New and forthcoming
On 15 October 1838, the body of a thirty-six-year-old woman was found in Cape Coast Castle, West Africa, a bottle of Prussic acid in her hand. She was one of the most famous English poets of her day: Letitia Elizabeth Landon, known by her initials ‘L.E.L.’
What was she doing in Africa? Was her death an accident, as the inquest claimed? Or had she committed suicide, or even been murdered?
To her contemporaries, she was an icon, hailed as the ‘female Byron’, admired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Heinrich Heine, the young Brontë sisters and Edgar Allan Poe. However, she was also a woman with secrets, the mother of three illegitimate children whose existence was subsequently wiped from the record. After her death, she became the subject of a cover-up which is only now unravelling.
Too scandalous for her reputation to survive, Letitia Landon was a brilliant woman who made a Faustian pact in a ruthless world. She embodied the post-Byronic era, the ‘strange pause’ between the Romantics and the Victorians. This new investigation into the mystery of her life, work and death excavates a whole lost literary culture, in which the legacy of Keats and Shelley turned toxic.
When this second volume of The Life of Saul Bellow opens, Bellow, at forty-nine, is at the pinnacle of American letters – rich, famous, critically acclaimed. The expected trajectory is one of decline: volume 1, rise; volume 2, fall. Bellow never fell, producing some of his greatest fiction (Mr Sammler’s Planet, Humboldt’s Gift, all his best stories), winning two more National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, and the Nobel Prize. At eighty, he wrote his last story; at eighty-five, he wrote Ravelstein. In this volume, his life away from the desk, including his love life, is if anything more dramatic than in volume 1. In the public sphere, he is embroiled in controversy over foreign affairs, race, religion, education, social policy, the state of culture, the fate of the novel.
Bellow’s relations with women were often fraught. In the 1960s he was compulsively promiscuous (even as he inveighed against sexual liberation). The women he pursued, the ones he married and those with whom he had affairs, were intelligent, attractive and strong-willed. At eighty-five he fathered his fourth child, a daughter, with his fifth wife. His three sons, whom he loved, could be as volatile as he was, and their relations with their father were often troubled.
Although an early and engaged supporter of civil rights, in the second half of his life Bellow was angered by the excesses of Black Power. An opponent of cultural relativism, he exercised great influence in literary and intellectual circles, advising a host of institutes and foundations, helping those he approved of, hindering those of whom he disapproved. In making his case, he could be cutting and rude; he could also be charming, loyal, and funny. Bellow’s heroic energy and will are clear to the very end of his life. His immense achievement and its cost, to himself and others, are also clear.
"There was a question that had come to trouble me a bit earlier, once I had taken the first steps on this return journey to Reims...
Why, when I have had such an intense experience of forms of shame related to class, shame in relation to the milieu in which I grew up, why, when once I had arrived in Paris and started meeting people from such different class backgrounds, I would often find myself lying about my class origins... why had it never occurred to me to take up this problem in a book?"
Returning to Reims is a breathtaking account of one man's return to the town where he grew up after an absence of thirty years. It is a frank, fearlessly personal story of family, memory, identity and time lost. But it is also a sociologist's view of what itmeans to grow up working class and then leave that class; of inequality and shifting political allegiances in an increasingly divided nation. A phenomenon in France and a huge bestseller in Germany, Didier Eribon has written the defining memoir of our times.
'I was overwhelmed by this book. I felt I was reading the story of my life.'Edouard Louis, author of The End of Eddy
'A book about self-invention and belonging' -Colm Toibin
'Hypnotic... a gripping read' Daily Telegraph
From an explosive new literary talent, a searing, moving memoir of family, adolescence and sexuality
'You may not run away from the thing that you are
because it comes and comes and comes as sure as you breathe.'
This is the story of Yrsa Daley-Ward, and all the things that happened - 'even the Terrible Things (and God, there were Terrible Things)'. It's about her childhood in the north-west of England with her beautiful, careworn mother Marcia, Linford (the man formerly known as Dad, 'half-fun, half-frightening') and her little brother Roo, who sees things written in the stars. It's about growing up and discovering the power and fear of her own sexuality, of pitch grey days of pills and powder and encounters. It's about damage and pain, but also joy. Told with raw intensity, shocking honesty and the poetry of the darkest of fairy tales, The Terrible is a memoir of going under, losing yourself, and finding your voice.
In 1918, the RAF was established as the world's first independent air force. To mark the 100th anniversary of its creation, Penguin are publishing the Centenary Collection, a series of six classic books highlighting the skill, heroism esprit de corps that have characterised the Royal Air Force throughout its first century.
'They didn't think for one moment that they would find anything but a burnt-out fuselage and a charred skeleton; and they were apparently astounded when they came upon my still-breathing body, lying in the sand near by.'
In 1938 Roald Dahl was fresh out of school and bound for his first job in Africa, hoping to find adventure far from home. However, he got far more excitement than he bargained for when the outbreak of the Second World War led him to join the RAF. His account of his experiences in Africa, crashing a plane in the Western Desert, rescue and recovery from his horrific injuries in Alexandria, and many other daring deeds, recreates a world as bizarre and unnerving as any he wrote about in his fiction.
The Sunday Times bestseller Paul Theroux collects a rich feast of his writing and essays - from travel to personal memoir - published all together here for the first time
Drawing together a fascinating body of writing from over 14 years of work, Figures in a Landscape ranges from profiles of cultural icons (Oliver Sacks, Elizabeth Taylor, Robin Williams) to intimate personal remembrances; from thrilling adventures in Africa to literary writings from Theroux's rich and expansive personal reading. Collectively these pieces offer a fascinating portrait of the author himself, his extraordinary life, restless and ever-curious mind.
An indelible portrait of one of the most famous and beloved authors in the canon of American literature – a collection of letters between Harper Lee and one of her closest friends that reveals the famously private writer as never before, in her own words.
The violent racism of the American South drove Wayne Flynt away from his home in Alabama, but the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s classic novel about courage, community and equality, inspired him to return in the early 1960s and craft a career documenting and teaching Alabama history. His writing resonated with many, in particular three sisters: Louise, Alice and Nelle Harper Lee. The two families first met in 1983, and a mutual respect and affection for the state’s history and literature matured into a deep friendship between them.
Wayne Flynt and Nelle Harper Lee began writing to one other while she was living in New York – heartfelt, insightful and humorous letters in which they swapped stories, information and opinions on topics including their families, books, social values, health concerns and even their fears and accomplishments. Though their earliest missives began formally – ‘Dear Dr Flynt’ – as the years passed, their exchanges became more intimate and emotional, opening with ‘Dear Friend’ and closing with ‘I love you, Nelle.’
This is a remarkable compendium of a correspondence that lasted for a quarter century – until Harper Lee’s death in February 2016 – and it offers an incisive and compelling look into the mind, heart and work of one of the most beloved authors in modern literary history.
Rose Tremain grew up in post-war London, a city of grey austerity, still partly in ruins, where both food and affection were fiercely rationed. The girl known then as ‘Rosie’ and her sister Jo spent their days longing for their grandparents' farm, buried deep in the Hampshire countryside, a green paradise of feasts and freedom, where they could at last roam and dream.
But when Rosie is ten years old, everything changes. She and Jo lose their father, their London house, their school, their friends, and -- most agonisingly of all -- their beloved Nanny, Vera, the only adult to have shown them real love and affection.
Briskly dispatched to a freezing boarding-school in Hertfordshire, they once again feel like imprisoned castaways. But slowly the teenage Rosie escapes from the cold world of the Fifties, into a place of inspiration and mischief, of loving friendships and dedicated teachers, where a young writer is suddenly ready to be born.
The authoritative biography of George Orwell, written with the cooperation of Orwell's widow.
‘In its thoroughness, and its mastery of a considerable volume of material, this is the definitive biography of Orwell.’ Sunday Times
‘It is hardly worth using up space to declare just how good it is. Different readers will come away from its seventeen pungent and packed chapters with diverse memories of its excellence.’ Guardian
In early 2014, after many years living abroad, Sam Miller returned to his childhood home in London. His father was dying.
In the months after his death, Sam began to write about his father. He had been told, long ago, a family secret involving his parents and a close friend. Now, by reading his father’s papers and with the help of his mother, he was able to piece together a remarkable story.
Fathers is the result: a tender, thoughtful exploration of childhood and parenthood, of friendship, love and loyalty.
'I defy you to read this book and come away with a mind unchanged' John Jeremiah Sullivan
'Als has a serious claim to be regarded as the next James Baldwin' Observer
'I see how we are all the same, that none of us are white women or black men; rather, we're a series of mouths, and that every mouth needs filling: with something wet or dry, like love, or unfamiliar and savory, like love'
White Girls is about, among other things, blackness, queerness, movies, Brooklyn, love (and the loss of love), AIDS, fashion, Basquiat, Capote, philosophy, porn, Louise Brooks and Michael Jackson. Freewheeling and dazzling, tender and true, it is one of the most highly acclaimed essay collections in years.
'A voice that's new, that comes as if from a different room. I defy you to read this book and come away with a mind unchanged' John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead
'Effortless, honest and fearless' Rich Benjamin, The New York Times
'Als is one of the most consistently unpredictable and surprising essayists out there, an author who confounds our expectations virtually every time he writes' David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times
'A comprehensive and utterly lovely collection of one of the best writers around' Eugenia Williamson, Boston Globe
In the Middle Ages, mules were used to transport goods across Britain. Strong, sturdy and able to carry a good 160lbs of weight, they made ideal walking companions – as long as you didn’t ask them to do anything they didn’t want to do!
So when Hugh Thomson decides he wants to revive this ancient tradition, but with a mule who is only willing to carry sandwiches, water and a map, his father can’t quite comprehend why: “Taking a mule across England? Really? Whatever for?”
Using old drovers’ roads that have largely passed into disrepair, Hugh and his trusty mule Jethro set out to travel across England, from the Lake District to the Yorkshire Moors. Along the way, they discover a landscape rich in history, and encounter the charismatic people who bring it to life.
Robert Graves, aged nineteen, left school within a week of the outbreak of World War I, and immediately volunteered with the Royal Welch Fusiliers. His experiences as a junior officer form the heart of this compelling autobiography. Beginning with an ironic overview of his Edwardian childhood, he proceeds to a tongue-in-cheek account of a young poet's life at public school (not helpful to be half-German, but handy to take up boxing), progressing to caricatures of military stereotypes he encounters in training, and the devastating farce of the War itself, the blundering and mismanagement, and the appalling human consequences. Graves's handling of the horrors of war is always deadpan, honest and unadorned. It is wholly in line with his sense of the absurd that his commanding officer should write to inform his parents that he had died of wounds during the battle of the Somme. He soon found that patriotism was meaningless to the men in the trenches; loyalty to comrades alive and dead drove him back to active service though still suffering from shell-shock.
Goodbye to All That takes Graves through his convalescence in England, his efforts to protect the poet Siegfried Sassoon, a friend and fellow officer, from the consequences of his public denunciation of the war; marriage to artist and feminist Nancy Nicholson, postwar undergraduate years at Oxford and a decade as a struggling writer with four young children, beset with money problems and neurasthenia. It is written in a spirit of defiance as he prepared to put 'all that' behind him and begin a new life in Majorca with the American poet Laura Riding.
'What had happened to the lost manuscripts, what train of chances took Rolfe to his death in Venice? The Quest continued'
One summer afternoon A.J.A. Symons is handed a peculiar, eccentric novel that he cannot forget and, captivated by this unknown masterpiece, determines to learn everything he can about its mysterious author. The object of his search is Frederick Rolfe, self-titled Baron Corvo - artist, rejected candidate for priesthood and author of serially autobiographical fictions - and its story is told in this 'experiment in biography': a beguiling portrait of an insoluble tangle of talents, frustrated ambitions and self-destruction.
‘An extraordinary book of real passionate research’ Edmund de Waal
In 1945, Ezra Pound was due to stand trial for treason for his broadcasts in Fascist Italy during the Second World War. But before the trial could take place Pound was pronounced insane. Escaping a potential death sentence he was shipped off to St Elizabeths Hospital near Washington, DC, where he was held for over a decade.
At the hospital, Pound was at his most contradictory and most controversial: a genius writer – ‘The most important living poet in the English language’ according to T. S. Eliot – but also a traitor and now, seemingly, a madman. But he remained a magnetic figure. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Lowell and John Berryman all went to visit him at what was perhaps the world’s most unorthodox literary salon: convened by a fascist and held in a lunatic asylum.
Told through the eyes of his illustrious visitors, The Bughouse captures the essence of Pound – the artistic flair, the profound human flaws – whilst telling the grand story of politics and art in the twentieth century.