A casual introduction, a challenge to a simple game of chess, a lovers’ reunion, a meaningless infidelity: from such small seeds Zweig brings forth five startlingly tense tales – meditations on the fragility of love, the limits of obsession, the combustibility of secrets and betrayal.
With fierce imagination, a woman revisits the moments that shape her life; from crushes on teachers to navigating relationships in a fast-paced world; from overhearing her grandmothers’ peculiar stories to nurturing her own personal freedom and a boundless love of literature. Fusing fantasy with lived experience, ‘Checkout 19’ is a vivid and mesmerising journey through the small traumas and triumphs that define us – as readers, as writers, as human beings.
Edinburgh, winter of 1574. Queen Mary has fled Scotland, to raise an army from the French. Her son and heir, Jamie, is held under protection in Stirling Castle. John Knox is dead. The people are unmoored and lurching under the uncertain governance of this riven land. It’s a deadly time for young student Will Fowler, short of stature, low of birth but mightily ambitious, to make his name. Told by a character whose rise mirrors the conflicts he narrates, ‘Rose Nicolson’ is a vivid, passionate and unforgettable novel of this most dramatic period of Scotland’s history.
How do our roots in the land define us? Hidden in the breath-taking mountains of wild Scotland, Glen Conach is the home of secrets and stories, of fables and folklore. Over hundreds of years, three lives are woven together. In ancient Britain, the hermit Saint Conach performs impossible miracles, which survive as legend in ‘The Book of Glen Conach’. Generations later in the nineteenth century, the book is rediscovered by charlatan Charles Gibb, who hustles his way into the big house at the heart of the village. In the present-day, young Lachie whispers to Maja of ghosts he has seen in the glen. Reflecting back on her long life, Maja believes him, as she has some ghosts of her own. From author James Robertson, ‘News of the Dead’ is a captivating examination of the distance between the stories we tell of ourselves and the way in which we are remembered.
Take a story and shrink it. Make it tiny, so small it can fit in the palm of your hand. Carry the story with you everywhere, let it sit with you while you eat, let it watch you while you sleep. Keep it safe, you never know when you might need it. In Kawakami’s super short ‘palm of the hand’ stories the world is never quite as it should be: a small child lives under a sheet near his neighbour’s house for thirty years; an apartment block leaves its visitors with strange afflictions, from fast-growing beards to an ability to channel the voices of the dead; an old man has two shadows, one docile, the other rebellious; two girls named Yoko are locked in a bitter rivalry to the death. Small but great, you’ll find great delight spending time with the people in this neighbourhood.
Australian soldier Toohey returns from Baghdad in 2003 with shrapnel in his neck, crippled by PTSD. A decade earlier, aspiring pianist Nasim falls from favour with Saddam Hussein and his psychopathic son Uday, triggering a perilous search for safety. In Melbourne as the millennium turns, Robbie, faced with her father’s dementia and family silences that may never be addressed, begins to test boundaries. And in the present day, Gerry seeks to escape his father Toohey’s tyranny and heal the wounds inflicted by it. ‘Act of Grace’ is a meditation on inheritance: the damage that one generation bestows upon the next, and the potential for transformation.
Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries borne witness to the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries, the fates of three women are inextricably linked to this place and to each other. Sarah, accused of being a witch, is fleeing for her life. Ruth, in the aftermath of the Second World War, is navigating a new marriage and the strange waters of the local community. Six decades later, Viv, still mourning the death of her father, is cataloguing Ruth’s belongings in the now-empty house. As each woman’s story unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that their choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men who seek to control them. But in sisterhood there is also the possibility of survival and a new way of life.
Frances is a young graduate student spending a summer volunteering in rural France, in the hope that tending vegetables and harvesting honey will distract her from a scandal that drove her out of Paris, her research unfinished and her sense of self unmoored. At the eco-farm Noa Noa, named for his adventures in Tahiti, she comes under the influence of its charismatic and domineering owner, Paul. As his hold over her tightens and her plans come unstuck, she finds herself entangled in a strange, uneven relationship. On a fraught road trip across the South of France, both are forced to reckon with uncomfortable truths. Here is a compelling and perturbing story of power, passivity and the cage of being ‘good’, Paul introduces a novelist of extraordinary perspicacity and lyricism.
1974, on the island of Cyprus. Two teenagers, from opposite sides of a divided land, meet at a tavern in the city they both call home. The tavern is the only place that Kostas, who is Greek and Christian, and Defne, who is Turkish and Muslim, can meet, in secret, hidden beneath the blackened beams from which hang garlands of garlic, chilli peppers and wild herbs. This is where one can find the best food in town, the best music, the best wine. But there is something else to the place: it makes one forget, even if for just a few hours, the world outside and its immoderate sorrows. In ‘The Island of Missing Trees’, prizewinning author Elif Shafak brings us a rich, magical tale of belonging and identity, love and trauma, memory and amnesia, human-induced destruction of nature, and, finally, renewal.
Every city has a soul. Some are as ancient as myths, and others are as new and destructive as children. New York City? She’s got five. But every city also has a dark side. A roiling, ancient evil stirs beneath the earth, threatening to destroy the city and her five protectors unless they can come together and stop it once and for all.
God lies defeated, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew. On the surface, the streets of this the sea-battered city are slick with the Living Mud and the half-formed, short-lived creatures it spawns – creatures that die and are swept down from the Merchant Quarter by the brooms of the workers and relentless rains, where they rot in the slums. There, a young boy called Nathan Treeves lives with his parents, eking out a meagre existence by picking treasures from the Living Mud – until one day his mother, desperate and starving, sells him to the mysterious Master of Mordew.
A collection of contemporary Scottish writing on nature and landscape, ‘Antlers of Water’ showcases the diversity and radicalism of new Scottish nature writing. Edited, curated, and introduced by the award-winning Kathleen Jamie, and featuring prose, poetry, and photography, this inspiring collection takes us from walking to wild swimming, from red deer to pigeons and wasps, from remote islands to back gardens.