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A Woman by Sibilla Aleramo

'To love, to sacrifice oneself, and to submit! Was this what all women were destined for?'

Unashamed and remarkably ahead of its time, A Woman is a landmark in European feminist writing. When her carefree, aspirational childhood in a seaside town is brought brutally to an end, the nameless narrator of Sibilla Aleramo's blazing autobiographical novel discovers the shocking reality of life for a woman in Italy at the dawn of the twentieth century. As she begins to recognize the similarities between her own predicament and the plight of her mother and the women around her, she becomes convinced that she must escape her fate. 

The Island by Ana Maria Matute

'This is an old and wicked island. An island of Phoenicians and merchants, of bloodsuckers and frauds'

This powerful, lyrical coming-of-age novel depicts Mallorca as an enchanted island, a lost Eden and a Never Land combined, where ancient hatreds and present-day passions collide. Expelled from her convent school for kicking the prioress, and abandoned by her father when her mother dies, rebellious teenager Matia is sent to live with her domineering grandmother on the island of Mallorca. In the hot, oppressive stillness of an adolescent summer, she learns to scheme with her cousin Borja, and finds herself increasingly drawn to the strange outsider Manuel. But civil war has come to Spain, and it will teach Matia about the adult world in ways she could not foresee.

Read an extract.

 

The Artificial Silk Girl by Irmgard Keun

Funny, fresh and radical in its dissection of the limited options available to working women, this is a novel that speaks to our times.

In 1920s Berlin, Doris is going to be a big star. Wearing a stolen fur coat and recently fired from her office job, she takes an all-night train to Berlin to make it in the movies. But what she encounters in the city is not fame and fortune, but gnawing hunger, seedy bars, and exploitative men - and as Doris sinks ever lower, she resorts to desperate measures to survive. This is a dazzling portrait of roaring Berlin in the 1920s, and a poignant exploration of the doomed pursuit of fame and glamour.

 

Maigret and Monsieur Charles by Georges Simenon

Maigret and Monsieur Charles is the 75th novel featuring Inspector Maigret, and concludes Simeon's journey with the sleuth, which spanned 41 years of his career. Julian Barnes recommends the ‘quick three-hour, start-to-finish immersion’ of Simenon’s novels, and Margaret Atwood has described his writing as 'strangely comforting'.

In this book, the famous detective reaches a pivotal moment in his career, contemplating his past and future as he delves into the Paris underworld one last time, to investigate the case of a missing lawyer.

 

 

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius offer a remarkable series of challenging spiritual reflections and exercises developed as the emperor struggled to understand himself and make sense of the universe. While the Meditations were composed to provide personal consolation and encouragement, Marcus Aurelius also created one of the greatest of all works of philosophy: a timeless collection that has been consulted and admired by statesmen, thinkers and readers throughout the centuries.

Selected Poetry by Alexander Pushkin

A wide-ranging new selection of the lyric and narrative verse of Russia's greatest poet

This collection includes Pushkin's strongly personal lyric verse, which springs spontaneously from his everyday life - his numerous loves, his exile, his hectic life in St Petersburg - while the narrative poems here, from exotic Southern tales to comic parodies and fairy tales of enchanted tsars, display his endless ability to surprise. His landmark work The Bronze Horseman, with its ghostly central figure of Peter the Great, holds the meaning of all Russian history. Antony Wood's translations reveal the variety, inventiveness and perfection of Pushkin's verse.

The Plague by Albert Camus

Many people are rediscovering The Plague, Albert Camus's world-renowned fable of fear and courage.

The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift and horrifying death. Fear, isolation and claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, and a few, like Dr Rieux, resist the terror.

An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France's suffering under the Nazi occupation, and a story of bravery and determination against the precariousness of human existence.

Last Witnesses by Svetlana Alexievich

What did it mean to grow up in the Soviet Union during the Second World War? In the late 1970s, Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich started interviewing people who had experienced war as children, the generation that survived and had to live with the trauma that would forever change the course of the Russian nation.

With remarkable care and empathy, Alexievich gives voice to those whose stories are lost in the official narratives, uncovering a powerful, hidden history of one of the most important events of the twentieth century. Published to great acclaim in the USSR in 1985 and now available in English for the first time, this masterpiece offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human consequences of the war - and an extraordinary chronicle of the Russian soul.

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