Wivenhoe Bookshop Magazine & Newsletter | Sunday 20 April 2014

Book of the Month

From 22nd Jan 2014 we will be dining at The Bake House, Wivenhoe - Take a look at the Menu for our Reading Group meeting

April 2nd 2014 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

WINNER OF THE COSTA NOVEL AWARD

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?

On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Ursula’s world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization — if only she has the chance?

Wildly inventive, darkly comic, startlingly poignant — this is Kate Atkinson at her absolute best. 

 Publisher’s Synopsis

Praise for Life After Life

‘Merging family saga with a fluid sense of time and an extraordinarily vivid sense of history at its most human level. A dizzying and dazzling tour de force.’

Amber Pearson – Daily Mail

‘Kate Atkinson’s new novel is a box of delights. Ingenious in construction, indefatigably entertaining, it grips the reader’s imagination on the first page and never lets go. If you wish to be moved and astonished, read it. And if you want to give a dazzling present, buy it for your friends.’

Hilary Mantel

‘Deliriously inventive, sharply imagined and ultimately affecting…The scenes set in Blitz-stricken London will stay with me forever…Atkinson has written something that amounts to so much more than the sum of its (very many) parts. It almost seems to imply that there are new and mysterious things to feel and say about the nature of life and death, the passing of time, fate and possibility.. . [a]magnificently tender and humane novel.’

Julie Myerson – Observer

To buy ‘Life After Life’ call us on 01206 824050 or order by email

 Feb 2014 May We Be Forgiven by A M Homes

Harry is a Richard Nixon scholar who leads a quiet, regular life; his brother George is a high-flying TV producer, with a murderous temper.They have been uneasy rivals since childhood.Then one day George loses control so extravagantly that he precipitates Harry into an entirely new life.

In May We Be Forgiven, Homes gives us a darkly comic look at 21st century domestic life – at individual lives spiraling out of control, bound together by family and history.The cast of characters experience adultery, accidents, divorce, and death. But this is also a savage and dizzyingly inventive vision of contemporary America, whose dark heart Homes penetrates like no other writer – the strange jargons of its language, its passive aggressive institutions, its inhabitants’ desperate craving for intimacy and their pushing it away with litigation, technology, paranoia. At the novel’s heart are the spaces in between, where the modern family comes together to re-form itself. May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation – simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

Publisher’s Synopsis

About the Author

A. M. HOMES is the author of the novels, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music for Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers and Jack, and two collections of short stories, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects and the highly acclaimed memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter, as well as the travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and the Castle on the Hill.

She is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair and writes frequently on arts and culture for numerous magazines and newspapers. She lives in New York City.

Jan 2014 ‘The Ice Palace’ by Tarjei Vasaas

Translated from the Norwegian by Elizabeth Rokkan

A new edition of what is commonly seen as the legendary Norwegian writer’s masterpiece.

Siss and Unn are new friends – so new that they have spent only one whole evening in each other’s company. But so profound is that evening that when Unn inexplicably disappears Siss’s world is shattered. Siss’s struggle with her fidelity to the memory of her friend and Unn’s fatal exploration of the strange, terrifyingly beautiful frozen waterfall that is the Ice Palace are described in prose of a lyrical economy that ranks among the most memorable achievements of modern literature.

Tarjei Vesaas is regarded as one of the finest writers ever to have come out of Scandinavia – he is notable for having been nominated for the Nobel Prize three times and has been considered one of the greatest prose stylists never to have won. Nevertheless, his reputation is secure and growing all the time. Peter Owen has long considered The Ice Palace to be the greatest work ever to have come from his publishing house, which boasts seven Nobel Prize winners on its list.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Praise for ‘The Ice Palace’ 

‘How simple this novel is. How subtle. How strong. How unlike any other. It is unique. It is unforgettable. It is extraordinary.’ — Doris Lessing, Independent

‘It is hard to do justice to The Ice Palace . . . The narrative is urgent, the descriptions relentlessly beautiful, the meaning as powerful as the ice piling up on the lake.’ — The Times

‘Vesaas’s laconic sentences are as cold and simple as ice — and as fantastic.’ — Daily Telegraph

‘Believable and haunting . . . this beautiful and neo-prose poem is as sombre and Scandinavian as a Bergman film . . . the evocation of rime, frost and cracking ice have so eternal a quality that the mention of a passing car comes almost as a shock.’ — Nova

‘Austere poetical clarity, stoical wisdom and a vivid response to nature.’ — Times Literary Supplement

TARJEI VESAAS was born in 1897 in the remote rural Telemark district of Norway, where he spent most of his life. Throughout his life he published several novels, volumes of poetry and a book of short stories which was awarded an international prize at Venice in 1952. He was awarded several other prizes and was a candidate for the Nobel Prize in 1964, 1968 and again in 1969. He died in 1970, his reputation as the leading Nordic writer firmly established.

To buy ‘The Ice Palace’ call us on 01206 824050 or order by email.

Nov 2013 ‘The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry’ by Rachel Joyce

When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone.

All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Rachel Joyce’s remarkable debut was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, as well as being picked up by Kevin Loader/Channel Four Films for a major film adaptation.

Praise for the ‘Harold Fry’

‘The odyssey of a simple man, original, subtle and touching’. – Claire Tomalin 

‘From the moment I met Harold Fry, I didn’t want to leave him. Impossible to put down.’ – Erica Wagner, The Times

‘A brilliant and charming novel: full of comic panache yet acute and poignant’ The Spectator

Read a review in The Independent

Oct 2013 ‘Yellow Birds’ by Kevin Powers

An unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran and poet, THE YELLOW BIRDS is already being hailed as a modern classic.

‘Everywhere John looks, he sees Murph.

He flinches when cars drive past. His fingers clasp around the rifle he hasn’t held for months. Wide-eyed strangers praise him as a hero, but he can feel himself disappearing.

Back home after a year in Iraq, memories swarm around him: bodies burning in the crisp morning air. Sunlight falling through branches; bullets kicking up dust; ripples on a pond wavering like plucked strings. The promise he made, to a young man’s mother, that her son would be brought home safely.’

Publisher’s Synopsis

With THE YELLOW BIRDS, poet and veteran Kevin Powers has composed an unforgettable account of friendship and loss. It vividly captures the desperation and brutality of war, and its terrible after-effects. But it is also a story of love, of great courage, and of extraordinary human survival.

Written with profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on families at home, THE YELLOW BIRDS is one of the most haunting, true and powerful novels of our time.

Praise for the Book

‘THE YELLOW BIRDS is the All Quiet on the Western Front of America’s Arab Wars.’
(Tom Wolfe, author of The Bonfire of the Vanities )

‘Kevin Powers has conjured a poetic and devastating account of war’s effect on the individual.’
(Damian Lewis, star of Homeland and Band of Brothers )

‘Inexplicably beautiful’.
(Ann Patchett, Orange Prize-winning author of Bel Canto and State of Wonder)

WINNER OF THE GUARDIAN FIRST BOOK AWARD 2012

WINNER OF THE HEMINGWAY/PEN AWARD 2012

NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST

AN AMAZON EDITOR’S PICK: BEST BOOKS OF 2012

A NEW YORK TIMES TOP TEN BOOK OF THE YEAR

TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

AN INDEPENDENT BOOK OF THE YEAR

TLS BOOK OF THE YEAR

AN EVENING STANDARD BOOK OF THE YEAR

SUNDAY EXPRESS BOOK OF THE YEAR

GUARDIAN BOOK OF THE YEAR

NEW YORK TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

SCOTSMAN BOOK OF THE YEAR

SUNDAY HERALD BOOK OF THE YEAR

AN IRISH TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR

 Sept 2013 The Silver Dark Sea by Susan Fletcher

A profound tale of love, loss and the lore of the sea.

The islanders of Parla are still mourning the loss of one of their own. Four years since that loss, and a man – un-named, unclothed – is washed onto their shores. Some say he is a mythical man from the sea – potent, kind and beautiful; others suspect him. For the bereft Maggie, this stranger brings love back to the isle. But as the days pass he changes every one of them – and the time comes for his story to be told…

Tender, lyrical and redemptive, THE SILVER DARK SEA is the dazzling new novel from the author of EVE GREEN (winner of Whitbred First Novel award) and WITCH LIGHT. It is a story about what life can give and take from us, when we least expect it – and how love, in all its forms, is the greatest gift of all.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Praise for ‘The Silver Dark Sea’

‘Quietly beautiful…poetic, dreamlike prose’ Sunday Times

 ‘Smooth, flowing and feminine, Fletcher’s prose lulls you with its lyricism and emotional resonance… [a] fishy, mythical tale of love and loss and the depths that grief can reach’ Herald
‘Fletcher is a powerful storyteller- full-blooded, a bit old-fashioned and with a knack for combining sensual narratives with a feel for ancient myth and natural landscape… Delicious, briny writing’ Metro

July 2013 NW by Zadie Smith

NW is Zadie Smith’s masterful novel about London life.

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975. She is the author of the novels White Teeth, The Autograph Man and On Beauty, and of a collection of essays, Changing My Mind. She is also the editor of The Book of Other People

Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic NW follows four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – after they’ve left their childhood council estate, grown up and moved on to different lives. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their city is brutal, beautiful and complicated.

Yet after a chance encounter they each find that the choices they’ve made, the people they once were and are now, can suddenly, rapidly unravel. A portrait of modern urban life, NW is funny, sad and urgent – as brimming with vitality as the city itself.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Praise for NW:

‘Her dialogue sings and soars; terse, packed and sassy. Smith is simply wonderful: Dickens’s legitimate daughter’ Boyd Tonkin, Independent

‘Astonishing, dazzling. Really – without exaggeration – not since Dickens has there been a better observer of London scenes. Zadie Smith is a genius. It’s hard to imagine a better novel this year – or this decade’ A.N. Wilson

‘Intensely funny, richly varied, always unexpected. A joyous, optimistic, angry masterpiece. No better English novel will be published this year’ Philip Hensher, Daily Telegraph

‘Absolutely brilliant. So electrically authentic’ TIME

‘Captivating. Funny, sexy, weird, full of acute social comedy, like London. She’s up there with the best around’ Evening Standard

‘Marvellous . . . crackles with reflections on race, music and migration. A lyrical fiction for our times’ Spectator

‘Undeniably brilliant . . . rush out and buy this book’ Observer

Take a look at the Guardian review here.

June 2013 Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia Turnbow is a restless farm wife who gave up her own plans when she accidentally became pregnant at seventeen. Now, after a decade of domestic disharmony on a failing farm, she has settled for permanent disappointment but seeks momentary escape through an obsessive flirtation with a younger man.

She hikes up a mountain road behind her house towards a secret tryst, but instead encounters a shocking sight: a silent, forested valley filled with what looks like a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a raft of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders and the media.

The bewildering emergency draws rural farmers into unexpected acquaintance with urbane journalists, opportunists, sightseers, and a striking biologist with his own stake in the outcome. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, Dellarobia confronts her family, her church, her town and a larger world, in a flight towards truth that could undo all she has ever believed.

Flight Behaviour takes on one of the most contentious subjects of our time: climate change. With a deft and versatile empathy Kingsolver dissects the motives that drive denial and belief in a precarious world.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Below – Barbara Kingsolver talks about ‘Flight Behavior’

 

May 2013 Skios by Michael Frayn

Good God, thought Oliver, as he saw the smile. She thinks I’m him! And all at once he knew it was so. He was Dr Norman Wilfred. 

On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation is preparing for the most important event in its calendar: its annual lecture. This year they have secured a major star: Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. When he arrives he turns out to be surprisingly young and charming – not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the island, a young woman waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her instead, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality …

 And as the time draws ever nearer for one or other Dr Wilfred – or possibly both – to give the eagerly-awaited lecture, so Skios – Greece – Europe – career off their appointed track.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Group members can buy the book at a special price of £7! It’s now in stock – alternatively , reserve you copy by calling 01206 824050 or by email.

Below – Michael Frayn talks about how he wrote Skios.

 March 2013 ‘Ill Fares the Land’ by Tony Judt

‘Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,

Where wealth accumulates, and men decay’ – Oliver Goldsmith

Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. For thirty years we have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: indeed, this very pursuit now constitutes whatever remains of our sense of shared purpose. But we have forgotten how to think about the life we live together: its goals and purposes.

We are now not only post-ideological; we have become post-ethical. We have lost touch with the old questions that have defined politics since the Greeks: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society? A better world?

The social contract that defined postwar life in Europe and America – the guarantee of security, stability and fairness – is no longer assured; in fact, it’s no longer part of collective conversation.

In this exceptional short book, Tony Judt reveals how we have arrived at our present dangerously confused moment and masterfully crystallizes our great unease, showing how we might yet think ourselves out of it. If we are to replace fear with confidence then we need a different story to tell, about state and society alike: a story that carries moral and political conviction. Providing that story is the purpose of this book.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Group members can buy the book at a special price of £8! It’s now in stock – alternatively , reserve you copy by calling 01206 824050 or by email.

 February 2013 The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

The day her gifted twins leave home for university, Eva climbs into bed and stays there. For seventeen years she’s wanted to yell at the world, ‘Stop! I want to get off’. Finally, this is her chance. Perhaps she will be able to think.

Her husband Dr Brian Beaver, an astronomer who divides his time between gazing at the expanding universe, an unsatisfactory eight-year-old affair with his colleague Titania and mooching in his shed, is not happy. Who will cook dinner? Eva, he complains, is either having a breakdown or taking attention-seeking to new heights.

But word of Eva’s refusal to get out of bed quickly spreads.

Alexander the dreadlocked white-van man arrives to help Eva dispose of all her clothes and possessions and bring her tea and toast. Legions of fans are writing to her or gathering in the street to catch a glimpse of this ‘angel’. Her mother Ruby is unsympathetic: ‘She’d soon get out of bed if her arse was on fire.’

And, though the world keeps intruding, it is from the confines of her bed that Eva at last begins to understand freedom.

Publisher’s Synopsis

The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year is a funny and touching novel about what happens when someone stops being the person everyone wants them to be. Sue Townsend, Britain’s funniest writer for over three decades, has written a brilliant novel that eviscerates modern family life.

Group members can buy the book at a special price of £7! It’s now in stock – alternatively , reserve you copy by calling 01206 824050 or by email.

 

January 2013 Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn

‘At his mother’s family house in the south of France, Patrick Melrose has the run of a magical garden. Bravely imaginative and self-sufficient, five-year-old Patrick encounters the volatile lives of adults with care. His father, David, rules with considered cruelty, and Eleanor, his mother, has retreated into drink. They are expecting guests for dinner. But this afternoon is unlike the chain of summer days before, and the shocking events that precede the guests’ arrival tear Patrick’s world in two.’

Publisher’s synopsis

‘St Aubyn puts an entire family under a microscope, laying bare all its painful, unavoidable complexities. At once epic and intimate, appalling and comic, the novels are masterpieces, each and every one’ Maggie O’Farrell

‘Nothing about the plots can prepare you for the rich, acerbic comedy of St Aubyn’s world – or more surprising – its philosophical density’ Zadie Smith

Harpers ‘St Aubyn’s prose has an easy charm that masks a ferocious, searching intellect. One of the finest writers of his generation’ The Times

From the first pages of Edward St. Aubyn’s Never Mind, it’s clear that his cycle of Patrick Melrose novels will be delightfully packed with gross privilege, dysfunction, and savage humour….I look forward to devouring them all.

Paris Review

 

November 2012 The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe

Sillitoe’s groundbreaking work of fiction has recently been reissued in acknowledgement of his status as a major twentieth century writer.

‘The title story in this classic collection tells of Smith, a defiant young rebel, inhabiting the no-man’s land of institutionalised Borstal. As his steady jog-trot rhythm transports him over an unrelenting, frost-bitten earth, he wonders why, for whom and for what he is running.

A groundbreaking work, ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ captured the grim isolation of the working class in the English Midlands when it was first published in 1960s. But Sillitoe’s depiction of petty crime and deep-seated anger in industrial and desperate cities remains as potent today as it was almost half a century ago.’

Publisher’s synopsis

‘I have read nothing to compare with it.’ Penelope Mortimer

‘Sillitoe writes with tremendous energy, and his stories simply tear along.’ Daily Telegraph

‘All the imaginative sympathy in the world can’t fake this kind of thing. It must have been lived in, seen, touched, smelled: and we are lucky to have a writer who has come out of it knowing the truth, and having the skill to turn that truth into art.’ New Statesman

‘Graphic, tough, outspoken, informal.’ The Times

‘A beautiful piece of work, confirming Sillitoe as a writer of unusual spirit and great promise.’ Guardian

‘A major writer.’ Malcolm Bradbury

Group members can buy the book at a special price of £7! It’s now in stock – alternatively , reserve you copy by calling 01206 824050, or by email.

Readers attending the Group discussions at Jardine on 28th and 30th November are invited to join us for an exclusive ‘members and guests’ screening of the film, with a talk and discussion, organised by Wivenhoe’s community cinema Moving Image. 

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

7pm Monday 10th December

British Legion

Wivenhoe Quay

Tickets £4.50 members/£6 guests, available from the bookshop in person, or by calling 01206 824050. If you prefer, you can also book by email.

October 2012 Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

WINNER OF THE ORANGE PRIZE FOR FICTION 2012

 What the Critics Say

“Mary Renault lives again! A ravishingly vivid and convincing version of one of the most legendary of love stories” – Emma Donoghue, author of number one bestseller, Room

 “Original, clever, and in a class of its own … an incredibly compelling and seductive read” – Independent on Sunday

 “A remarkably fresh take on one of the most familiar narratives in western literature” – The Times

 ”Extraordinary … Beautifully descriptive and heart-achingly lyrical, this is a love story as sensitive and intuitive as any you will find” – Daily Mail

 Publisher’s Synopsis

 ”Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles.

Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

 

September 2012 State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize 2012

There were people on the banks of the river.

Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate.
A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns.

Now Marina Singh, Anders’ colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.

What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination.

Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.

(Publisher’s Synopsis)

What the Reviewers Say

“The best book I have read all year. It made me laugh and weep and left me in a state of wonder: perfect from first page to last … a masterpiece” – Emma Donoghue

“A triumph and Pachett’s best book yet” – Guardian

“Written with a wry grace and irony that reminded me of The Poisonwood Bible (another favourite). I like Patchett’s Bel Canto – but I loved this” – Joanna Trollope, Sunday Telegraph

“An absorbing novel, intelligent yet magical, that will keep you wondering until the very last page” – Sunday Telegraph

“It pulls you into the book, has you standing in the jungle in the heat and sweat, as realistic as any computer-generated trickery, genuinely wondering what might happen next … Just read it and be happy that such a writer as Patchett exists” – The Times

“Something special and worth considering for all the literary prizes, festivals and reading groups going this year … exhilarating” – Daily Telegraph

 July 2012 ‘Into the Darkest Corner’ by Elizabeth Haynes

Catherine thinks she’s found the perfect catch in the gorgeous, charismatic and spontaneous Lee, and her friends clearly agree as they each in turn fall under his spell.

But Lee has a darker side. His erratic, controlling and sometimes frightening behaviour leaves Catherine feeling isolated and unable to trust anyone. Four years after making a dramatic escape, and still struggling to overcome her demons, she believes she might be safe from harm, until one phone call changes everything. Widely hailed by fiction fans on social media, Into the Darkest Corner is an edgy, sometimes scary and always powerful debut novel from Elizabeth Haynes, that examines obsession in detail.

(Publisher’s Synopsis)

Check out the reviews and more on Elizabeth Haynes website

May/June 2012 – The Secret Life of France’ by Lucy Wadham

Our reading choice for June is Lucy Wadham’s ‘The Secret Life of France’, now in stock.

About the Book

This non-fiction book is a measured and funny account of life in her adoptive country. It’s part social history, part anecdote, with a large measure of dry observation.

Wadham decodes the French way of life, exploring attitudes towards sex, marriage, adultery, money, work, happiness, war and race, and in so doing reveals much about our own priorities and the nature of our identity.

Read Janine Di Giovanni’s ‘Guardian’ review of the book.

April 2012 – ‘The Importance of Being Seven’ by Alexander McCall Smith

For April, we’ll be reading Alexander McCall Smith’s ‘The Importance of Being Seven’ – copies now in stock, and remember to ask for your Reading Group discount.

About the Book

Despite inhabiting a great city renowned for its impeccable restraint, the extended family of 44 Scotland Street is trembling on the brink of reckless self-indulgence. Matthew and Elspeth receive startling – and expensive – news on a visit to the Infirmary, Angus and Domenica are contemplating an Italian ménage a trois, and even Big Lou is overheard discussing cosmetic surgery.

But when Bertie Pollock – six years old and impatient to be seven – mislays his meddling mother Irene one afternoon, a valuable lesson is learned: that wish-fulfilment is a dangerous business.

Warm-hearted, wise and very funny, The Importance of Being Seven brings us a fresh and delightful set of insights into philosophy and fraternity among Edinburgh’s most loveable residents.

March 2012 – ‘The Tiger’s Wife’ by Tea Obreht

For March, the Reading Group choice is Tea Obreht’s brilliant debut novel ‘The Tiger’s Wife’, which is available at the bookshop. At 25, Obreht was the youngest ever Orange Prize winner.

The novel is a mythologisation of Yugoslavia’s history, set in a ‘Balkan country’ recovering from war, where young doctor Natalia searches for clues to the curious circumstances surrounding the death of her beloved grandfather.

She turns to the stories he told her as a child, his tattered copy of The Jungle Book and his encounters over the years with “the deathless man.” But she will find her answers in the most extraordinary story of all, the one her grandfather never told her—the legend of the tiger’s wife.

Read Kapka Kassabova’s review in the ‘Guardian’

February 2012 – Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A young Cathy and Heathcliff in the Andrea Arnold film

Our next read is Emily Bronte’s impassioned Gothic tale of thwarted longing, bitterness and revenge set on the bleak Yorkshire moors. First published in 1847, early critics were shocked by it’s passion and coarseness, but a second edition published posthumously in 1850 met with more success, and critical acclaim for the novel has increased over the years.

The story is related retrospectively through the eyes of Mr Lockwood, the newly arrived tenant at Thrushcross Grange, and the words of the servant, Nelly Dean.

The narrative follows the life of the foundling Heathcliff, who prospers in his adoptive family, but is then reduced to the status of servant, running away when the young woman he loves, Catherine Earnshaw, decides to marry another. He returns later, rich and educated, and wreaks his revenge on the two families he holds responsible for ruining his life.

Wivenhoe’s very own cinema Moving Image will be screening the new film of ‘Wuthering Heights’, directed by Andrea Arnold, in March. The date will be posted shortly on their website.

January 2012 – Jamrach’s Menagerie by Carol Birch

‘Put Moby Dick, Treasure Island and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner into a pot, add a pinch of Dickens, and you will get the flavour of Carol Birch’s hugely entertaining novel.’
Mail on Sunday

Synopsis

Young Jaffy Brown never expects to escape the slums of Victorian London. Then, aged eight, a chance encounter with Mr Jamrach changes Jaffy’s stars. And before he knows it, he finds himself at the docks waving goodbye to his beloved Ishbel and boarding a ship bound for the Indian Ocean. With his friend Tim at his side, Jaffy’s journey will push faith, love and friendship to their utmost limits.

Like it? Buy the book on our website.

Read Alex Clark’s review in The Guardian

November 2011 – Journey by Moonlight by Antal Szerb

Anxious to please his bourgeois father, Mihaly has joined the family firm in Budapest. Pursued by nostalgia for his bohemian youth, he seeks escape in marriage to Erzsi, not realising that she has chosen him as a means to her own rebellion.

On their honeymoon in Italy Mihaly ‘loses’ his bride at a provincial station and embarks on a chaotic and bizarre journey that leads him finally to Rome. There all the death-haunted and erotic elements of his past converge, and he, like Erzsi, finally has to choose.

‘Journey by Moonlight’, written in 1937,  Szerb’s quintessential amalgamation of the romantic, the mystical and the transcendental is a Pushkin Press bestseller, and is considered a classic in Hungary.

“Never off our bestseller list, this radiant novel thoroughly deserves its place here”
London Review Bookshop

“Journey by Moonlight is a burning book, a major book”
GEORGE SZIRTES  Times Literary Supplement

“No one who has read it has failed to love it”
NICHOLAS LEZARD  The Guardian

“Just divine….” Read Nicholas Lezard’s review in The Guardian

Like it? Buy the book on our website.

October 2011 – The Outcast by Sadie Jones

The Outcast, Sadie Jones’s first novel, won the UK’s coveted Costa First Novel Award and was a finalist for the Orange Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. She lives in London.

In 1957 Lewis Aldridge, newly released from prison, returns home to Waterford, a suburban town outside London. He is nineteen years old. A decade earlier his father’s homecoming at war’s end was greeted with far less apprehension by the staid, tightly knit community—thanks to Gilbert Aldridge’s easy acceptance of suburban ritual and routine. Nobody is surprised that Gilbert’s wife counters convention, but the entire community is shocked when, after one of their jaunts, Lewis comes back without her.

No one in Waterford wants Lewis back—except Kit, a young woman who sympathizes with his grief and burgeoning rage. But in her attempts to set them both free, Kit fails to foresee the painful and horrifying secrets that must first be forced into the open. The consequences for Lewis, his family, and the tightly knit community are devastating.

Read a review from Hermione Eyre in ‘The Independent’

Sadie Jones talks about the book in a video interview WARNING!! Contains spoilers!!

Like it? Buy it on our website….

or from the bookshop direct on 01206 824050 , or by email

September 2011 – The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson

‘He should have seen it coming. His life had been one mishap after another. So he should have been prepared for this one…’

Julian Treslove, a professionally unspectacular former BBC radio producer, and Sam Finkler, a popular Jewish philosopher, writer and television personality, are old school friends. Despite a prickly relationship and very different lives, they’ve never quite lost touch with each other – or with their former teacher, Libor Sevcik, a Czech always more concerned with the wider world than with exam results.

Now, both Libor and Finkler are recently widowed, and with Treslove, his chequered and unsuccessful record with women rendering him an honorary third widower, they dine at Libor’s grand, central London apartment.

It’s a sweetly painful evening of reminiscence in which all three remove themselves to a time before they had loved and lost; a time before they had fathered children, before the devastation of separations, before they had prized anything greatly enough to fear the loss of it. Better, perhaps, to go through life without knowing happiness at all because that way you have less to mourn? Treslove finds he has tears enough for the unbearable sadness of both his friends’ losses.

And it’s that very evening, at exactly 11:30 pm, as Treslove, walking home, hesitates a moment outside the window of the oldest violin dealer in the country, that he is attacked. And after this, his whole sense of who and what he is will slowly and ineluctably change.

The Finkler Question, winner of the 2010 Man Booker prize,  is a scorching story of friendship and loss, exclusion and belonging, and of the wisdom and humanity of maturity. Funny, furious, unflinching, this extraordinary novel shows one of our finest writers at his brilliant best.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY

“Jacobson’s prose is a seamless roll of blissfully melancholic interludes. Almost every page has a quotable, memorable line.”

Christian House, The Independent

“The Finkler Question is full of wit, warmth, intelligence, human feeling and understanding. It is also beautifully written with that sophisticated and near invisible skill of the authentic writer.”

Read The Observer review by Edward Docx

Like it? Buy it on our website….

or from the bookshop direct on 01206 824050 , or by email

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell

Dejima, 1799 -  a place like no other: a tiny, man-made island in the bay of Nagasaki, for two hundred years the sole gateway between Japan and the West. Here, in the dying days of the 18th century, a young Dutch clerk arrives to make his fortune. Instead he loses his heart.

Step onto the streets of Dejima and mingle with scheming traders, spies, interpreters, servants and concubines as two cultures converge. In a tale of integrity and corruption, passion and power, the key is control – of riches and minds, and over death itself.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY

‘A love story from 18th century Japan confirms David Mitchell as the most dazzling British novelist of his generation’

Read the ‘Observer’ review by Alexander Linklater

‘Lose yourself in a world of incredible scope, originality, and imaginative brilliance.’

Katy Guest, Independent on Sunday

‘That rare thing – a novel which actually deserves the accolade ‘tour de force”

Kamila Shamsie, Books of the Year, Daily Telegraph

Pitch-perfect’

Boyd Tonkin, Books of the Year, Independent

Here’s a reading of my favourite excerpt from ‘Jacob de Zoet’

Listen!

No Fond Return Of Love by Barbara Pym

Philip Larkin declared that he’d “sooner read a new Barbara Pym than a new Jane Austen”. No Fond Return of Love was first published in 1961. A 14-year hiatus without a publisher followed, prompting Larkin’s advocacy.

Pym’s tale of altruistic young spinster Dulcie Mainwaring and her oblique pursuit of the unsuitably married and unhappily mistressed academic heartthrob Aylwin Forbes is both sympathetic and deliciously satirical. Very few of her characters have their youthful hopes left intact and her observation of their daily trials and humiliations is exact. Her moral understanding and their romantic ideals might derive from Austen, but Pym’s interest in disappointment and the sense that the 60s came too late for her characters aligns her with her poet-admirer.

Caroline Miller, The Guardian

The Warasw Anagrams by Richard Zimler

Zimler is a native of New York who worked as a journalist in the US before moving to Portugal to teach the subject. He also reviews books for the San Francisco Chronicle and The Los Angeles Times. His previous books were much acclaimed, and have been translated into more than 20 languages and have been worldwide bestsellers.

A chilling and stunningly written mystery set in Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto. Profoundly moving and darkly atmospheric, this historical thriller takes the reader into the most forbidden corners of Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Perfect for fans of “A Winter in Madrid, An Interpretation of Murder” and “Child 44″.

Jardine will be holding a ‘Meet the Author’ event with Zimler on Fri 18th March from 7.30pm, and admission is free, although booking is advisable as space is limited. To book call 01206 820390 or e-mail info@jardine-bistro.co.uk.

Room by Emma Donoghue

It’s Jack’s birthday, and he’s excited about turning five. Jack lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 ft by 11 feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside …

Told in Jack’s voice, “Room” is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, “Room” is a novel like no other.

‘Emma Donoghue’s writing is superb alchemy, changing innocence into horror and horror into tenderness. “Room” is a book to read in one sitting. When it’s over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days’

- Audrey Niffenegger.

Browse reviews from the ‘Guardian’ and the ‘Telegraph’ here.

The Professor + The Housekeeper by Yoko Ogawa

Ogawa is one of Japan’s most highly regarded novelists, and this book tells the story of a young single mother who goes to work as the housekeeper of an aging former professor of mathematics. The Professor was involved in a car-accident many years before, as a result of which his short-term memory lasts for only eighty minutes. Post-it notes pinned to his clothing, he is re-introduced to his world (and his housekeeper) every morning, and, unable to continue teaching, he spends his time solving maths puzzles in specialist journals.

The housekeeper’s relationship with the professor begins anew each day, and develops through a shared love of mathematics. It’s a quiet, understated, and poetic novel in which the fixed and eternal nature of the numbers contrasts poignantly with the Professor’s deteriorating condition and with the unpredictable, unstable life of the housekeeper, struggling to raise a child on her own.

‘The Housekeeper and the Professor is an enchanting story about what it means to live in the present, and about the curious equations that can create a family.

And every morning, as the Professor and the Housekeeper are introduced to each other anew, a strange and beautiful relationship blossoms between them. Though he cannot hold memories for long (his brain is like a tape that begins to erase itself every eighty minutes), the Professor’s mind is still alive with elegant equations from the past. And the numbers, in all of their articulate order, reveal a sheltering and poetic world to both the Housekeeper and her young son. The Professor is capable of discovering connections between the simplest of quantities–like the Housekeeper’s shoe size–and the universe at large, drawing their lives ever closer and more profoundly together, even as his memory slips away.’

Listen to Takashi Kako’s ‘Prelude’ from the film of the book, “The Professor and His Beloved Equation’


A Mountain of Crumbs by Elena Gorokhova

Elena Gorokhova’s coming-of-age-in-the-Soviet-block memoir is told vividly, with admirable candour and disarming wit. Mountain of Crumbs is the moving story of a young Soviet girl’s discovery of the hidden truths of adulthood and her country’s profound political deception.

Her memoir re-creates the world that both oppressed and inspired her. She recounts stories passed down to her about the horrors of the Bolshevik Revolution and probes the daily deprivations and small joys of herfamily’s bunkerlike existence. Through Elena’s captivating voice, we learn not only the personal story of Russia in the second half of the twentieth century, but also the story of one rebellious citizen whose love of a foreign language finally transports her to a new world.

‘Gorokhova’s memoir looks back with love at the lost world of the dacha, of mushroom-picking in the forest, and the utterly reassuring homeland contrained within her mother’s apple-print polyester dress. Her prose brims with an elegiac emotion and sensuality which even Turgenev, in his own European exile, might have envied.’ The Spectator

Read ‘The Guardian’ review by Kapka Kassabova

The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

Our current recommendation is of course Raymond Chandler’s debut novel, ‘The Big Sleep”, the chosen title for our annual, and considered to be one of the greatest hardboiled detective novels ”Big Wivenhoe Read”. Here Chandler introduces wise-cracking private eye Philip Marlowe.

One Day by David Nicholls

This week’s recommendation is David Nicholl’s ‘One Day’ . Emma and Dexter meet for the first time on the night of their graduation, 15th July 1988, and the following daygo their separate ways. So where will they be on this one day next year? And the year after that? And every year that follows?  ‘One Day’ follows their close friendship over twenty years.

‘It’s rare to find a novel which ranges over the recent past with such authority, and even rarer to find one in which the two leading characters are drawn with such solidity, such painful fidelity, to real life that you really do put the book down with the hallucinatory feeling that they’ve become as well known to you as your closest friends. Hard to imagine anyone encountering characters as well drawn as this and not recognizing the extraordinary talent of the writer who has created them.’ — Jonathan Coe Guardian Books of the Year


The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

Book of the week is Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s ‘The Leopard’. Vintage, £8.99. Set on the eve of Garibaldi’s march on Sicily, the book is a beautiful and sensual recreation of the vanished world of the Sicilian aristocracy, through the eyes of Don Cabrizio Forbera, Prince of Salina.

The novel, hailed as a masterpiece, follows the prince’s family through a time of tremendous social and political upheaval, and gave rise to the famous quote ‘If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change’.

The Post Office Girl by Stefan Zweig

This weeks book, Stefan Zweig’s ‘The Post Office Girl’ has,  as one of it’s central themes,  a message very relevant to our times -  the human costs of the boom and bust cycle of modern capitalism.  Natania Jansz of the publisher, Sort of Books, describes the book thus:

‘Christine toils in a provincial post office in Austria just after World War One, a country gripped by unemployment. Out of the blue, a telegram arrives from her rich American aunt inviting Christine to a resort in the Swiss Alps. Immediately she is swept up into a world of inconceivable wealth and unleashed desire. She feels herself utterly transformed: nothing is impossible. But then, abruptly, her aunt cuts her loose and Christine is forced to return to the Post office where nothing will ever be the same.’

The book  was completed during the 1930s as Zweig, ( pictured above) son of a wealthy Austrian-Jewish family, was driven by the Nazis into exile, and was found among his papers after his suicide in 1942. This is the first English translation.

‘The Post Office Girl is captivating. Zweig lavishes his most sensuous prose not just on the elegant trappings of the wealthy but also on the squalor and shame of poverty.’Tess Lewis, The Wall Street Journal



‘The Children’s Book’ by Antonia Byatt

Booker-shortlisted ‘The Childrens Book’ is classic Byatt, many-layered and convoluted, and has been compared to ‘Possession’ for its daring and scope.

Part historical novel, and part fairy tale, it follows the lives of several families of writers and artists between 1895 and 1919, and is a compelling and intricate recreation of the social , political, and artistic life of the Edwardian era.

Whet your appetite with this  clip of Byatt discussing the book

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