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Shortly before his death last year, Stanley Middleton completed this, his last novel, which concludes a unique depiction of middle-class life in 'Middle England', quietly and cumulatively over many volumes and decades. Once again we are in Beechnall, the constant setting of Stanley Middleton's novels, and his sense of place and his feeling for his characters remains as strong as ever.
At the heart of A Cautious Approach is a tentative love story, which begins when two lonely men meet, out walking on Christmas Day: Andy invites George home, and there he meets the captivating Mirabel, Andy's former fiancée. George has been a teacher, but ill health has deprived him of his career and confidence, and he has retrained as a postman. This chance encounter, and others that follow, have the potential to shift George's life, and soon he is drawn into a set of uncertain relationships in which past experience, present stoicism and future expectation all play a part.
As ever, but here for the last time, Stanley Middleton's bold experimentation with flashbacks, and the embedding of one scene or dialogue within another, gives added density to his depiction of ordinary, defiantly unfashionable human lives.
'In a town like Beechnall there are all sorts of rivalries, enmities and feuds.' And many of them soon swirl around the amateur dramatic society's festival production of Twelfth Night, which is under a cloud after politics result in the departure of the established director.
Extra-marital affairs, encroaching violence and emotional turmoil threaten what seems like a placid, middle-class Midlands town, and soon Alicia Smallwood, Middleton's heroine, is confronted with serious choices.
Once again Stanley Middleton weaves a strong web of intrigue around ordinary provincial life - which turns out, as the plot unfolds, not to be so ordinary after all.
Frank Montgomery is in T.S. Eliot's 'middle way', Principal of an art college, coping with an aging father and a mother in law on the dark descent into Alzheimer's. His marriage is strong, his relationships supportive - but in one way Frank is extraordinary: he is being talked of as a major figure in British art, a figurative painter of national reputation with commissions beckoning right up to royalty. As he struggles to live the good life and to create, he is much concerned by issues in both work and life: is it better to do new things, or old things perfectly?
In this novel, Frank's values are put to the test.
Once again Stanley Middleton dissects middle England with his sharp but healing scalpel, and in the process he explores family life, generational change, and the true nature of art through the complexities, pains and joys of its creation.
Gorgeous words and stunning illustrations combine in a book for anyone aged 8-80, by internationally renowned papercut artist Rob Ryan. Rob Ryan has collaborated with Paul Smith, Liberty, Fortnum and Mason and Tatty Devine, amongst others.
This is a story about a prince. He lived in a palace that seemed to have been specially designed to make someone who already felt small feel even smaller. He rarely saw his parents, who were always busy being the King and Queen; and, unlike other children, the Prince never spent time dreaming about what he would be when he grew up because he knew that when his father died, he would become King. It was his destiny.
The only person who treated the Prince like a normal child was the Bootman. Understanding that everyone needs something to call their own, the Bootman gave the Prince a pen with invisible ink and a special torch that allowed him to create a world that only he could see.
One night, as the Prince was drawing on the curtains that surrounded his bed, he noticed a small hole and beyond that a trapdoor, which led to the attic. And in the attic he found a window and a way to sneak out of the palace and experience the real world…
THE INVISIBLE KINGDOM is about a small boy, a big imagination and learning to be your own person.
Published: 24 Oct 2013
A stunningly illustrated fairytale for all ages from internationally-acclaimed papercut artist Rob Ryan – the follow-up to THE INVISIBLE KINGDOM.
This is a story about a young boy who doesn’t want to be King.
What he wants, more than anything, is to be normal.
So one night, he runs away from the palace. He climbs out of his four-poster bed, disappears through a hidden door in the ceiling, creeps down a long-forgotten passageway, opens a small window and leaves behind everything he’s ever known.
At first, the world outside the palace seems a magical place that the King delights in exploring. But with no friends to call on, no money in his pocket, in fact nothing apart from the clothes he is wearing, it isn’t long before the young King realises that life on his own is going to be full of challenges.
Meanwhile, Lord Von Dronus, the most senior of all the King’s courtiers, is determined to find the young King before anyone realises he's disappeared.
Beautiful, touching and surprising, The Kingdom Revealed is about appreciating the everyday and learning what matters most.
Published: 23 Oct 2014
'A splendid anthology' The Times
No writer knew better than PG Wodehouse how a drink can lift the spirits – and he was a master at the high comic effects of having a few too many. Highballs for Breakfast is a handpicked selection of wit, wisdom and comic moments from Wodehouse’s work that involve getting pickled or plastered, or lathered or sozzled, and getting in and out of all manner of scrapes.
If some great writers dwelled on the darker side of drinking, Wodehouse was concerned with the pure pleasure to be had from ‘the magic bottle’ and getting outside of the contents of a tall glass. His imperishable writing displays a well-turned appreciation for all kinds of booze – cocktails, champagne, port, whiskey and brandy (with soda, of course); but also the humble pint, and even the infamous poteen.
This sparkling collection captures Wodehouse at his best on being terribly thirsty, or drowning one’s sorrows, or knocking one back for Dutch courage. It finds him celebrating the special atmospheres of the English country pub and the Manhattan barroom. And it shows him to be exceptionally good on hangovers, but equally so on hangover cures, such as the legendary pick-me-ups prepared for Bertie Wooster by the dependable Jeeves.
For all lovers of a laugh and a drink, Highballs for Breakfast is a tonic, a bracer, and a tissue-restorer.
BORN INTO THE ROYAL FAMILY, John has always known he doesn’t want to be king. To escape his destiny he has run away and begun to build a different kind of future for himself.
But just when everything seems to be going right for John, his past catches up with him: Lord Von Dronus, the palace’s most senior courtier, is determined to hunt him down, believing that as long as John is alive, he is a threat to the nation’s security.
Forced into hiding with his best friend June, it seems as though John will never be able to live an ordinary life. Until one night he decides to return to the palace and put an audacious plan into action…
Inspiring, funny and moving, THE INVINCIBLE KINGDOM is about following your dreams and creating your own happily ever after.
Published: 22 Oct 2015
Hans Christian Andersen's tragic tale of naive greed and dissatisfaction is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in rich forest green, with gold foil embellishments, The Fir Tree is a unique work of art.
Sanna Annukka is familiar to many from her collaborations with Marimekko and her artwork for Keane's album, Under the Iron Sea. For her first book project, she illustrates Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, The Fir Tree.
A beautiful gift to give and receive.
Published: 18 Oct 2012
In the whole delightful world of Wodehouse, the English clergy offers some of the richest sources of good-natured good humour. Confronted by burglars or belted earls, they plough serenely on with the Advent sermon or the opening of the village fete - until that is, they are swept uncontrollably into fiendish plots which only a well-disposed devil or member of the Drones Club could have contrived.
No bishop is more endearingly plump and pompous than a P.G. Wodehouse bishop, no vicar more a pillar of his community (provided his sermons aren't too long), and in this collection of short stories we watch as they are plunged into one hilarious scenario after another.
Published: 2 Jul 1992
KISSING THE GUNNER'S DAUGHTER
A sergeant in the Kingsmarkham police force is tragically killed. Ten months later, Wexford enters a bloodbath of a crime scene, where a family has been brutally murdered.
'Her most brilliant Wexford mystery to date- The plot is complicated and elaborately detailed but, as usual, there is not one superfluous word- stunning imagery' Kate Saunders, Cosmopolitan
'Beyond praise, completely compelling - will delight all Wexford's admirers' Allan Massie, The Scotsman
When a young black woman is murdered, Wexford must overcome his prejudices to allow his investigative skills to succeed...
'Impressive and courageous- Rendell's psychological and social insights are so absorbing, it's easy to forget what a superb plotter she is. As a mystery, Simisola is exceptional- pace, surprise, tension and a climax of stunning unexpectedness' The Times
When Wexford's wife goes missing, the detective is in a race against time to solve a murder case, before Dora Wexford is placed in mortal danger...
'The book could hardly be more readable- A brilliant evocation of place, character and mood' Evening Standard
'With immaculate control, Ruth Rendell builds a menacing crescendo of tension and horror that keeps you guessing right up to the brilliantly paced finale' Good Housekeeping
Published: 6 Jun 2002
Hans Christian Andersen's magical tale of friendship and adventure is retold through the beautiful and intricate illustrations of Finnish illustrator Sanna Annukka. Cloth-bound in deep blue, with silver foil embellishments, The Snow Queen is a unique work of art.
Sanna Annukka is familiar to many from her collaborations with Marimekko and her artwork for Keane's album, Under the Iron Sea. For her second book project, she illustrates Hans Christian Andersen's classic fairy tale, The Snow Queen.
A beautiful gift to give and receive.
Published: 22 Oct 2015
The New Girl Friend was published in 1985, and the title story earned Rendell her second Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allan Poe award. 'Every tale is carefully crafted and climaxed, her feel for lurking malevolence is as assured as ever.' -The Times
Then came The Copper Peacock in 1991, a collection of nine short horror stories in which 'the macabre potential of blameless situations such as village fetes, aquariums and even the broom cupboard are explored to provoke maximum unease in readers.' -Sunday Times
Blood Lines, first published in 1995, includes the long title story and a novella, The Strawberry Tree, as well as nine short murder mystery stories. 'Ruth Rendell remains one of the most stylish, chilling and challenging writers around.' -Tribune
Piranha to Scurfy, a collection of disturbing psychological short stories followed in 2000. 'Horror does not shake its gory locks directly at us, but hovers on the periphery of our inner vision, hidden among the ordinary, the everyday.' - Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph
Published: 3 Jan 2008
Three classic Ruth Rendell stories: Means of Evil, The Fallen Curtain and The Fever Tree.
Ruth Rendell is unequalled in her ability to weave stories that challenge our preconceptions and prejudices. From Wexford and Burden's investigation of a wife's apparent suicide, with all the evidence pointing to the husband in Means of Evil to the unsettling psychology behind a man's friendship with a boy in The Fallen Curtain and the paranoia that plagues two people who no longer know how to trust, in The Fever Tree.
'Someone had told Dex that the Queen lived in Victoria. So did he, but she had a palace and he had one room in a street off Warwick Way. Still he liked the idea that she was his neighbour.'
Dex works as a gardener for Dr Jefferson at his home on Hexam Place in Pimlico: an exclusive street of white-painted stucco Georgian houses inhabited by the rich, and serviced by the not so rich. The hired help, a motley assortment of au pairs, drivers and cleaners, decide to form the St Zita Society (Zita was the patron saint of domestic servants) as an excuse to meet at the local pub and air their grievances.
When Dex is invited to attend one of these meetings, the others find that he is a strange man, seemingly ill at ease with human beings. These first impressions are compounded when they discover he has recently been released from a hospital for the criminally insane, where he was incarcerated for attempting to kill his own mother. Dex's most meaningful relationship seems to be with his mobile phone service provider, Peach, and he interprets the text notifications and messages he receives from the company as a reassuring sign that there is some kind of god who will protect him. And give him instructions about ridding the world of evil spirits . . .
Accidental death and pathological madness cohabit above and below stairs in Hexam Place.
Hoffmann's classic Christmas fairy tale, immortalised by Tchaikovsky's ballet, is brought to life by the gorgeous contemporary artwork of Finnish illustrator, Sanna Annuka.
On Christmas Eve, Fritz and Marie excitedly await the arrival of Godfather Drosselmeier and the marvellous gifts he brings for them every year. When Marie discovers a curious nutcracker doll among the presents, she suddenly finds herself caught up in an age-old battle before being transported to a magical world of sugar-frosted castles, chocolate kings, and true love.
Sanna Annukka is familiar to many from her collaborations with Marimekko and her artwork for Keane's album, Under the Iron Sea. The Nutcracker is her third book project. This cloth-bound edition combines the charm of Hoffmann's original nineteenth-century tale with the freshness of Sanna Annuka's gorgeous illustrations.
A beautiful gift to give and receive.
‘Never announce you are a Knight, simply behave as one. You are better than no one, and no one is better than you.’
When Sir Thomas Lemuel Hawke was a boy, his grandfather taught him how to be a knight. Now, on the eve of a battle from which he fears he may not return, Sir Thomas writes a letter to his children so that he may pass on all his hard-won lessons, deepest aspirations and most instructive failures.
Full of adventure and wit, the letter provides a guide for living a good and noble life – a reminder that without a little agony none of us would bother to learn a thing; that we must work together as brothers or perish together as fools; that a friend loves you because you are true to yourself, not because you agree with him. And, most importantly, it shows that there is no obstacle that enough love cannot move.
A girl alone, stretching her meagre budget to feed herself, becomes aware that the young man who has come to see her may not be as friendly as he seems. Two women from very different backgrounds enjoy an unusual night out, finding solace in laughter and an unexpected friendship. A young man picks up his infant son and goes outside into a starlit night as he makes a decision that will inform the rest of his life. A woman imprisoned for her religion examines her faith in a seemingly literal and quietly original way.
In this remarkable final volume of short stories, Helen Dunmore explores the fragile ties between passion, familial love, parenthood, friendship and grief often from people who are at turning points in their lives.
With her extraordinary imagination, her gift for making history human, and her talent for acute observation and lyrical storytelling, Dunmore offers a deep insight into the human condition with a collection that will delight and move all her readers.