New & Notable...
The Almost Nearly Perfect People,
The whole world wants to learn the secrets of Nordic exceptionalism: why are the Danes the happiest people in the world, despite having the highest taxes? If the Finns really have the best education system, how come they still think all Swedish men are gay? Are the Icelanders really feral? How are the Norwegians spending their fantastical oil wealth? And why do all of them hate the Swedes?How To Be A Herione,
Michael Booth has lived among the Scandinavians, on and off, for over ten years, perplexed by their many strange paradoxes and character traits and equally bemused by the unquestioning enthusiasm for all things Nordic that has engulfed the rest of the world, whether it be for their food, television, social systems or chunky knitwear.
In this timely book he leaves his adopted home of Denmark and embarks on a journey through all five of the Nordic countries to discover who these curious tribes are, the secrets of their success and, most intriguing of all, what they think of each other. Along the way a more nuanced, often darker picture emerges of a region plagued by taboos, characterised by suffocating parochialism and populated by extremists of various shades.
They may very well be almost nearly perfect, but it isn't easy being Scandinavian.
Cathy Earnshaw or Jane Eyre?
Petrova or Posy?
Scarlett or Melanie?
Lace or Valley of the Dolls?
On a pilgrimage to Wuthering Heights, Samantha Ellis found herself arguing with her best friend about which heroine was best: Jane Eyre or Cathy Earnshaw. She was all for wild, passionate Cathy; but her friend found Cathy silly, a snob, while courageous Jane makes her own way.An Emergency In Slow Motion,
And that’s when Samantha realised that all her life she’d been trying to be Cathy when she should have been trying to be Jane.
So she decided to look again at her heroines – the girls, women, books that had shaped her ideas of the world and how to live. Some of them stood up to the scrutiny (she will always love Lizzy Bennet); some of them most decidedly did not (turns out Katy Carr from What Katy Did isn’t a carefree rebel, she’s a drip). There were revelations (the real heroine of Gone with the Wind? It's Melanie), joyous reunions (Anne of Green Gables), poignant memories (Sylvia Plath) and tearful goodbyes (Lucy Honeychurch). And then there was Jilly Cooper...
How To Be A Heroine is Samantha’s funny, touching, inspiring exploration of the role of heroines, and our favourite books, in all our lives – and how they change over time, for better or worse, just as we do.
William Todd Schlutz
Diane Arbus was one of the most brilliant and revered photographers in the history of American art. Her portraits, in stark black and white, seemed to reveal the psychological truths of their subjects. But after she committed suicide at the age of forty-eight in 1971, the presumed chaos and darkness of her own inner life became, for many viewers, inextricable from her work.
In the spirit of Janet Malcolm’s classic examination of Sylvia Plath, The Silent Woman, William Todd Schultz’s An Emergency in Slow Motion reveals the creative and personal struggles of Diane Arbus. Schultz veers from traditional biography to interpret Arbus’s life through the prism of four central mysteries: her outcast affinity, her sexuality, the secrets she kept and shared, and her suicide. An Emergency in Slow Motion combines new revelations and breathtaking insights into a psychobiography about a monumental artist—the first new look at Arbus in twenty-five years.
After her remarkable recovery from cancer, Bernadette Bohan developed a programme of personal change to promote health and well-being involving dietary and life-style alterations. She lectured widely and led seminars that were attended by continually growing audiences. Over the years, as she researched further, she refined and enlarged her programme which is now presented in this, her latest book.
Filled with practical information and tips it provides sound guidance for all those who may be challenged by health issues and need to make a change. It covers such issues as weaning yourself off sugar; living without dairy products; avoiding caffeine; eating organic on a budget; the benefits of a plant-based diet; losing weight; becoming a discerning shopper. As a busy mother, Bernadette recognises the challenges when one member of the family needs to adopt a different lifestyle to others so she tells how to encourage others to understand and explains how to introduce change gradually.
With many new recipes and suggestions, Eat Yourself Well will be welcomed by Bernadette's countless fans but also by an even larger readership anxious to follow healthier life-style options.
The Reason I Jump
Written by Naoki Higashida when he was only thirteen, this remarkable book explains the often baffling behaviour of autistic children and shows the way they think and feel - such as about the people around them, time and beauty, noise, and themselves. Naoki abundantly proves that autistic people do possess imagination, humour and empathy, but also makes clear, with great poignancy, how badly they need our compassion, patience and understanding.The Juice,
David Mitchell and his wife have translated Naoki's book so that it might help others dealing with autism, and generally illuminate a little-understood condition. Like The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, it gives us an exceptional chance to enter the mind of another and see the world from a strange and fascinating perspective.
Jay McInerneyTrespassers: A Memoir,
Jay McInerney has written unique, witty, vinous essays for over a decade. Here, with his trademark flair and expertise, McInerney provides a master class in the almost infinite varieties of wine, creating a collage of the people and places that produce it all over the world, from historic past to the often confusing present.
Stretching from France and South Africa to Australia and New Zealand, McInerney's tour is a comprehensive and thirst-inducing expedition that explores viticulture, investigates great champagne and delves into a vast array of styles, capturing the passion that so many people feel for the world of wine.
Julia O'Faolain, one of the most brilliant Irish writers of the past half century, has written a haunting book about her own life and the lives of her remarkable parents.
Her mother, who wrote vivid versions of old Irish folk tales, once said of the Irish Civil War: 'In those days ... fear kept you from sleeping, but also from getting fat or bored.
Her father was Director of Publicity for the IRA during that savage conflict. He made bombs. A brilliant writer, his first book of stories was banned and he was summoned by his old IRA comrades to be court-martialled for writing it. He became one of Ireland's most celebrated writers and a radical dissident during the 1940s, challenging Church and State for their betrayal of the people's needs. His affairs with Elizabeth Bowen and many other women were betrayals of a more intimate kind. This was the backdrop to Julia O'Faolain's childhood.
Her life is filled with great characters: Frank O'Connor, Paul Henry, Garret Fitzgerald, Hubert Butler, Patrick Kavanagh and Richard Ellman; and later, in their villas outside Florence, Harold Acton and Violet Trefusis, along with a cast of prim communists and raffish reactionary aristocrats.
This is a book about being an outsider looking in, a trespasser in Ireland and in other countries - France, Italy in the late 1950s, the West Coast during the turbulent sixties - and also in other lives, the permanent temptation of the creative writer.
In these eight masterful stories, Lorrie Moore explores the passage of time, and summons up its inevitable sorrows and comic pitfalls.
In 'Debarking', a newly divorced man tries to keep his wits about him as the US prepares to invade Iraq. In 'Foes', a political argument goes grotesquely awry as the events of 9/11 unexpectedly manifest at a fundraising dinner in Georgetown. In 'The Juniper Tree', a teacher, visited by the ghost of her recently deceased friend, is forced to sing 'The Star Spangled Banner' in a kind of nightmare reunion. And in 'Wings', we watch the unraveling of two once-hopeful musicians, who neither held fast to their dreams, nor struck out along other paths.
Gimlet-eyed social observation, the public and private absurdities of American life, dramatic irony, and enduring half-cracked love wend their way through each of these narratives, in Moore's characteristic style that is always tender, never sentimental and often heartbreakingly funny.
Under The Wide And Starry Sky,
At the age of thirty-five, Fanny van de Grift Osbourne has left her philandering husband in San Francisco to set sail for Belgium to study art, with her three children and nanny in tow. Not long after her arrival, however, tragedy strikes, and Fanny and her brood repair to a quiet artists' colony in France where she can recuperate. There she meets Robert Louis Stevenson, ten years her junior, who is instantly smitten with the earthy, independent, and opinionated belle Americaine.
A woman ahead of her time, Fanny does not immediately take to the young lawyer who longs to devote his life to literature rather than the law - and who would eventually write such classics as Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In time, though, she succumbs to Stevenson's charms, and the two begin a fierce love affair-marked by intense joy and harrowing darkness that spans decades as they travel the world for the sake of his health following their art and dreams eventually settling in Samoa where Robert Louis Stevenson is buried, with these words on his grave:
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.
(Requiem, Robert Louis Stevenson)
Willy Vlautin's stunning fourth novel opens with Leroy, a young, wounded, Iraq veteran, waking to a rare moment of clarity, his senses flooded with the beauty of remembering who he is but the pain of realising it won't last. When his attempt to end his half-life fails, he is taken to the local hospital where he is looked after by a nurse called Pauline, and visited by Freddie, the night-watchman from his group home for disabled men.
As the stories of these wounded characters circle and cross each other, we come to learn more of their lives. The father who caused Pauline's mother to abandon them both, and who Pauline loves and loathes in equal measure, the daughters with whom Freddie yearns to be reunited and, in a mysterious and frightening adventure story, the girlfriend Leroy dreams of protecting.
Evoking a world which is still trying to come to terms with the legacy of a forgotten war, populated by those who struggle to pay for basic health care, Vlautin also captures how it is the small acts of kindness which can make a difference between life and death, between imprisonment and liberty.
The Invention Of Wings,
Sue Monk Kidd
Sarah Grimk is the middle daughter. The one her mother calls difficult and her father calls remarkable. On Sarah's eleventh birthday, Hetty 'Handful' Grimk is taken from the slave quarters she shares with her mother, wrapped in lavender ribbons, and presented to Sarah as a gift. Sarah knows what she does next will unleash a world of trouble. She also knows that she cannot accept. And so, indeed, the trouble begins ...
A powerful, sweeping novel, inspired by real events, and set in the American Deep South in the nineteenth century, The Invention Of Wings evokes a world of shocking contrasts, of beauty and ugliness, of righteous people living daily with cruelty they fail to recognise; and celebrates the power of friendship and sisterhood against all the odds.
The Impossible Lives Of Greta Wells,
Andrew Sean Greer
It is 1985, and Greta Wells wishes she lived in any time but this one: she has lost her brother to AIDS, her lover Nathan to another woman, and cannot seem to go on alone.
To ease her sadness, her doctor suggest an unusual procedure, one that opens doors of insight into the relationships in her life, her conflicting affections, and the limitations put on a woman's life. Throughout, Greta glimpses versions of war, history, herself, and the people she loves, and as the procedures come to an end, she realizes she must make a choice: one which will close every door but one, forever.
Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love - and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.
The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.
We Are Water,
As Annie Oh’s wedding day approaches, she finds herself at the mercy of hopes and fears about the momentous change ahead. She has just emerged from a twenty-five year marriage to Orion Oh, which produced three children, but is about to marry a woman named Viveca, a successful art dealer, who specializes in outsider art.
Trying to reach her ex-husband, she keeps assuring everyone that he is fine. Except she has no idea where he is. But when Viveca discovers a famous painting by a mysterious local outside artist, who left this world in more than mysterious circumstances, Orion, Annie and Viveca’s new dynamic becomes fraught. And on the day of the wedding, the secrets and shocking truths that have been discovered will come to light.
Set in Lamb’s mythical town of Three Rivers, Connecticut, this is a riveting, epic novel about marriage and family, old hurts and past secrets, which explores the ways we find meaning in our lives.
The Signature Of All Things,
5 January 1800.
At the beginning of a new century, Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Sir Joseph Banks’s Kew Gardens and as a deck hand on Captain Cook’s HMS Resolution. Alma’s mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, has a knowledge of botany equal to any man’s.
It is not long before Alma, an independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, comes into her own within the world of plants and science. But as her careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction.
The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. It soars across the globe from London, to Peru, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters – missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad –above all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.