The Middle Class
By Lawrence James
By Lawrence James
Modern Britain is a nation shaped by wars. The boundaries of its separate parts are the outcome of conquest and resistance. The essence of its identity are the warrior heroes, both real and imagined, who still capture the national imagination; from Boudicca to King Arthur, William Wallace to Henry V, the Duke of Wellington to Winston Churchill. In WARRIOR RACE, Lawrence James investigates the role played by war in the making of Britain. Drawing on the latest historical and archaeological research, as well as numerous unfamiliar and untapped resources, he charts the full reach of British military history: the physical and psychological impact of Roman military occupation; the monarchy's struggle for mastery of the British Isles; the civil wars of the seventeenth century; the 'total war' experience of twentieth century conflict. WARRIOR RACE is popular history at its very best: immaculately researched and hugely readable. Balancing the broad sweep of history with an acute attention to detail, Lawrence James never loses sight of this most fascinating and enduring of subjects: the question of British national identity and character.
The Lie of the Land
By Amanda Craig
'Terrific, page-turning, slyly funny' India Knight'As satisfying a novel as I have read in years' Sarah Perry'Absolutely magnificent' Marian KeyesQuentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can't afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can't afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can't understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded.Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing - but why is their rent so low? What is the mystery surrounding their unappealing new home? The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them.Sally Verity, happily married but unhappily childless knows a different side to country life, as both a Health Visitor and a sheep farmer's wife; and when Lottie's innocent teenage son Xan gets a zero-hours contract at a local pie factory, he sees yet another. At the end of their year, the lives of all will be changed for ever. A suspenseful black comedy, this is a rich, compassionate and enthralling novel in its depiction of the English countryside, and the potentially lethal interplay between money and marriage.
By Alastair Sawday
A charming and beautifully written account of the pleasures of slow travel - for readers of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Colin Thubron and Eric Newby.'Lawrence Sterne once suggested that we travel for one of just three reasons: imbecility of mind, infirmity of body or inevitable necessity. One might add to Sterne's little list: envy, curiosity - or just too much bloody rain at home. Escape, in other words.' Campaigner, publisher and wanderer Alastair Sawday has spent his life travelling. En route he has unearthed a multitude of stories - stories of people ploughing their own furrows, of travellers' tales, stories from the 'front line' of his publishing , ruminations and reflections about places, people and ideas. In this deeply charming, erudite and spirited book, he shares his experiences and explores the value of travel.'The richer our imaginations, the richer our travel experience. We British do things one way and the Spaniards another; there are unlimited ways of doing everything. Kindness is found in unexpected places, as is eccentricity. Eccentrics are an endangered species and need as much protection as does the house sparrow.'Travelling Light is a gradual awakening to the fragility of everything we love through contemplative, consciously slow journeying. Every visit uncovers difference - from France profonde to the darker side of Sicily, and to the woodland, flora, fauna, views and silence of rural Britain. Alastair Sawday gives voice to those of us who have climbed no mountains, discovered no rivers, created no great institutions, powered no legislation, changed very little - but who yearn to understand the world and make sense of its infinite variety.
By Mike Rapport
London, Paris and New York in the eighteenth century, as today, were places where political authority, commerce and money, art and intellectual life intersected. They straddled an Atlantic world where ships powered by nothing more than wind, currents and human muscle criss-crossed the sea, carrying with them goods, ideas and above all people: men and women, bewigged aristocrats and lawyers, rough-handed craftworkers, quill-wielding bluestockings and doughty fishwives. But the cities were also home to dangerous criminals, corrupt politicians - and slaves. Rebel Cities explores the stormy debate about the nature of cities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries: were they places of enlightenment, sparkling wells of progress and civilisation, or were they dens of vice, degeneracy and disorder? Against a backdrop of accelerating urban expansion and revolution in both Europe and North America, revolutionary burghers of these extraordinary cities expended ink, paint, breath and, sometimes, blood in their struggle to understand, control and master the urban world. Drawing on hundreds of letters, travelogues and eye-witness accounts, Mike Rapport vividly evokes the sights, sounds and smells of these cities, masterfully weaving their history with the politics of revolution. When New Yorkers and Parisians experienced their revolution, when their cities went to war, and when Londoners engaged in political protest, they underwent the whole torrent and exhilaration of human emotions. Determining the character of the cities through their inhabitants, as well as their architecture, topography and the events that shaped them, this magnificent book evokes what it was like for all parts of society to live in London, Paris and New York in one of the most transformative periods in the history of civilisation.
Want You Gone
By Chris Brookmyre
From the award-winning, million-selling author of Black Widow comes a twist-filled story of secrets and lies.What if your deepest secret was revealed?Sam Morpeth is growing up way too fast, left to fend for a younger sister when their mother goes to prison and watching her dreams of university evaporate. But Sam learns what it is to be truly powerless when a stranger begins to blackmail her.Who would you turn to?Meanwhile, reporter Jack Parlabane has finally got his career back on track, but his success has left him indebted to a volatile, criminal source. Now that debt is being called in, and it could cost him everything. What would you be capable of?Thrown together by a vindictive and mysterious mutual enemy, Sam and Jack are about to discover they might be each other's only hope.
By Nina Willner
In Forty Autumns, Nina Willner recounts the history of three generations of her family - mothers, sisters, daughters and cousins - separated by forty years of Soviet rule, and reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall.Shortly after the end of the Second World War, as the Soviets took control of the eastern part of Germany, Hanna, a schoolteacher's daughter, escaped with nothing more than a small suitcase and the clothes on her back. As Hanna built a new life in the West, her relatives (her mother, father and eight siblings) remained in the East. The construction of the Berlin Wall severed all hope of any future reunion. Hanna fell in love and moved to America. She made many attempts to establish contact with her family, but most were unsuccessful. Her father was under close observation; her mother, younger sister Heidi and the others struggled to adjust to life under a bizarre and brutal regime that kept its citizens cut off from the outside world. A few years later, Hanna had a daughter - Nina - who grew up to become the first female US Army intelligence officer to lead sensitive intelligence collection operations in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War. At the same time, Heidi's daughter, Cordula, was training to become a member of the East German Olympic cycling team. Though separated by only a few miles, Nina and her relatives led entirely different lives. Once the Berlin Wall came down, and the families were reunited, Nina Willner discovered an extraordinary story. In Forty Autumns she vividly brings to life many accounts of courage and survival, set against the backdrop of four decades that divided a nation and the world.
The Other Hoffmann Sister
By Ben Fergusson
Shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year 2015, Ben Fergusson's critically acclaimed debut, The Spring of Kasper Meier, was the winner of the Betty Trask Prize 2015 and the HWA 2015 Debut Crown Award. The Other Hoffmann Sister is a gripping, evocative read about two sisters set in pre-WW1 Germany which will appeal to fans of The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.For Ingrid Hoffmann the story of her sister's disappearance began in their first weeks in Southwest Africa...Ingrid Hoffmann has always felt responsible for her sister Margarete and when their family moves to German Southwest Africa in 1902, her anxieties only increase. The casual racism that pervades the German community, the strange relationship between her parents and Baron von Ketz, from whom they bought their land, and the tension with the local tribes all culminate in tragedy when Baron von Ketz is savagely murdered. Baroness von Ketz and their son, Emil, flee with the Hoffmanns as the Baron's attackers burn down the family's farm.Both families return to Berlin and Ingrid's concerns about Margarete are assuaged when she and Emil von Ketz become engaged on the eve of the First World War. But Margarete disappears on her wedding night at the von Ketz's country house. The mystery of what happened to her sister haunts Ingrid, but as Europe descends into chaos, her hope of discovering the truth becomes ever more distant.After the war, in the midst of the revolution that brings down the Kaiser and wipes out the aristocracy that her family married into, Ingrid returns to the von Ketzes' crumbling estate determined to find out what really happened to her sister.
A Backward Place
By Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Six colourful, comic characters inhabit A Backward Place. All but one are Westerners who have come to Delhi to experience an alternative way of life. But, far from being hippies, their ability to adapt to this exotic culture often leaves something to be desired. Etta, an aristocratic, faded beauty maintains her Parisian chic while Clarissa talks enthusiastically about the simple life but stops short of ever roughing it herself. On the other hand Bal, the one Indian protagonist, holds quite Western aspirations to Hollywood glamour.A Backward Place humorously explores contradictions in attitudes and lifestyles and the interplay between culture and individuality. But it is also a Dickensian drama, charting the highs and lows of everyday life against the enchanting backdrop of a bustling Indian city.
The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick-Maker
By Roger Hutchinson
At the beginning of each decade for 200 years the national census has presented a self-portrait of the British Isles.The census has surveyed Britain from the Napoleonic wars to the age of the internet, through the agricultural and industrial revolutions, possession of the biggest empire on earth and the devastation of the 20th century's two world wars.In The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker, Roger Hutchinson looks at every census between the first in 1801 and the latest in 2011. He uses this much-loved resource of family historians to paint a vivid picture of a society experiencing unprecedented changes.Hutchinson explores the controversial creation of the British census. He follows its development from a head-count of the population conducted by clerks with quill pens, to a computerised survey which is designed to discover 'the address, place of birth, religion, marital status, ability to speak English and self-perceived national identity of every twenty-seven-year-old Welsh-speaking Sikh metalworker living in Swansea'.All human life is here, from prime ministers to peasants and paupers, from Irish rebels to English patriots, from the last native speakers of Cornish to the first professional footballers, from communities of prostitutes to individuals called 'abecedarians' who made a living from teaching the alphabet.The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker is as original and unique as those people and their islands on the cutting edge of Europe.
By Chris Brookmyre
Dark deeds make for devilish reading in this short story from the multi-award-winning crime author of Black Widow, Want You Gone and Where the Bodies Are Buried.***Please note that this story was originally published as The Last Siege of Bothwell Castle in the Bloody Scotland anthology***A hostage crisis is developing at a castle on the outskirts of Glasgow, during what is supposed to be Superintendent Catherine McLeod's bank holiday relaxation time. Those trapped inside the castle are used to dealing with the volatile mix of light-fingered teens and obnoxious tourists; less so a truckload of explosives and a hidden agenda. For Catherine and her team, it's a recipe for a potentially deadly day off.Tense, twisted and laugh-out-loud funny, Siege Mentality is a day-trip you won't forget.For more from Catherine McLeod, read the Jasmine Sharp trilogy, beginning with Where the Bodies are Buried, a sample from which is included with this short story.
The Crow Road
By Iain Banks
From its bravura opening onwards, THE CROW ROAD is justly regarded as an outstanding contemporary novel.'It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach.'Prentice McHoan has returned to the bosom of his complex but enduring Scottish family. Full of questions about the McHoan past, present and future, he is also deeply preoccupied: mainly with death, sex, drink, God and illegal substances...
Terms & Conditions
By Ysenda Maxtone Graham
When I asked a group of girls who had been at Hatherop Castle in the 1960s whether the school had had a lab in those days they gave me a blank look. 'A laboratory?' I expanded, hoping to jog their memories. 'Oh that kind of lab!' one of them said. 'I thought you meant a Labrador.''The cruel teachers. The pashes on other girls. The gossip. The giggles. The awful food. The homesickness. The friendships made for life. The shivering cold. Games of lacrosse, and cricket.'The girls' boarding school! What a ripe theme for the most observant verbal artist in our midst today - the absurdly undersung Ysenda Maxtone Graham, who has the beadiness and nosiness of the best investigative reporter, the wit of Jane Austen and a take on life which is like no one else's. This book has been my constant companion ever since it appeared'A. N. Wilson, Evening Standard'A wonderful book'Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday