Our evening bookclub is online and places can be booked by purchasing the book below. Details of how to access the bookclub will be emailed out to attendees on the day before it takes place.
Our lunchtime bookclub takes place either in the bookshop café or as part of a walk around Knole.
The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon
Monday 30 October, 8pm on Zoom
(rescheduled, original date Monday 16 October)
At Waterloo Station, hopeful new arrivals from the West Indies step off the boat train, ready to start afresh in 1950s London. There, homesick Moses Aloetta, who has already lived in the city for years, meets Henry ‘Sir Galahad’ Oliver and shows him the ropes. In this strange, cold and foggy city where the natives can be less than friendly at the sight of a black face, has Galahad met his Waterloo? But the irrepressible newcomer cannot be cast down. He and all the other lonely new Londoners – from shiftless Cap to Tolroy, whose family has descended on him from Jamaica – must try to create a new life for themselves. As pessimistic ‘old veteran’ Moses watches their attempts, they gradually learn to survive and come to love the heady excitements of London.
Zazie in the Metro by Raymond Queneau
The cult classic from one of France’s most stylish writers
‘Don’t give a damn,’ says Zazie, ‘what I wanted was to go in the metro’
Impish, foul-mouthed Zazie arrives in Paris from the country to stay with her uncle Gabriel. All she really wants to do is ride the metro, but finding it shut because of a strike, Zazie looks for other means of amusement and is soon caught up in a comic adventure that becomes wilder and more manic by the minute. In 1960 Queneau’s cult classic was made into a hugely successful film by Louis Malle. Packed full of word play and phonetic games, Zazie in the Metro remains as stylish and witty as ever.
The Pachinko Parlour by Elisa Shua Dusapin
Monday 26 June, 8pm
Longlisted for The National Book Critics Circle Awards for Barrios Books in Translation Prize.
From the author of Winter in Sokcho, Winner of the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature.
The days are beginning to draw in. The sky is dark by seven in the evening. I lie on the floor and gaze out of the window. Women’s calves, men’s shoes, heels trodden down by the weight of bodies borne for too long.
It is summer in Tokyo. Claire finds herself dividing her time between tutoring ten-year-old Mieko, in an apartment in an abandoned hotel, and lying on the floor at her grandparents: daydreaming, playing Tetris and listening to the sounds from the street above. The heat rises; the days slip by.
The plan is for Claire to visit Korea with her grandparents. They fled the civil war there over fifty years ago, along with thousands of others, and haven’t been back since. When they first arrived in Japan, they opened Shiny, a pachinko parlour. Shiny is still open, drawing people in with its bright, flashing lights and promises of good fortune. And as Mieko and Claire gradually bond, a tender relationship growing, Mieko’s determination to visit the pachinko parlour builds.
Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan
Based on transcribed interviews with Sonia, a horse trainer, the novel vividly captures the arc of one woman’s life at the racetrack – the flat land and ramshackle backstretch; the bad feelings and friction; the winner’s circle and the racetrack bar; the fancy suits and fancy boots; and the ‘particular language’ of ‘grooms, jockeys, trainers, racing secretaries, stewards, pony people, hotwalkers, everybody’ – with economy and integrity.
“A sharp resounding slap of a book, that will leave a reader open-mouthed, hand to their cheek, wondering how on earth and entire, fascinating life, passed by in so few pages. Unique and brilliant, a love of horse racing is neither here nor there to appreciate this compelling character study. It’s a spotlight on a person as well as an enclosed community. Rough and wild – I thought it was brilliant!” Fleur
The Inseparables by Simone de Beauvoir
Tuesday 23 May, 8pm
Purchase a copy of this book from us either in our shop or online to receive an invitation to our online Zoom bookclub.
When Andree joins her school, Sylvie is immediately fascinated. Andree is small for her age but walks with the confidence of an adult. The girls become close. They talk for hours about equality, justice, war and religion; they lose respect for their teachers; they build a world of their own. But as the girls grow into young women, the pressures of society mount, threatening everything.
This novel was never published in Simone de Beauvoir’s lifetime. It tells the story of the real-life friendship that shaped one of the most important thinkers and feminists of the twentieth century.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
25th April, 8pm
Purchase a copy of this book from us either in our shop or online to receive an invitation to our online Zoom bookclub.
Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel, a cookery writer, discovers that her husband is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has ‘a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb’ is no consolation. Heartburn is a rollercoaster of love, betrayal, revenge – and how to make the perfect soufflé.
Nora Ephron shows us that the pen is mightier than the sword in this roman-a-clef. ‘I always thought during the pain of the marriage that one day it would make a funny book,’ Ephron once said. And it is!
Heartburn by Nora Ephron£9.99
The Stasi Poetry Circle by Philip Oltermann
18th April, 12.30pm
In 1982 East Germany’s fearsome secret police – convinced that authors were embedding subversive messages in their work – decided to train their own writers, weaponising poetry in the struggle against the class enemy. Once a month a group of soldiers and border guards gathered for meetings in a heavily guarded military compound in East Berlin to learn how to write lyrical verse.
Journalist Philip Oltermann spent five years rifling through Stasi files, digging out lost volumes of poetry and tracking down surviving members of this Red poet’s society to tell this little-known story in which spies turned poets and poets spies.
A book to prompt a rewatching of that wonderful film, The Lives of Others!
Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid
21st February, 8pm
An adored only child, Annie has until recently lived a contented life in Antigua. She is inseparable from her mother, who sits at the very centre of the little girl’s existence. When she turns twelve, however, Annie’s world becomes more complicated and treacherous. Most unnervingly of all, her mother ceases to be a source of unconditional adoration and takes on the new and unfamiliar guise of adversary, in a haunting and tragicomic tale told with Kincaid’s trademark candour and complexity.
Mr Ma and Son by Lao She
7th February, 12.30pm
Newly arrived from China, Mr Ma and his son Ma Wei run an antiques shop nestled by St Paul’s Cathedral, where they try to make a living amid the smog and bustle of 1920s London. As they struggle with money, misunderstandings and the ways of the English – from the overbearing patronage of missionary Reverend Ely to their well-meaning landlady Mrs Weddeburn and her carefree daughter – can understanding, even love, blossom? Both a moving story of the Chinese immigrant experience and a bitingly funny satire on the English, Mr Ma and Son delicately portrays the dreams and disappointments of those seeking a new life in a distant land.
Mr Ma and Son by Lao She£9.99
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan
Wednesday 26 October, 12 – 1pm
Shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize.
It is 1985, in an Irish town. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, faces into his busiest season. As he does the rounds, he feels the past rising up to meet him – and encounters the complicit silences of a people controlled by the Church. The long-awaited new work from the author of Foster, Small Things Like These is an unforgettable story of hope, quiet heroism and tenderness.
‘This is a tale of courage and compassion, of good sons and vulnerable young mothers. Absolutely beautiful.’ Douglas Stuart
‘Astonishing. Claire Keegan makes her moments real – and then she makes them matter.’ Colm Toibin
‘A single one of Keegan’s grounded, powerful sentences can contain volumes of social history. Every word is the right word in the right place, and the effect is resonant and deeply moving.’ Hilary Mantel
‘A true gift of a book. a sublime Chekhovian shock.’ Andrew O’Hagan
‘A moral tale that is unsentimental and deeply affecting, because true and right.’ David Hayden
‘Marvellous-exact and icy and loving all at once.’ Sarah Moss
‘A haunting, hopeful masterpiece.’ Sinead Gleeson
Bookseller Review by Fleur:
‘This is a true gift of a book. In just over 100 pages so much is created and made chest-hurtlingly real. It’s exactly the book to slip away from Christmas celebrations with for a moment’s breath. You’ll open it to see how it begins, and will have finished it before you know it, realising you’re still wearing a rumpled cracker hat as you wipe away a tear that is part heartbreak, part overwhelming joy!’
The Mad Women’s Ball by Victoria Mas
17th October, 8pm
The Salpetriere asylum, 1885. All of Paris is in thrall to Doctor Charcot and his displays of hypnotism on women who have been deemed mad or hysterical, outcasts from society. But the truth is much more complicated – for these women are often simply inconvenient, unwanted wives or strong-willed daughters. Once a year a grand ball is held at the hospital. For the Parisian elite, the Mad Women’s Ball is the highlight of the social season; for the women themselves, it is a rare moment of hope.
Genevieve is a senior nurse. After the childhood death of her sister, she has shunned religion and placed her faith in Doctor Charcot and his new science. But everything begins to change when she meets Eugenie, the 19-year-old daughter of a bourgeois family. Because Eugenie has a secret, and she needs Genevieve’s help. Their fates will collide on the night of the Mad Women’s Ball…
On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
Wednesday 31 August, 12 – 1pm
On the Black Hill is an absolute classic from 1982. It was Bruce Chatwin’s first novel and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (Fiction) and the Whitbread Prize (First Novel). It’s a wonderfully written tale about identical twin brothers who are born at the start of the 20th century on a farm in rural Wales and never leave home.
Lewis and Benjamin live very much in the past – times long gone by are still completely alive to them – but over their 8 decades the contemporary world inevitably cuts across and disrupts their existence. The world they live in, their extra special relationship, their family and local characters are brought vividly to life.
Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo
Monday 5 September at 8pm
‘[Mr Loverman is] Brokeback Mountain with ackee and saltfish and old people’ Dawn French
His deeply religious and disappointed wife, Carmel, thinks he sleeps with other women. When their marriage goes into meltdown, Barrington wants to divorce Carmel and live with Morris, but after a lifetime of fear and deception, will he manage to break away?
Mr Loverman is a ground-breaking exploration of Britain’s older Caribbean community, which explodes cultural myths and fallacies and shows the extent of what can happen when people fear the consequences of being true to themselves.
Tasting Sunlight by Ewald Arenz
Wednesday 27 July, 12 – 1pm
Teenager Sally has just run away from a clinic where she to be treated for anorexia. She’s furious with everything and everyone, and wants to be left in peace. Liss is in her forties, living alone on a large farm that she runs single-handedly. She has little contact with the outside world, and no need for other people.
From their first meeting, Sally realises that Liss isn’t like other adults; she expects nothing of Sally and simply accepts who she is, offering her a bed for the night with no questions asked. That night becomes weeks and then months, as an unlikely friendship develops and these two damaged women slowly open up – connecting to each other, reconnecting with themselves, and facing the darkness in their pasts through their shared work on the land.
Achingly beautiful, profound, invigorating and uplifting, Tasting Sunlight is a story of friendship across generations, of love and acceptance, of the power of nature to heal and transform, and the goodness that surrounds us, if only we take time to see it…
The Bloater by Rosemary Tonks
Tuesday 5 July at 8pm
Min works at the BBC as an audio engineer, where she is struggling to replicate the sound of a heartbeat. At home, other matters of the heart are making a mockery of life as Min knows it.
Min has found herself the object of her lodger’s affection. An internationally renowned opera singer she’s nicknamed ‘The Bloater’, Min is disgusted and attracted to him in equal measure. But with a husband so invisible that she accidentally turns the lights off on him even when he’s still in the room, Min can’t quite bring herself to silence The Bloater’s overtures.
Vain, materialistic, yet surprisingly tender, The Bloater is a sparklingly ironic comedy of manners for all flirtatious gossips who love to hate and hate to love.
Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald
Wednesday 22 June, 12 – 1pm
‘This is an absolute favourite from a couple of years ago. Helen Macdonald is best known for ‘H is the Hawk’, her heart-warming memoir about coming to terms with grief by training a goshawk. This is a very different but still brilliantly written book. It is a collection of gem-like essays about the natural world and our relation to it – just absolutely full of moments that make you gasp!‘ – Bookseller Review by Diane
Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido
Tuesday 24 May at 8pm
Eighteen-year-old Katherine – bright, stylish, frustratedly suburban – doesn’t know how her life will change when the brilliant Jacob Goldman first offers her a place at university. When she enters the Goldmans’ rambling bohemian home, presided over by the beatific matriarch Jane, she realises that Jacob and his family are everything she has been waiting for. But when a romantic entanglement ends in tears, Katherine is forced into exile from the family she loves most. And her journey back into the fold, after more than a decade away, will yield all kinds of delightful surprises…
Michel the Giant: An African in Greenland by Tété-Michel Kpomassie
Tuesday 10 May 12 – 1pm
A book of rich and immersive travel writing, Michel the Giant invites the reader to journey alongside an audacious Kpomassie as he makes his way from the equator to the bitter cold of the artic and settles into life with the Inuit peoples, adapting to their foods and customs. Part memoir, part anthropological observation this captivating narrative teems with nuanced observations on community, belonging and the universality of human experience.
Jazz by Toni Morrison
Tuesday 26 April at 8pm
Joe Trace shoots his lover, the impetuous 18-year-old Dorcas. At the funeral his determined, hardworking wife Violet tries to disfigure the corpse with a knife. Their story captures the complex humanity of black American urban life at that time.
Undreamed Shores by Dr Frances Larson
Thursday 14 April 12 – 1pm
In the first decades of the 20th century, five women arrived at Oxford to take the newly created Masters diploma in Anthropology. Though their circumstances differed radically, all five were intent on travelling to the furthest corners of the globe and studying remote communities whose lives were a world away from their own. In the wastelands of Siberia; in the pueblos and villages of the Nile and New Mexico; in the midst of a rebellion on Easter Island; and in the uncharted interiors of New Guinea, they found new freedoms. They documented customs now long since forgotten, and bore witness to now-vanished worlds. Through their work they overturned some of the most pernicious myths that dogged their gender, and proved that women could be explorers and scientists, too. Yet when they returned to England they found loss, madness, and regret waiting for them.
Hurdy Gurdy by Christopher Wilson
9 March 2022
It is the year of our Lord 1349 and it is the season of the Plague. Brother Diggory’s life is about to change. The sickness is creeping ever closer and the monks of his order must attend to the afflicted. He is about to meet the Plague. What he doesn’t realise is that encountering an illness and understanding it are two quite different things . . . An uproarious and uplifting novel about sickness and health, and how perhaps we’re never quite as cutting-edge as we might like to believe.
Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali
1 March 2022
The bestselling Turkish classic of love and loss in a changing world.
A shy young man leaves his home in rural Turkey to learn a trade in 1920s Berlin. The city’s crowded streets, thriving arts scene, passionate politics and seedy cabarets provide the backdrop for a chance meeting with a woman, which will haunt him for the rest of his life. Emotionally powerful, intensely atmospheric and touchingly profound, Madonna in a Fur Coat is an unforgettable novel about new beginnings and the unfathomable nature of the human soul.
The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante
25 January 2022
Leda is a middle-aged divorcée devoted to her work as an English teacher and to her two children. When her daughters leave home to be with their father in Canada, Leda anticipates a period of loneliness and longing. Instead, slightly embarrassed by the sensation, she feels liberated, as if her life has become lighter, easier. She decides to take a holiday by the sea, in a small coastal town in southern Italy. But after a few days of calm and quiet, things begin to take a menacing turn. Leda encounters a family whose brash presence proves unsettling, at times even threatening. When a small, seemingly meaningless, event occurs, Leda is overwhelmed by memories of the difficult and unconventional choices she made as a mother and their consequences for herself and her family. The seemingly serene tale of a woman’s pleasant rediscovery of herself soon becomes the story of a ferocious confrontation with an unsettled past.
With a new film adaption out soon, we’re incredibly lucky (if her film schedules are kind to us) to be joined for this book club meeting by actor Dagmara Dominczyk. Dagmara plays the character Callie, who’s family disrupts Leda’s holiday, kickstarting the drama in this rich story of motherhood.
This book will give us so much discuss, and we’re especially excited to hear all Dagmara’s insights from the screen adaptation. Join us!
The Feast by Margaret Kennedy
30 November 2022
‘Each guest has retired, as an animal retires with a bone to the back of its cage, to chew over some single obsession…’
Cornwall, Midsummer 1947, Pendizack Manor Hotel has just been buried in the rubble of collapsed cliff. Seven guests have perished, but what brought this strange assembly together for a moonlit feast before this Act of God – or Man?
Over the week before the landslide, we meet the hotel guests in all their eccentric glory: the selfish aristocrat; slothful hotelier; snooping housekeeper; bereaved couple; bohemian authoress; and poverty-stricken children. And as friendships form and romances blossom, sins are revealed, and the cliff cracks wide open…
Both a glorious portrait of seaside holidays in post-war Britain and a wise, witty fable, Margaret Kennedy’s The Feast is a banquet indeed.
‘Not only a romantic but an anarchist’ – Anita Brookner
‘Exquisite comedy… Tense, touching, human, dire and funny.’ – Elizabeth Bowen
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
19 October 2021
Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has.
In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides that thunder up staircases, the clouds that move in slow procession through the upper halls. On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone.
Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?
Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous.
The Union of Synchronised Swimmers by Cristina Sandu
21 September 2021
It’s summer behind the Iron Curtain, and six girls are about to swim their way to the Olympics – and a new life.
In an unnamed Soviet state, six girls meet each day to swim. At first, they play, splashing each other and floating languidly on the water’s surface. But soon the game becomes something more.
They hone their bodies relentlessly. Their skin shades into bruises. They barter cigarettes stolen from the factory where they work for swimsuits to stretch over their sunburnt skin. They tear their legs into splits, flick them back and forth, like herons. They force themselves to stop breathing.
When they find themselves representing their country as synchronised swimmers in the Olympics, they seize the chance they have been waiting for to escape and begin new lives.
Scattered around the globe, six women live in freedom. But will they ever be able to forget what they left behind?
Tomorrow by Elisabeth Russell Taylor
20 July 2021
‘The island was singularly without pretension; just a modest chrysalis-shaped piece of undulating pasture, arable and marshland – a place ignored by those who required drama of an obvious kind.’
Every year Elisabeth Danziger travels to the Danish island of Møn to spend one week at The Tamarisks, a lavish hotel which was, fifteen years ago in 1945, her family’s second home.
With each annual visit, Elisabeth stays in the same room and walks familiar paths. She visits the local museum to peer at artefacts that once belonged to her family; she unscrews the panel of an old bath tub to retrieve the crumbling piece of paper on which is written her name and that of Daniel Eberhardt – her beloved cousin.
Elisabeth’s annual pilgrimage is part of a long-standing family promise to meet again in Møn after their separation during the War. A promise that only she has fulfilled. And she has no reason to suspect this year will be any different from all the others…
Purchase of this bookclub ticket includes a copy of Tomorrow which can be collected from the shop or posted out.
Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy
8 June 2021
Taking George Orwell’s famous essay, ‘Why I Write’, as a jumping-off point, Deborah Levy offers her own indispensable reflections of the writing life. With wit, clarity and calm brilliance, she considers how the writer must stake claim to that contested territory as a young woman and shape it to her need. Things I Don’t Want to Know is a work of dazzling insight and deep psychological succour, from one of our most vital contemporary writers.
‘Superb sharpness and originality of imagination. An inspiring work of writing’ – Marina Warner
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
27 April 2021
A startlingly original first work by Japan’s brightest young literary star and now a cult film. When Kitchen was first published in Japan in 1987 it won two of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the bestseller lists, then remained there for over a year and sold millions of copies. Banana Yoshimoto was hailed as a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of modern literature, and has been described as ‘the voice of young Japan’ by the Independent on Sunday.
‘The work of an original… Yoshimoto shows a brilliant, delicate discernment between the stages and agonies of loss in these two moving novellas’ – Penelope Fitzgerald
‘A perfect jewel of a novel, delicious and comforting and pure’ – Lena Dunham
‘A quality of poignant, dignified resilience makes this little work worthwhile’ – Independent
‘Yoshimoto’s writing is lucid, earnest and disarming, as emotionally observant as Jane Smiley’s, as fluently readable as Anne Tyler’s… at once familiar and bizarre’ – New York Times
‘Banana Yoshimoto is a master storyteller… The sensuality is subtle, masked, and extraordinarily powerful. The language is deceptively simple’ – Chicago Tribune
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummin
23 March 2021
Lydia Perez owns a bookshop in Acapulco, Mexico, and is married to a fearless journalist. Luca, their eight-year-old son, completes the picture. But it only takes a bullet to rip them apart.
In a city in the grip of a drug cartel, friends become enemies overnight, and Lydia has no choice but to flee with Luca at her side. North for the border… whatever it takes to stay alive. The journey is dangerous – not only for them, but for those they encounter along the way. Who can be trusted? And what sacrifices is Lydia prepared to make.
From its heart-stopping first sentence to its heart-shattering last, Cummins’ story of immigrants is just what we need now
From the opening page your heart will be in your mouth You will never want to put this story down, Jeanine Cummins has written a novel of such moment, such danger and such compassion, it will change your view of the world.
Weather by Jenny Offill
Thursday 18 March at 12 noon
An obligatory note of hope, in a world going to hell Lizzie Benson, a part-time librarian, is already overwhelmed with the crises of daily life when an old mentor offers her a job answering mail from the listeners of her apocalyptic podcast, Hell and High Water. Soon questions begin pouring in from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of Western civilization. Entering this polarized world, Lizzie is forced to consider who she is and what she can do to help: as a mother, as a wife, as a sister, and as a citizen of this doomed planet.
“This is so good. We are not ready nor worthy.” Ocean Vuong
“Gorgeous, funny and deadly serious” Max Porter
“A barometer of how it feels to live now” Sunday Times
The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan
Wednesday 17 February at 12 noon
Herbert Powyss lives on a small estate in the Welsh Marches, with enough time and income to pursue a gentleman’s fashionable cultivation of exotic plants and trees. But he longs to make his mark in the field of science. He hits on a radical experiment in isolation: for seven years a subject will inhabit three rooms in the cellar of the manor house, fitted out with books, paintings and even a chamber organ. Meals will arrive thrice daily via a dumbwaiter. The solitude will be totally unrelieved by any social contact; the subject will keep a diary of his daily thoughts and actions. Only one man is desperate enough to apply for the job: John Warlow, a semi-literate labourer with a wife and six children to provide for. The experiment, a classic Enlightenment exercise gone more than a little mad, will have unforeseen consequences for all included.
“An extraordinary, quite brilliant book” C J Sansom
“She is an original, with a virtuoso touch” Hilary Mantel
That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu
Tuesday 16 February at 8pm
K is sent into care before a year marks his birth. He grows up in fields and woods, and he is happy, he thinks. When K is eleven, the city reclaims him. He returns to an unknown mother and a part-time father, trading the fields for flats and a community that is alien to him. Slowly, he finds friends. Eventually, he finds love. He learns how to navigate the city. But as he grows, he begins to realise that he needs more than the city can provide. He is a man made of pieces. Pieces that are slowly breaking apart
That Reminds Me is the story of one young man, from birth to adulthood, told in fragments of memory. It explores questions of identity, belonging, addiction, sexuality, violence, family and religion. It is a deeply moving and completely original work of literature from one of the brightest British writers of today.
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020
“Beautiful… heartfelt” Benjamin Zephaniah
“Stunning” Bernardine Evaristo
“Heartbreaking” Christie Watson
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
13 January at 12 noon
Lolly Willowes, so gentle and accommodating, has depths no one suspects. When she suddenly announces that she is leaving London and moving, alone, to the depths of the countryside, her overbearing relatives are horrified. But Lolly has a greater, far darker calling than family: witchcraft.
‘A great should of life and individuality… an act of defiance that gladdens the soul.’ – The Guardian
‘The book I’ll be pressing into people’s hands forever… It tells the story of a woman who rejects the life that society has fixed for her in favour of freedom… Tips suddenly into extraordinary, lucid wildness.’ – Helen Macdonald
‘Witty, eerie, tender… her prose, in its simple, abrupt evocations, has something preternatural about it.’ – John Updike
The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy
Tuesday 12 January 8pm
Recently reissued by Faber and Faber, The Snow Ball caused a scandalous sensation when it was first published in 1964. Set during a New Year’s Eve party in a Georgian mansion, the novel promises a carnival of dazzling wit, subversive sexual politics and wicked satire!
Order your copy and join us for our first evening bookclub discussion of the year.
Wednesday 21 October at 12 noon
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
In 1956, towards the end of Reverend John Ames’s life, he begins a letter to his young son: ‘I told you last night that I might be gone sometime . . . You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother’s. It’s a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I’m always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I’ve suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.’
A fictional autobiography of the Reverend John Ames, an elderly, white pastor in the small, secluded town of Gilead in Iowa (also fictional), who knows that he is dying of a heart condition.
Marilynne Robinson has used characters and events from Gilead in three more novels – Home, Lila and Jack.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Tuesday 20 October at 8pm
Author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in 1960s Florida.
Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide ‘physical, intellectual and moral training’ which will equip its inmates to become ‘honorable and honest men’.
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back’. Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s ringing assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’ But Elwood’s fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.
The tension between Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.
Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.
Queenie by Candice Carty Williams
Tuesday 9 September, 8pm
Marie by Madeleine Bourdouxhe
Tuesday 8 August, 8pm
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Tuesday 7 July, 8pm
James Baldwin is as well known for his powerful essays and comment as he is for his fiction and this is one of his most famous pieces of works – a seminal piece of gay fiction.
Now feels like the ideal time to read this classic love story set in 1950s Paris, to continue the conversation about black history and black writers.
One of our recent guests, Benjamin Myers, called it ‘one of the greatest love stories ever written’.
Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe
Tuesday 16 June, 8pm
Books to make us laugh – was there ever a time when they were more needed and necessary?!
Our next bookshop bookclub book is Man at the Helm, by Nina Stibbe, the first book in a trilogy featuring Lizzie Vogel and her family. Once again, we’re in the favoured position that Nina will be joining us for our discussion on Zoom.
Nina was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction for Man at the Helm and the follow-up novel, Paradise Lodge, before winning the prize with the most recent book in the series, Reasons to be Cheerful. So we’re going to start at the beginning and who knows – maybe some of you will stick with the Vogels for the summer and enjoy some much needed giggles and sniggering over the next few weeks and months.
One Fine Day by Mollie Panter Downes
Tuesday 19 May, 8pm
This slim but affecting novel was first published in 1946. Through a single day in the life of a woman living in an English village, it is a vivid portrait of the aftermath of war and explores themes of reconciliation to change.
Mollie wrote several novels – including the recently re-issued My Husband Simon (which Fleur loved!) – but is most famous for her wartime diaries and work as London Correspondent to the New Yorker during WWII.
As we start to imagine what life beyond lockdown could look like, and with the 75th anniversary of VE day due to be celebrated on 8th May, we think this will be a particularly interesting and timely read.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Tuesday 5 May
Another online Bookclub meeting where the author joined in – this time Zooming in from the USA.
A Gentleman in Moscow has been read and loved by so many of the shop’s staff and customers. It’s a fantastically quirky and uplifting tale of confinement.
If you were not able to join us on the night or would like to relive the conversion do look at our video:
Lanny by Max Porter
Tuesday 21 April
Max came to the shop for one of our very first author events, when we had a full house for his Grief is the Thing With Feathers, so it was lovely to have him come along again for our online Bookclub conversation about his new book.
Lanny by Max Porter£9.99