What if Hillary Rodham had turned down Bill Clinton’s proposal of marriage? In ‘American Wife’, Curtis Sittenfeld painted a picture of an ordinary American girl who found herself married to a President – basing it on the life of Laura Bush. In this new novel, she takes another ordinary American girl, Hillary Rodham, and explores how her life might have turned out if she had stayed an independent woman.
Ally’s husband Tom leaves, only weeks into their marriage, to build lighthouses in Japan. Ally, one of Britain’s first female doctors, takes work at an asylum in Truro. With only letters sent across the ocean to sustain them, and with Ally now battling her old demons alone, will their marriage survive?
Alone and adrift in London, Peach is heading into her mid-40s with nothing to show for her youthful promise but a stalled art career and a stopgap job in a Mayfair gallery she’s been doing for a decade. She is too smart and independent to believe her unhappiness will be cured by a relationship and a baby, too sad and lonely to break her cycle of drunken hook ups and nervous breakdowns. She is too young to feel this tired, and far too old to feel this lost. When Peach is woken one night with news that her father, who has Alzheimer’s disease, is in intensive care, she can no longer outrun the summer of secrets and sexual awakenings that augured twenty-five years of estrangement from her family. Now, as they all gather in the hospital, past and present collide, forcing Peach to confront the consequences of her actions and inactions throughout the years.
Throughout Proust’s life, nine of his short stories remained unseen – the writer never spoke of them. Why did he choose not to publish them along with the others? One possible answer is that he was developing his themes in preparation for his masterpiece, ‘In Search of Lost Time’; another is that the stories were too audacious – too near to life – for the censorious society of the time. In these stories we find an intimate picture of a young author full of darkness and melancholy, longing to reveal his true self to the world.
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.
The last of Kavan’s books to be published in her lifetime, ‘Ice’ is a dreamy novel set in an imaginary world padded by ice and snow, run by a secret government, invaded by aggressors, and threatened with nuclear destruction.
‘An Experiment in Leisure’ is a classic tale with a contemporary twist, told in an unforgettable voice that explores the emotional costs of social mobility, the possibilities of leaving and returning, the meanings of work and the ways a woman learns to love women. It’s a witty, bold debut, at once a tender portrait of youth and a piercing insight into the political, cultural and economic fault lines dividing Britain today.
In revolutionary struggle, if you don’t defeat your enemy, your enemy will defeat you. On his return to his hometown – and his wife – to aid the Cultural Revolution, soldier Aijun sees a young woman wandering barefoot along the railway tracks in the warm late-afternoon sun. Her name is Hongmei. From this moment on, an ‘unspeakably beautiful flower’ blooms in Aijun’s heart. As Aijun and Hongmei hurl themselves into their town’s revolutionary struggle, they become inseparable. They spend their days and nights stamping out feudalism, writing pamphlets and attending rallies: they are the engines of history. But soon, their sexual and revolutionary fervour begin to merge, and a crazed new love explodes between them. The party bosses are hugely impressed by the ardour of the pair’s work. Emboldened, the couple build a ‘tunnel of love’ – to further the revolution, of course.
Some stories are universal. They play out across human history. And time is the river which will flow through them. It starts with a family, a family which will mutate. For now, it is a father, mother and two sons. One with his father’s violence in his blood. One who lives his mother’s artistry. One leaves. One stays. They will be joined by others whose deeds will change their fate. It is a beginning. Their stories will intertwine and evolve over the course of two thousand years – they will meet again and again at different times and in different places. From distant Palestine at the dawn of the first millennium to a life amongst the stars in the third. While the world will change around them, their destinies will remain the same. It must play out as foretold. It is written.
Mr Watanabe is a victim of one of the largest collective traumas of the last century, and a fugitive from his own memory. A survivor of the atomic bombs dropped in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, he has evaded the trauma of those experiences for most of his adult life. When the earthquake which precedes the Fukushima nuclear disaster strikes, the past becomes present, and Mr Watanabe begins a journey that will change everything.
Fleeing the dark undercurrents of contemporary life in Britain, Hilary Byrd takes refuge in Ooty, a hill station in south India. There he finds solace in life’s simple pleasures, travelling by rickshaw around the small town with his driver Jamshed and staying in a mission house beside the local presbytery where the Padre and his adoptive daughter Priscilla have taken Hilary under their wing. The Padre is concerned for Priscilla’s future, and as Hilary’s friendship with the young woman grows, he begins to wonder whether his purpose lies in this new relationship. But religious tensions are brewing and the mission house may not be the safe haven it seems.
Lottie Archer arrives in Rome excited to begin her new job as an archivist. When she discovers a valuable fifteenth-century painting, she is drawn to find out more about the woman who left it behind, Nina Lawrence. Nina seems to have led a rewarding and useful life, restoring Italian gardens to their full glory following the destruction of World War Two. So why did no one attend her funeral in 1978? In exploring Nina’s past, Lottie unravels a tragic love story beset by the political turmoil of post-war Italy. And as she edges closer to understanding Nina, she begins to confront the losses in her own life.