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Fiction Friday: read an excerpt from John Hunt's The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in his Head

John Hunt, author of The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in his Head. © Joanne Olivier.

 
While other boys daydream about racing cars and football, eleven-year-old stutterer Phen sits reading to his father. In number four Duchess Court, Phen’s dad looks like a Spitfire pilot behind his oxygen mask.

But real life is different from the daring adventures in the books Phen reads and he is forced to grow up faster than other boys his age.

This is until Heb Thirteen Two shows up: in his pinstriped suit pants and tie-dyed psychedelic top, the stranger could be any old bum, or a boy’s special angel come to live among men.

Poignant, witty and wise, John Hunt’s The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head is a meditation on being alive and shows us the power of books when we need them the most.
 
 
John Hunt is the author of the novel The Space Between the Space Between. His book The Art of the Idea, which celebrates the power of ideas to move the world forward, has been translated into several languages. He is currently Worldwide Creative Chair of advertising agency network TBWA, having previously co-founded TBWA\Hunt Lascaris. He grew up in Hillbrow and still lives and works in Johannesburg.

Read an excerpt from Hunt’s remarkable novel here:

Hillbrow, 1967. The New York of Africa. Apartheid kept the roads clean and the rubbish collected. There were buildings going up everywhere – “lickety-split”, according to Mr Trentbridge. Large chunks of tin-roof houses were found in skips almost every day as the boy walked home from school. These homes were recently surrounded by honest gardens and the occasional peach tree. Someone wrote in The Star newspaper that soon Hillbrow would have more people per square kilometre than Tokyo. Everyone quoted that article to everyone. Some even cut it out and kept it folded in their wallets.

The boy, who went by the name of Phen, lived in Duchess Court. You’ll find it at 20 O’Reilly Road, Berea. Technically it’s in Berea, but for all intents and purposes it’s Hillbrow. The heartland of Hillbrow, the parallel streets of Kotze and Pretorius, is barely a three-minute amble away. Duchess Court was built in the twenties, solid and grey with flirty bits of art deco. When first constructed it must have dominated the skyline. By the time Phen moved in, though, it had the look of an old, stout woman in a sombre overcoat that had been mended too often.

Not that the building was without its charm. At its core was the wood-panelled lift with its bevelled mirror, known to all simply as Mr Otis. He waited at the end of the foyer with three cast-iron ladies above his lintel. Joined together, they danced in a chorus line with their right legs held scandalously high. If you opened the heavy wooden door, then slid back the metal gate, the lift would take you a clanking six storeys high. The grill, when concertinaed closed, left big gaps you could peer through. As you faced forward the lift shaft was presented in vertical grey strips that drifted upwards in a slow-motion blur. This was punctuated by six square bursts of yellow if you went all the way to the top. The lift door at each floor had a small glass window allowing you to wave to people as you went past them.

Stopping was always a violent and inexact affair. Tenants would suggest to newcomers that they lean against the walls or, at the very least, hold on to the polished brass handle of the metal gate as the lift slammed to a halt anywhere between a foot and an inch away from the floor of your choice. The uninitiated would battle to see this as an arrival and presume something had gone wrong. It was only after the metal door had been brazenly slid open that they would sheepishly step up or down and then out.

Phen lived on the ground floor in number four. His trips with Mr Otis were therefore infrequent or for fun. And a fertile imagination grew more fecund when transport was on hand. There was a time when, based at military headquarters behind the washing line on the roof, he needed to find the V2 rocket base the Germans were using. London was taking a terrible pounding and it was all up to his commando unit. After days of relentless reconnaissance they found the cunning concrete shaft dug six storeys deep into the mountainside. Although they were vastly outnumbered, thanks to the element of surprise the mission was a total success.

If you sat on the bonnet of Mr Trentbridge’s Ford Cortina and looked at Duchess Court, number four was situated on the extreme right-hand corner. A palm tree, planted years ago, blocked out ninety per cent of the view from the balcony and stretched up to the fourth floor. Doves cooed high up in the fronds as if the tiny strip of green between the building and the pavement was an oasis. Phen often Lawrence-of-Arabiaed around that tree, offering dates and nuts in the form of Wilson’s toffees to the gathered Bedouin tribes. He would need their help if the Turks were to be driven out of the Middle East once and for all.

With a dishcloth on his head he blew up countless enemy trains as they moved through the desert and up O’Reilly Road. His plunger was a pencil he’d wedged into a hole he’d made in the top of an empty condensed-milk tin. As he rammed it down hard, the dynamite hurled the huge locomotives into the air. Volkswagens, Morris Minors, Fiats and the occasional Peugeot would launch helplessly off the ground and land on their sides and roofs.

“Tell your men not to waste ammunition, Sharif Nassir. There are still many battles to come for the Harith tribe.”

It was an easy yet pitiless business finishing them off. Hidden behind the garden wall, his sawn-off broomstick picked them off one by one. It wasn’t pretty but then war never was. He had to remind himself, “Mankind has had ten thousand years of experience at fighting and if we must fight, we have no excuse for not fighting well.”

The flat itself was bigger on the inside than it looked from the outside. He lived in a flat while all the new buildings around him contained apartments. That was typical of words; they changed without rhyme or reason. And when you asked why, no one could give you an answer. His flat wasn’t flatter. In fact, the older buildings had much higher ceilings. And those new apartments were built so tightly together they should be called closements. His father said flats came from Britain and apartments from America. He said those damn Yanks were getting in everywhere.

If you opened the front door to number four you could turn sharp left into the kitchen or proceed straight into the dining room. The kitchen floor was covered in one flat sheet of green linoleum that bubbled depending on where you stood. You could get the bubble to move but you could never get it to disappear. Much like trying to get the dent out of a ping-pong ball. Trapped air is happy to be transported, but, it will take its ballooned vacuum with it. Concerned visitors even suggested there may be a mouse problem in the kitchen. This, in turn, created such embarrassment for Phen’s mother that his routine job became to force the bubble behind the fridge before anyone came to visit.

Not that walking in the dining room was without its challenges. Like the rest of the flat, it was all parquet flooring in what used to be a very close-fit herringbone design. Over the years, the perpetual pounding of feet in the high-traffic zones had begun to take their toll. Like a piano with a number of loose keys, the initial appearance of a smooth surface was deceptive. If you stood on the tail of the wrong wooden slat, its head would pop up like a snake ready to strike.

The most dangerous square lay, innocuously, directly on the path to the lounge. All three hardwood planks were loose and sat next to each other at slightly different heights. If you were carrying a tray you never stood a chance. And if you were a brisk or heavy walker one of the three would often flip out completely and smack you on the shin.

When Phen had caught his mother crying, even though she’d said everything was alright, he decided to fix the floor in an attempt to cheer her up. He was a bit of a hoarder and went straight to the top shelf of his cupboard. Under his two neatly folded school shirts he fished out the OK Bazaars plastic bag. Beside the egg from two Easters ago and the strips of liquorice, now a deep emerald green, he found his stash of chewing gum. He wasn’t sure exactly how long to chew for. After the taste had left, was the stickiness gone too? He decided merely to make the gum moist then pull it out. Each piece was given a minute in his mouth. No more, no less.

He’d seen pictures of master craftsmen at work and tried to adopt their demeanour. He held the edge of the slats up to the light and frowned at their unseemly roughness. He traced his finger across the ancient lumps of bitumen, then took his mother’s metal nail file and made them smooth. He’d put a newspaper on the dining-room table to catch their falling flakes, but most fell gently into the fruit bowl. Once finished, each six-inch plank was lined up vertically on the sideboard like a row of dominoes. He was uncertain about how to apply the chewing gum. One long stretch? Or a series of blobs?

After experimenting with both, he decided on the blobs. The measured distance between each mound of gum seemed aesthetically more pleasing and carried a greater sense of purpose. It reminded him of his Meccano set where a series of aligned holes solved everything. This choice demanded more material and depleted his entire reserve. By the time he was finished, a three-year collection of gum lay beneath the dining-room floor. Most were Chappies so he kept the wrappers to read the jokes and Did You Knows printed inside. However, there was also the faint whiff of peppermint and spearmint from other gums. Phen felt proud and exhilarated when he was finished. There is a kind of satisfaction that seeps in when a job requiring physical labour is well done. It’s the sort of feeling that sustains you for quite a while even when no one else notices your handiwork.

On the south side of the dining-room wall was a door which opened into a cupboard that was so deep it was referred to as the storeroom. The three shelves at the back were packed with the finality of knowing no one was ever going to reach them. On the middle of the top shelf, bristling like a series of broken vertebrae, lay the deformed wire hoops of the record rack. Somehow on its journey in the delivery van from Shotley Residential Hotel, not even half a mile away, the leg of the sofa had been placed on its delicate spine. The wire channels were now splayed embarrassingly wide in the middle and impossibly tight on the opposite edges. South Pacific, Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Gigi and all their contemporaries were therefore forced to lie on top of one other, flat and square. They, in turn, rested upon a hatbox from another age. Now empty, its circular velvet-covered lid captured the memory, if not the contents, of its beauty.

One shelf below, and slightly to the left, lay the likewise empty hamster cage that had once housed Philby. Phen had been allowed to buy the white hamster provided his father could name him. “That rodent should’ve been behind bars years ago.” Only much later he learned that Philby was a British double agent who’d defected to the USSR. Teeth marks could still be seen where the hamster had gnawed through the pale blue powder coating of his steel feeding tray. Phen had placed the cage there himself, in a solemn ceremony shortly after Philby’s demise. He hadn’t been sure where you put the homes of the dead, let alone the dead themselves. He had wanted to ask, but couldn’t find the courage. He sensed a plastic bag and the dustbin might have been the answer. When he’d returned from school, his mother had given him a hug, said she was sorry and now the subject was closed.

Which is why, two weeks later, when the hamster wheel began to run wildly deep in the darkness of the cupboard, Phen was at first confused and then elated. He’d read the stories and seen the pictures of the resurrection. He’d pored over those yellow rays that burst from behind dark clouds as white doves, caught in a whirlwind, spun up to heaven. He ran to the door and smote the darkness asunder. The huge black rat was clearly startled by the light suddenly flicking on. However, with size comes a certain confidence. He allowed himself a few extra whirls before darting out the cage door and through a pile of London Illustrated News.

The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in his Head

Book details

Kingsmead Book Fair programme and authors announced!

Authors, editors, poets and publishers will congregate at Kingsmead College on Saturday 12 May from 8:30 AM to 6 PM for the seventh annual Kingsmead Book Fair.

Bibliophiles can expect an assortment of literary discussions including deliberations on political unrest in South Africa, culinary conversations with some of South Africa’s most prolific food-writers, and the mysterious processes authors go through to get their stories onto the page.

Authors you can look forward to include Achmat Dangor (Bitter Fruit, Dikeledi), Sisonke Msimang (Always Another Country), Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀ (Stay With Me), Claire Bisseker (On the Brink), Fred Khumalo (Bitches’ Brew), Fred Strydom (The Inside-Out Man), Glynnis Breytenbach (Rule of Law), Gregg Hurwitz (HellBent), Ishay Govender-Ypma (Curry), Kate Mosse (The Burning Chambers), Jacques Pauw (The President’s Keepers), Sally Partridge (Mine), Zinzi Clemmons (What We Lose), Pumla Dineo-Gqola (Reflecting Rogue), Redi Tlhabi (Khwezi), Tracy Going (Brutal Legacy), Rehana Rossouw (New Times), Peter Harris (Bare Ground), Mandy Wiener (Killing Kebble), and many, many more…

Kingsmead Book Fair supports numerous literary projects across the country, encouraging and instilling a love of reading and contributing to South African literacy rates across the board. The Link Reading Programme, Alexandra Education Committee, Sparrow Schools, Read to Rise, and St Vincent’s School for the Deaf are all supported by this singular book fair.

The full programme for this year’s fair is available here.

Tickets can be purchased online via WebTickets.

‘Til May 12th!

Bitter Fruit

Book details

 
 
Dikeledi

 
 
 

Always Another Country

 
 
 

Stay With Me

 
 
 

On the Brink

 
 
 

Bitches' Brew

 
 
 

The Inside-Out Man

 
 
 

Rule of Law

 
 
 

HellBent

 
 
 

The Burning Chambers

 
 
 

The President's Keeper

 
 
 

Mine

 
 
 

What We Lose

 
 
 

Reflecting Rogue

 
 
 

Khwezi

 
 
 

Brutal Legacy

 
 
 

New Times

 
 
 

Bare Ground

 
 
 

Killing Kebble

Poignant, witty and wise, John Hunt's The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head is a mediation on being alive and shows us the power of books when we need them the most

“Hillbrow, 1967. The New York of Africa. Someone wrote that the place would soon have more people per square kilometre than Tokyo. Everyone quoted that article to everyone. Some even cut it out and kept it folded in their wallets.”


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

While other boys daydream about racing cars and football, eleven-year-old stutterer Phen sits reading to his father. In number four Duchess Court, Phen’s dad looks like a Spitfire pilot behind his oxygen mask.

But real life is different from the daring adventures in the books Phen reads and he is forced to grow up faster than other boys his age.

This is until Heb Thirteen Two shows up: in his pinstriped suit pants and tie-dyed psychedelic top, the stranger could be any old bum, or a boy’s special angel come to live among men.

Poignant, witty and wise, John Hunt’s The Boy Who Could Keep a Swan in His Head is a meditation on being alive and shows us the power of books when we need them the most.

John Hunt is the author of the novel The Space Between the Space Between. His book The Art of the Idea, which celebrates the power of ideas to move the world forward, has been translated into several languages. He is currently Worldwide Creative Chair of advertising agency network TBWA, having previously co-founded TBWA\Hunt Lascaris. He grew up in Hillbrow and still lives and works in Johannesburg.

Book details

Launch: Michael K by Nthikeng Mohlele (19 April)

‘Those in the know claim Michael K disembarked from a diesel-smoke-spewing truck one overcast morning, looked around, and without missing a beat, chose a spot where he set down a small bucket (red, burnt and disfigured) that contained an assortment of seedlings, some fisherman’s twine and a rudimentary gardening tool – probably self-made.’

How is it that a character from literary fiction can so alter the landscapes he touches, even as he – in his self-imposed isolation – seeks to avoid them? How is it that Michael K, bewildered and bewildering, can remain so fragile yet so present, so imposing without attempting to be so?

In this response to JM Coetzee’s classic masterpiece, Life & Times of Michael K, Nthikeng Mohlele dabbles in the artistic and speculative in a unique attempt to unpack the dazed and disconnected world of the title character, his solitary ways, his inventiveness, but also to show how astutely Michael K holds up a mirror to those whose paths he inadvertently crosses. Michael K explores the weight of history and of conscience, thus wrestling the character from the confines of literary creation to the frontiers of artistic timelessness.

Event Details

15 eBooks to dig into this month

The Punishment She Deserves
Elizabeth George

Award-winning author Elizabeth George delivers another masterpiece of suspense in her Inspector Lynley series: Lynley and his pugnacious and deeply loyal Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers find themselves up against one of the most sinister murder cases they have ever encountered.

When a Member of Parliament shows up in the office of the Assistant Commissioner at New Scotland Yard, trouble quickly follows. He is there to request an investigation into the suicide of the son of one of his constituents in the medieval town of Ludlow, who happens to be a wealthy brewer with a team of solicitors ready to file a major lawsuit over the death.

The Assistant Commissioner sees two opportunities in this request: the first is to have an MP owing him a favour, and the second is to get rid of Detective Sergeant Barbara Havers, whose career at the Met has been hanging by a thread for quite some time. So he assigns Barbara Havers to the case and partners her not with her regular partner but with the one person who shares his enthusiasm for ridding the Metropolitan Police of Barbara Havers, Detective Chief Superintendent Isabelle Ardery. But Ardery has her own difficulties, the most heartbreaking of which is the loss of her twin sons to a move to New Zealand.

She is not happy to be sent away from London and as a result is in a rush to return. This rush causes her to overlook things, important things, and prevents her from uncovering an earlier crime that set everything in motion.

Praise for Elizabeth George:

“George is one of the best crime novelists around – there’s a richness and psychological depth to her work which lifts it well above genre fluff.” Time Out

“Her crime novels combine Victorian craftsmanship, psychological observation and ingenious plotting. George’s celebrated attention to detail keeps the reader totally immersed. Bliss.” – Saga

“She’s a designer of fastidious mosaics that never fail to intrigue.” – Guardian

“She writes extremely well, plots brilliantly and reaches an emotional level deeper than most.” – The Times

“Presses all the buttons to make us hoover her stuff up.” – Daily Telegraph

Elizabeth George is the author of highly acclaimed novels of psychological suspense. She won the Anthony and Agatha Best First Novel awards in America and received the Grand Prix de Littérature Policière in France. In 1990 she was awarded the prestigious German prize for international mystery fiction, the MIMI. Her novels have now been adapted for television by the BBC. An Edgar and Macavity Nominee as well as a New York Times and international bestselling author, George lives on Whidbey Island in the state of Washington.

The Girl in the Woods
Camilla Lackberg

No. 1 international bestseller and Swedish crime sensation Camilla Lackberg’s new psychological thriller featuring Detective Patrik Hedström and Erica Falck – irresistible for fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo.

A missing child
When a four-year-old girl disappears in the woods just outside Fjällbacka, the community is horror-struck. Thirty years ago, a young girl went missing from the exact same spot, and was later discovered, murdered.
A murder
Back then, two teenage girls were found guilty of the killing. Could it really be a coincidence that one of the girls – now a world-famous actress – has just returned to Fjällbacka? Detective Patrik Hedström starts investigating, with his wife, bestselling crime writer Erica Falck, by his side.
A community torn apart
But as Patrik and Erica dig deeper, the truth becomes ever murkier, because it seems that everyone in the tight-knit community is hiding something. And soon, the residents must confront the fact that they could be harbouring a murderer in their midst…

Praise for Camilla Lackberg:

“Domesticity and brutality are Lackberg staples… Tightly plotted… Unflinching.” – Sunday Times

“Heart-stopping and heart-warming … a masterclass in Scandinavian crime writing.” – Val McDermid

“Pacy … with flashing insight into the dark places of the psyche.” – Sunday Times

“A top-class Scandinavian crime writer.”- The Times

“The rock star of Nordic Noir.” – Independent

“Lackberg is an expert at mixing scenes of domestic cosiness with blood-curdling horror.” – Guardian

“Both chilling and thrilling.” – Sun

The Heart is a Burial Ground
Tamara Colchester

‘I will describe it as best I can. This is their story. Or perhaps just mine. Let us begin, again . . .’

A vivid and inventive debut novel about four generations of women in a family, their past and their legacy, which evokes the work of Kate Atkinson, Tessa Hadley and Virginia Baily.

On a brisk day in 1970, a daughter arrives at her mother’s home to take care of her as she nears the end of her life. ‘Home’ is the sprawling Italian castle of Roccasinibalda, and Diana’s mother is the legendary Caresse Crosby, one half of literature’s most scandalous couple in 1920s Paris, widow of Harry Crosby, the American heir, poet and publisher who epitomised the ‘Lost Generation’.

But it was not only Harry who was lost.

Their incendiary love story concealed a darkness that marked mercurial Diana and still burns through the generations: through Diana’s troubled daughters Elena and Leonie, and Elena’s young children.

Moving between the decades, between France, Italy and the Channel Islands, Tamara Colchester’s debut novel is an unforgettably powerful portrait of a line of extraordinary women, and the inheritance they give their daughters.

Tamara Colchester is a descendant of Caresse Crosby and was inspired by her family history to write this exceptional work of fiction, her debut novel. Tamara is a writer and artist whose work has appeared in various publications, including AnOther Magazine. She lives in West Sussex.

Red Clocks
Leni Zumas

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo.

In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

Red Clocks is at once a riveting drama whose mysteries unfold with magnetic energy, and a shattering novel of ideas. With the verve of Naomi Alderman’s The Power and the prescient brilliance of The Handmaid’s Tale, Leni Zumas’ incredible new novel is fierce, fearless and frighteningly plausible.

“Strange and lovely and luminous. I loved Red Clocks with my whole heart.” – Kelly Link, author of Pretty Monsters

“In bristling sentences that strike with stunning efficiency, Leni Zumas shows girls and women defying the excruciating restrictions imposed by both law and culture. This is not only timely but necessary fiction – uncannily prescient, unabashedly political, and fiercely humane. We so desperately need books like this.” – Emily Fridlund, author of History of Wolves

“Hilarious, terrifying, and masterful- this pitch-perfect, timely novel reflects the horror and absurdity of our political landscape with a brilliance that ensures the book’s timelessness. It’s as riotously fun as it is chilling. Zumas has produced a poignant, wickedly sharp classic.” – Alissa Nutting, author of Tampa

“Leni Zumas here proves she can do almost anything… Red Clocks is funny, mordant, baroque, political, poetic, alarming, and inspiring – not to mention a way forward for fiction now.” – Maggie Nelson, author of The Argonauts

Leni Zumas is the author of the story collection Farewell Navigator and the novel The Listeners, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She is an associate professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Portland State University.

Rise: How Jeremy Corbyn Inspired the Young to Create a New Socialism
Liam Young

“Liam is one of Britain’s most brilliant young writers. He was ridiculed for believing a Corbyn-led Labour party could inspire people – but ultimately completely vindicated. If you want to know why the youth surge happened, this is an absolute must-read.” Owen Jones

The 2017 general election saw Jeremy Corbyn inspire young people to demand a new kind of socialism.

Now, from the heart of the Labour Party, Liam Young asks how this new movement can help secure a fairer and better society for all.

When Jeremy Corbyn decided to stand for the Labour leadership in 2015, Liam Young – then just 19 years old – knew this was a watershed moment for the party and for young people across the country. He joined Corbyn’s campaign and was soon writing for the Independent and the New Statesman, explaining how the new leader would energise the youth vote and bring forward a new kind of politics.

While many commentators questioned Corbyn’s actions, Young wrote about how his policies would work and be hugely popular.

He harnessed the power of social media and is emerging as one of the most influential voices on the left for his generation and beyond. When the general election results of 2017 came through, he was not surprised by the surge in support for Corbyn’s Labour.

Rise is not only a superb insider account of how the youth movement in the Labour Party galvanised a nation that will appeal to readers of books by Owen Jones and Paul Mason, but it is also a manifesto for the future and a call to action for anyone who believes it should be possible to create a better Britain.

Liam Young is a journalist and political activist who, aged 19, worked for Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership campaign in 2015. He has written for the Independent and the New Statesman. Having recently completed his degree in International Relations at the LSE, he now works as a political adviser.

A long way from home
Cathy Glass

The true story of two year-old Anna, abandoned by her natural parents, left alone in a neglected orphanage.

Elaine and Ian had travelled half way round the world to adopt little Anna. She couldn’t have been more wanted, loved and cherished. So why was she now in foster care and living with me? It didn’t make sense. Until I learned what had happened…

Dressed only in nappies and ragged T-shirts the children were incarcerated in their cots. Their large eyes stared out blankly from emaciated faces. Some were obviously disabled, others not, but all were badly undernourished. Flies circled around the broken ceiling fans and buzzed against the grids covering the windows. The only toys were a few balls and a handful of building bricks, but no child played with them. The silence was deafening and unnatural. Not one of the thirty or so infants cried, let alone spoke.

Cathy Glass’s first book Damaged was a number 1 Sunday Times best-seller, both in hardback and paperback. Cathy has published twenty fostering memoirs since 2007. Her previous book – Nobody’s Son was the Sunday Times Number One best selling paperback for two weeks and in the top 10 for six consecutive weeks. She has sold over 1 million TCM copies in the UK alone.

Cathy has been a foster carer for over 25 years, during which time she has looked after more than 100 children, of all ages and backgrounds. She has three teenage children of her own; one of whom was adopted after a long-term foster placement. The name Cathy Glass is a pseudonym. Cathy has written 18 books, including bestselling memoirs Damaged, Cut, and Will You Love Me?

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club
Sophie Green

Books bring them together – but friendship will transform all of their lives.

In 1978 the Northern Territory in Australia has begun to self-govern and telephones are not yet a common fixture. Life is hard and people are isolated, but these five women find a way to connect.

Sybil, the matriarch of Fairvale Station, misses her eldest son and is looking for a distraction.

Kate, Sybil’s daughter-in-law, is thousands of miles away from home and finding it difficult to adjust to life at Fairvale.

Sallyanne, mother of three, dreams of a life far removed from the dusty town where she lives with her difficult husband.

Rita, Sybil’s oldest friend, is living far away in Alice Springs and working for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

And Della, who left Texas for Australia looking for adventure and work on the land, needs some purpose in her life.

Sybil comes up with a way to give them all companionship: they all love to read, and she forms a book club. As these five women bond over their love of books, they form friendships that will last a lifetime. Warm-hearted, comforting and richly told, this is the perfect feel-good read for book lovers everywhere.

Praise for Sophie Green:

“Brimming with atmosphere and warmth, this gorgeous book completely carried me away. I absolutely loved it.” – Jenny Ashcroft, author of Beneath a Burning Sky

Sophie Green is an author and publisher who lives in Sydney. She has written several fiction and non-fiction books, some under other names. In her spare time she writes about country music on her blog, Jolene. She fell in love with the Northern Territory the first time she visited and subsequent visits inspired the story in The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.

Let Me Lie
Clare Mackintosh

The stunning, twisty new psychological thriller from number one bestseller, Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and I See You.

The police say it was suicide. Anna says it was murder. They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since. Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to ask questions about her parents’ deaths. But by digging up the past, is she putting her future in danger? Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie . . . The stunning, twisty new psychological thriller from number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and I See You.

Praise for Clare Mackintosh:

“A finely crafted novel with a killer twist.” Paula Hawkins on I Let You Go

“The pacing, plotting and twists put it up there with the finest thrillers.” JoJo Moyes on I Let You Go

“Sensational.” Daily Mail on I Let You Go

“Wonderfully sinister.” Fiona Barton on I See You

“A highly accomplished novel . . . arresting . . . ingenious.” Sunday Times on I See You

“Accomplished, addictive and thought-provoking.” B A Paris on I See You

“Creepy and compelling.” Claire Douglas on I See You

Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force, including time on CID, and as a public order commander. She left the police in 2011 to work as a freelance journalist and social media consultant and is the founder of the Chipping Norton Literary Festival.

The Other Couple
Sarah Naughton

This was meant to be the perfect honeymoon.

A five-star beach resort in Vietnam, with white sands, private villas and world-class cuisine. A chance for newlyweds Amber and Ollie Graveney to recover from a tragedy that has left them on the verge of collapse. Except things don’t go as planned. When Amber wakes up in hospital after a brutal attack, her husband is nowhere to be found. And paradise has turned into a nightmare…

Sarah J Naughton grew up in Dorset, on a diet of tales of imperiled heroines and wolves in disguise. As an adult her reading matter changed but those dark fairytales had deep roots. Her debut children’s thriller, The Hanged Man Rises, featured a fiend from beyond the grave menacing the streets of Victorian London, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Costa award. Tattletale was her first psychological thriller for adults.

Sarah lives in Central London with her husband and two sons.

Speak No Evil
Uzodinma Iweala

In the long-anticipated novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, a revelation shared between two privileged teenagers from very different backgrounds sets off a chain of events with devastating consequences.

On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, DC, he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer – an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except his best friend, Meredith – the one person who seems not to judge him. When his father accidentally finds out, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding towards a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed. Speak No Evil is a novel about the power of words and self-identification, about who gets to speak and who has the power to speak for other people.

Praise for Iweala:

“A lovely slender volume that packs in entire worlds with complete mastery. Speak No Evil explains so much about our times and yet is never anything less than a scintillating, page-turning read.” – Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure

“A wrenching, tightly woven story about many kinds of love and many kinds of violence. Speak No Evil probes deeply but also with compassion the cruelties of a loving home. Iweala’s characters confront you in close-up, as viscerally, bodily alive as any in contemporary fiction.” – Larissa MacFarquhar

Speak No Evil is the rarest of novels: the one you start out just to read, then end up sinking so deeply into it, seeing yourself so clearly in it, that the novel starts reading you.” – Marlon James

Uzodinma Iweala was born in Washington, D.C., to Nigerian parents and now splits his time between the worlds of Nigeria and New York. He intimately knows the milieu he depicts in this novel first-hand. A story that encapsulates one young man’s attempts to bridge a cultural divide, Speak No Evil is a must read for fans of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Marlon James, Teju Cole, and Garth Greenwell Reviews.

Iweala received the 2006 John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for Beasts of No Nation. In 2007, he was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists. A graduate of Harvard University and the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, he lives in New York City and Lagos, Nigeria.

Like Sodium in Water
Hayden Eastwood

“Dad thinks lots of things are right-wing. He even thinks He-Man is right-wing. I ask Dad who we are and he says left-wing. Left is opposite to right. If right is bad, then we’re the opposite of that, which means we’re good.”

It’s post-independence Zimbabwe and an atmosphere of nostalgia hangs over much of Harare’s remaining white community. Hayden Eastwood grows up in a family that sets itself apart, distinguishing themselves from Rhodie-Rhodies through their politics: left is good; right is bad.

Within the family’s free and easy approach to life, Hayden and his younger brother, Dan, make a pact to never grow up, to play hide and seek and build forts forever, and to never, ever be interested in girls. But as Hayden and Dan develop as teenagers, and the chemicals of adolescence begin to stir, their childhood pact starts to unravel.

And with the arrival of Sarah into their lives, the two brothers find themselves embroiled in an unspoken love triangle. While Sarah and Hayden spend increasing amounts of time together, Dan is left to deal with feelings of rejection and the burden of hidden passion alone, and the demise of a silly promise brings with it a wave of destruction.

Laced with humour, anger and sadness, Like Sodium in Water is an account of a family in crisis and an exploration of how we only abandon the lies we tell ourselves when we have no other option.

When not informing people about the inadvisability of push-starting motorbikes in close proximity to rivers, Hayden Eastwood develops cryptocurrency trading bots as part of a high-risk low-return business venture portfolio. Non-transferable skills from a doctorate in computational physics have likewise ill-equipped him for gooseberry farming, vehicle maintenance and relationships with women. He lives in Harare.

Divided
Tim Marshall

• Essential new reading from the no.1 Sunday Times and internationally bestselling author of Prisoners of Geography, which has sold more than 235,000 in the UK and is being translated into 17 languages, selling over half a million copies worldwide.

• Punchy and engaging insights into global politics – this is an intelligent, accessible approach to a complex topic.

• Tim is an established and respected media commentator on foreign affairs, and has a large and loyal following.

• He will be on television and radio to promote the book. We feel more divided than ever. This riveting popular analysis tells you why.

THE BOOK
“One of the best books about geopolitics you could imagine.” – Nicholas Lezard, Evening Standard, on Prisoners of Geography
 
 
 
Walls are going up.

Nationalism and identity politics are on the rise once more.

Over 6,000 miles of fences and barriers have been erected in the past ten years, and they are redefining our political landscape.

There are many reasons why walls go up, because we are divided in many ways: wealth, race, religion, politics. In Europe the divisions of the past decade threaten not only European unity, but in some countries liberal democracy itself. In China, the Party’s need to contain the divisions wrought by capitalism will define the nation’s future. In the USA the rationale for the Mexican border wall runs deeper than the need to control illegal immigration; it taps into the fear that the USA will no longer be a white majority country during the course of this century.

Understanding what has divided us, past and present, is essential to understanding much of what’s going on in the world today. In ten chapters covering The Great Divides; China; the USA; the UK; Europe; the Middle East; India and Bangladesh; Africa; The Spaces In Between; and The Bridges Across, bestselling author Tim Marshall presents an unflinching and essential overview of the faultlines that will shape our world for years to come.

Tim Marshall is a leading authority on foreign affairs with more than 30 years of reporting experience. He was diplomatic editor at Sky News, and before that was working for the BBC and LBC/IRN radio. He has reported from 40 countries and covered conflicts in Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. He is the author of the no.1 Sunday Times bestseller Prisoners of Geography; Worth Dying For: The Power and Politics of Flags; “Dirty Northern B*st*rds!” and Other Tales from the Terraces: The Story of Britain’s Football Chants; and Shadowplay: The Inside Story of the Overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic (a bestseller in former Yugoslavia). He is founder and editor of the current affairs site TheWhatandtheWhy.com.

Flamingo Boy
Michael Morpurgo

A stunning new classic from master storyteller Michael Morpurgo for readers of 9+, in the vein of Private Peaceful and The Butterfly Lion.

This is a landmark new novel form the nation’s favourite storyteller, set in the unique landscape of the Camargue in the South of France during WW2. There, a young autistic boy lives on his parents’ farm among the salt flats, and the flamingos that live there. There are lots of things he doesn’t understand: but he does know how to heal animals. He loves routine, and music too: and every week he goes to market with his mother, to ride his special horse on the town carousel. But then the Germans come, with their guns, and take the town. A soldier shoots a flamingo from the sky, and it falls to earth terribly injured. And even worse is to come: the carousel is damaged, the horses broken. For this vulnerable boy, everything is falling apart. Only there’s a kind sergeant among the Germans – a man with a young boy of his own at home, a man who trained as a carpenter. Between them, perhaps boy and man can mend what has been broken – and maybe even the whole town…
 
• A brand new fiction title from the Nation’s Favourite Storyteller and author of War Horse, Michael Morpurgo
Listen to the Moon was shortlisted for a Costa Book Award
• Michael Morpurgo’s English Language sales exceed 34 million copies
• Michael’s UK sales exceed 5 million copies (TCM Bookscan, 2013)
War Horse and Private Peaceful books have been made into films establishing Michael Morpurgo as a household name internationally
• Michael currently has over 44k FB likes and his website visits regularly exceed 20k “Please invite this wonderful story in, you won’t regret it. History is rarely more movingly alive.”

Praise for Michael Morpurgo:

“Michael Morpurgo writes brilliantly about war and animals, conveying the big emotions without preaching.” – Morris Gleitzman

“There are few children’s writers as compelling as Michael Morpurgo.” – Daily Telegraph

“Morpurgo, as always, is subtle and skilful, and incorporates social and moral issues into his writing without being self-righteous or detracting from the quality of the narrative.” – Elizabeth Reilly, British Council

“The former children’s laureate has the happy knack of speaking to both child and adult readers.” – Guardian

Michael Morpurgo OBE is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children. He has written over 100 books and won many prizes, including the Smarties Prize, the Blue Peter Book Award and the Whitbread Award. His recent bestselling novels include Shadow, A Medal for Leroy and Little Manfred. His novel War Horse has been successfully adapted as a West End and Broadway theatre play and a major film by Steven Spielberg. A former Children’s Laureate, Michael is also the co-founder, with his wife Clare, of the charity Farms for City Children.

Unscaled: How A.I. and a New Generation of Upstarts are Creating the Economy of the Future
Hemant Taneja

The most successful startups of the present and future are turning the old rule on its head – bigger is not always better.

Throughout the twentieth century, technology and economics drove a dominant logic: bigger was almost always better. It was smart to scale up – to take advantage of classic economies of scale. But in the unscaled economy, size and scale have become a liability.

Today’s most successful companies – Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, Salesforce – have defied the traditional ‘economies of scale’ approach by renting scale instead of spending vast amounts of money building it. And a new generation of upstarts is using artificial intelligence to automate tasks that once required expensive investment, enabling them to grow big without the bloat of giant organisations.

In Unscaled, Hemant Taneja convincingly shows how the unscaled economy is remaking massive, deeply-rooted industries and opening up fantastic possibilities for entrepreneurs, imaginative companies and resourceful individuals. Beyond that, it can be the model for solving some of the world’s greatest problems, including climate change and soaring healthcare costs, potentially reversing many of the ills brought on by mass industrialization.

The unscale wave has only just started.

To succeed in business today, companies, CEOs and leaders everywhere must unlearn what they have been taught – they must embrace an unscaled mindset.

Hemant Taneja is a managing director at General Catalyst, a venture capital firm with offices in San Francisco, Palo Alto, New York City, and Boston. In his civic life, he has cofounded Advanced Energy Economy, an organization focused on transforming energy policy in America, is a board member of Khan Academy, a non-profit educational organization, and serves on the Stanford School of Medicine Board of Fellows. He also lectures at MIT and Stanford University and has published articles about the unscaling phenomenon in the Harvard Business Review and on TechCrunch.

New Scientist: The Origin of (almost) Everything
New Scientist (Illustrated By Jennifer Daniel)

Does Anything Eat Wasps? meets Information is Beautiful: A full-colour infographic journey through life, the universe and everything.

Introduction by Professor Stephen Hawking.

From what actually happened in the Big Bang to the accidental discovery of post-it notes, science is packed with surprising discoveries. Did you know, for instance, that if you were to get too close to a black hole it would suck you up like a noodle (it’s called spaghettification), why your keyboard is laid out in QWERTY (it’s not to make it easier to type) or whether the invention of the wheel was less important to civilization than the bag (think about it).

New Scientist does.

And now they and the New York Times‘ brilliant graphics editor Jennifer Daniel want to take you on a whistlestop journey from the start of our universe (through the history of stars, galaxies, meteorites, the Moon and dark energy) to our planet (through oceans and weather to oil) and life (through dinosaurs to emotions and sex) to civilization (from cities to alcohol and cooking), knowledge (from alphabets to alchemy) ending up with technology (computers to rocket science).

Witty essays explore the concepts alongside enlightening infographics that zoom from how many people have ever lived to showing you how a left-wing brain differs from a right-wing one.

New Scientist

Since 1956, New Scientist has established a world-beating reputation for exploring and uncovering the latest developments and discoveries in science and technology, placing them in context and exploring what they mean for the future. Each week through a variety of different channels, including print, online, social media and more, New Scientist reaches over five million highly engaged readers around the world. Follow New Scientist on Twitter: @newscientist

Graham Lawton (Author)

After a degree in biochemistry and a MSc in science communication, both from Imperial College, Graham Lawton landed at New Scientist, where he has been for almost all the 21st century, first as features editor and now as executive editor. His writing and editing have won a number of awards. Follow Graham on Twitter: @GrahamLawton

Jennifer Daniel (Illustrator)

Jennifer Daniel is the author of SPACE! a picture book explaining the universe through unusual visual forms. Her graphics have been translated into over ten languages and featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, Sweden’s Dagens Nyheter and in The New York Times. Jennifer has been recognised by many fancy design, illustration, and journalism awards including D&AD’s Gold Pencil (London), Art Directors Club Gold Cube (New York), and Society of Publication Design Gold Medal (New York). She speaks about journalism and design for organisations such as Society of News Design, SXSW, and Creative Mornings. She lives in Oakland California, with her husband and two children. Follow Jennifer on Twitter: @jenniferdaniel

Stephen Hawking (Foreword by)

Stephen Hawking is the former Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time which was an international bestseller. He is now the Dennis Stanton Avery and Sally Tsui Wong-Avery Director of Research at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and Founder of the Centre for Theoretical Cosmology at Cambridge.

Book details

  • Unscaled: How A.I. and a New Generation of Upstarts are Creating the Economy of the Future by Hemant Taneja
    EAN: 9780349417233
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!
  • New Scientist: The Origin of (almost) Everything by New Scientist, illustrated by Jennifer Daniel, edited by Graham Lawton
    EAN: 9781473629264
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

'Leonhard Praeg's Imitation will grab you by the mind and spirit and not let go, even after you've finished reading it,' writes Robyn Sassen

Imitation happened when an unsuspecting philosopher one day found himself equally outraged by South African president Jacob Zuma’s Big Man building project in Nkandla; awed, all over again, by Milan Kundera’s Immortality; and numbed by the monument to hubris generally known as ‘the highest basilica in all of Christendom’, Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire.

Leonhard Praeg is head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pretoria. He has published a number of books on African philosophy, violence in the post-colony and African humanism. Imitation is his first novel.

Robyn Sassen recently wrote a rave review of Praeg’s lauded novel:

Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) did it.

Italian philosopher Umberto Eco (1932-2016) did it.

And now, there’s South African philosopher Leonhard Praeg with his debut novel weaving together a tale of self-reflection and intrigue; philosophy, politics and coincidence, to say nothing of love and tragedy in a way that will grab you by the mind and spirit and not let go, even after you’ve finished reading it.

Imitation is an extremely lucid narrative which doffs a hat to Czech writer Milan Kundera (b. 1929) as it plays intelligently and curiously with all the possibilities of what storytelling can be.

Granted, it doesn’t have the gravitas of Eco’s Name of the Rose, which engages the meaning of laughter in the world through a medieval cipher, but it sits comfortably on the same shelf.

Cast between a farm in the Karoo, an apartment in Paris and a building site on the Ivory Coast, among other places; it’s contemporary and sexy without being overworked or irrelevant and once you start reading it, you will not be able to remove yourself from its confines until the very last page.

The novel weaves together first person narrative with the back story of fictional characters developed through the pen of Kundera and truths that play with the notion of hubris in our world.

What Praeg is doing here is penetrating deeply into Kundera’s 1990 novel Immortality, and exploring the what ifs of that tale. In doing so, he finds other characters of his own, including a young man who is safe in the confines of his own silence and has survived 17 suicide attempts.

Continue reading Sassen’s review here.

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