Child of All Nations

Irmgard Keun

Kully knows some things you don’t learn at school. She knows the right way to roll a cigarette and pack a suitcase. She knows that cars are more dangerous than lions. She knows you can’t enter a country without a passport or visa. And she knows that she and her parents can’t go back to Germany again – her father’s books are banned there. But there are also things she doesn’t understand, like why there might be a war in Europe – just that there are men named Hitler, Mussolini and Chamberlain involved. Little Kully is far more interested where their next meal will come from and the ladies who seem to buzz around her father. 

Meanwhile she and her parents roam through Europe. Her mother would just like to settle down, but as her restless father struggles to find a new publisher, the three must escape from country to country as their visas expire, money runs out and hotel bills mount up.

The Unwomanly Face of War

Svetlana Alexievich

'Why, having stood up for and held their own place in a once absolutely male world, have women not stood up for their history? A whole world is hidden from us. Their war remains unknown... I want to write the history of that war. A women's history.'

In the late 1970s, Svetlana Alexievich set out to write her first book, The Unwomanly Face of War, when she realized that she grew up surrounded by women who had fought in the Second World War but whose stories were absent from official narratives. Travelling thousands of miles, she spent years interviewing hundreds of Soviet women - captains, tank drivers, snipers, pilots, nurses and doctors - who had experienced the war on the front lines, on the home front and in occupied territories. 

 

Territory of Light

Yuko Tsushima

'Wonderfully poetic ... extraordinary freshness ... a Virginia Woolf quality' Margaret Drabble

Territory of Light is the radiant story of a young woman, living alone in Tokyo with her two-year-old daughter. Its twelve chapters follow the first year of the narrator's separation from her husband. The novel is full of light, sometimes comforting and sometimes dangerous: sunlight streaming through windows, dappled light in the park, distant fireworks, dazzling floodwater, de-saturated streetlamps and mysterious explosions. The delicate prose is beautifully patterned: the cumulative effect is disarmingly powerful and bright after-images remain in your mind for a long time.

The Copenhagen Trilogy

Tove Ditlevsen

'Childhood is long and narrow like a coffin, and you can’t get out of it on your own. '

The Copenhagen Trilogy tells the searing portrait of a woman's journey through love, friendship, ambition and addiction, from one of Denmark's most celebrated twentieth-century writers. Tove comes to realize that she has a vocation, something unknowable within her - and that she must one day, painfully but inevitably, leave the narrow street of her childhood behind. As the years go by, the central tension of Tove's life comes into painful focus: the terrible lure of dependency, in all its forms, and the possibility of living freely and fearlessly - as an artist on her own terms.

The Tale of Genji

Lady Murasaki

‘Real things in the darkness seem no realer than dreams.’

Lady Murasaki's great 11th century novel is a beautifully crafted story of love, betrayal and death at the Imperial Court. At the core of this epic is Prince Genji, the son of an emperor, whose passionate character, love affairs and shifting political fortunes offer an exquisite glimpse of the golden age of Japan.

The Chandelier

Clarice Lispector

'She found the best clay that one could desire: white, supple, sticky, cold ... She would get a clear and tender material from which she could shape a world'

Like the clay from which she sculpts figurines as a girl, Virginia is constantly shifting and changing. From her dreamlike childhood on Quiet Farm with her adored brother Daniel, through an adulthood where the past continues to pull her back and shape her, she moves through life, grasping for the truth of existence. Illuminating Virginia's progress through intense flashes of image, sensation and perception, The Chandelier, Lispector's landmark second novel, is a disorienting and exhilarating portrait of one woman's inner life.

Half a Lifelong Romance

Eileen Chang

'They were, he felt, like children who had made a terrible mistake.’

When shy young engineer Shijun meets factory worker Manzhen, he is captivated by her hopeful nature and gentle beauty, and a relationship between them quickly blossoms. But family pressures and events beyond their power soon destroy the possibility of their future together. Can the pair find their way back to each other? Or will the trauma of their past obscure the way? Set in 1930s Shanghai and offering a fascinating window into Chinese life in the first half of the twentieth century, Half a Lifelong Romance is a rich and moving tale of love, hopefulness and the malign forces that - despite our greatest efforts - can overwhelm us.

Segu

Maryse Condé

'Segu is a garden where cunning grows. Segu is built on treachery.'

It is 1797 and the African kingdom of Segu, born of blood and violence, is at the height of its power. Yet Dousika Traore, the king's most trusted advisor, feels nothing but dread. Change is coming. From the East, a new religion, Islam. From the West, the slave trade. These forces will tear his country, his village and the lives of his beloved sons apart, in Maryse Condé's glittering epic of family, betrayal, religious fervour and the turbulent fate of a people.

Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter

Simone de Beauvoir

‘Be loved, be admired, be necessary; be somebody.’

A superb autobiography by one of the great literary figures of the twentieth century, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter offers an intimate picture of growing up in a bourgeois French family, rebelling as an adolescent against the conventional expectations of her class, and striking out on her own with an intellectual and existential ambition exceedingly rare in a young woman in the 1920s. Simone de Beauvoir describes her early life, from her birth in Paris in 1908 to her student days at the Sorbonne, where she met Jean-Paul Sartre - 'the dream-companion I had longed for since I was fifteen.'

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