The Magic Toyshop
By Angela Carter
This crazy world whirled around her, men and women dwarfed by toys and puppets, where even the birds are mechanical and the few human figures went masked . . . She was in the night once again, and the doll was herself.One night Melanie walks through the garden in her mother's wedding dress. The next morning her world is shattered. Forced to leave the home of her childhood, she is sent to live with relatives she has never met: gentle Aunt Margaret, mute since her wedding day; and her brothers, Francie and Finn. Brooding over all is Uncle Philip, who loves only the toys he makes in his workshop: clockwork roses and puppets that are life-size - and uncannily life-like.Books included in the VMC 40th anniversary series include: Frost in May by Antonia White; The Collected Stories of Grace Paley; Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault; The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter; The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann; Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith; The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Heartburn by Nora Ephron; The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy; Memento Mori by Muriel Spark; A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor; and Faces in the Water by Janet Frame
By Muriel Spark
Remember you must die.Dame Lettie Colston is the first of her circle to receive insinuating anonymous phone calls. Neither she, nor her friends, wish to be reminded of their mortality, and their geriatric feathers are thoroughly ruffled. As the caller's activities become more widespread, old secrets are dusted off, exposing post and present duplicities, self-deception and blackmail. Nobody is above suspicion.Witty, poignant and wickedly hilarious, Memento Mori may ostensibly concern death, but it is a book which leaves one relishing life all the more.Books included in the VMC 40th anniversary series include: Frost in May by Antonia White; The Collected Stories of Grace Paley; Fire from Heaven by Mary Renault; The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter; The Weather in the Streets by Rosamond Lehmann; Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith; The Return of the Soldier by Rebecca West; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Heartburn by Nora Ephron; The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy; Memento Mori by Muriel Spark; A View of the Harbour by Elizabeth Taylor; and Faces in the Water by Janet Frame
By Sally Phipps
Molly Keane (1904 - 96) was an Irish novelist and playwright (born in County Kildare) most famous for Good Behaviour which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Hailed as the Irish Nancy Mitford in her day; as well as writing books she was the leading playwright of the '30s, her work directed by John Gielgud. Between 1928 and 1956, she wrote eleven novels, and some of her earlier plays, under the pseudonym M.J. Farrell. In 1981, aged seventy, she published Good Behaviour under her own name. The manuscript, which had languished in a drawer for many years, was lent to a visitor, the actress Peggy Ashcroft, who encouraged Keane to publish it.Molly Keane's novels reflect the world she inhabited; she was from a 'rather serious hunting and fishing, church-going family'. She was educated, as was the custom in Anglo-Irish households, by a series of governesses and then at boarding school. Distant and awkward relationships between children and their parents would prove to be a recurring theme for Keane. Maggie O'Farrell wrote that 'she writes better than anyone else about the mother-daughter relationship, in all its thorny, fraught, inescapable complexity.'Here, for the first time, is her biography and, written by one of her two daughters, it provides an honest portrait of a fascinating, complicated woman who was a brilliant writer and a portrait of the Anglo-Irish world of the first half of the twentieth century.
By Susan Ferrier
Susan Ferrier sold more copies of her novels than her contemporary, Jane Austen. Sir Walter Scott declared her his equal. Why, then has she been lost to history? On the 200th anniversary of this sharply observed, comic novel, it is time to rediscover her brilliance.'What have you to do with a heart? What has anybody to do with a heart when their establishment in life is at stake? Keep your heart for your romances, child, and don't bring such nonsense into real life - heart, indeed!'Understanding that the purpose of marriage is to further her family, Lady Juliana nevertheless rejects the ageing and unattractive - though appropriately wealthy - suitor of her father's choice. She elopes, instead, with a handsome, penniless soldier and goes to Scotland to live at Glenfarn Castle, his paternal home. But Lady Juliana finds life in the Scottish highlands dreary and bleak, hastily repenting of following her heart.After giving birth to twin daughters, Lady Juliana leaves Mary to the care of her sister-in-law, while she returns to England with Adelaide. Sixteen years later, Mary is thoughtful, wise and kind, in comparison to her foolish mother and vain sister. Following two generations of women, Marriage, first published in 1818, is a shrewdly observant and humorous novel by one of Scotland's greatest writers.
My Cousin Rachel
By Daphne Du Maurier
This special edition contains a foreword by the film's director and screenwriter, Roger MichellOrphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his benevolent cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in making Philip his heir, knowing he will treasure his beautiful Cornish estate. But Philip's world is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries - and then dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances. Before long, the new widow - Philip's cousin Rachel - arrives in England. Despite himself, Philip is drawn to this beautiful, mysterious woman. But could she have caused Ambrose's death?
By Angela Thirkell
Barsetshire in the war years. Miss Bunting, governess of choice to generations of Barsetshire aristocracy, has been coaxed out of retirement by Sir Robert and Lady Fielding to tutor their daughter Anne, delicate, sixteen years old, and totally lacking in confidence. When Anne makes friends with Heather Adams, the gauche daughter of a nouveau riche entrepreneur, her mother is appalled. Miss Bunting, however, shows an instinctive understanding of the younger generation - perhaps, having lost so many of her former pupils to the war, she is more sympathetic to their needs. She may be a part of the old social order, where everyone knows their place, but is wise enough to realise that the war has turned everything on its head and nothing will ever be the same again - even in rural Barsetshire.First published in 1945, Miss Bunting is a charming social comedy of village life during the Second World War.
By Angela Thirkell
'You read her, laughing, and want to do your best to protect her characters from any reality but their own' New York TimesMr Marling, of Marling Hall, has begun to accept - albeit reluctantly - that he will probably never be able to pass his wonderful old estate on to his children. The Second World War is bringing an end to so many things, but the Marlings carry on as best they can in the face of rationing and a shortage of domestic help. Into their world arrive Geoffrey Harvey and his sister Frances, who have been bombed out of their London home. Bohemian and sophisticated, they rent a local house, and it is not long before they begin to have an effect on their neighbours. Geoffrey begins to court Lettice, the Marlings' widowed daughter, but he finds he has rivals for her affections in dashing David Leslie and Captain Barclay. Observing everything and quietly keeping events on an even keel is the Marlings' sage old governess, Miss Bunting.'The novels are a delight, with touches of E. F. Benson, E. M. Delafield and P. G. Wodehouse' Independent on Sunday
The Mask of Apollo
By Mary Renault
'Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' HILARY MANTEL'Mary Renault's portraits of the ancient world are fierce, complex and eloquent, infused at every turn with her life-long passion for the Classics. Her characters live vividly both in their own time, and in ours' MADELINE MILLERCombining the scholarship of a historian with the imagination of a novelist, Mary Renault brings the ancient Greek stage thrillingly to life.Set in fourth-century B.C. Greece, The Mask of Apollo is narrated by Nikeratos, a tragic actor who takes with him on all his travels a gold mask of Apollo, a relic of the theatre's golden age, which is now past. At first his mascot, the mask gradually becomes his conscience, and he refers to it his gravest decisions, when he finds himself at the centre of a political crisis in which the philosopher Plato is also involved. Much of the action is set in Syracuse, where Plato's friend Dion is trying to persuade the young tyrant Dionysios the Younger to accept the rule of law. Through Nikeratos' eyes, the reader watches as the clash between the two unleashes all the pent-up violence in the city.'All my sense of the ancient world - its values, its style, the scent of its wars and passions - comes from Mary Renault. I turned to writing historical fiction because of something I learned from Renault: that it lets you shake off the mental shackles of your own era, all the categories and labels, and write freely about what really matters to you' EMMA DONOGHUE 'There's much to wonder at in the way she fills in the large dark spaces where we know next to nothing about the times she describes . . . an important and wonderful writer . . . she set a course into serious-minded, psychologically intense historical fiction that today seems more important than ever' - Sam Jordison, Guardian
By Elizabeth Taylor, Tony Ross
Mossy Trotter is the only book for children by Elizabeth Taylor, a writer who is increasingly recognised as one of the best writers of the twentieth century.'We - that is, Herbert and I - want you, Mossy, to be our page-boy,' Miss Silkin said, staring hard at Mossy again, as if she were trying to imagine him dressed up, and with his hair combed.Mossy went very red, and nearly choked on a piece of cake, and Selwyn laughed, and went on laughing, as if he had just heard the funniest joke of all his life. They both knew what being a page-boy meant. One of the boys at school - one of the very youngest ones - had had to be one, wearing velvet trousers and a frilled blouse.'When Mossy moves to the country, life is full of delights - trees to climb, woods to explore and, best of all, the marvellous dump to rummage through. But every now and then his happiness is disturbed - chiefly by his mother's meddling friend, Miss Silkin. And a dreaded event casts a shadow over even the sunniest of days - being a page-boy at her wedding. In her only children's book, Elizabeth Taylor perfectly captures the temptations, confusion and terrors of a mischievous boy, and just how illogical, frustrating and inconsistent adults are!
Maya Angelou: The Complete Poetry
By Maya Angelou
From her reflections on African American life and hardship in Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie to her revolutionary celebrations of womanhood in Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise, and her elegant tributes to dignitaries Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela (On the Pulse of Morning and His Day Is Done, respectively), every inspiring word of Maya Angelou's poetry is included in the pages of this volume.
By Margaret Atwood
By the author of The Handmaid's Tale and Alias GraceToby, a survivor of the man-made plague that has swept the earth, is telling stories.Stories left over from the old world, and stories that will determine a new one. Listening hard is young Blackbeard, one of the innocent Crakers, the species designed to replace humanity. Their reluctant prophet, Jimmy-the-Snowman, is in a coma, so they've chosen a new hero - Zeb, the street-smart man Toby loves. As clever Pigoons attack their fragile garden and malevolent Painballers scheme, the small band of survivors will need more than stories.
Mom and Me and Mom
By Maya Angelou
'In the first decade of the twentiety century, it was not a good time to be born black, or woman, in America.' So begins this stunning portrait of Vivian Baxter Johnson: the first black woman officer in the Merchant Marines, purveyor of a gambling business and rooming house, and mother to one of our most cherished literary treasures.Anyone who's read the classic, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, knows Maya Angelou was raised by her paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou details what brought her mother to send her away and unearths the well of emotions Angelou experienced long afterward as a result. While Angelou's six autobiographies tell of her out in the world, influencing and learning from statesmen and cultural icons, Mom & Me & Mom shares the intimate, emotional story about her own family.
Mermaids on the Golf Course
By Patricia Highsmith
'One of the exhilarating effects of reading Highsmith's stories . . . is their surehandednes, their amazing breadth and abundance . . . they compel attention and they add significantly to her already formidable presence' Washington PostThe stories collected in Mermaids on the Golf Course, first published in 1985, are among Patricia Highsmith's most mature, psychologically penetrating works. Published in the latter part of her career, these stories reveal Highsmith's mastery of the short story form. Moving between locales as various as France, Mexico, Zurich, and New York, Highsmith transforms the mundane features of everyday life into an eerie backdrop for her penetrating stories of violence, secrecy, and madness. In 'The Stuff of Madness', Christopher Waggoner, increasingly dismayed by his wife's habit of preserving dead pets in their garden, enacts a devious revenge by adding a bizarre new exhibit to their collection; in the title story, a eminent economist's brush with death endows his once-familiar desires with tragic consequences; and in 'A Shot from Nowhere', a young painter who witnesses a gruesome death on a vacant Mexican Street becomes trapped in an unimaginable nightmare. In these piercing stories, Highsmith creates a world all the more frightening because we recognise it as our own.
Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont
By Elizabeth Taylor
Shortlisted for the Booker PrizeOn a rainy Sunday afternoon, Mrs Palfrey, recently widowed, arrives at the Claremont Hotel where she will spend her remaining days. Her fellow residents are a mixed bunch - magnificently flawed and eccentric - living off crumbs of affection and an obsessive interest in the relentless round of hotel meals. Together, upper lips stiffened, they fight off their twin enemies: boredom and the Grim Reaper. And then one day, Mrs Palfrey encounters the hadsome young writer Ludo, and an unlikely friendship is formed . . .
The Mandelbaum Gate
By Muriel Spark
When Barbara Vaughan's fiancé joins an archaeological excursion to the Dead Sea Scrolls, she takes the opportunity to explore the Holy Land. It is 1961, and the nation of Israel is still in its infancy. For Barbara, a half-Jewish Catholic convert, this is a journey of faith, and she ignores warnings not to cross the Mandelbaum Gate from Israel into Jordan. An adventure of espionage and abduction, from pilgrimage to flight, The Mandelbaum Gate is one of Spark's most compelling novels, and won the James Tait Memorial Prize.
Me And Mine
By Anna May Mangan
As soon as they'd saved up for the three 'S's' - shoes, suitcase and a suit - they left rural Ireland. It might have been the London of the 1950s where 'No Blacks, No Irish No Dogs' was the welcome put out for immigrants, but for the big family that was Anna May Mangan's, it was still better than the poverty they'd hailed from; 'Don't waste today worrying because tomorrow will be even worse' was their motto. But Ireland came with them in the dance halls, holy water and gossip and there was always the warmth of the Irish crowd, in and out of one another's houses 'as if there was no front door'.
By Lisa St. Aubin De Teran
I am a wanderer: one with a hoarder's love of houses and things... I am tracing here a memory map of all the places that have stayed with me and, since this is also a map of all the voyages of discovery, this is also the story of the getting to those places.' In Memory Map, probably her most personal book, Lisa charts a life spent in all corners of the world, from Wimbledon to the Venezuelan Andes, from the Caribbean to Ghana, and confesses to wanderlust and fate as being her chief guides. An itinerant lifestyle creates an unpredictable personal life though and Lisa writes movingly about being the support for three children by three different husbands and also, of the pain of failing to be strong.
Mrs Cameron's Diary
By Catherine Bennett
Dave's mobile went - poor Cleggsy, wanting to know what the Queen was like. "Incredibly nervous," Dave said. "But Sam soon put her at her ease."'We have heard, it seems, every opinion on the rise of the coalition save one: that of the new Prime Minister's wife, Samantha. Star journalist Catherine Bennett has stepped in to give us a glimpse of Sam Cam's first year in Downing Street. What to do about Cherie's nightmare granite'n'pine kitchen? How can Dave's rationingy-austerity-depressiony vibe be harnessed for the luxury goods market? Is there a polite strategy for avoiding Miriam Clegg's bookclub?
By Michele Roberts
Chosen as a Fiction Book of the Year in the Daily Telegraph by Maggie O'FarrellIn this witty and subversive collection of stories, Michèle Roberts explores women's desires, memories and loves as only she can. A jilted woman skirts the edges of time and place as she walks the streets of London at night; another returns to the scene of her honeymoon without her husband; a wife takes apt revenge on her vegetarian husband . . .
By Lisa St. Aubin De Teran
MOZAMBIQUE MYSTERIES is about turning fifty and finding a new direction. Lisa St Aubin de Terán travelled to Mozambique and, for the first time in her much-travelled life, felt at home - in a place 'so remote that few have visited it since the time of Vasco da Gama'. After three marriages and various affairs, she also fell in love. She set up a school and, together with her niece, the Terán Foundation. From the acclaimed author of THE HACIENDA, Mozambique Mysteries is a story of new beginnings in a country of contrasts and challenges - her most inspiring story yet.