For fans of Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It comes an irresistible novel of a woman losing herself . . . and finding herself again . . . in the middle of her life.
Maybe it was those extra five pounds I’d gained. Maybe it was because I was about to turn the same age my mother was when I lost her. Maybe it was because after almost twenty years of marriage my husband and I seemed to be running out of things to say to each other.
But when the anonymous online study called “Marriage in the 21st Century” showed up in my inbox, I had no idea how profoundly it would change my life. It wasn’t long before I was assigned both a pseudonym (Wife 22) and a caseworker (Researcher 101).
And, just like that, I found myself answering questions.
7. Sometimes I tell him he’s snoring when he’s not snoring so he’ll sleep in the guest room and I can have the bed all to myself.
61. Chet Baker on the tape player. He was cutting peppers for the salad. I looked at those hands and thought, I am going to have this man’s children.
67. To not want what you don’t have. What you can’t have. What you shouldn’t have.
32. That if we weren’t careful, it was possible to forget one another.
Before the study, my life was an endless blur of school lunches and doctor’s appointments, family dinners, budgets, and trying to discern the fastest-moving line at the grocery store. I was Alice Buckle: spouse of William and mother to Zoe and Peter, drama teacher and Facebook chatter, downloader of memories and Googler of solutions.
But these days, I’m also Wife 22. And somehow, my anonymous correspondence with Researcher 101 has taken an unexpectedly personal turn. Soon, I’ll have to make a decision—one that will affect my family, my marriage, my whole life. But at the moment, I’m too busy answering questions.
As it turns out, confession can be a very powerful aphrodisiac.
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice
The Collector's Library in Colour takes the favourite illustrated titles of The Collector's Library and presents them in full colour. Jane Austen's best-loved novel is a memorable story about the inaccuracy of first impressions, about the power of reason, and above all about the strange dynamics of human relationships and emotions. Here, where Hugh Thomson's delightful period illustrations were originally black-and-white, they have been sensitively coloured by Barbara Frith, one of Britain 's most accomplished colourists. A tour de force of wit and sparkling dialogue, Pride and Prejudice shows how the headstrong Elizabeth Bennett and the aristocratic Mr Darcy must have their pride humbled and their prejudices dissolved before they can acknowledge their love for each other." With an Afterword by Henry Hitchings.
Elizabeth Gilbert - Committed
At the end of her bestselling memoir Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert fell in love with Felipe, a Brazilian-born man of Australian citizenship who'd been living in Indonesia when they met. Resettling in America, the couple swore eternal fidelity to each other, but also swore to never, ever, under any circumstances get legally married. (Both were survivors of previous horrific divorces. Enough said.) But providence intervened one day in the form of the United States government, which - after unexpectedly detaining Felipe at an American border crossing - gave the couple a choice: they could either get married, or Felipe would never be allowed to enter the country again. Having been effectively sentenced to wed, Gilbert tackled her fears of marriage by delving into this topic completely, trying with all her might to discover through historical research, interviews, and much personal reflection what this stubbornly enduring old institution actually is. Told with Gilbert's trademark wit, intelligence and compassion, Committed attempts to 'turn on all the lights' when it comes to matrimony, frankly examining questions of compatibility, infatuation, fidelity, family tradition, social expectations, divorce risks and humbling responsibilities. Gilbert's memoir is ultimately a clear-eyed celebration of love with all the complexity and consequence that real love, in the real world, actually entails.
John Burnham Schwartz - The Commoner
John Burnham Schwartz bases his fourth novel on the Empress Michiko and Crown Princess Masako of Japan. Though Japanese imperial life remains shrouded in mystery, Schwartz teases out the details through extensive research. Much to the astonishment and pleasure of the critics, he gives Haruko an authentic and completely convincing voice. While his vivid depictions of postwar Japan are stunning, it is Haruko’s vibrant inner life that propels the narrative and resounds with readers. Though not as intense as Reservation Road (1998), Schwartz’s unflinching portrayal of the aftermath of a child’s death, and though slightly marred by an implausible ending, The Commoner will captivate readers by providing a haunting look into the 2,000 years of secrets surrounding the Chrysanthemum Throne.
Malala Yousafzai - Christina Lamb - I Am Malala
When the Taliban took control of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, one girl spoke out. Malala Yousafzai refused to be silenced and fought for her right to an education. On Tuesday, October 9, 2012, when she was fifteen, she almost paid the ultimate price. She was shot in the head at point-blank range while riding the bus home from school, and few expected her to survive. Instead, Malala's miraculous recovery has taken her on an extraordinary journey from a remote valley in northern Pakistan to the halls of the United Nations in New York. At sixteen, she has become a global symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest nominee ever for the Nobel Peace Prize. I AM MALALA is the remarkable tale of a family uprooted by global terrorism, of the fight for girls' education, of a father who, himself a school owner, championed and encouraged his daughter to write and attend school, and of brave parents who have a fierce love for their daughter in a society that prizes sons. I AM MALALA will make you believe in the power of one person's voice to inspire change in the world.
Margit Kaffka - Colours and Years
Margit Kaffka (1880-1918) was born in the provincial town of Nagykároly (now Carei in Romania). A schoolteacher by training, she was twice married with a son, and as a friend wrote about her, 'She wielded her pen as our mothers did their mixing spoons.' faking up her maiden name as a writer, she soon turned to writing both poetry and prose, and became part of the small circle of distinguished writers who ran the literary journal Nyugat. She sat with the men in smoky coffee-houses and wrote1 short stories about women who achieved financial independence but suffered many unfulfilled dreams and were faced with impossibly difficult choices. Her novel, Colours and Years, which came out in 1912, explored the complexities facing different generations of these new women and catapulted her to success. Based on the technique of the talking head, it reveals not only the character of the writer herself, her background and history, with special emphasis on her relationship to her mother, but life as it was lived just before the First World War in the small Hungarian town of Nagykároly. The poet Endre Ady's words stand as a fitting tribute to her even today: 'Let us rejoice in Margit Kaffka because she proves the triumph of Hungarian feminism... She is a strong person, an artist with an assured future: no criticism can hinder her true destiny the path marked as her own'.
Jen Lancaster - If You Were Here
Told in the uproariously entertaining voice readers have come to expect from Jen Lancaster, If You Were Here follows Amish-zombie-teen- romance author Mia and her husband Mac (and their pets) through the alternately frustrating, exciting, terrifying-but always funny-process of buying and renovating their first home in the Chicago suburbs that John Hughes's movies made famous. Along their harrowing renovation journey, Mia and Mac get caught up in various wars with the homeowners' association, meet some less-than-friendly neighbors, and are joined by a hilarious cast of supporting characters, including a celebutard ex- landlady. As they struggle to adapt to their new surroundings- with Mac taking on the renovations himself- Mia and Mac will discover if their marriage is strong enough to survive months of DIY renovations.
Maeve Binchy - Evening Class
The Italian evening class at Mountainview School is like hundreds of others starting up all over the city. But this one has its own special quality - as the focus for the varied hopes and dreams of teachers and students alike. And by the time the group sets off on the end-of-course trip to Italy, a surprising number of those hopes and dreams have come true - in sone odd and unexpected ways...
William Styron - Sophie's Choice
Stingo, an inexperienced twenty-two year old Southerner, takes us back to the summer of 1947 and a boarding house in a leafy Brooklyn suburb. There he meets Nathan, a fiery Jewish intellectual; and Sophie, a beautiful and fragile Polish Catholic. Stingo is drawn into the heart of their passionate and destructive relationship as witness, confidant and supplicant. Ultimately, he arrives at the dark core of Sophie's past: her memories of pre-war Poland, the concentration camp and - the essence of her terrible secret - her choice.
Charlotte Brontë - Evelyn Attwood - Jane Eyre (Penguin Readers)
This is Charlotte Bronte's powerful story of a young woman struggling to make a life for herself. Jane Eyre is a poor young teacher who works for the rich and mysterious Mr. Rochester. At first Jane has little to do with her employer, but she soon finds herself falling in love with him. Rochester loves Jane too, but he has a terrible secret from his past. Tragedy follows when Jane learns the truth. Will their love survive?
Henry James - Daisy Miller
Travelling in Europe with her family, Daisy Miller, an exquisitely beautiful young American woman, presents her fellow-countryman Winterbourne with a dilemma he cannot resolve. Is she deliberately flouting social convention in the outspoken way she talks and acts, or is she simply ignorant of those conventions? When she strikes up an intimate friendship with an urbane young Italian, her flat refusal to observe the codes of respectable behaviour leave her perilously exposed. In "Daisy Miller" James created his first great portrait of the enigmatic and dangerously independent American woman, a figure who would come to dominate his later masterpieces.
Gustave Flaubert - Madame Bovary (Penguin Readers)
Emma Bovary is married to the reliable but uninteresting Charles. She is bored and finds passion in a series of affairs. This exciting life demands more money than Charles can give her. Soon Emma’s dream lead to her destruction.
Elizabeth Kim - Ten Thousand Sorrows
"I don't know how old I was when I watched my mother's murder, nor do I know how old I am today." So begins the incredible true story of Elizabeth Kim, born to a poor Korean woman in the 1950s after her affair with an American GI who promptly dumped her. Elizabeth's mother was condemned to a pariah existence on the edge of the village, virtually ignored and left to bring up her illegitimate daughter single-handedly. Elizabeth herself was spat at as a 'honhyol'--mixed-race, a non-person, an animal (anyone who thinks that racism is purely a Western disease should read this book). One day, two male relatives came to the hut, killed her mother, and subjected her hated child to a form of torture unimaginable in its barbarism. Elizabeth was sent to a Seoul orphanage where she was kept in a virtual cage, then--worst of all, psychologically--she was adopted by an American Christian fundamentalist couple and taken away to the mid-West dustbowl to be hammered into an all-American Girl. Although this may sound like no more than a catalogue of horrors, it is much more: a story of resilience, survival, and hope, and most importantly of all, of the rediscovery of love and trust when those values seemed quite extinguished. Elizabeth also found her true mother's religion of Buddhism and you can learn more about that creed from this book than from any number of glib Western DIY guides. This is Buddhism felt on the pulse and in the marrow. --Christopher Hart Review There is a Buddhist saying that each life is filled with 10,000 sorrows and 10,000 joys. In Kims first book, a grueling memoir of her childhood, one is blinded by the sorrows and left yearning for at least a hint of joy.During the Korean War, Kim's mother committed the ultimate sin of bearing a honhyol (a mixed-race child), who in the eyes of Korean society is worthless. To pay for her crime, Kims mother was killed by her own father and brother as little Elizabeth watched from a bamboo basket where she had been hidden. Kim's own life was spared, but she was abandoned at an abysmal Christian orphanage where she had to wait, alone and terrified, to be adopted. Kim was eventually taken in by a childless fundamentalist Christian couple in the US who abused her both mentally and physically. To make matters worse, Kim (with her half-Korean, half-Western features) was rejected by the midwestern community that she was forced to become a part of. Her parents eventually orchestrated her marriage to a man so abusive and controlling that it is a wonder she ever escapedbut Kim finally took control of her life and set off with her newborn daughter to make a fresh start. This did not come easy. She suffered through physical and emotional pain, poverty, depression, and failed relationships. After a while this litany of despair may begin to weigh heavily on the reader. Kim has an undeniably awe-inspiring story of survival to tell, but she tells it in such a reductionist manner that the reader is overwhelmed by events without having time to reflect on their deeper meaning. Kim liberally laces her text with her own poetry, as well as that of writers she admires, but even this does not allow her work to soar with the lyricism she is striving for.A fascinating, tragic tale, hampered by lackluster prose. (Kirkus Reviews)
Virginia Woolf - Orlando / Mrs. Dalloway / To the Lighthouse
Gathered together in one volume, three of Virginia Woolf`s greatest novels. ORLANDO has lived as both a man and a woman through the centuries. Written as a tribute to Vita Sackville-West, this exuberant and entertaining novel is a unique contribution to twentieth-century literature. MRS DALLOWAY follows the toughts and memories of a fashionable society hostess during a single day in June as she prepares for a party that evening. As she takes her heroine through the day, Virginia Woolf breaks new ground in English fiction-writing. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE The Ramsay family and their guests are holidaying on the Isle of Skye. Virginia Woolf`s most celebrated novel explores, through the postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, the complexities and tensions of family life.
David Lodge - Therapy
A successful sitcom writer with plenty of money, a stable marriage, a platonic mistress and a flashy car, Laurence 'Tubby' Passmore has more reason than most to be happy. Yet neither physiotherapy nor aromatherapy, cognitive-behaviour therapy or acupuncture can cure his puzzling knee pain or his equally inexplicable mid-life angst. As Tubby's life fragments under the weight of his self-obsession, he embarks - via Kierkegaard, strange beds from Rummidge to Tenerife to Beverly Hills, a fit of literary integrity and memories of his 1950s South London boyhood - on a picaresque quest for his lost contentment, in an ingenious, hilarious and poignant novel of neuroses.
Colleen McCullough - The Touch
For the first time since _The Thorn Birds_, Colleen McCullough returns to mainstream popular fiction with _The Touch_. Spanning two generations, Colleen McCullough's new novel is at once a love story and a family saga, replete with tragedy, pathos, history and passion. Alexander Kinross is remembered in his native Scotland only as a shiftless boilermaker's apprentice and a godless rebel. But, when he writes from Australia to summon his bride, his Scottish relatives realize that he has made a fortune on the goldfields and is a man to be reckoned with. Arriving in Sydney after a difficult voyage, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Drummond meets her husband-to-be and discovers that he frightens and repels her. Offered no choice, she marries him and is whisked at once across wild, uninhabited countryside to Alexander's own town, named Kinross after himself. In the crags above it lies the world's richest gold mine. Isolated in Alexander's great house and with no company save Chinese servants, Elizabeth finds that the intimacies of marriage do not prompt her husband to enlighten her about his past life - or his present one. She has no idea that he still has a mistress, the sensuous, tough, outspoken Ruby Costevan. Captured by their very different natures, Alexander resolves to have both Elizabeth and Ruby - why should he not? He has the fabled 'Midas Touch', a combination of curiosity, boldness and intelligence that he applies to every situation and which only fails him when it comes to these two women. For while Ruby loves Alexander desperately, Elizabeth does not. _The Touch_ spans the latter half of nineteenth century on the New South Wales goldfields, a place where staggering fortunes are made. The story of Alexander and his two women occurs amid the birth pangs of a nation, at a time when power belonged to men, and women were walled in by terrible obstacles. But power must be paid for, and obstacles can be shattered. The epic talents of Colleen McCullough have never been better displayed than in _The Touch_.
Alice Munro - The Beggar Maid
Born into the back streets of a small Canadian town, Rose battled incessantly with her practical and shrewd step-mother, Flo, who cowed her with tales of her own past and warnings of the dangerous world outside. But Rose was ambitious - she won a scholarship and left for Toronto where she married Patrick. She was his Beggar Maid, 'meek and voluptuous, with her shy white feet', and he was her knight, content to sit and adore her...
Jung Chang - Wild Swans
Through the lives of three different women - grandmother, mother and daughter - this book tells the story of 20th-century China. At times scarcely credible in the details it reveals of the suffering of millions of ordinary Chinese people, it is an unforgettable record of tyranny, hope and ultimate survival under conditions of extreme harshness. In 1924, at the age of 15, the author's grandmother became the concubine of a powerful warlord, whom she was seldom to see during the ten years of their "marriage". Her daughter, born in 1931, experienced the horrors of Japanese occupation in Manchuria as a schoolgirl, and after their surrender joined the Communist-led underground fighting Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang. She rose to be a senior Communist official, but was imprisoned three times. Her husband, also a high official and one of the very first to join the Communists, was relentlessly persecuted, imprisoned and finally sent to a labour camp where, physically broken and disillusioned, he lost his sanity. The author herself grew up during the Cultural Revolution, at the time of the personality cult of Mao and the worst excesses of the Gang of Four. She joined the Red Guard but after Mao's death she was to become one of the first Chinese students to study abroad.
Carol Shields - The Stone Diaries
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Governor-General's Award, and short-listed for the Booker Prize. 'The Stone Diaries' is the story of one woman's life, a truly sensuous novel which relects and illuminates the unsettled decades of our century. This is the story of Daisy Goodwill, from her birth on a kitchen floor in Manitoba, Canada, to her death in a Florida nursing home nearly ninety years later. Through Daisy's life, Shields reflects and illuminates the unsettled decades of our century in this rich and poignant novel.