This is the story of Irish theatre legend Katherine O’Dell, as written by her daughter Norah. It tells of early stardom in Hollywood, of highs and lows on the stages of Dublin and London’s West End. Katherine’s life is a grand performance, with young Norah watching from the wings. But this romance between mother and daughter cannot survive Katherine’s past, or the world’s damage. As Norah uncovers her mother’s secrets, she acquires a few of her own. Then, fame turns to infamy when Katherine decides to commit a bizarre crime. Actress is about a daughter’s search for the truth: the dark secret in the bright star, and what drove Katherine finally mad.
March 1976: St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch. A fisherman sings to himself, waiting for a catch – but attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect. A beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid has been swimming the Caribbean Sea for centuries. And she is entranced by the fisherman and and his song. But her fascination is her undoing. She hears his boat’s engine again, follows it, and finds herself at the mercy of American tourists. After a fearsome battle, she is pulled out of the sea and strung up on the dock as a trophy. The fisherman rescues her, and gently wins her trust – as she starts to transform into a woman. The novel’s characters are an unlikely mix: a mermaid, a fisherman, a deaf boy, a Caribbean artist and sweetman and a benevolent white landowner.
Anappara creates an endearing and highly engaging narrator to navigate us through the dark underbelly of modern India. We children are not just stories. We live. Come and see. Nine-year-old Jai watches too many reality cop shows, thinks he’s smarter than his friend Pari (even though she always gets top marks) and considers himself to be a better boss than Faiz (even though Faiz is the one with a job). When a boy at school goes missing, Jai decides to use the crime-solving skills he has picked up from episodes of Police Patrol to find him. With Pari and Faiz by his side, Jai ventures into some of the most dangerous parts of the sprawling Indian city; the bazaar at night, and even the railway station at the end of the Purple Line. But kids continue to vanish, and the trio must confront terrified parents, an indifferent police force and soul-snatching djinns in order to uncover the truth.
When Margot goes in search of her birth mother for the first time, she meets her aunt, Nikki, instead. Margot learns that her mother, Susan, was a sex worker murdered soon after Margot’s adoption. To this day, Susan’s killer has never been found. Nikki asks Margot for help. She has received threatening and haunting letters from the murderer, for decades. She is determined to find him, but she can’t do it alone.
While on her daily walk with her dog in the nearby woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with stones. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body. Shaky even on her best days, she is also alone, and new to this area, having moved here from her long-time home after the death of her husband, and now deeply alarmed. Her brooding about the note grows quickly into a full-blown obsession, as she explores multiple theories about who Magda was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But is there either a more innocent explanation for all this, or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home?
A Chinese woman comes to post-Brexit London to start a new life, away from her old world. She knew she would be lonely, adrift in the city, but will her new relationship bring her closer to this land she has chosen – will love give her a home? ‘A Lover’s Discourse’ is an exploration of romantic love told through fragments of conversations between the two lovers as they navigate their romance on their unmoored houseboat and in a stifling flatshare in East London.
A.L. Kennedy’s collection of stories show us women and men wrestling with the lives they have been given and the times spinning out around them. Humour, fantasy, rage and despair both help and hinder individuals as they navigate their changing circumstances, their accumulating losses, their moments of comprehension and tenderness.
Ten women, all called Claire, are tangled up in complex power dynamics with their families, friends and lovers. Though all are different ages, and leading different lives, each is haunted by the difficulty of living on her own terms, and by her capacity to harm and be harmed. Claire is a teenaged babysitter left alone with a strange little girl and her imaginary friend. She is a woman trying to escape her elderly mother by employing an android carer. Claire is a young TV journalist wrecking her first big interview. Claire’s boyfriend discovers more than he bargains for when he begins to read her diary. And no matter her age or background, Claire is living in the shadow of a monstrous mother.
Well-behaved women don’t make history: difficult women do. Helen Lewis argues that feminism’s success is down to complicated, contradictory, imperfect women, who fought each other as well as fighting for equal rights. Too many of these pioneers have been whitewashed or forgotten in our modern search for feel-good, inspirational heroines. It’s time to reclaim the history of feminism as a history of difficult women. In this book, you’ll meet the working-class suffragettes who advocated bombings and arson; the princess who discovered why so many women were having bad sex; the pioneer of the refuge movement who became a men’s rights activist; the ‘striker in a sari’ who terrified Margaret Thatcher; the wronged Victorian wife who definitely wasn’t sleeping with the prime minister; and the lesbian politician who outraged the country.
When Indian journalist Taran Khan arrives in Kabul in 2006, she imagines it as a return – a journey to the land her forebears hailed from centuries ago. She finds an unexpected guide in her grandfather who – despite never visiting the city – knows it intimately through books and stories, poetry and myth. With his voice in her head, and falling in with poets, doctors and other Kabulis, Khan uncovers a place quite different from the one she anticipated. Her wanderings reveal a fragile city in a state of flux: stricken by near-constant war, but flickering with the promise of peace, a shape-shifting place governed by age-old codes but experimenting with new modes of living. These walks take her to the unvisited tombs of the dead, and to the land of the living: the booksellers, archaeologists, intrepid film-makers and entrepreneurs who are remaking and rebuilding this ancient 3000-year-old city.
At the centre of young Ismail’s world is the unknowable figure of his mother. Delicate as a paper doll, she is an unlikely presence in her husband’s great stone house, with its hidden rooms and infamous dungeon, and is constantly at odds with her wise and thin-lipped mother-in-law. But despite her lightness and unchanging youthful nature, she is not without her own enigmas.Most of all, she fears that her intellectual son – who uses words she doesn’t understand, publishes radical poetry, falls in love freely and seems to be renouncing everything she embodies of the old world – will have to exchange her for a superior mother when he becomes a famous writer. Dedicated to the memory of his mother and circling back to his childhood in Albania, ‘The Doll’ is Ismail Kadare’s delicate and disarming tale of home and creative longing, of writerly aspiration, and of personal and political freedom.
So here we go, into the dark. Some things can’t be spoken about in the light of day. But we can visit our fears at night, in the dark. We can turn them over and weigh them in our hands and maybe that will protect us from them. But maybe not. The characters in this collection find their aspirations for happy homes, happy families and happy memories dissected and imbued with shimmering menace. Alone in a remote house in Iceland a woman is unnerved by her isolation; another can only find respite from the clinging ghost that follows her by submerging herself in an overgrown pool.
An epidemic of insomnia has left America crippled with exhaustion. Thankfully the Slumber Corps agency provides a lifeline, transfusing sleep to sufferers from healthy volunteers. Recruitment manager Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the disaster, has spent the last seven years enlisting new donors. But when she meets the mysterious Donor Y and Baby A – whose sleep can be universally accepted – her faith in the organisation and in her own motives begins to unravel.
Kerry Hudson is proudly working class but she was never proudly poor. The poverty she grew up in was all-encompassing, grinding and often dehumanising. Always on the move with her single mother, Kerry attended nine primary schools and five secondaries, living in B&Bs and council flats. She scores eight out of ten on the Adverse Childhood Experiences measure of childhood trauma. Twenty years later, Kerry’s life is unrecognisable. She’s a prizewinning novelist who has travelled the world. She has a secure home, a loving partner and access to art, music, film and books. But she often finds herself looking over her shoulder, caught somehow between two worlds. ‘Lowborn’ is Kerry’s exploration of where she came from, revisiting the towns she grew up in to try to discover what being poor really means in Britain today and whether anything has changed.
Taking us nearly from pole to pole – from modern megacities to some of the earth’s most remote regions – and across decades of lived experience, Barry Lopez gives us his most far-ranging yet personal work to date, in a book that describes his travels to six regions of the world: from Western Oregon to the High Arctic; from the GalÃ¡pagos to the Kenyan desert; from Botany Bay in Australia to finally, unforgettably, the ice shelves of Antarctica. Lopez also probes the long history of humanity’s quests and explorations, including the prehistoric peoples who trekked across Skraeling Island in northern Canada, the colonialists who plundered Central Africa, an enlightenment-era Englishman who sailed the Pacific, a Native American emissary who found his way into isolationist Japan, and today’s ecotourists in the tropics.