The Middle Class
By Lawrence James
By Jane Gardam
Throughout her career, prize-winning novelist Jane Gardam has been writing glorious short stories, each one hallmarked with all the originality, poignancy, wry comedy and narrative brilliance of her longer fiction. Passion and longing, metamorphosis and enchantment are Gardam's themes, and like a magician she plucks them from the quietest of corners: from Wimbledon gardens and cold churches, from London buses and industrial backstreets. A mother watching her children on the beach dreams of a long-lost lover, an abandoned army wife sees a ghost at a moorland gate, a translator adrift in Geneva is haunted by the unspeakable manifestation of her own fears, and a colonial servant wreaks a delicious revenge on her monstrous masters. Gardam's cast is wide and wonderful, saints and mystics, trollops and curmudgeons, yearning mothers and lost children, beloved figures such as Old Filth and less familiar - but equally unforgettable - characters like Signor Settimo, the sad-eyed provincial photographer marooned in Shipley or Florrie Ironside, the ferocious matron he seduces. With a mischievous ear for dialogue, a glittering eye for detail and a capacious understanding of the vagaries of the human heart, Jane Gardam's stories will captivate, sadden and delight.
By James Miller
Mark Burrows is an 'invisible man', a British secret agent adept at moving undetected through the most hostile environments. Summoned for one last mission, he must make contact with Charlie Ashe, his fearsome former colleague and brother-in-law. Ashe has reappeared with a new name and a terrifying new agenda in the Storm Zone, a mysterious region racked by devastating hurricanes and inhabited by cults, criminal gangs and insurgent armies. The mission will force Burrows to question his loyalties and to understand that the greatest danger lies not with his target, but with the forces that seek to control the world around him.
Mr Wroe's Virgins
By Jane Rogers
In 1830, as the end of the world approached, the charismatic, hunchbacked prophet of a religious sect settled in Lancashire heeds the biblical injunction and chooses seven virgins 'for comfort and succour'. Basing her novel on the life of the real John Wroe, a leader of a group called the Christian Israelite Church, Rogers crafts an impeccable narrative, interweaving the diverse mindsets of some of the chosen women and the prophet during the nine months of complex interaction. Part morality tale, part history, packed with accurate details of early 19th century life, the stories of Leah, Joanna, Hannah and Martha unfold as they cope with the hypocrisy, blind beliefs and idealism of the sexually threatening prophet.Told with humour, irony and a generosity that embraces even the sinister Wroe, this is a compelling story of astonishing depth, elucidating religious idealism, the beginnings of socialism and the ubiquitous position of women as unpaid labourers.
By David Leavitt
In 'Saturn Street' a disaffected screenwriter in Los Angeles volunteers to deliver lunches to homebound AIDS patients and falls in love with one of his clients. In 'The Wooden Anniversary', Nathan and Celia - characters familiar to readers of Leavitt's short story collections - reunite awkwardly, at the cooking school Celia runs in Tuscany, after a five-year separation. And in 'The Term Paper Artist', a writer named David Leavitt, hiding out at his father's house in the aftermath of a publishing scandal, experiences literary rejuvenation when he agrees to write term papers for UCLA undergraduates in exchange for sex. Comical, lyrical and speculative, in these three innovative novellas David Leavitt explores the themes of escape, exile and homecoming with a keen eye for human weakness - and strength.
Too Loud A Solitude
By Bohumil Hrabal
TOO LOUD A SOLITUDE is a tender and funny story of Hant'a - a man who has lived in a Czech police state - for 35 years, working as compactor of wastepaper and books. In the process of compacting, he has acquired an education so unwitting he can't quite tell which of his thoughts are his own and which come from his books. He has rescued many from jaws of hydraulic press and now his house is filled to the rooftops. Destroyer of the written word, he is also its perpetuator.But when a new automatic press makes his job redundant there's only one thing he can do - go down with his ship.This is an eccentric romp celebrating the indestructability- against censorship, political opression etc - of the written word.