Book of the Week, September 21st 2019

Morvoren House, an isolated, grey, decaying manor perched atop the rugged Cornish cliffs is the perfect setting for this spooky gothic tale. Hester Why arrives on the mail coach from London, to become nursemaid to Miss Pinecroft an elderly, frail lady who sits in silence before her collection of fine bone china. The house holds many mysteries; there are locked rooms and staff strangely obsessed with local folk lore and superstitions about the fairy folk.

Resourceful and bringing her own dark secrets, Hester soon begins to supplement the gin in her hip flask with laudanum stolen from the medical cupboard as she tries to make sense of her new situation.

She learns the reason for the old lady’s silent grief: the tragic events of 40 years earlier when consumption ran through the family and the caves beneath the house housed sick prisoners, guinea pigs for new healing ideas.

A deliciously suspenseful historical chiller.

Bloomsbury Hardback £12.99

Book of the Week, September 14th 2019

It is now 34 years since ‘The Handmaids Tale’ was published.  Set in Gilead, an imagined totalitarian state of the future where women’s roles are strictly controlled and individuality is outlawed it made an enormous impact. Adopted for study in schools and colleges and more recently made into a hugely popular TV series, its influence has steadily grown.

This sequel returns to Gilead 15 years later. The secret writings of Aunt Lydia explain how Gilead developed and also how the power structure is beginning to fracture and weaken. Into this changing world are pitched the lively tales of two young women Agnes and Nicole, a new generation who have their own battles to face and identities to find.

With the rise in religious fundamentalism, extremism, fake news and the precarious political balance in many countries around the world, the themes explored in these novels seem more relevant now than ever.

Vintage Hardback £20.00

Book of the Week September 7th 2019

Essex is a difficult county to pin down. Even its boundaries have constantly shifted, with saltmarsh reclaimed from the sea for agriculture and land lost to expanding London in the south.

Economically it is a place of contrasts. Affluent and charming, Saffron Walden in 2015 won a national vote for quality of life whilst 40 miles away, Jaywick has twice topped the deprivation league table.

In Essex alternative ideas have flourished, experimental communities have grown and bold new model towns have been built. From Colchester Isaac Bunting opened up trade with the East, importing lilies from Japan whilst Chelmsford’s reputation for technological innovation attracted the young pioneering inventor, Marconi.

Nationally Essex may be known for white van man and for the fake tans and stilettos of TV’s TOWIE.  It might just be England’s most misunderstood county but behind the cliches this book uncovers a place of dynamism, optimism and extraordinary diversity.

Old Street Press Hardback, £14.99

Book of the Week, August 31st 2019

Celebrated American writer, Truman Capote became a larger than life figure as his fame and fortunes rose during the fifties and sixties. He embraced the high society life style of the glamorous, New York glitterati; parties on Mediterranean yachts with the international jet set. Though gay, he became a close friend and confidante of many of the beautiful, rich, aristocratic women he mixed with – the ‘swans’ of the book’s title.

But it was a life-style that could not last. In 1975 he published an essay in Esquire magazine that exposed the infidelities and pretence of the upper-class socialites. His friends felt betrayed and this book tells the story of Capote’s decline. Shunned by his friends, his powers as a writer waning, he disintegrates through alcohol and drugs to die before reaching 60.

Brilliantly reimagined as fiction, here is a fascinating glimpse behind the glamour of celebrity culture before the internet age.

 

Book of the Week, August 23rd 2019

Before he became president, Barak Obama’s memoir was a bestseller across the world. Now, ten years later Michelle Obama is following in his footsteps.

She recounts her childhood growing up in a working-class family on the south side of Chicago, a neighbourhood with increasing poverty and gang violence. With warmth and candour, she describes the excitement of meeting the brilliant young Barak Obama. But then came the sorrow of miscarriage and at times the loneliness of living with a man whose dedication to his political ideals often left little room for anything else. Later, like so many women she had to balance the pressures of childcare, bills, debts and work. She had a distaste for the world of politics which she felt was no place for good people

Warm hearted, wise and often funny Michelle Obama’s honesty and passion shine through these pages, demonstrating why she has become such an inspirational figure, especially to young black women.

Before he became president, Barak Obama’s memoir was a bestseller across the world. Now, ten years later Michelle Obama is following in his footsteps.

She recounts her childhood growing up in a working-class family on the south side of Chicago, a neighbourhood with increasing poverty and gang violence. With warmth and candour, she describes the excitement of meeting the brilliant young Barak Obama. But then came the sorrow of miscarriage and at times the loneliness of living with a man whose dedication to his political ideals often left little room for anything else. Later, like so many women she had to balance the pressures of childcare, bills, debts and work. She had a distaste for the world of politics which she felt was no place for good people

Warm hearted, wise and often funny Michelle Obama’s honesty and passion shine through these pages, demonstrating why she has become such an inspirational figure, especially to young black women.

Before he became president, Barak Obama’s memoir was a bestseller across the world. Now, ten years later Michelle Obama is following in his footsteps.

She recounts her childhood growing up in a working-class family on the south side of Chicago, a neighbourhood with increasing poverty and gang violence. With warmth and candour, she describes the excitement of meeting the brilliant young Barak Obama. But then came the sorrow of miscarriage and at times the loneliness of living with a man whose dedication to his political ideals often left little room for anything else. Later, like so many women she had to balance the pressures of childcare, bills, debts and work. She had a distaste for the world of politics which she felt was no place for good people

Warm hearted, wise and often funny Michelle Obama’s honesty and passion shine through these pages, demonstrating why she has become such an inspirational figure, especially to young black women.

Viking hardback £25.00

Book of the Week, August 17th 2019

Most people, if deciding to spend a year or so living elsewhere in Europe might consider France or Italy, or maybe Denmark. Poland would not be top of the list. But Poland was the country Ben Aitken headed for when, bored and uncertain of his future, he wanted a taste of something different. Armed only with a phrasebook bought at the airport, he took the cheapest flight he could find to a town he had never heard of – Poznan.

After a disastrous spell teaching English to children who didn’t seem to like him or English, he worked in a fish and chip shop, peeling potatoes and boning fish on the minimum wage of about £2.00 an hour.

Aitken’s entertaining account of working, making friends and travelling in Poland is set against the background of the UK’s decision to leave the EU and he tries to understand why a million Poles have settled in Britain but very few have moved the other way.

Icon Books, hardback, £12.99