In the middle of a desert ‘somewhere south of nowhere’, to a forlorn house made of metal and clapboard, a secret war adviser has gone in search of space and time. Richard Elster, seventythree, was a scholar – an outsider – when he was called to a meeting with government war planners. For two years he tried to make intellectual sense of the troop deployments, counterinsurgency, orders for rendition. He was to map the reality these men were trying to create. At the end of his service, Elster retreats to the desert, where he is joined by a young filmmaker intent on documenting his experience. Jim Finley wants to make a onetake film, Elster its single character – ‘Just a man against a wall.’ The two men sit on the deck, drinking and talking. Finley makes the case for his film. Weeks go by. And then Elster’s daughter Jessie visits – an ‘otherworldly’ woman from New York – who dramatically alters the dynamic of the story. When a devastating event follows, all the men’s talk, the accumulated meaning of conversation and isolation, is thrown into question. What is left is loss, fierce and incomprehensible. p class="AICopy"> Point Omega is a deeply unnerving and brilliant work from one of our greatest living writers. ‘DeLillo is one of the greatest living American writers’ Scotland on Sunday
'Brilliant and terrifying' Observer I had to be the man who was doing well and more than well, the man whose drab shop concealed some bigger operation that made millions. I had to be the man who had planned it all, who had come to the destroyed town at the bend in the river because he had foreseen the rich future. 'Salim, the narrator, is a young man from an Indian family of traders long resident on the coast of Centeral Africa. Salim has left the coast to make his way in the interior, there to take on a small trading shop of this and that, sudries, sold to the natives. The place is "a bend in the river"; it is Africa. The time is post-colonial, the time of Independence. The Europeans have withdrawn or been forced to withdraw and the scene is one of chaos, violent change, warring tribes, ignorance, isolation, poverty and a lack of prepartion for the modern world they have entered, or partially assumed as a sort of decoration. It is a story of historical upheaval and social breakdown. Naipaul has fashioned a work of intense imaginative force. It is a haunting creation, rich with incident and human bafflement, played out in an immense detail of landscape rendered with a poignant brilliance.' Elizabeth Hardwick 'Always a master of fictional landscape, Naipaul here shows, in his variety of human examples and in his search for underlying social causes, a Tolstoyan spirit' John Updike
‘A uniquely brilliant book . . . told in language as subtly beautiful as its desert setting. One of the most important pieces of American writing of our time’ Stephen Amidon, Sunday Times John Grady Cole is the last bewildered survivor of long generations of Texas ranchers. Finding himself cut off from the only life he has ever wanted, he sets out for Mexico with his friend Lacey Rawlins. Befriending a third boy on the way, they find a country beyond their imagining: barren and beautiful, rugged yet cruelly civilized; a place where dreams are paid for in blood. All the Pretty Horses is an acknowledged masterpiece and a grand love story: a novel about childhood passing, along with innocence and a vanished American age. Steeped in the wisdom that comes only from loss, it is a magnificent parable of responsibility, revenge and survival. ‘A darkly shining work . . . executed with consummate skill and much subtlety – the effect is magnificent’ John Banville, Observer ‘An exhilarating, exceptional novel’ Spectator ‘In a single stride it takes McCarthy to the forefront of contemporary American fiction. All the Pretty Horses is indisputably a masterpiece’ Financial Times
When art historian Max Morden returns to the seaside village where he once spent a childhood holiday, he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Grace family had appeared that longago summer as if from another world. Mr and Mrs Grace, with their worldly ease and candour, were unlike any adults he had met before. But it was his contemporaries, the Grace twins Myles and Chloe, who most fascinated Max. He grew to know them intricately, even intimately, and what ensued would haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that was to follow. ‘A novel in which all of his remarkable gifts come together to produce a real work of art, disquieting, beautiful, intelligent, and in the end, surprisingly, offering consolation’ Allan Massie, Scotsman ‘You can smell and feel and see his world with extraordinary clarity. It is a work of art, and I’ll bet it will still be read and admired in seventyfive years’ Rick Gekoski, The Times ‘Poetry seems to come easily to Banville. There is so much to applaud in this book that it deserves more than one reading’ Literary Review ‘A brilliant, sensuous, discombobulating novel’ Spectator
A Turn in the South is a reflective journey by V. S. Naipaul in the late 1980s through the American South. Naipaul writes of his encounters with politicians, rednecks, farmers, writers, ordinary men and women, both black and white, with the insight and originality we expect from one of our best travel writers. Fascinating and poetic, this is a remarkable book on race, culture and country. 'Naipaul's writing is supple and fluid, meticulously crafted, adventurous and quick to surprise. And, as usual, there's the freshness and originality of his way of looking at things . . . a fine book by a fine man, and one to be read with great enjoyment: a book of style, sagacity and wit' Sunday Times 'A tissue of brilliantly recorded hearsay, of intense listening by a man with a remarkable ear' New York Times Review of Books
‘His own modern labour of love, loss and disquiet, this really is a book to treasure’ Malcolm Bradbury, Sunday Express This vastly innovative novel explores colonial inheritance through a series of narratives that span continents, swing back and forth between past and present and delve into both autobiography and fiction. Naipaul offers a personal choice of examples of Spanish and British imperial history in the Caribbean, including an imagined vision of Raleigh’s last expedition and an introduction to Francisco de Miranda, a would-be liberator and precursor to Bolívar, which are placed within a context of echoing modernity and framed by two more personal, heavily autobiographical sections sketching the narrator – an eloquent yet humble man of Indian descent who grew up in Trinidad but spent much of his adult life in England and Africa. Meditative and dramatic, these historical reconstructions, imbued with Naipaul’s acute perception, drawn with his deft and sensitive touch, and told in his beautifully wrought prose, are transmuted into an astonishing novel exploring the profound and mysterious effect of history on the individual. ̵One of his supreme triumphs’ Adam Thorpe, European ‘A bewitching piece of work by a mind at the peak of its abilities’ New York Times Book Review
For Patrick Melrose, ‘family’ is more than a double-edged sword. As friends, relations and foes trickle in to pay final respects to his mother, Eleanor – an heiress who forsook the grandeur of her upbringing for ‘good works’, freely bestowed upon everyone but her own child – Patrick finds that his transition to orphanhood isn’t necessarily the liberation he had so long imagined. Yet as the service ends and the family gather for a final party, as conversations are overheard, danced around and concertedly avoided, amidst the social niceties and the social horrors, the calms and the rapids, Patrick begins to sense a new current. And at the end of the day, alone in his rooftop bedsit, it seems to promise some form of safety, at last. One of the most powerful reflections on pain and acceptance, and the treacheries of family, ever written, At Last is the brilliant culmination of the Melrose books. It is a masterpiece of glittering dark comedy and profound emotional truth.
Science. Does the word fill you with excitement, or dread, or something in between? Science – and the art of science writing – can, and should, be something to get excited about. The extracts featured in this anthology span centuries and continents, but are connected by their authors’ desire to understand, explain and enrich the world. The Art of Science is not a book about great scientific theories, complicated equations or grand old men and women in their laboratories; instead, it’s about the places we draw our inspiration from; about daily routines and sudden flashes of insight; about dedication, and – sometimes – desperation; and the small moments, questions, quests, clashes, doubts and delights that ultimately make us human. From Galileo to Lewis Carroll, from Humphry Davy to Charles Darwin, from Marie Curie to Stephen Jay Gould, from rust to snowflakes, from the first use of the word ‘scientist’ to the first computer, from why the sea is salty to Newtonian physics ‘for the ladies’, The Art of Science is a book about people, which is to say it’s a book about passion, politics, and poetry. Above all, though, it’s a book about the good that science, nd scientific thinking, can – and does – do.
First published in 1984, White Noise, one of DeLillo's most highly acclaimed novels, tells the story of Jack Gladney and his wife Babette who are both afraid of death. Jack is head of Hitler studies at the College-on-the-Hill. His colleague Murray runs a seminar on car crashes. Together they ponder the instances of celebrity death, from Elvis to Marilyn to Hitler. Through the brilliant and often very funny dialogue between Jack and Murray, Delillo exposes our common obsession with mortality and delineates Jack and Babette's touching relationship and their biggest fear - who will die first? 'An extraordinarily funny book on a serious subject, effortlessly combining social comedy, disaster, fiction and philosophy ... hilariously, and grimly, successful' Daily Telegraph 'An astonishing novel ... unforgettable... nearly every page crackles with memorable moments and perfectly turned phrases... dizzying, darkly beautiful fiction' Sunday Times
Lewis is haunted by the memory of his brother, by a stolen car and a river running full, and most of all by the boy at the wheel. Anna is haunted too, but her ghost is very much alive. Rita, Anna’s mother, is the exact opposite of her daughter – loud, carefree, and a daredevil, at seventysix. When Rita suffers a fall, Anna must leave London and spend the winter looking after her mother in Yarmouth. As they search for solutions to their problems, Anna and Lewis find themselves having to face troubling truths about who they are and what they might become – with electrifying consequences. ‘Subtle and forceful . . . [A] finely judged and emotionally intricate novel’ Guardian ‘Artful . . . Beguiling . . . A novel marked by poetic delicacy . . . Azzopardi has a gift for characterization – a magpieeye for the human spark – and equally for the humanity of things’ Times Literary Supplement ‘Limpid prose . . . [A] lyrical sense of place . . .Startling and arresting . . .Unlikely urban sites take on a fierce and mysterious beauty in Azzopardi’s hands’ Irish Times ‘Here’s proof, if anyone needs it, that the best writing does not need to be inaccessible . . . [Winterton Blue] has the . . . strange, captivating quality of real life shot through with poetry . . . Beautifully evoked’ The Times ‘Intricte, quietly brilliant . . . Some haunting snapshots of contemporary Britain . . . A vivid, sensuous rendition of the Norfolk coast’ Daily Telegraph ‘Funny, bizarre and addictive’ Eve Biographies Trezza Azzopardi was born in Cardiff and lives in Norwich. The Hiding Place, her first novel, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2000.
Mothers and Sons is a sensitive and beautifully written meditation on the dramas surrounding this most elemental of relationships. Psychologically intricate and emotionally incisive, each finely wrought story teases out the delicate and difficult strands woven between mothers and sons. This is an acute, masterful and moving collection that confirms Tóibín as a great prose stylist of our time. 'Colm Tóibín is a writer of extraordinary emotional clarity. Each of the nine stories is a snapshot of a point of crisis . . . Tóibín perfectly understands the instantaneous nature of the ideal short story; the sense that the pen is going straight into a major vein. These are beautiful stories, beautifully crafted’ Kate Saunders, Literary Review 'The last story in this excellent collection is a superbly powerful tale of betrayal and desertion. Quintessential Tóibín’ Spectator ‘Moving . . . beautifully captured moments of longing and loss . . . Tóibín is a subtle, intelligent and deeply felt writer’ Guardian 'By turns surprising and illuminating, always beautifully written, Mothers and Sons places Tóibín in the front rank of modern Irish fiction . . . It may not be going too far to suggest Irish fiction has found its first Master of the new century’ Scotland on Sunday
Noone knows a city like the people who live there – so who better to relate the history of Paris than its inhabitants through the ages? Taking us from 1750 to the new millennium, Parisians introduces us to some of those inhabitants: we meet spies, soldiers, scientists and alchemists; police commissioners, photographers and philosophers; adulterers, murderers, prisoners and prostitutes. We encounter political and sexual intrigues, witness real and wouldbe revolutions, assassination attempts and several all too successful executions; we visit underground caverns and catacombs, enjoy the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, are there for the opening of the Metro, accompany Hitler on a flying visit to the French capital – and much more besides. Entertaining and illuminating, and written with Graham Robb’s customary attention to detail – and, indeed, the unusual – Parisians is both history and travel guide, yet also part memoir, part mystery. A book unlike any other, it is at once a book to read from cover to cover, to lose yourself in, to dip in and out of at leisure, and a book to return to again and again – rather like the city itself, in fact. Praise for The Discovery of France: 'An extraordinary journey of discovery that will delight even the most indolent armchair traveller' Daily Telegraph 'A superior historical guidebook for the unhurried traveller, and altogether a book to savour' Independent
With her children evacuated and her husband at the front, Tory Pace is grudgingly sharing the family home with her irascible mother; working at the local gelatine factory – to help the war effort – and generally doing just about as well as could be expected in difficult times. Her quiet life is thrown into turmoil, however, when her prisonerofwar husband, Donald, makes an outrageous demand for sexual gratification. He wants a dirty letter, by return of post! Horrified, at first, that Donald is being turned into some sort of monster by the Nazis, Tory’s disgust gradually gives way to a sense of marital duty, and taking in the libraries, bookshops, public conveniences and barbers’ shops of SouthEast London, she begins a quest to master the language of carnal desire: a quest that takes a sudden and unexpected turn into far more dangerous territory. Beginning with an act of unintentional cannibalism, and flirting with a scheme to end world hunger by the use of protein pills, Nourishment ranges widely across the Continent and yet always returns home: to family, to people, to relationships. Woodward offers a prescient examination of the ways in which we both nurture and consume each other in the face of adversity.
Noon is a profound and far-reaching novel set amidst two decades of convulsive change in the ‘new’ New World, with at its core a man whose heart is split across two cultures’ troubled divide. Rehan Tabassum has grown up in a world of nascent privilege in Delhi. His mother is a self-made lawyer and her new husband a wealthy industrialist, their lives the embodiment of a dazzling, emergent India. But there is a marked absence in Rehan’s life: his father, Sahil Tabassum, who remains a powerful shadow across the border in Pakistan. Written with insight and passion, this is an electrifying, often surprising story of a young man coming of age alongside the two countries out of which he was born, as Rehan travels through lands of sudden wealth and hidden violence, in a frequently toxic atmosphere of political quicksand and moral danger, towards the centre of his father’s world. In the book’s final section – a thrilling piece of storytelling set in a sinister port in Pakistan and one of the more remarkable endings in modern fiction – Noon confirms its place as a major work of fiction from a writer uniquely placed to bear witness to some of the most urgent questions of our times. Praise for The Temple-Goers ‘Naipaul’s praise israre enough to be notable; and Taseer lives up to it . . . among the sharpest and best-written fictions about contemporary India’ Independent ‘A coolly accomplished, pulsating account of modern-day Delhi’ Guardian
The Sunday Times Novel of the Year ‘With The Stranger’s Child, an already remarkable talent unfurls into something spectacular’ Sunday Times In the late summer of 1913, George Sawle brings his Cambridge friend Cecil Valance, a charismatic young poet, to visit his family home. Filled with intimacies and confusions, the weekend will link the families for ever, having the most lasting impact on George’s sixteen-year-old sister Daphne. As the decades pass, Daphne and those around her endure startling changes in fortune and circumstance, reputations rise and fall, secrets are revealed and hidden and the events of that long-ago summer become part of a legendary story, told and interpreted in different ways by successive generations. Powerful, absorbing and richly comic, The Stranger’s Child is a masterly exploration of English culture, taste and attitudes over a century of change. ‘I would compare the novel to Middlemarch . . . a remarkable, unmissable achievement’ Independent ‘Magnificent . . . universlly acclaimed as the best novel of the year’ Philip Hensher
Among the Believers is V.S. Naipaul’s classic account of his journeys through Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia; ‘the believers’ are the Muslims he met on those journeys, young men and women battling to regain the original purity of their faith in the hope of restoring order to a chaotic world. It is a uniquely valuable insight into modern Islam and the comforting simplifications of religious fanaticism. ‘This book investigates the Islamic revolution and tries to understand the fundamentalist zeal that has gripped the young in Iran and other Muslim countries . . . He is a modern master’ Sunday Times ‘Beautifully written and almost impossible to put down’ Auberon Waugh ‘The edgy exactitude of Naipaul’s writing is both effortlessly classical and yet at the same time brilliantly contemporary, as sharp and lucid as a spear of glass . . . He is inimitable, truly great and truly deserving of the Nobel’ Robert McCrum, Observer ‘His level of perception is of the highest, and his prose has become the perfect instrument for realizing those perceptions on the page. His travel writing is perhaps the most important body of work of its kind in the second half of the century’ Martin Amis
‘Think Reservoir Dogs or Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Think Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy’ LIONEL SHRIVER, Daily Telegraph Jimmy Luntz owes money to a man called Juarez. Trouble is, Juarez isn't the most patient of men. And when he gets bored of waiting, he sends someone round to collect. Luntz doesn't actually plan to shoot the guy, but the way he sees it, it's shoot or be shot. Either way, though, Luntz is out of his league, and he knows it: nobody messes with Juarez – or, at least, nobody messes with Juarez and lives to tell the tale. ‘Johnson can’t help slathering the story’s pages in his usual idiosyncratic brilliance . . . Reaching the end, the exhilarated reader is blindsided by the hint of something huge’ Guardian ‘A fast-paced, violent, hugely entertaining crime caper, packed with terrific set pieces and crackling dialogue. The fun that Johnson obviously had writing it steams off every page’ Sunday Telegraph ‘Johnson’s writing looks extremely simple. Let me tell you it is not – this kind of sare, poetic, humorous storytelling is only for the big boys. This is brilliant’ The Times
After a health scare, Brighton-based Lou is forced to confront the fact that her time to have a baby is running out. She can’t imagine a future without children, but her partner doesn’t seem to feel the same way, and she’s not sure whether she could go it alone. Meanwhile, up in Yorkshire, Cath is longing to start a family with her husband, Rich. No one would be happier to have a child than Rich, but Cath is infertile. Could these strangers help one another out? Combining Sarah Rayner’s deft exploration of raw emotions with the joy and resilience of friendship, The Two Week Wait is a memorable, moving page-turner about two very different women, each yearning to create a family of her own. Praise for One Moment, One Morning: ‘A real page-turner . . . You’ll want to inhale it in one breath’ Easy Living ‘An intimate, thoughtful novel celebrating women’s friendship and loyalty’ Waterstone’s Books Quarterly ‘A great, quirky must-read’ Red ‘Delcious, big-hearted, utterly addictive . . . irresistible’ Marie Claire
The theme is displacement, the yearning for the good place in someone else’s land, the attendant heartache. In A Free State tells first of an Indian servant in Washington, then of an Asian West Indian in London who is in jail for murder. Then the story moves to Africa, to a fictional country something like Uganda or Rwanda. Its two main characters are English. They once found Africa liberating, but now it has gone sour on them. At a time of tribal conflict they have to make the long drive to the safety of their compound. In the background, the threat of violence looms. The voices in this novel are breathtakingly vivid, while the characters are portrayed with an intelligence and sensitivity that is rarely seen in contemporary writing. Dennis Potter, in The Times, described the book as one ‘of such lucid complexity and such genuine insight, so deft and deep, that it somehow manages to agitate, charm, amuse and excuse the reader all at the same pitch of experience’. This is one of V. S. Naipaul’s greatest novels, hard but full of pity.
Victor Maskell has been betrayed. After the announcement in the Commons and the hasty revelation of his double life of wartime espionage, his disgrace is public, his knighthood revoked, his position as curator of the Queen’s pictures terminated. There are questions to be answered. For whom has he been sacrificed? To what has he sacrificed his life? ‘The Untouchable is an engrossing, exquisitely written and almost bewilderingly smart book . . . It’s the fullest book I’ve read in a very long time, utterly accomplished, thoroughly readable, written by a novelist of vast talent’ Richard Ford, Times Literary Supplement, Books of the Year ‘No novel burrowed deeper beneath my skin than The Untouchable . . . Prose of great elegance, applied to a sardonic narrative, created an atmosphere at once austere, chilling and utterly believable’ John Coldstream, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year ‘Banville is the most intelligent and stylish novelist currently at work in English . . . the mien is austere and Victorian; the awareness, the ironic readings of the contemporary are razor-sharp’ George Steiner, Observer ‘Brilliant displays of power and control . . . magnificently written and, in its exploration of inhumanity, startlingly humane’ Alex Clark, Guardian, Books of the Year
Anna’s personal life is in crisis. Her marriage is struggling, and the disastrous affair she began as consolation has now become a millstone around her neck. The place where she feels most secure is the safe and ordered world of the classroom; as a teacher she happily follows the rules, works hard and gets results. Then the beautiful Kali arrives in her English group, a girl who is bright, unsettling, vulnerable and in need of guidance from an older woman. What could be more natural than for a caring teacher to show concern for a troubled pupil? Anna believes the friendship can save them both. But when that friendship begins to tip over into something more intense, Anna finds her professional and domestic lives caught up together in a spiral that threatens to destroy everyone she ever cared about.
In January 1895 Henry James anticipates the opening of his first play, Guy Domville, in London. The production fails, and he returns, chastened and humiliated, to his writing desk. The result is a string of masterpieces, but they are produced at a high personal cost. In The Master Colm Tóibín captures the exquisite anguish of a man who circulated in the grand parlours and palazzos of Europe, who was astonishingly vibrant and alive in his art, and yet whose attempts at intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. It is a powerful account of the hazards of putting the life of the mind before affairs of the heart.
‘This is unequivocally a work of brilliance.’ Justin Cartwright, Spectator Old Adam Godley’s time on earth is drawing to an end, and as his wife and children gather at the family home, little do they realize that they are not the only ones who have come to observe the spectacle. The mischievous Greek gods, too, have come; as tensions fray and desire bubbles over, their spying soon becomes intrusion becomes intervention, until the mortals’ lives – right before their eyes – seem to be changing faster than they can cope with. Overflowing with bawdy humour, Banville has allowed his twinkling eye to rove through memories of the past and relationships of the present in this moving family drama. The Infinities is both a salacious delight and a penetrating exploration of the terrifying, wonderful, immutable plight of being human. ‘A poetic vision of boundless possibility.’ Literary Review ‘Full of dark humour and written with a deft eye for detail.’ GQ ‘This darkly comic and fearsomely clever creation is a heady delight’ Metro ‘Written in such saturatedly beautiful, luminous prose that every page delights, startles and uplifts.’ The Times
Meet the Caspers, a family beset by cowardice and anxiety. Jonathan is a palaeontologist, searching in vain for a prehistoric squid. His wife, Madeline, an animal behaviourist, cannot explain why the pigeons she is studying are becoming increasingly aggressive. Their older daughter Amelia is a disappointed teenage revolutionary, while their younger, Thisbe, has become a devout Christian. Meanwhile, the girls’ grandfather, Henry, is slowly absenting himself from life: each day he gives away a possession and speaks one word fewer, until the time comes when he will have spoken his last ever word. Before that can happen, however, Jonathan and Madeline decide to separate – and, suddenly, each family member has to confront their fears about the world in which they live. Set in the runup to the 2004 US presidential election, The Great Perhaps is a tale of the nuclear family in the nuclear age; a witty, revealing story about just how complicated and ambiguous modern life can be. 'Darkly funny, lyrical and shrewdly observant' Tom Perrotta 'A big, generoushearted American family novel . . . Meno's characters bristle with humanity, and I think this book will find a huge audience for its wisdom and lifeaffirming, but unsentimental, qualiies' Irvine Welsh, Daily Telegraph