ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- There really is no better word for this than 'fun'- this is such a fun book! Lawrence's passion for classical music is undeniable and the anecdotes he has for some of the biggest names in the classical world are at turns fascinating and downright tragic. It is hard to think of the grand composers as being of flesh and blood but Lawrence brings them to life, if only for a short time. A perfect companion for your morning coffee. Siân McNabney
The orchestra has tuned, the lights in the hall have dimmed, and the conductor's baton signals the downbeat for the beginning of the romance. Settle back - it's telling you something...
The history of classical music is littered with murder, adultery, bigamy, fraud, sado-masochism, riches, poverty, gluttony, nervous breakdowns, bizarre behaviour and terrible, terrible toilet humour (Mozart was the prime exponent of the latter). Classical music - nice? Not at all. It's the most immediate expression of mental and emotional extremes: often deceptive, sometimes dangerous and frequently a discomforting revelation. Swooning documents the all too human flaws in the lives of the great composers by loosely following the sequence of emotions as experienced in a love affair - one that doesn't work out, of course.
In this fully revised and updated edition, Christopher Lawrence leads us through the listening experience, from anger and Beethoven to sadness and Tchaikovsky, triumph and Wagner and freedom and Mozart - it's all here in this whimsical guide to the conduct of a romance, with some handy hints on how to make it more, well, harmonious.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Even if I could remember how many times I have read this book, I think I would be too embarrassed to say. It is to my mind a masterpiece. Enigmatic characters delving into ancient history woven with the haunting power of sublime beauty, Tartt’s debut novel is something to lose yourself in. If the story and strength of the writing wasn't filmic enough, you have the fiery autumn colours and formidable snow of Vermont. Siân McNabney
The original American campus novel. When Richard Papen joins an elite group of clever misfits at his New England college, it seems he can finally become the person he wants to be. But the moral boundaries he will cross with his new friends - and the deaths they are responsible for - will change all of their lives forever. The Secret History recounts the terrible price we pay for mistakes made on the dark journey to adulthood.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Written in the style of the Mass Observation Archive of Britain, this is a varied and unique view of the closing years of 20th century London. Locals, tourists, people who have arrived, people who have left, taxi drivers... there isn't a person who is not represented in this collection! I picked this book up after a trip to London as an attempt to hold on to the experience and I'm very glad I did. This is a fascinating portrait of an eclectic city and the extraordinary people that bring it alive. Siân McNabney
Here are the voices of London - rich and poor, native and immigrant, women and men - witnessed by Craig Taylor, an acclaimed journalist, playwright and writer, who spent five years exploring the city and listening to its residents.
From the woman whose voice announces the stations on the London Underground to the man who plants the trees along Oxford Street; from a Pakistani currency trader to a Guardsman at Buckingham Palace - together, these voices and many more, paint a vivid, epic and wholly fresh portrait of Twenty-First Century London.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- I was fairly skeptical as I picked up this book as I couldn't see how Aciman could improve on the classic 'Call Me by Your Name', but 'enigma' is certainly the word. Taking its title from the musical piece by Elgar, this poetic novel follows the loves of our protagonist Paul - from intense first love as a child to the many complications of relationships in later life. Aciman quickly dispelled my skepticism and confirms his skill at conveying emotion and inner conflict. A beautiful and melancholic novel. Siân McNabney
Enigma Variations charts the life of a man named Paul, whose loves remain as consuming and as covetous throughout his adulthood as they were in his adolescence. Whether against the backdrop of southern Italy, where he develops a crush on his parents’ cabinetmaker, or a snowbound campus in New England, where his enduring passion for a girl he’ll meet again and again over the years is punctuated by anonymous encounters with men; whether he’s on a tennis court in Central Park, or on a New York sidewalk in early spring, his attachments are ungraspable, transient, and forever underwritten by raw desire - not for just one person’s body but, inevitably, for someone else’s as well.
Ahead of every step Paul takes, his hopes, denials, fears, and regrets are always ready to lay their traps. Yet the dream of love lingers. We may not always know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later we discover who we’ve always known we were.
ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— This was my first foray into Lahiri's work and admittedly I only picked it up as I was intrigued by her unique approach to a book on language (she wrote it in her newly adopted Italian and had someone else translate it in to English). Far from a sober study, Lahiri has turned her experience into a beautiful love letter to Italian. From the first encounter to the inevitable hurdles of learning something new, she writes of language as it very much is; alive, complex and well worth the effort. For anyone who have been instinctively drawn to a language, this book is a real treat. Siân McNabney
In Other Words is a revelation. It is at heart a love story of a long and sometimes difficult courtship, and a passion that verges on obsession: that of a writer for another language.
For Jhumpa Lahiri, that love was for Italian, which first captivated and capsized her during a trip to Florence after college. Although Lahiri studied Italian for many years afterwards, true mastery had always eluded her.
Seeking full immersion, she decided to move to Rome with her family, for 'a trial by fire, a sort of baptism' into a new language and world. There, she began to read and to write - initially in her journal - solely in Italian.
In Other Words, an autobiographical work written in Italian, investigates the process of learning to express oneself in another language, and describes the journey of a writer seeking a new voice.
Presented in a dual-language format, this is a wholly original book about exile, linguistic and otherwise, written with an intensity and clarity not seen since Vladimir Nabokov: a startling act of self-reflection and a provocative exploration of belonging and reinvention.
ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— In an ideal world Patti Smith would release a new book every week, such is the pleasure of her work. Her unique voice, an endearing mix of humble poet and childlike wonder, never loses sight of the joy of life and all the seemingly small moments that make it so rich. Her passion and need for writing is infectious and the manner in which she discusses it, and in fact all art, is done with a moving reverence I feel it deserves. A wonderful and dear book. Siân McNabney
From the renowned artist and author Patti Smith, an inspired exploration of the nature of creative invention.
A work of creative brilliance may seem like magic - its source a mystery, its impact unexpectedly stirring. How does an artist accomplish such an achievement, connecting deeply with an audience never met? In this groundbreaking book, one of our culture’s beloved artists offers a detailed account of her own creative process, inspirations, and unexpected connections.
Patti Smith first presents an original and beautifully crafted tale of obsession - a young skater who lives for her art, a possessive collector who ruthlessly seeks his prize, a relationship forged of need both craven and exalted. She then takes us on a second journey, exploring the sources of her story. We travel through the South of France to Camus’s house, and visit the garden of the great publisher Gallimard where the ghosts of Mishima, Nabokov, and Genet mingle. Smith tracks down Simone Weil’s grave in a lonely cemetery, hours from London, and winds through the nameless Paris streets of Patrick Modiano’s novels. Whether writing in a café or a train, Smith generously opens her notebooks and lets us glimpse the alchemy of her art and craft in this arresting and original book on writing.
The Why I Write series is based on the Windham-Campbell Lectures, delivered annually to commemorate the awarding of the Donald Windham-Sandy M. Campbell Literature Prizes at Yale University.
ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— The wonder that is Alan Hollinghurst has returned with this fantastic new novel. Set amongst the glorious Oxford spires as war closely approaches, we meet a group of young students consumed with the notion of beauty- be it beauty of the written word, art or the dashing new man on campus, David Sparsholt. Years later we are transported to 60's London and as we watch our enigmatic characters mature, the full scope of Hollinghurst's talent emerges. The ease with which he jumps from different eras and most strikingly, gives our young characters a mature voice is done with an authenticity and naturalness like I have never witnessed. He truly is a magician! Siân McNabney
In 1940, Evert Dax and David Sparsholt, two young men from very different backgrounds, meet at Oxford University. Dax is a second year student reading English, coming from a rackety upper middle class background; Sparsholt is from a humbler Midlands community and is reading engineering, a young man whose good looks and fine figure have proved highly attractive to his peers.
This time is a unique one in the history of the university: with military call-up at 20, soon brought forward to 19, almost all students come up to Oxford knowing that they will only have a year or so of study. A sense of futility is mixed with one of recklessness. All life after dusk is lived under black-out, encouraging and covering what would normally be impossible liaisons. What happens to these two men in this year will affect many lives and will set in motion the mystery at the heart of The Sparsholt Affair.
Alan Hollinghurst's masterly new novel takes us through several generations and across key periods of uncertainty and change in British society. From the darkest days of the Second World War, it moves to the changing world of the a socially and sexually liberated London of the 1960s, before landing in the mid-1970s, with the three-day week, fuel shortages and power cuts. The reverberations continue through the next generation in the 1990s before reaching a conclusion in the present decade, a world of new media and new ideas.
Throughout the novel there is also an examination of the visual and aesthetic, looking at what it is to be Modern, through modernist architecture and abstract painting: we witness buildings being destroyed and replaced; we watch works of art go in and out of fashion. Featuring a remarkable cast of characters, The Sparsholt Affair is both thought-provoking and highly entertaining, a novel in which children are connected by the acts of their parents and individuals are both damaged and saved by the changing attitudes to sexuality, privacy and intimacy.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- The glamorous Venetian setting and backdrop of 2 World Wars adds to the drama and intensity of these 3 extraordinary women. Intelligent and unique, they dictated their own destinies with passion and without compromise. Including tales of the artists, intellectuals and general glitterati that filled their lives, Judith Mackrell's new book is a fascinating insight into a lost world. Siân McNabney
Commissioned in 1750, the Palazzo Venier was planned as a testimony to the power and wealth of a great Venetian family, but the fortunes of the Venier family waned and the project was abandoned with only one storey complete. Empty, unfinished, and in a gradual state of decay, the building was considered an eyesore. Yet in the early 20th century the Unfinished Palazzo's quality of fairytale abandonment, and its potential for transformation, were to attract and inspire three fascinating women at key moments in their lives: Luisa Casati, Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim.
Each chose the Palazzo Venier as the stage on which to build her own world of art and imagination, surrounded by an amazing supporting cast, from d'Annunzio and Nijinsky, via Noel Coward and Cecil Beaton, to Yoko Ono. Luisa turned her home into an aesthete's fantasy where she hosted parties as extravagant and decadent as Renaissance court operas - spending small fortunes on her own costumes in her quest to become a 'living work of art' and muse to the artists of the late belle epoque and early modernist eras.
Doris strove to make her mark in London and Venice during the glamorous, hedonistic interwar years, hosting film stars and royalty at glittering parties. In the postwar years, Peggy turned the Palazzo into a model of modernist simplicity that served as a home for her exquisite collection of modern art that today draws tourists and art-lovers from around the world. Mackrell tells each life story vividly in turn, weaving an intricate history of these legendary characters and the Unfinished Palazzo that they all at different times called home.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- This is such a beautiful and moving book! Aciman so perfectly captures the intensity and confusion of first love. The knot I had in my stomach remained long after I’d finished it. Siân McNabney
Call Me By Your Name is the story of a sudden and powerful romance that blooms between seventeen-year-old Elio and his father's house guest Oliver during a restless summer on the Italian Riviera. Unrelenting currents of obsession and fear, fascination and desire threaten to overwhelm the lovers who at first feign indifference to the charge between them. What grows from the depths of their souls is a romance of scarcely six weeks' duration, and an experience that marks them for a lifetime. For what the two discover on the Riviera and during a sultry evening in Rome is the one thing they both already fear they may never truly find again: total intimacy.
ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —- It only takes a few pages for the awe to begin. Awe at the strength of character and dedication to basic human rights that Alyokhina defiantly demonstrates. Her 2 year sentence in a Russian prison inspired this horrifying account of the day-to-day life of abuse, intimidation and humiliation endured by the prisoners. Whatever your view on Pussy Riot's 'punk prayer' you couldn't help but be impressed by this intelligent young woman. Siân McNabney
From activist, Pussy Riot member and freedom fighter Maria Alyokhina, a raw, hallucinatory, passionate account of her arrest, trial and imprisonment in a penal colony in the Urals for standing up for what she believed in.
'One of the most brilliant and inspiring things I've read in years. Couldn't put it down. This book is freedom' Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick
People who believe in freedom and democracy think it will exist forever.That is a mistake. What happened in Russia - what happened to me - could happen anywhere.When I was jailed for political protest, I learned that prison doesn't just teach you to follow the rules. It teaches you to think that you can never break them. It's inevitable that the prison gates will open at some point. But this doesn't mean that you leave the 'prisoner' category and go straight into the category of 'the free'.
Freedom does not exist unless you fight for it every day.This is the story about how I made a choice. We are all Pussy Riot. And actions break fear. 'To Back Down an Inch is to Give Up a Mile'.
ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— The lingering impression from this moving book was privilege. It was an absolute privilege to witness the growing friendship between two extraordinary artists, told through Patti Smith's as always beautiful words. So tenderly does she recall and bring to life the figure of Robert Mapplethorpe that I couldn't help but be overwhelmed and mourn alongside her when we inevitably lose him. This book deserves all the praise that it has received and will certainly remain on the list of great art biographies of all time. Siân McNabney
A prelude to fame, Just Kids recounts the friendship of two young artists - Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe - whose passion fuelled their lifelong pursuit of art.
In 1967, a chance meeting between two young people led to a romance and a lifelong friendship that would carry each to international success never dreamed of. The backdrop is Brooklyn, Chelsea Hotel, Max's Kansas City, Scribner's Bookstore, Coney Island, Warhol's Factory and the whole city resplendent. Among their friends, literary lights, musicians and artists such as Harry Smith, Bobby Neuwirth, Allen Ginsberg, Sandy Daley, Sam Shepherd, William Burroughs, etc.
It was a heightened time politically and culturally; the art and music worlds exploding and colliding. In the midst of all this two kids made a pact to always care for one another. Scrappy, romantic, committed to making art, they prodded and provided each other with faith and confidence during the hungry years--the days of cous-cous and lettuce soup.
Just Kids begins as a love story and ends as an elegy. Beautifully written, this is a profound portrait of two young artists, often hungry, sated only by art and experience. And an unforgettable portrait of New York, her rich and poor, hustlers and hellions, those who made it and those whose memory lingers near.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Each year on the 1st of December, I head to my bookshelf and enjoy one of my favourite Christmas traditions- reading the classic 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens. From the famous opening line 'Marley was dead: to begin with' I am right back in the evocative Dickensian streets, lightening to carols and smelling the roasted chestnuts. Without fail I will be overcome with emotion by the kindly Bob Cratchit and his family and as always, I will enjoy reading it as if for the first time. One of my absolute favourites! Siân McNabney
Every Christmas, the Morgan Library & Museum in Manhattan displays one of the crown jewels of its extraordinary collection: the original manuscript of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol with its detailed emendations, deletions and insertions in Dickens' hand.
Here for the first time in a beautiful trade edition is a facsimile of that invaluable manuscript, along with a typeset version of the story, a fascinating introduction by the Morgan's chief literary curator on the history of the story and a new foreword by Colm Toibin celebrating its timeless appeal.
ABBEY’S BOOKSELLER PICK —— The Durrell family, what a truly eccentric lot you are! This wonderful book, part memoir, part travelogue, is a beloved classic for so many reasons. Amongst the glorious sunshine radiating from the page we meet the Durrell's, an English family attempting to adapt, not always successfully, to a new life in 1930's Corfu. Adding to the general mayhem we have the author's ever-growing menagerie of wild animals including my personal favourite, Achilles the tortoise. I challenge anyone to read about the escapades of Achilles the tortoise without laughing out loud! A sunny delight from beginning to end! Siân McNabney
The trilogy that inspired ITV's six part television series The Durrells. Available in a single edition for the first time in The Corfu Trilogy.
Three classic tales of childhood on an island paradise:
My Family and Other Animals;
Birds, Beasts and Relatives;
The Garden of the Gods.
Just before the Second World War the Durrell family decamped to the glorious, sun-soaked island of Corfu where the youngest of the four children, ten-year-old Gerald, discovered his passion for animals: toads and tortoises, bats and butterflies, scorpions and octopuses. Through glorious silver-green olive groves and across brilliant-white beaches Gerry pursued his obsession ...causing hilarity and mayhem in his ever-tolerant family.
Durrell's memories of those enchanted days gave rise to these three classic tales, loved by generations of adults and children alike.
'He has an uncanny knack of discovering human as well as animal eccentrics' Sunday Telegraph
'A delightful book full of simple, well-known things: cicadas in the olive groves, lamp fishing at night, the complexities of fish and animals - but, above all, childhood moulded by these things' New York Times
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Every now and then you are fortunate enough to come across an author that you know you will be re-reading long into your golden years, and to that short but cherished list I now introduce Teffi. What a discovery! It only took a few chapters of her modern voice, charm and intelligent observation to wholeheartedly win me over. A Russian writer from the early twentieth century, she was so widely read that she could count both Lenin and Nicholas II as avid readers. Only recently translated for English speaking audiences, her autobiographical account of leaving revolutionary Russia and her uncertain journey as a refugee is a timely release. The journey itself is at times so distressing that it is a testament to her character and naturally humorous disposition that can still make you laugh. This book was an absolute treasure to me, as is Teffi herself, and I am so delighted to have discovered her! Siân McNabney
Considered Teffi s single greatest work, Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea is a deeply personal account of the author s last months in Russia and Ukraine, suffused with her acute awareness of the political currents churning around her, many of which have now resurfaced. In 1918, in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution, Teffi, whose stories and journalism had made her a celebrity in Moscow, was invited to read from her work in Ukraine. She accepted the invitation eagerly, though she had every intention of returning home. As it happened, her trip ended four years later in Paris, where she would spend the rest of her life in exile. None of this was foreseeable when she arrived in German-occupied Kiev to discover a hotbed of artistic energy and experimentation. When Kiev fell several months later to Ukrainian nationalists, Teffi fled south to Odessa, then on to the port of Novorossiysk, from which she embarked at last for Constantinople. Danger and death threaten throughout Memories, even as the book displays the brilliant style, keen eye, comic gift, and deep feeling that have made Teffi one of themost beloved of twentieth-century Russian writers.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Sciolino so perfectly captures the hustle and bustle of one of the liveliest streets in Paris. One of the best travel books I have read in recent times! Siân McNabney
Elaine Sciolino, the former Paris Bureau Chief of the New York Times, invites us on a tour of her favorite Parisian street, offering an homage to street life and the pleasures of Parisian living.
I can never be sad on the rue des Martyrs, Sciolino explains, as she celebrates the neighborhood's rich history and vibrant lives. While many cities suffer from the leveling effects of globalization, the rue des Martyrs maintains its distinct allure. On this street, the patron saint of France was beheaded and the Jesuits took their first vows. It was here that Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir painted circus acrobats, Emile Zola situated a lesbian dinner club in his novel Nana, and Francois Truffaut filmed scenes from The 400 Blows. Sciolino reveals the charms and idiosyncrasies of this street and its longtime residents - the Tunisian greengrocer, the husband-and-wife cheesemongers, the showman who's been running a transvestite cabaret for more than half a century, the owner of a 100-year-old bookstore, the woman who repairs eighteenth-century mercury barometers-bringing Paris alive in all of its unique majesty.
The Only Street in Paris will make readers hungry for Paris, for cheese and wine, and for the kind of street life that is all too quickly disappearing.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Good People follows the turbulent lives of a young Russian would-be poet, and a German businessman, two people whom you alternately pity and despise! Both are struggling (and failing) to maintain an ethical morality in 1930's Berlin/Moscow, whilst trying to hold on to ambition and family. The suffocating environment that Baram so effectively invokes leaves you wondering how anyone came out of that period emotionally intact, let alone without a stained character. Siân McNabney
It's late 1938. Thomas Heiselberg has built a career in Berlin as a market researcher for an American advertising company. In Leningrad, twenty-two-year-old Sasha Weissberg has grown up eavesdropping on the intellectual conversations in her parents' literary salon.They each have grand plans for their lives. Neither of them thinks about politics too much, but after catastrophe strikes they will have no choice. Thomas puts his research skills to work elaborating Nazi propaganda. Sasha persuades herself that working as a literary editor of confessions for Stalin's secret police is the only way to save her family. When destiny brings them together, they will have to face the consequences of the decisions they have made. Nir Baram's Good People has been showered with praise in many countries. With its acute awareness of the individual amid towering historical landscapes, it is a tour de force: sparkling, erudite, a glimpse into the abyss.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Martin Gayford, author of the fascinating portrait of Lucien Freud 'Man with Blue Scarf' has returned with the exquisite new book 'Rendezvous with Art'.
Accompanied by the former Metropolitan Museum of Art director Philippe de Montebello, the duo travel the world exploring museums, churches and galleries with the simple goal of 'looking at art'. The excitement, passion and knowledge with which de Montebello discusses certain artworks is nothing short of breathtaking and is proof of his distinguished reputation as the Mel's most loyal director.
A charming read for art lovers! Siân McNabney
This book is about how we experience art, how we look at it, how we think about it. It is structured in the form of a series of conversations in some of the best-known museums in the world, but also outside the museums, where we often look upon art in a completely different way.
The two protagonists are Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for 31 years to 2008, and the art critic Martin Gayford. In the process, both men convey, with subtlety and brilliance, the delights and significance of their subject matter.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Paul Johnson brings this remarkable man to life with his extraordinary ability to humanise.What could simply be a discussion of a pivotal figure in history becomes a portrait of a man who we could easily meet on the street today. A man whose voice Johnson so adequately recalls for us.
This is a wonderful book and a perfect starting point for anyone interested in this timeless thinker. Sian McNabney
This brilliant biography of Socrates by historian Paul Johnson situates the father of philosophy in the fifth century BC Athens that he loved, delving into the geopolitics of the time, his service as a soldier, his wide range of acquaintances and the civic unrest that led to Socrates' trial and death.
This is a fresh and fascinating portrait of the thinker who believed questioning and education were the keys to a virtuous life, proving that Socrates' beliefs and philosophy are as relevant today as in ancient Athens.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- It is rare to find a book that approaches the subject of animals with both intelligence and tenderness in equal measure. Here is such a book and what a beautiful book it is! Sian McNabney
How do animals think and feel? Is it mistaken to attribute to them the concepts of love, devotion, grief; even dignity? How can we understand our conception of such things, and what do our relations with animals say about our own humanity?
In this much-loved book, Raimond Gaita investigates such questions through stories of animals he has known and loved, and through the reflections of others. The Philospher’s Dog is moving, sometimes funny and always thought provoking.
Shortlisted, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards
Shortlisted, Age Book of the Year
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- I was instantly charmed by this book! From the moment that Mr Nooteboom decides to write letters to the mighty sea god, whilst toasting the first day of spring with champagne, I was smitten. The alternating childlike fascination and poignancy with which he writes of carrying subject makes for truly beautiful reading. Sian McNabney
'I had been looking for someone to write to for a long time, but how does a man write letters to a god?' From his Mediterranean garden on the island of Menorca, Cees Nooteboom writes to the trident-wielding deity, Poseidon, 'initiating a dialogue not only with the past,' as Alberto Manguel observes in his Preface, 'but with an entire world that seemed lost for ever.' Offering a seductive interweaving of keen observation and the fruits of a vast knowledge, Nooteboom explores questions of human existence through the minutiae of the living world around him, and marvels at the secrets of the deep. He recalls figures in history, places he has travelled to, objets trouves, works of art and literature, and takes a fresh look at the ancient myths. At once playful and poignant, beautiful and bizarre, Nooteboom's Letters to Poseidon are couched in the glittering prose of one of Europe's outstanding stylists.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- One of the funniest series of books I have ever come across! I have embarrassed myself many times on public transport laughing along with the truly talented Clive James. Sian
With an introduction by P. J. O'Rourke
"I was born in 1939. The other big event of that year was the outbreak of the Second World War, but for the moment that did not affect me."
So begins the first instalment of Clive James's memoirs in which we follow the young Clive on his journey from boyhood to the cusp of manhood, when his days of wearing short trousers are finally behind him. Battling with school, girls, various relatives and an overwhelming desire to be a superhero, Clive's adventures growing up in the suburbs of post-war Sydney are hair-raising, uproarious and almost too good to be true...
Told with James's unassailable sense of humour and self-effacing charm, Unreliable Memoirs is a hilarious and touching introduction to the story of a national treasure. A million-copy bestseller, this classic memoir is a celebration of life in all its unpredictable glory.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- This is a fascinating take on the "mad-woman-in-the-attic" character from the much-loved Bronte classic, Jane Eyre. Rhys uses memory, culture and loss to portray a very different and tragic Mr Rochester. Sian
Her grand attempt to tell what she felt was the story of Jane Eyre's 'madwoman in the attic', Bertha Rochester, Jean Rhys' Wide Sargasso Sea is edited with an introduction and notes by Angela Smith in Penguin Classics . Born into the oppressive, colonialist society of 1930s Jamaica, white Creole heiress Antoinette Cosway meets a young Englishman who is drawn to her innocent beauty and sensuality. After their marriage, however, disturbing rumours begin to circulate which poison her husband against her. Caught between his demands and her own precarious sense of belonging, Antoinette is inexorably driven towards madness, and her husband into the arms of another novel's heroine. This classic study of betrayal, a seminal work of postcolonial literature, is Jean Rhys' brief, beautiful masterpiece. Jean Rhys (1894-1979) was born in Dominica. Coming to England aged 16, she drifted into various jobs before moving to Paris, where she began writing and was 'discovered' by Ford Madox Ford. Her novels, often portraying women as underdogs out to exploit their sexualities, were ahead of their time and only modestly successful. From 1939 (when Good Morning, Midnight was written) onwards she lived reclusively, and was largely forgotten when she made a sensational comeback with her account of Jane Eyre's Bertha Rochester, Wide Sargasso Sea , in 1966. If you enjoyed Wide Sargasso Sea , you might like Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre , also available in Penguin Classics . She took one of the works of genius of the nineteenth century and turned it inside-out to create one of the works of genius of the twentieth century . (Michele Roberts, The Times ).
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- Letter to D is a beautiful love letter written by a man to his dying wife. This is one of the most intimate and tender books that I have ever read. Very unique. Sian
'You're 82 years old. You've shrunk six centimetres, you only weigh 45 kilos yet you're still beautiful, graceful and desirable' - so begins Andre Gorz's 'open love letter' to the woman he has lived with for 58 years and who lies dying next to him. As one of France's leading post-war philosophers, Andre Gorz wrote many influential books, but nothing he wrote will be read as widely or remembered as long as this simple, passionate, beautiful letter to his dying wife. In a bittersweet postscript a year after Letter to D was published, a note pinned to the door for the cleaning lady marked the final chapter in an extraordinary love story. Andre Gorz and his terminally ill wife, Dorine, were found lying peacefully side by side, having taken their lives together. They simply could not live without one another. An international bestseller, Letter to D is the ultimate love story - and all the more poignant because it's true.
ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- This beautifully illustrated biography provides not only an intimate portrait of one of England's finest painters, Lucien Freud, but an overview of the portraiture genre itself. Sian
Lucian Freud, perhaps the worlds leading portrait painter, spent seven months painting a portrait of the art critic Martin Gayford. Gayford describes the process chronologically, from the day he arrived for the first sitting through to his meeting with the couple who bought the finished painting. As Freud creates a portrait of Gayford, so the art critic produces his own portrait of the notoriously private artist, recounting their wide-ranging conversations and giving a rare insight into Freuds working practice. The book is illustrated throughout with photographs by David Dawson of Freud at work, with paintings by Freud from the 1940s to the present, and images by other artists discussed by Freud with Gayford. The result vividly conveys what it is like to be on the inside of the process of creating a painting by a great artist.