From Restoration to Revolution
Your Waterstones Books of the Month for February
“I wonder if people ever stop and think what a drag it is to be criminally handsome,” wrote the inimitable humourist and Marx Brothers scribe S. J. Perelman, born on the 1st February in 1904.
Reportedly, it was Perelman who helped haul Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel Catch-22 from certain literary doom to cult dominance – as a man sparing in his praise, his fervour for Heller’s debut carried real heft. We have no need a Perelman to fan the flames of success for our February Books of the Month, for each title speaks rather glowingly for itself.
Fiction Book of the Month
First up for fiction, we have Rose Tremain’s utterly masterful The Gustav Sonata, her razor-edged account of friendship in the embers of the Holocaust. Gustav and Anton – two young boys as similar as they are different – form a bond that prickles with the tensions of heritage and entitlement.
‘The Gustav Sonata is a powerful, profound and unexpected love story,’ commented Hannah Beckerman in The Observer. ‘It is a masterful, meditative novel.’
Non-Fiction Book of the Month
Our non-fiction offering is something of a spearhead for this year’s reflections on the 100 years that have passed since the climactic Russian revolutions of 1917. Simon Sebag Montefiore’s The Romanovs: 1613-1918 is one of those once-in-a-decade texts that manages to bring the past very much into the present, with the author’s impeccable research and deft skill for story sealing a vast but still intimate chronology of Russia’s twenty sovereigns.
For Antony Beevor, writing for the Financial Times, The Romanovs is ‘epic history on the grandest scale… reading Montefiore's excellent account, it is hard to imagine how the monarchy could ever have survived under their catastrophic leadership.’
Children's Book of the Month
For our children’s choice, we have the pleasures of a debut. The area of publishing we call 9-12 is a tricky beast – it looks easy but it really isn’t, with many books failing to make that vital foothold in the market as they are simply not appealing or imaginative enough.
Maz Evans’ Who Let the Gods Out fits the bill perfectly, a freewheeling and properly-funny fantasy where the deities who so once powerfully presided over the affairs of the world (Zeus, Hermes, Charon and the rest) are now reduced to bumbling, self-obsessed buffoons in the face of contemporary mores.
Into the mix is thrown 12-year-old Elliot, a caring but slightly reluctant hero who finds himself at the centre of adventurous chaos as an entombed demon, buried somewhere beneath his home near Stonehenge, is unwittingly set free to wreak havoc on an unsuspecting world.
Thriller of the Month
Finally, our Thriller of the Month needs no introduction after already enjoying a spectacular month as our Thriller choice for January – so spectacular, in fact, we weren’t quite ready to let it go just yet.
Andrew Taylor’s Restoration-set The Ashes of London has been nothing short of a phenomenon, our customers utterly beguiled by the entrance of wily, reluctant government agent James Marwood, a man driven to solve a savage murder in the embers of the Great Fire. Taylor’s Marwood is a simply stunning literary creation – complex, compromised, resourceful – and the author’s twinning of Marwood with an extraordinarily compelling tale of a corrupt, secret world is simply dazzling stuff. It’s our pleasure to continue highlighting this superb volume.
We’ll be back in March of course for our next selection of reading pleasures and we hope you have an entirely rewarding month.