What we are reading in April

New in fiction

The Last Days of Troy

Simon Armitage (and others)

Lily Cole stars as Helen of Troy, ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’, in Simon Armitage’s vivid, visceral adaptation of Homer’s Iliad and Virgil’s Aeneid

For ten years, the Greeks have been laying siege to Troy to win back their abducted queen, Helen. But as the war drags on, and the battlefields run scarlet with blood, the opposing forces are entrenched in a bitter stalemate. As Gods and mortals squabble amongst themselves for the spoils of war, the exhausted warriors go to extreme lengths in a desperate grab for victory…

Dramatised by multi-award-winning poet and playwright Simon Armitage, The Last Days of Troy was first produced as a stage play at the Manchester Royal Exchange and Shakespeare’s Globe, and this radio version features the original cast. Both a tense action adventure and a powerful commentary on the futility of war, it brings Homer’s ancient myth to dynamic life and explores themes that still resonate today, in a world locked in cycles of conflict and revenge, East versus West and with the same dangerous combination of pride, lies and self-deception that fuelled the Trojan War.

‘Armitage was the real star, with his vivid and muscular dialogue and occasional flashes of humour…The Last Days of Troy was a powerful reflection on the folly of men and the cruelty of war.’ – Independent

Cast and credits
Agamemnon..................................................................David Birrell
Achilles..................................................................Jake Fairbrother
Zeus..................................................................Richard Bremmer
Odysseus..................................................................Colin Tierney
Hera..................................................................Gillian Bevan
Andromache/Thetis................................................Claire Calbraith
Hector..................................................................Simon Harrison
Helen..................................................................Lily Cole
Paris..................................................................Tom Stuart
Athene/Briseis..................................................................Francesca Zoutewelle
Priam..................................................................Garry Cooper
Patroclus..................................................................Brendan O’Hea
Astyanax..................................................................Luca Rawlinson

Original music by Alex Baranowski
Directed for radio by Susan Roberts
First directed for The Royal Exchange Theatre by Nick Bagnall

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea

Jules Verne (and others)

'Immediately a long tentacle reached in through the opening like a snake, and a score of others waved about above it'

At first they think it is a giant sea monster - a vast black object, menacing the oceans and causing panic over the world. Yet when Professor Aronnax joins an expedition to hunt down the creature, he and his two companions discover it is a giant submarine, the Nautilus. Captured and held prisoner on board by its captain, Nemo - unpredictable, enigmatic, exiled from humanity - they have no choice but to travel the underwater depths with him, encountering coral reefs, polar ice, the city of Atlantis and a terrifying giant squid that tries to drag the Nautilus down into the deep. Combining thrilling adventure with scientific facts and a wonder at the natural world, Jules Verne's most enduringly popular novel is brought to life in David Coward's vivid new translation.

Translated with an introduction and notes by David Coward



'We are all, in one way or another, the children of Jules Verne' Ray Bradbury

The Librarian

Salley Vickers

A charmingly subversive novel about a library in 1950s England, by the acclaimed author of The Cleaner of Chartres

Sylvia Blackwell, a young woman in her twenties, moves to East Mole, a quaint market town in middle England, to start a new job as a children's librarian. But the apparently pleasant town is not all it seems. Sylvia falls in love with an older man - but it's her connectionto his precocious young daughter and her neighbours' son which will change her life and put them, the library and her job under threat.

How does the library alter the young children's lives and how do the children fare as a result of the books Sylvia introduces them to?

Set In Stone

Linda Newbery

When Samuel Godwin, a young and naive art tutor, accepts a job with the Farrow family at their majestic home, little does he expect to come across such a web of secrets and lies. His two tutees are as different as chalk and cheese - the beautiful younger sister Marianne, full of flightiness and nervous imagination, and Juliana, oddly sensible and controlled. Assisted by their elusive governess, Charlotte Agnew, Samuel begins to uncover slowly why Marianne is so emotionally fragile. But his discoveries lead to revenge and betrayal - and lives all around are turned upside down as life and death combat each other for supremacy.

Linda Newbery has written a novel in diary style, combining different voices and a different century with her usual brilliance and ease. These are characters full of the same passions as our own today, while living in a less familiar and fascinating time.

The Idiot

Elif Batuman

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2018

Selin, a tall, highly strung Turkish-American from New Jersey turns up at Harvard and finds herself dangerously overwhelmed by the challenges and possibilities of adulthood. She studies linguistics and literature, and spends a lot of time thinking about what language – and languages – can and cannot do. Along the way she befriends Svetlana, a cosmopolitan Serb, and obsesses over Ivan, a mathematician from Hungary.

Selin ponders profound questions about how culture and language shape who we are, how difficult it is to be a failed writer, and how baffling love is. At once clever and clueless, Batuman’s heroine shows us with perfect hilarity and soulful inquisitiveness just how messy it can be to forge a self.

A State of Freedom

Neel Mukherjee

What happens when we attempt to exchange the life we are given for something better?

Five people, in very different circumstances, from a domestic cook in Mumbai, to a vagrant and his dancing bear, and a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in the city, find out the meanings of dislocation, and the desire for more.

Set in contemporary India and moving between the reality of this world and the shadow of another, this novel delivers a devastating and haunting exploration of the unquenchable human urge to strive for a different life.

Star Wars: Phasma

Delilah S. Dawson

Discover Captain Phasma’s mysterious history in the official prequel to The Last Jedi, the highly anticipated blockbuster film directed by Rian Johnson, hitting cinemas in December 2017.

One of the most cunning and merciless officers of the First Order, Captain Phasma commands the favor of her superiors, the respect of her peers, and the terror of her enemies. But for all her renown, Phasma remains as virtually unknown as the impassive expression on her gleaming chrome helmet. Now, an adversary is bent on unearthing her mysterious origins—and exposing a secret she guards as zealously and ruthlessly as she serves her masters.

Deep inside the Battlecruiser Absolution, a captured Resistance spy endures brutal interrogation at the hands of a crimson-armored stormtrooper—Cardinal. But the information he desires has nothing to do with the Resistance or its covert operations against the First Order.

What the mysterious stormtrooper wants is Phasma’s past—and with it whatever long-buried scandal, treachery, or private demons he can wield against the hated rival who threatens his own power and privilege in the ranks of the First Order. His prisoner has what Cardinal so desperately seeks, but she won’t surrender it easily. As she wages a painstaking war of wills with her captor, bargaining for her life in exchange for every precious revelation, the spellbinding chronicle of the inscrutable Phasma unfolds. But this knowledge may prove more than just dangerous once Cardinal possesses it—and once his adversary unleashes the full measure of her fury.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Hexagonal Phase

Eoin Colfer (and others)

The brand new BBC Radio 4 full-cast series based on And Another Thing… the sixth book in the famous Hitchhiker’s Guide “trilogy”.

Forty years on from the first ever radio series of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Arthur Dent and friends return in six brand new episodes, in which they are thrown back into the Whole General Mish Mash in a rattling adventure involving Viking Gods and Irish Confidence Tricksters, with our first glimpse of Eccentrica Gallumbits and a brief but memorable moment with The Ravenous Bugblatter Beast Of Traal.

Starring John Lloyd as The Book, with Simon Jones as Arthur, Geoff McGivern as Ford Prefect, Mark Wing-Davey as Zaphod Beeblebrox, Sandra Dickinson and Susan Sheridan as Trillian, Jim Broadbent as Marvin the Paranoid Android and Jane Horrocks as Fenchurch, the cast also includes Samantha Béart, Toby Longworth, Andy Secombe, Ed Byrne, Lenny Henry, Philip Pope, Mitch Benn, Jon Culshaw and Professor Stephen Hawking.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2018, the series is written and directed by Dirk Maggs and based on And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer with additional unpublished material by Douglas Adams. This edition also includes over 50 minutes of unbroadcast bonus material.

Listeners are reminded that the relaxed attitude to danger provided by Joo Janta 200 Super-Chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses is no substitute for running around, screaming.

Duration: 3 hours 35 minutes

Laugh Out Loud

James Patterson

Jimmy loves reading so much that he's inspired to start a book company for kids – run by kids. It's a big dream for a twelve-year-old boy – some would even say it's laugh-out-loud ridiculous!

But that doesn't stop Jimmy from dreaming even bigger! His company will be as imaginative and fun as Willy Wonka's chocolate factory... with a Ferris wheel instead of an elevator, a bowling alley in the break room, and a river filled with floating books! He just has to believe in himself and his idea. And maybe win the Lottery.

In this hilarious story filled with clever references to children's book favourites, James Patterson shows young readers that anything can be achieved if you believe in yourself no matter what!

Angel in the Shadows

Walter Lucius

'Disturbing, apocalyptic, gripping' Dutch Daily De Limburger

Angel in the Shadows is an irresistible read for fans of the BBC's McMafia and David Lagercrantz's The Girl Who Takes An Eye For An Eye . . .

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Farah Hafez raised her head and stared into the camcorder's reflective black hole.

'Now say what I want you to say. And do it convincingly. You can save this girl's life.'

That's when the words came. Unexpected and forceful. Like vomit.

'I, Farah Hafez, support the jihad against President Potanin's criminal regime.'

He smiled coldly and pulled the trigger anyway.

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After investigating what appeared to be a simple hit-and-run, journalist Farah Hafez became caught up in a web of crime and corruption that led to her kidnap. Detained in Russia, she was forced to pledge her allegiance to a terrorist group on camera.

Now sought by international security and members of the criminal class alike, Farah flees to Jakarta to continue her investigation while her friends and allies attempt to clear her name from across the globe.

If Farah is ever going to regain her freedom, she needs to discover the root of the evil that bought her here. The problem is that discovering this might cost her the only she has left - her life.

'Ambitious, intricate, riveting' The Times

Star Wars: Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel

Daniel José Older

*INCLUDES EXCLUSIVE COLLECTABLE DOUBLE-SIDED COVER FEATURING HAN SOLO AND LANDO CALRISSION!

Even the fastest ship in the galaxy can’t outrun the past. . . .

THEN:

It’s one of the galaxy’s most dangerous secrets: a mysterious transmitter with unknown power and a reward for its discovery that most could only dream of claiming. But those who fly the Millennium Falconthroughout its infamous history aren’t your average scoundrels. Not once, but twice, the crew of the Falcon tries to claim the elusive prize—first, Lando Calrissian and the droid L3-37 at the dawn of an ambitious career, and later, a young and hungry Han Solo with the help of his copilot, Chewbacca. But the device’s creator, the volatile criminal Fyzen Gor, isn’t interested in sharing. And Gor knows how to hold a grudge. . . .

NOW:

It’s been ten years since the rebel hero Han Solo last encountered Fyzen Gor. After mounting a successful rebellion against the Empire and starting a family with an Alderaanian princess, Han hasn’t given much thought to the mad inventor. But when Lando turns up at Han’s doorstep in the middle of the night, it’s Fyzen’s assassins that he’s running from. And without Han’s help, Lando—and all life on Cloud City—will be annihilated.

With the assistance of a young hotshot pilot, an Ewok slicer prodigy, the woman who might be the love of Lando’s life, and Han’s best and furriest friend, the two most notorious scoundrels in the New Republic are working together once more. They’ll have to journey across the stars—and into the past—before Gor uses the device’s power to reshape the galaxy.

Our Kind of Cruelty

Araminta Hall

Passion. Obsession. Murder.

‘Simply one of the most disturbing thrillers I’ve read in years. In short I loved it, right down to the utterly chilling final line’ – Gillian Flynn, author of GONE GIRL
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Mike and Verity have a special game. The Crave.

They play it to prove what they already know: that Verity loves Mike. That she needs Mike.

Even though she’s marrying another man.

Now Mike knows that the stakes of their private game are rising.

This time, someone has to die…
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'A propulsive and addictive study of the darkness of obsessive love. I was completely gripped from the first word to the last.' LISA JEWELL

'As merciless a thriller as I’ve ever read. Astonishingly dark and sensationally accomplished.’ AJ FINN, author of The Woman in the Window

A tense intelligent thriller that kept me gripped and guessing until the last page – and thinking long after that.ERIN KELLY

A taut, fascinating psychological thriller. Original and powerful. Be prepared for questions to linger in your head for a long time afterward.’ JULIA HEABERLIN

Toxic love, obsession, and the unflinching unravelling of a mind. Scarily plausible, a great read.’ ALI LAND

'Chilling. Disturbing. Addictive. I couldn't put this down.' EMMA FLINT

'Like watching a slow motion car-crash through splayed fingers' TAMMY COHEN

An addictive dive into dangerous, extreme obsession. A must-read’ JULIA CROUCH

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