is so grief-stricken that she barely notices her children’s suffering. As she struggles being widowed and solely responsible for four children, Nora also rediscovers her love of singing, her intelligence and deep strength, which helps her find ways to save herself. Nora’s transformation from a struggling, impatient young widow to a self-confident, independent woman is strikingly portrayed!
A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in a seeming accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcroft move to a tiny Scottish island to put together the pieces of their shattered lives. The twins were very different: Kirstie confident and loud, the father’s favourite; Lydia, thoughtful and quick, the mother’s favourite. When their surviving daughter, Kirstie claims that she is, in fact, Lydia, both parents have to re-examine their relationship and confront their own buried secrets. Both accuse each other of infidelity and in Angus’ case sexual abuse with Kirstie. The novel culminates with the shocking disclosure of Sarah’s own negligence on the night of Lydia’s death, which results in her own suicide when she tries to figuratively grasp on to her favoured twin, Lydia, as she slips and falls. This emotional rendering of twin-ship, its betrayal, substitution, projection, favouritism and deadly sibling rivalry is exceptional in its intensity and scope. Brilliant!
This story of three generations of the Whitshank family brims with the luminous insight, humour and compassion that are Anne Tyler's hallmarks. The novel begins in Baltimore in 1994 as Abby and Red Whitshank, a retired couple with four grown up children, are forced to acknowledge that they are getting old. Unravelling their history, we learn of Red’s father and mother who originally built their solid, comfortable home in the 1920’s. Over the years the family has accumulated tender moments, laughter and celebrations as well as jealousies, disappointments and carefully guarded secrets. Anne Tyler’s talent is to create layered, whole characters and to sew their shared and disparate memories of life together into a perceptive portrait of the modern family in all its unguarded and richly lived moments- another wryly observed treat from the much loved prize-winning author.
Schubert’s Winterreise, completed in the last months of his life, is one of the most powerful, yet enigmatic masterpieces in western culture. Ian Bostridge, one of its finest interpreters, focuses on the context, resonance and personal significance of the work, teasing out the themes, literary, historical and psychological, that weave through the twenty-four songs of this legendary cycle. Lasting approximately seventy minutes, it is a work of extraordinary emotional depth and intensity, showing how a young man, rejected by his beloved, leaves the home where he has been living and walks out into the snow and darkness. As he wanders into the snow, he experiences a cascade of emotions: loss, grief, anger and an acute loneliness, finally culminating in despair and alienation. Drawing on his vast experience of performing this work, Bostridge unpicks the enigmas and subtle meanings of each of the twenty-four songs to explore for us the world Schubert inhabited, bringing both the work and poet/musician alive for connoisseurs and new listeners alike.
In November 2009, an emaciated young lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was led to a freezing cell in a Moscow prison and beaten to death for testifying against the Russian Interior Ministry officials who stole $230 million of taxes paid by his employer, financier Bill Browder. Red Notice is Browder’s searing exposé and a graphic portrait of the Russian government as a criminal enterprise wielding all the power of an absolute sovereign state. Browder’s recount reads like a classic thriller based on a true happening. He takes us on an explosive journey from the world of finance in New York and London in the 1990’s through his expulsion from Russia and ultimately to his transformation from financier to human rights activist. With fraud, bribery, corruption and torture exposed at each turn, this ‘must read,’ shocking but true political roller coaster is told by Putin’s most wanted man.
Published simultaneously in Britain and America to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the death of T.S. Eliot, this major biography traces the poet’s life from his childhood in St Louis to the publication of Wasteland. Young Eliot portrays a brilliant, shy and wounded American, who defied his parents’ wishes and emigrated to England. There he authored work of astonishing depth in its scope and hurt. Crawford quotes extensively from poetry and prose, as well as drawing on new interviews, archives and previously undisclosed material. Crawford shows how deeply personal the experiences were that underlined T.S. Eliot’s poetry and reveals the poet in all his vulnerable complexity as student and lover, stink-bomber, banker and philosopher, struggling to create art out of personal disasters.
Keynes is widely known as the economist who helped to save Britain from financial ruin not once but twice during his lifetime. But who was the man behind the economics? In this dazzlingly original biography, Davenport-Hines writes about the ‘climate’ of Keynes’ life in seven colourful sketches which encompass Keynes as altruist, boy prodigy, official, public man, lover, connoisseur and envoy. We unravel the passions that drove Keynes with equal ease and confidence along the corridors of power at Whitehall and in Washington, among bankers of Threadneedle St. and socializing with fellow members of the Bloomsbury Group. Set against the turbulent background of two World Wars, the result is a lively and utterly compelling portrait of one of the titanic figures of the twentieth century.
Helen MacDonald’s greatest aspiration in life was to be a falconer. Her father taught her patience, but after he died, she was devastated with grief and became obsessed with the idea of training her own hawk. Yet, what she bought was the most terrifying and dangerous bird she knew; a goshawk. In the way that leopards resemble housecats, goshawks resemble sparrow hawks but unlike the sparrow hawk, they are bloodier, deadlier, scarier and much harder to see. In H for Hawk Helen McDonald leads us down the path of how she, herself, overcomes loss through the taming of her goshawk.
Why is Homer still so important? His epic poems of war and suffering can still speak to us about the role of destiny, cruelty and the frailty of humanity. The Mighty Dead is a magical journey of discovery across wide stretches of the past by means of the great ancient poems of Homer and their metaphors of life and trouble. Despite the deep and wide-ranging scholarship of the book, Nicolson writes in an easy, flowing, accessible style that breathes life into these ancient adventures. He brilliantly succeeds in demonstrating Homer’s deep understanding of humanity, showing us how we became who we are and unearthing the amazing relevance his writing still has for our present day.
In her entertaining and persuasive new book, psychologist Susan Pinker shows how face-to-face contact is crucial for learning, happiness, resilience and longevity. We are hard-wired to connect with others. Tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy. Looser interpersonal bonds are also important, in addition to our close relationships, to form a personal ‘village’ around us. We need real in-the-flesh encounters that tie human families, groups of friends and communities together. Combining findings in the new field of neuroscience with gripping human stories, Pinker explores the impact of face-to-face contact from birth to death and her results are enlightening as they challenge many of our older assumptions. Although most of us have left our literal village behind, we still need close social bonds and uninterrupted face-time with our friends and families in order to thrive and even survive!
Before the introduction of the contraceptive pill during the mid to late 1960’s, illegitimacy was one of the most shameful things that could happen in a family. Unmarried mothers were considered immoral and ‘bastard’ children inherently defective. They were hidden away from friends and relations as guilty secrets, punished by society and denied their place in the family tree. Today the concept of illegitimacy no longer exists in law and babies’ parents are as likely to be unmarried as married. This revolution in public opinion makes it easy to forget what it was like to give birth out of wedlock between the First World War and the 1960’s. By speaking to those involved, Jane Robinson reveals a story not only of shame and appalling prejudice but the secrets kept for entire generations. We hear their voices from the workhouse, the Magdelene Laundry and Dr. Bernardo’s homes.
Cedric Villani, a French Mathematician, has received many international rewards for his work and was awarded in 2010 the Fields Medal for his work on Landau damping and the Boltzmann equation. He is professor at Lyon University and director of the Institut Henri Poincaré in Paris, working primarily on partial differential equations and mathematical physics. With a storyteller’s gift, Villani takes us now on a mesmerizing adventure into physics as he wrestles with a new theorem. We discover how it feels to be obsessed with an idea and how Villani encounters obstacles and setbacks, losses of faith and even brushes with madness. He asserts that inspiration often comes from locking yourself away in a dark room to think. Blending science with history, biography and myth, Villani conjures up an inimitable cast of characters including Einstein, Kurt Gödel and Villani’s personal hero, John Nash. Mathematics has never been so exciting or so alluring!
In Red Queen your blood status, whether you are Silver or Red, determines your social positioning. The Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers, rule over and oppress the Reds, ordinary humans who live in poverty and struggle to survive. Seventeen-year-old Mare Barrow is a Red who steals in order to help support her family. When her best friend is conscripted for service, she struggles to find a way to save him and inadvertently finds herself working in the palace of the Silver King and Queen. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own which threatens to destroy the oppressive Silver regime and puts her in mortal danger. To defuse this potential danger, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in this duplicitous political game, the only certainty is betrayal. In a world divided by blood, who will win?
If you know a young person who is obsessed with dinosaurs and constantly asking about these prehistoric creatures, this engaging, interactive flap book will answer lots of their questions. With informative illustrations and over fifty flaps to lift and look beneath, Katie Daynes provides a simple, colourful and entertaining introduction to their amazing world.
Abi Elphinstone’s debut novel plunges the reader into a world of magic and adventure. Twelve-year-old Molly Pecksniff lives in a gypsy camp in the Ancientwood. She is an orphan whose best friend is a wildcat, Gryff, and the strange nightmares that plague her seem to prophesy frightening battles in the future. One night, she wakes up in the middle of the forest, lured there by a recurring dream of drums and rattles and masks. She soon learns the truth about the fate of her parents and that she herself holds the key to an ancient prophecy. At breakneck speed we follow feisty young Moll and Gryff on their quest to destroy the dark magic of the Soul Splinter. Abi Elphinstone has created an atmospheric fantasy world rich with tree spirits, ancient woodlands, magic systems and talismans in this spellbinding story packed with great personalities and wild landscapes!
Some rabbits dream about lettuces and carrots, others dream of flowering meadows and juicy dandelions, but Ralfy dreams only of books. In fact, he wants to read them all the time. Soon his obsession sends him spiraling into a life of crime! However, Ralfy meets his match in young Arthur, who also loves books, and when Arthur’s books start disappearing and he spots Ralfy scurrying away, the book burglar’s thieving days are numbered. This congenial story features lively drawings on every page and rabbits of all descriptions. While the humour found in Ralfy’s lists of books is perhaps beyond a small child it will make the adult reader laugh. A fun picture book for bibliophiles of all ages!
Reviews by Evelyn, Jayne, Liz, Michaela, Ruth and Sophie