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Pete Ferry is driving home from work one evening when he sees a car swerving dangerously on the road. He wants to keep out of its way, so he allows it to overtake - but as it does so he sees that the driver is a beautiful woman, she's half-naked or at least her clothes are hanging off her, and it's clear that she's drunk or something isn't right. He follows at a safe distance for a while, wondering what he should do - call the police? Flag down some help? Then he finds himself at a traffic light, next to her car, and he realises that now is the moment to do something. He could get out and tell her to pull over, or see if she needs help. But he hesitates, unsure, the lights change and her car lurches forward straight into a tree, killing her instantly...
This is the story that Pete tells his class of high-school students in the wealthy suburb of Chicago where he teaches and writes. But did this actually happen, or is it just an elaborate tale he concocts to illustrate the power of story-telling to his restless teenage charges? Was it really an accident? Could Pete have prevented it? Who was the beautiful woman, and why can't he stop thinking about her? What might his obsession mean to his relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia?
With humour, tenderness, and suspense, Travel Writing takes the reader on fascinating journeys, both geographical and psychological, playing with our notions of fact and fiction and questioning whether the lines between them are more blurred than we first expect.
Published: 7 Aug 2008
Published: 4 Mar 2004
Hill Farm tells the story of what appears to be a perfectly ordinary farming family living in a perfect village in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It feels like a place that will never change. Its fields have been cultivated since medieval times, its farmhouse is crumbling and the same bric-a-brac has been circulating the village jumble sales for decades.
But change does come, that summer. It comes in different guises: a handsome farm-hand, a death-watch beetle, a lavender-scented bosom, a lost hedgerow, a disused water tank. But finally it comes in the shape of an explosive argument in the tractor shed, after which nothing will ever be the same again.
With gentle wit and sharp intelligence, Miranda France takes the rural idyll and shakes it right up. She finds there's quite another side to the Hill Farm story.
Published: 7 Apr 2011
Grace Hammer lives a sweet enough life with her four children in London's dank and dirty East End, dipping the pockets of wealthy strangers foolish enough to venture there. She keeps a clean house and a tight hold on her magpie nature, restricting her interests to wallets and pocket watches, which are bread and butter - at night she dreams of shiny things. Unbeknown to Grace, her most audacious crime is about to leap seventeen years and come knocking.
Out in the dark countryside Mr Blunt rocks in his chair, grinding his teeth, vowing furious retribution. He has never forgotten his scarlet treasure, or the harlot that stole it from him. At night he dreams of slitting her lily-white throat...
Published: 5 Mar 2009
Published: 1 Jan 2004
Published: 5 Jun 2003
Published: 3 Apr 2003
Written from the perspective of Filth's wife, Betty, this is a story which will make the reader weep for the missed opportunities, while laughing aloud for the joy and the wit.
Filth (Failed In London Try Hong Kong) is a successful lawyer when he marries Elisabeth in Hong Kong soon after the War. Reserved, immaculate and courteous, Filth finds it hard to demonstrate his emotions. But Elisabeth is different - a free spirit. She was brought up in the Japanese Internment Camps, which killed both her parents, but left her with a lust for survival and an affinity with the Far East. No wonder she is attracted to Filth's hated rival at the Bar - the brash, forceful Veneering. Veneering has a Chinese wife and an adored son - and no difficulty whatsoever in demonstrating his emotions ....
How Elisabeth turns into Betty, and whether she remains loyal to stolid Filth or swept up by caddish Veneering, make for a page-turning plot, in a lovely novel which is full of surprises and revelations, as well as the humour and eccentricities for which Jane Gardam's writing is famous.
Published: 3 Sep 2009
Published: 9 Sep 2004
With these eleven short stories, Irina Denezkhina announces herself as the fresh voice of Russian literature. Mining the themes of teenage sex, drugs, violence and music, she tells it like it is for Russia's new generation, brought up in a complex post-Communist world where the ideological influences are more MTV than Marx.
A young soldier on leave from the Chechen war laments the meaninglessness of civvie life - 'all that goddamned self-expression' - whilst his girlfriend ponders the elegant arch of her best friend's eyebrows; a teacher at a summer camp is appalled, disgusted and frightened in turn by her out-of-control charges, and the punishment she could receive at the hands of their powerful parents; a suicidal teenager finds salvation in the unlikely duo of a beefy security guard and his Rottweiler, and Death visits an internet chat room, politely accepting the offer of a cup of tea.
Full of energy, controversy, cruelty and humour, this extraordinary debut toys with the possibilities of language and perception to give a snapshot of Russia's youth and its' struggles to grow up, connect, and, ultimately, love.
Published: 5 Aug 2004
Jane Gardam's delightful short stories range from the Lake District to Dorset; from Wimbledon, where an old Victorian mansion has been converted into a home for unmarried mothers, to wartime London, where a hospital is the scene of a job interview in the middle of the Blitz. In 'Pangbourne' (not, in this instance, the place, but the name of an ape), a lonely woman allows herself tenderly to fall in love with a gorilla; 'Snap' is about a loveless one-night stand - and its ironic punishment. Two of the stories are ghost stories; and fans of Gardam's most recent novel, the bestselling Old Filth, will be overjoyed to encounter Filth himself and his ancient enemy and sparring partner, Veneering, among the umbrellas at a luncheon party on a soaking wet day.
Jane Gardam is a writer at the height of her powers, well-known for her caustic wit, free-wheeling imagination, love of humanity and wicked powers of observation - as well as the hint of the bizarre and the surreal that she brings to her fiction. Her new collection of short stories is a delicious treat.
Published: 1 Nov 2007
Bella Wallis is a glamorous widow with a secret identity: in an office buried deep within the dodgy backstreets of Victorian London, she writes sensationalist novels exposing the scoundrels that litter high society under the pen name Henry Ellis Margam. With dodgy deals, scheming aristocrats and stolen kisses behind closed doors, prize-winning author Brian Thompson conjures up an irresistible quartet filled top to toe with seedy Dickensian glamour.
We start with The Widow's Secret, an effervescent romp to Paris on the trail of the owner of a mysterious cigar case; then The Sailor's Ransom, a tale of pearls and swine, set on the Cornish coast and the high seas; and The Player's Curse, where kidnap, cricket and cross-dressing coincide in a riotous mystery. We end with the previously unpublished The Whole Story, in which Bella is caught up in an anarchist bomb attack at her favourite restaurant, Fracatelli's on the Strand... and only just survives to tell the tale.
From the acclaimed and prizewinning author of The Right Hand of Sleep ("Brilliant . . . A truly arresting work"-The New York Times Book Review),an explosive allegorical novel set on the eve of the Civil War, about a gang of men hunted by both the Union and the Confederacy for dealing in stolen slaves.
Geburah Plantation, 1863: in a crumbling estate on the banks of the Mississippi, eight survivors of the notorious Island 37 Gang wait for the war, or the Pinkerton Detective Agency, to claim them. Their leader, a bizarre charismatic known only as "the Redeemer," has already been brought to justice, and each day brings the battling armies closer. The hatred these men feel for one another is surpassed only by their fear of their many pursuers. Into this hell comes a mysterious force, an "avenging angel" that compels them, one by one, to a reckoning of their many sins.
Canaan's Tongue isrooted in the criminal world of John Murrell, as infamous in his day as Jesse James or Al Capone. It tells the story of his reluctant protégé, Virgil Ball, who derives riches, sexual privilege, and power from the commerce in stolen slaves, known only as "the Trade"-and discovers, when he finally decides to free himself from the Redeemer's yoke, that the force he is challenging is far more formidable than he imagined. It is as old as the river, as vast as the country itself, and it is with us to this day.
White skin, green eyes, red hair...
Furo Wariboko – born and bred in Lagos – wakes up on the morning of his job interview to discover he has turned into a white man. As he hits the city streets running, still reeling from his new-found condition, Furo finds the dead ends of his life open out before him. As a white man in Nigeria, the world is seemingly his oyster – except for one thing: despite his radical transformation, Furo's ass remains robustly black . . .
Funny, fierce, inventive and daringly provocative – this is a very modern satire, with a sting in the tail.
For every crime, there must be a punishment…
Rassoul’s world consists of little more than a squalid rented room – strewn with books by Dostoevsky, relics from his days as a student of Russian Literature at Leningrad – and his beloved fiancée Sophia, for whom he would do anything.
So when he finds himself committing a murder, axe in hand, as if re-enacting the opening of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, his identification with the novel’s anti-hero is complete: Rassoul is Raskolnikov, transplanted to late twentieth-century Kabul. Amid the war-torn streets, Rassoul searches for the meaning of his crime. Instead he is pulled into a feverish plot thick with murder, guilt, morality and Sharia law, where the lines between fact and fiction, dream and reality, become dangerously blurred.
Blackly comic, with flashes of poetry as well as brilliant irony, Atiq Rahimi's latest novel is an ingenious recasting of Dostoevsky’s masterpiece and a transgressive satire with a frightening resonance all its own.
In Jerusalem, two Arabs are on the hunt for the same identity. The first is a wealthy lawyer with a thriving practice, a large house, a Mercedes and a beautiful family. With a sophisticated image to uphold, he decides one evening to buy a second-hand Tolstoy novel recommended by his wife – but inside it he finds a love letter, in Arabic, undeniably in her handwriting. Consumed with jealous rage, the lawyer vows to take his revenge on the book’s previous owner.
Elsewhere in the city, a young social worker is struggling to make ends meet. In desperation he takes an unenviable job as the night-time carer of a comatose young Jew. Over the long, dark nights that follow, he pieces together the story of his enigmatic patient, and finds that the barriers that ought to separate their lives are more permeable than he could ever have imagined.
As they venture further into deception, dredging up secrets and ghosts both real and imagined, the lawyer and the carer uncover the dangerous complexities of identity – as their lies bring them ever closer together.
A first love shouldn't bloom so fierce, you know? It shouldn't be like a fist forever clutched around the heart muscle... I didn't realise how bad I had it until he reappeared...
Singer-poet Gemma Weekes turns to prose with this dazzling first novel about love, set between London and New York one hot, sticky summer. Eden is locked in a state of mid-twenties adolescence - directionless, insecure and hopelessly obsessed with her first love. When Zed, the object of her affection, swoops into town, 'flash in every line of his body', spitting gangster rap and the most beautiful boy she's ever seen, she knows she must have him back. Paralysed by lust, Eden hangs out at Zed's gigs, squeezes into mini dresses and drops as many hints as a girl can without losing her dignity, but with no result. Zed's more interested in Max - a blonde with perfect bone structure and as white as toothpaste. But is Max the real reason these two can't get it together? As the story unfolds, glimpses of their St Lucian relatives and parents reveal that Eden and Zed have some serious history they need to face if they're ever to understand what real love is.
Gemma Weekes has a way with language that puts all the music, sweat, colour and raw emotion of a city night directly on to the page. Her dialogue fizzes with the spoken word, her character are intensely real. From Eden's Bible-bashing father to her mystical Aunt K and her rocker boyfriend Spanish, who smoulders with Black Pride, from Hackney to Brooklyn, Weekes brings to life a world of cross-cultural relationships, passion and pain that zings with life and reveals her to be a major new talent.
Dora and Luka are inseparable: ever since he fainted at the sight of her - walking into the classroom with her new schoolbag - and she woke him with a chaste kiss, it has been love at first sight. 'There's something in the air when the two of them are together. You can't call it calm, you can't call it storm.' Theirs is a friendship made of chocolate and mandarin oranges; of shape-shifting clouds and coloured canvases; and, as Dora's family leave Croatia for Paris, of farewells and memories.
It is not until years later, when a promising artist faints at the familiar sight of a young actress entering a Parisian gallery on his opening night, that Luka and Dora are reunited. But just as chance brings them together, fateful choices and forces bigger than themselves conspire to keep the couple apart. Will they ever truly be able to find or forget one another?
Bursting with drama and ardour, at turns heartbreaking and exhilarating, and told with the same overwhelming intensity as the bond it describes, this is a dazzling tour de force of a very special love affair.
One hot August day a family drives to a mountain clearing to collect birch wood. Jenny, the mother, is in charge of lopping any small limbs off the logs with a hatchet. Wade, the father, does the stacking. The two daughters, June and May, aged nine and six, drink lemonade, swat away horseflies, bicker, sing snatches of songs as they while away the time.
But then something unimaginably shocking happens, an act so extreme it will scatter the family in every different direction.
In a story told from multiple perspectives and in razor-sharp prose, we gradually learn more about this act, and the way its violence, love and memory reverberate through the life of every character in Idaho.
Celebrated as one of the greatest writers of his generation, Javier Marías is best known for his spy trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, which has been compared to Proust and hailed as one of the great modern European novels. In his first short story collection for fifteen years, beautifully translated by Margaret Jull Costa, he brings together tales which span his entire writing career from the 1960s to the present.
Marías' characters are slippery, and they live on the edges of society: a tramp, a butler, a bodyguard, a ghost. They threaten the everyday, rational world, and, compelled by desperation, are driven to perverse acts of obsession. In the title story an obscenely fat man fixated with his much younger lover endlessly videotapes her every move, and, in a chance midnight rendezvous, confides his shocking plans for her to a stranger; in 'The Resignation Letter of Señor of Santiesteban' a ghost is condemned to repeatedly resign from his job; and, in perhaps the most perfectly conceived story, when a man of impeccable taste and refinement meets his doppelgänger at a work dinner ('it was like dining opposite mirror made flesh'), he starts changing his dress and behaviour, in ways he previously would have abhorred, to mark the difference, only to find, at the next work convention, that his ghoulish twin has done exactly the same.
Mesmerising, unexpected and disturbing, these creepy, haunting stories inspire the reader to look at the normal things of life aslant.