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. 

Child of Fortune 

Yuko Tsushima

Child of Fortune is deceptively gentle and dreamlike, teetering on the edge of tragedy. It covers a year in the life of a single mother with an eleven-year-old daughter, combining a complex interior world with memorably visual imagery. The narrative is patterned with themes of loss, despair and fragmentation.

It follows the course of an unexpected pregnancy which threatens to sever frayed family bonds. The story is interwoven with repressed memories of childhood dreams, missed opportunities and a trio of unsatisfactory men. There is darkness in the novel, but it is not ultimately depressing, and it concludes with a sense of optimism.

The House of Ulloa

Emilia Pardo Bazán

'The abbot winked roguishly and poured another glassful, which the child took with both hands and drained to the last drop.'  

One of the greatest nineteenth-century Spanish novels, The House of Ulloa follows pure and pious Father Julián Alvarez, who is sent to a remote country estate to put the affairs of the marquis, an irresponsible libertine, in order. When he discovers moral decadence, cruelty and corruption at his new home, Julián's well-meaning but ineffectual attempts to prevent the fall of the House of Ulloa end in tragedy. Combining gothic elements with humour and social satire, The House of Ulloa is the finest achievement of Emilia Pardo Bazán, a prolific writer, feminist, traveller and intellectual, and one of the most dynamic figures of her time.

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.

Near to the Wild Heart

Clarice Lispector

‘How was she to tie herself to a man without permitting him to imprison her? And was there some means of acquiring things without those things possessing her?’

The sensational, prize-winning debut novel Near to the Wild Heart, from Clarice Lispector – one of the 20th century's greatest modernist writers – was published when she was twenty-three and earned her the name 'Hurricane Clarice'. It tells the story of Joana, from her wild, creative childhood, as the 'little egg' who writes poems for her father, through her marriage to the faithless Otávio and on to her decision to make her own way in the world. As Joana, endlessly mutable, moves through different emotional states, different inner lives and different truths, this impressionistic, dreamlike and fiercely intelligent novel asks if any of us ever really know who we are.

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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