Discovering the Shades of Time
Presenting Our Books of the Month for November
The past weaves its thread through our November selection of Books of the Month. For Salley Vickers (author of the hit family saga Miss Garnet's Angel), in The Librarian the stage is the conformist oppression of 1950s Middle England. Kassia St Clair reveals a paintbox of history in The Secret Lives of Colour, and our children’s choice draws on the rich tradition of folk tales in S.A. Patrick’s A Darkness Of Dragons. Finally, for our thriller for November The Death of the Fronsac, Neal Ascherson addresses the wrenching divisions of the Second World War.
Fiction Book of the Month
England, 1958: for the quietly progressive Sylvia Blackwell, her new role as children’s librarian in a quaint, backwater town is an opportunity to open young minds to the power of literature. However, a deepening relationship with an older, married man and her befriending of his daughter swiftly exposes a community of petty prejudice and ignorance, and Sylvia finds herself not just fighting for her job but the very existence of the library - and the value of literature - itself.
Non-Fiction Book of the Month
From its origins as a column in Elle Decoration, Kassia St Clair presents a dazzling catalogue of the hues that have shaped our planet. The Secret Lives of Colour peels back the hidden history of some 75 pigments and reveals their mesmeric relationship to our culture, from the origins of silver being the substance of choice for our tableware to Isaac Newton’s surprisingly arbitrary definition of the spectrum to entertain his own theories. A colourful compendium of genuine surprise and revelation.
Thriller of the Month
Acclaimed journalist and writer Neal Ascherson turns his considerable insight to fiction in an epic tale triggered by the mysterious destruction of a French warship off the wartime coast of Greenock. Major Maurycy Szczucki – a Polish officer liberated from his exhausted homeland at the outset of the war – looks back over several decades of intrigue, exile, passion and change as the world shifts in the aftermath of global combat. Nuanced and carrying a lifetime of understanding of both setting and subject, The Death of the Fronsac is a sweeping tale of a century split by war and the consequence of its horrors and betrayals.
Children's Book of the Month
Ten years on after the dreaded Piper of Hamelyn incident, young Piper Patch Brightwater finds himself on the run from a prison sentence for innocently playing a forbidden spell. Accompanied by Wren, a girl cursed to live as a rat, and Barver, the fire-breathing dracogriff, the fleeing Patch suddenly finds himself pitched against the malevolence of the Piper himself. Expect high-octane adventure as S.A. Patrick's children’s debut assembles a truly inspired fantasy world of dragons, magic and the sheer power of music, perfect for fans of the younger Terry Pratchett series.
Scottish Book of the Month
Lewis-man Donald S. Murray has been long-regarded for his verse and sensitivity to local culture and tradition. Now the history of the war and sea forms the backbone to As the Women Lay Dreaming, Murray’s fictional testimony to 1919’s sinking of the HMY Iolaire. Lost tragically close to port, the vessel’s drowning of over 200 servicemen on their way home from war would cast a devastating, multi-generational shadow over Lewis. Focusing on the survivor’s tale of Tormod Morrison, Murray’s novel is ultimately a story of compassion, hope and the healing of time.
Irish Book of the Month
Anyone seeking evidence toward the buoyant health of Irish writing need look no further than Anna Burns’ triumphant Man Booker Prize victory for Milkman. Joining a very select group of Booker-winning Irish authors (including Anne Enright, Roddy Doyle and Iris Murdoch), Milkman’s often amusing – but ultimately deeply disquieting – satire of the Troubles proved a hit with our customers long before the winner’s announcement. Eschewing mention of Belfast and cloaking every character in nameless anonymity, this is contemporary history rewritten as dystopia, where power and fear are wrought by rumour and half-truth. ‘It’s a novel,’ remarked an astute Irish Times, ‘about failing to remember and failing to forget; failing to speak and failing to remain silent.’