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Adele is in a mess. On her own with her young son, struggling to cope with her job as a teacher, and stuck in a disastrous affair - her life is unravelling. Her memories of idyllic years as a child in Senegal are fading, but she's haunted by a vision of her childhood friend, Ellena. Africa is in her head.
Ellena's childhood in exile from brutal conflict in Liberia was far removed from the vibrant Senegal Adele remembers, and a careless, heartless act destroyed the girls' friendship and jeopardised Ellena's fragile family. Adele must return to Africa to try and make amends and to attempt to pull together the drifting threads of her life.
A young girl, Liv, lives with her mother on a remote island in the Arctic Circle. Her only friend is an old man who beguiles her with tales of trolls, mermaids, and the huldra, a wild spirit who appears as an irresistably beautiful girl, to tempt young men to danger and death. Then two boys drown within weeks of each other under mysterious circumstances, in the still, moonlit waters off the shores of Liv's home.
Were the deaths accidental or were the boys lured to their doom by a malevolent spirit?
Opening on the eve of the millennium, when the world as we know it is still recognisable, we meet the nine-year-old narrator as he flees the city with his parents, just ahead of a Y2K breakdown.
Next he is a teenager with a growing criminal record, taking his grandparents for a Sunday drive. In a world transformed by battles over resources, he teaches them how to steal.
In time we see him struggle through strange, horrific and unexpectedly funny terrain as he goes about the no longer simple act of survival. Despite the chaos of his world, he keeps his eyes on the exit door, his heart open and his mind on what he thinks is going to happen next.
Longlisted for the Guardian first book award.
CHOSEN BY EMMA WATSON FOR 'OUR SHARED SHELF' FEMINIST BOOK CLUB
The Story of a Childhood and The Story of a Return
The intelligent and outspoken child of radical Marxists, and the great-grandaughter of Iran's last emperor, Satrapi bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country. Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. This is a beautiful and intimate story full of tragedy and humour - raw, honest and incredibly illuminating.
Published: 6 Mar 2008
U. is a 'corporate anthropologist' who, while working on a giant, epoch-defining project no one really understands, is also tasked with writing the Great Report on our society. But instead, U. spends his days procrastinating, meandering through endless buffer-zones of information and becoming obsessed by the images with which the world bombards him on a daily basis: oil spills, African traffic jams, roller-blade processions.
Is there a secret logic holding all these images together? Once cracked, will it unlock the master-meaning of our era? Might it have something to do with the dead parachutists in the news? Perhaps; perhaps not.
Taking his inspiration from Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood, Louis de Bernières chose to celebrate his ten years of life in the south London suburb, living above a small shop that had been by turns an outlet for oversized naughty clothes for transvestites, a West Indian hairdressers and a junk shop, by writing of the people that he had known and come to love in his time there.
Brilliantly capturing the myriad voices of modern Britain, with their different rhythms of speech and accents, their humour and their tragedy, jokes and gossip, de Bernières' tour de force takes us to the heart of a community and its spirit - the lives and loves, the tears and the laughter of its people.
Published: 4 Oct 2001
By the author of Reasons to Stay Alive
Meet the Hunter family: Adam, Kate, and their children Hal and Charlotte. And Prince, their black Labrador.
Prince is an earnest young dog, striving hard to live up to the tenets of the Labrador Pact (Remain Loyal to Your Human Masters, Serve and Protect Your Family at Any Cost). Other dogs, led by the Springer Spaniels, have revolted. Their slogans are 'Dogs for Dogs, not for Humans' and 'Pleasure not Duty'. Mentored by an elderly Labrador called Henry, Prince takes his responsibilities seriously, and as things in the Hunter family begin to go badly awry - marital breakdown, rowdy teenage parties, attempted suicide - his responsibilities threaten to overwhelm him. And down in the park it's even worse: Henry has disappeared; Falstaff the Springer Spaniel wants to lead Prince astray; Joyce the Irish wolfhound has been murdered. In the end Prince is forced to break the Labrador Pact and take desperate action to save his Family.
Published: 5 May 2005
As their freinds leave for Europe and the government gets tough with the unions, a bohemian community is enjoying the euphoria of youth.
It was their dreamtime. The wider world beckoned from the white ships sailing past Rangitoto Island, but the dream was also here on the Takapuna shoreline of Auckland, where the artist Melior Farbro grew his vegetables and let Cecilia Skyways follow her own form of Zen Buddhism in his garden hut. Where Curl Skidmore, his brilliant young head full of novels waiting to be unravelled, could dream of God, Fame, Nirvana, Great Love, or maybe just sex. Where not even the harbourfront strike of 1951 could convince them that life wasn't about poetry and painting and potential.
Oskar Voxlauer is in flight from his past - from his bourgeois Austrian upbringing; from horrific memories of fighting on the Italian Front in 1917; and from the twenty years he has spent in the Ukraine watching his Bolshevik ideals crumble and the physical decline of the woman who taught him about love.
In 1938, he finally returns to the small Austrian town of his birth where his mother is waiting to greet a son she hasn't seen since he was a boy.
But, despite Oskar's attempts to live a reclusive existence as a gamekeeper up in the hills, he cannot escape the tensions that are threatening the tranquil town of Niessen. When Hitler marches into Austria and the Blackshirts come to the valley.
From the appearance of the human race in Africa, four million years ago, to our ultimate destiny beyond the stars, Martin Rowson's first novel takes us to Mexico under the Aztecs, the Inquisition in Rome, the secrets of the Internet, the bogs of Irish nationalism, introduces an alcoholic werewolf and his dog, educates us in literary and management theory, glimpses 9/11, journalism, warfare, time travel, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Global Warming, personal therapy and focuses on Hell.
Retelling the stories of the worst decisions the human race has ever made - and featuring a cast that includes St Simeon Stylites, Hernando Cortés, Adolf Hitler, Evelyn Waugh, Sigmund Freud, Josef Stalin and Candide in Las Vegas, and with supporting roles from Henry Kissinger, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Pol Pot and Osama Bin Laden (as well as Superman and a talking sturgeon), Snatches is a brilliantly picaresque, funny and ultimately worrying exploration of love, art, politics, history and just how bloody awful it is to be here.
Valentina has decided it's time to make some changes in her life. She cuts off her hair and takes a job as a gardener at Beech House in a timeless and alluring small town near the sea in Wales. The garden at Beech House is wild and overgrown and as Valentina works her magic to restore it to its former glory she begins to fall in love with its owner, eccentric musician Leo Spring. But Leo's attention lies elsewhere; he is enchanted by the beautiful headmistress, Melody. In the heat of the summer a garden party is planned and the stage is set for secret passions to be revealed.
But as the magic of the garden casts its spell over the characters they begin to face the awful truth that their feelings can be a matter of life or death.
Winner of the Romantic Novel of the Year Award.
Rachel Seiffert, author of The Dark Room, powerfully evokes our need for human connection in this brilliant and haunting group of stories. From the title piece, in which a young biologist conceals his discoveries at a polluted river from a local woman, to the family aided by an enemy in 'The Crossing', to the old man weighing his regrets in 'Francis John Jones, 1924 -' Seiffert's acclaimed, refined prose movingly captures the lives of her characters in their most essential, secret moments.
A Rocky Mountain News Best Book of the Year.
For the characters in Segun Afolabi's debut collection, 'elsewhere' is a place they must transform into home. In the award-winning 'Monday Morning' a refugee boy puzzles out his place in a new land. A bereaved father in 'Arithmetic' thinks back to a confusing, youthful sexual encounter that has left him emotionally scarred; Jacinta faces a long retirement with a husband she is not sure she likes in 'Jumbo and Jacinta' and 'The Wine Guitar' tells the story of an aging musician who pays a prostitute for the gift of her youth.
These are tales of diaspora, of people making their lives in new lands. Moving, funny and occasionally shocking, Afolabi's stories reflect the way we live now.
A Life Elsewhere was shorlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize.
Catharine wakes to an empty bed. Her husband Tom, a human rights lawyer, is away on business and it's the first time she has woken alone in their cottage since they moved there from London five months ago.
She is, as she confesses, a serious woman; realistic and practical. She has relinquished her hold on past ambitions, her music and her career, in preparation for family life. Now, without distraction, she wonders what she is to do.
Time progresses, and in encounters both real and imagined - with the village's inhabitants, with her best friend Maria and with Tom - Catharine plucks at the fabric of her life until it is threadbare. From assured beginnings the day rushes to a realisation of her very worst fears, and to a denouement of devastating poignancy.
Bella Wallis is a respectable society woman with a secret identity: in an office buried deep within the seedy backstreets of London, she writes sensationalist novels exposing the scoundrels that litter high society under the pen name Henry Ellis Margam.
So when a crested cigar case is found near the body of a murdered prostitute, Bella and her friends are determined to trace the murderer and write a mystery that will avenge the poor girl's untimely death. But the owner of the cigar case is a dangerous - and rich - man who has already destroyed the lives of others who have crossed him. Will Bella see justice done, or will she meet the same fate as so many of her characters...?
The Widow's Secret is the first in the Bella Wallis series of mysteries and takes us from London to Paris, from the highest of society to the lowest of the low. It is an entertaining, effervescent romp and a wonderful introduction to this most charismatic of heroines.
After failing to get into medical school, Ollie Cross takes a job as a paramedic in Harlem. Ashamed of his middle-class roots and eager to fit in, he adopts a tough-guy persona which carries him through the dark days on the streets- the shoot-outs, the bad cops, the unhinged medics and hopeless patients.
But the daily horrors begin to take their toll and, as his personal life starts to unravel, even Ollie can't tell who he is anymore.
Black Flies is a gripping and unforgettable novel about indelible experiences, friendship in extreme conditions, deterioration and redemption.
Sara Highbury, forty-eight years old, is the manageress of a boarding house in early 1900s South Africa. She lives her life in the past, haunted by a love affair with a diamond digger called Herbert.
One day a young child arrives at Sara's door. Apparently the girl is Herbert's illegitimate daughter and it seems there is no one else to look after her. Having a child to care for disrupts Sara's quiet routine. Troubled by the mystery surrounding the girl's arrival, Sara begins to excavate the past. As the truth unfolds, Sarah must re-evaluate what she holds dear and engage once more with the world around her.
With the backdrop of a rural landscape and characters that are as memorable as they are unexpected, The Shape of Him introduces a writer whose spare, exquisitely crafted prose places her deservedly in the tradition of the best of South African literary fiction.