Imagine a world where all humans must hibernate through a brutally cold winter, their bodies dangerously close to death as they enter an ultra-low metabolic state of utterly dreamless sleep. All humans, that is, apart from the Sleep Marshalls, a group of officers who diligently watch over the vulnerable sleeping citizens. When John Fugue, a junior Sleep Marshall, finds himself in the forgotten rural outpost of Sector Twelve, he hears of a conspiracy – a viral dream is somehow spreading amongst those in the hibernational state, causing paranoia, hallucination and a psychotic episode that can end in murder. When Fugue enters the Sleepstate himself and wakes two months later, all those who knew about the dream have disappeared and, more disturbingly, Fugue himself can recall parts of the viral dream – a dream that shouldn’t be possible.
Doris Lessing - The Fifth Child
Four children, a beautiful old house, the love of relatives and friends; Harriet and David Lovatt's life is a glorious hymn to domestic bliss and old-fashioned family values. But when their fifth child is born, a sickly and implacable shadow is cast over this tender idyll. Large and ugly, violent and uncontrollable, the infant Ben, "full of cold dislike", tears at Harriet's breast. Struggling to care for her new-born child, faced with a darkness and a strange defiance she has never known before, Harriet is deeply afraid of what, exactly, she has brought into the world...
Iain Pears - The Portrait
This is a dark and disturbing novel of suspense, set at the turn of the 20th century, by the bestselling author of _An Instance of the Fingerpost._ The windswept isle of Houat, off the coast of Brittany, is no picturesque artists' colony. At the turn of the twentieth century, life is harsh and rustic. So why did Henry MacAlpine forsake London - where he had been feted by critics and gallery owners, his works exhibited alongside the likes of Cezanne and Van Gogh - to make his home in this remote outpost? The truth begins to emerge when, four years into his exile, MacAlpine receives his first visitor. Influential art critic William Naysmith has come to the island to sit for a portrait. Over the course of the sitting, the power balance between the two men shifts dramatically as the critic whose pen could anoint or destroy careers becomes a passive subject. And as the painter struggles to capture Nasmith's true character on canvas, a story unfolds... _The Portrait_ is a darkly atmospheric, psychologically complex, macabre and chilling novel from a master storyteller.
Tracy Chevalier - Remarkable Creatures
In the early nineteenth century, a windswept beach along the English coast brims with fossils for those with the eye... From the moment she's struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is marked for greatness. When she uncovers unknown dinosaur fossils in the cliffs near her home, she sets the scientific world alight, challenging ideas about the world's creation and stimulating debate over our origins. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is soon reduced to a serving role, facing prejudice from the academic community, vicious gossip from neighbours, and the heartbreak of forbidden love.
A. S. Byatt - A Whistling Woman
This intoxicating novel stands on its own, while forming a triumphant conclusion to A. S. Byatt's great quartet depicting the clashing forces in English life from the early 1950s to 1970. While Frederica falls almost by accident into a career in television in London, tumultuous events in her home county of Yorkshire threaten to change her life, and those of the people she loves. A Whistling Woman is the ultimate novel of ideas made flesh -- gloriously sensual, sexy and scary, bursting with ideas, and wonderful humanity.
Ben Elton - Gridlock
Gridlock is when a city dies. Killed in the name of freedom. Killed in the name of oil and steel. Choked on carbon monoxide and strangled with a pair of fuzzy dice. How did it come to this? How did the ultimate freedom machine end up paralyzing us all? How did we end up driving to our own funeral in somebody else's gravy train? Deborah and Geoffrey know, but they have transportation problems of their own. And anyway, whoever it was that murdered the city can just as easily murder them.
Julian Barnes - England, England
As every schoolboy knows, you can fit the whole of England on the Isle of White. Grotesque, visionary tycoon Sir Jack Pitman takes the saying literally and does exactly that. He constructs on the island 'The Project', a vast heritage centre containing everything 'English', from Big Ben to Stonehenge, from Manchester United to the white Cliffs of Dover. The project is monstrous, risky, and vastly successful. In fact, it gradually begins to rival 'Old' England and even threatens to supersede it... One of Barnes' finest and funniest novels, "England, England" calls into question the idea of replicas, truth vs. fiction, reality vs. art, nationhood, myth-making, and self-exploration.
Jacqueline Wilson - Double Act
Ruby and Garnet are ten-year-old twins. They're identical, and they do EVERYTHING together, especially since their mother died three years earlier - but they couldn't be more different. Bossy, bouncy, funny Ruby loves to take charge, and is desperate to be a famous actress, while quiet, sensitive, academic Garnet loves nothing more than to curl up with one of her favourite books. And when everything around the twins is changing so much, can being a double act work for ever?
David Lodge - Deaf Sentence
_Being deaf is less an affliction than a sentence..._ Retired Professor of Linguistics Desmond Bates is going deaf. Not suddenly, but gradually and - for him and everyone nearby - confusingly. It's a bother for his wife, Winifred, who has an enviably successful new career and is too busy to be endlessly repeating herself. Roles are reversed when he visits his hearing-impaired father, who won't seek help and resents his son's intrusions. And, finally, there's Alex. Alex is a student Desmond agrees to help after a typical misunderstanding. But her increasingly bizarre and disconcerting requests cannot - unfortunately - be blamed on defective hearing. So much for growing old gracefully...
Jacqueline Wilson - The Illustrated Mum
Dolphin adores her mother, Marigold. She's got wonderful clothes, bright hair and vivid tattoos all over her body - a colourful lady, to match her colourful life. But Dolphin's older sister, Star, is beginning to wonder if living with Marigold's fiery, unpredictable moods is the best thing for the girls ...
Martin Amis - The Information
How can one writer hurt another where it really counts - his reputation? This is the problem facing novelist Richard Tull, contemplating the success of his friend and rival Gwyn Barry. Revenger's tragedy, comedy of errors, contemporary satire, The Information skewers high life and low in Martin Amis's brilliant return to the territory of Money and London Fields.
Maggie O'Farrell - The Hand That First Held Mine
A gorgeously written story of love and motherhood, this is a tour de force from one of our most acclaimed and best loved novelists. When the sophisticated Innes Kent turns up by chance on her doorstep, Lexie Sinclair realises she cannot wait any longer for her life to begin, and leaves for London. There, at the heart of the 1950s Soho art scene, she carves out a new life for herself, with Innes at her side. In the present day, Elina and Ted are reeling from the difficult birth of their first child. Elina, a painter, struggles to reconcile the demands of motherhood with sense of herself as an artist, and Ted is disturbed by memories of his own childhood, memories that don't tally with his parents' version of events. As Ted begins to search for answers, so an extraordinary portrait of two women is revealed, separated by fifty years, but connected in ways that neither could ever have expected.
Terry Pratchett - Nation
One day the world ends... ... Mau is on his way home from the Boys' Island. Soon he will be a man. And then the wave comes - a huge wave, dragging black night behind it and bringing a schooner, the Sweet Judy, which sails over and through the island rainforest. As the ship comes to a crashing halt, only one soul is left alive (or two, if you count parrots). The village has gone. The Nation as it was has gone. Now there's just Mau, who wears barely anything, a trouserman girl who wears far too much, and an awful lot of big misunderstandings. And a lot of not-knowing-what-to-do, or how to even say that. Together they must forge a new Nation out of the broken pieces. Create a new history. But... WHO IS GUARDING THE NATION? WHERE IS OUR BEER? ... the old history isn't going to just lie down and go away, at least not while the Grandfathers still have a voice. And Mau must look into the past before he can face the future. Wise, witty and filled with Terry Pratchett's inimitable comic satire, this is a terrific adventure that - quite literally - turns the world upside down.
Terry Pratchett - Snuff
According to the writer of the best-selling crime novel ever to have been published in the city of Ankh-Morpork, it is a truth universally acknowledged that a policeman taking a holiday would barely have had time to open his suitcase before he finds his first corpse. And Commander Sam Vimes of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch is on holiday in the pleasant and innocent countryside, but not for him a mere body in the wardrobe. There are many, many bodies and an ancient crime more terrible than murder. He is out of his jurisdiction, out of his depth, out of bacon sandwiches, and occasionally snookered and out of his mind, but never out of guile. Where there is a crime there must be a finding, there must be a chase and there must be a punishment. They say that in the end all sins are forgiven. But not quite all..
Katie Fforde - A Perfect Proposal
Sophie Apperly has been supporting herself since she left school, but as far as her academic family are concerned she's never had a 'proper' job. And because she's currently in between work she's despatched to look after Uncle Eric while his housekeeper is away. Here, whilst tidying his papers, she discovers a document relating to family business in America. Driven mad by her family and wanting to prove herself to them and bring in some much-needed income for them all, when her best friend Milly invites her over to New York she jumps at the chance - what's more she's lined up some nannying work for her to pay her way. However, she's hardly been in the country five minutes before disaster strikes. She suddenly finds herself with no work, nowhere to stay and very little money. Luckily Milly has a corner in her tiny apartment she can camp out in. A jaunt to an art gallery opening throws her into the path of Matilda - a grand old lady who is delighted to find someone who comes from the same part of the world as she grew up in. She is very taken with Sophie and invites her to her house in Connecticut for Thanksgiving. But Matilda's grandson Luke is very suspicious of Sophie - what exactly does this English girl want, is she after her grandmother's money? - and he's determined to nip this growing friendship in the bud.
Jane Moore - The Ex Files
Fay Parker is beautiful, successful - and worried she'll never find her perfect match. So when she meets a caring, good-looking man who adores her, she casts aside any niggling doubts and accepts his proposal. In a bid to be modern and grown-up, the bride and groom invite a potentially explosive mix of ex-boyfriends and girlfriends and Fay is determined to enjoy her special day. But there's one person present who has other ideas...
Jane Moore - The Second Wives Club
Alison and her groom, Luca, have just exchanged wedding vows and are preparing to cap off their perfect day at the reception. But before the champagne even hits the crystal stemware, Luca's first wife storms in and snatches back her children in front of the horrified guests. When the fuss has died down, Alison's friend Sarah confides that a few women she knows have started the Second Wives Club, where they get together to vent about the drama that inevitably unfolds when you share your husband with another woman. The club's founding members include Julia, a stunning "May" wife whose "December" husband insists on remaining uncomfortably close to his former spouse; Susan, whose husband is the classic widower who can't let go of his ex's memory; and, of course, Sarah herself, whose cross to bear is a bitch on wheels, not unlike Alison's uninvited wedding guest. Together, they ride the roller-coaster of their chosen lives and—as they contend with malicious gossip, scheming divorce lawyers, and ex-wives intent on sabotaging their relationships—ultimately must decide what's best for their marriages, their husbands, and themselves. Turning the tables on the usual sympathy for first wives, Jane Moore's dishy novel and lovable ensemble cast is a brilliant, unputdownable look at the modern marital love triangle.
Scarlett Thomas - Our Tragic Universe
If Kelsey Newman's theory about the end of time is true, we are all going to live forever. But for Meg - locked in a dead-end relationship and with a deadline long-gone for a book that she can't write - this thought fills her with dread. Meg is lost in a labyrinth of her own devising. But could there be an important connection between a wild beast living on Dartmoor, a ship in a bottle, the science of time, a knitting pattern for the shape of the universe and the Cottingley Fairies? Or is her life just one long chain of coincidences?
Jeanette Winterson - Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?
In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, _Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit_, was published. It tells the story of a young girl adopted by Pentecostal parents. The girl is supposed to grow up and be a missionary. Instead she falls in love with a woman. Disaster. Written when Jeanette was only twenty-five, her novel went on to win the Whitbread First Novel award, become an international bestseller and inspire an award-winning BBC television adaptation. Oranges was semi-autobiographical. Mrs Winterson, a thwarted giantess, loomed over that novel and its author's life. When Jeanette finally left her home, at sixteen, because she was in love with a woman, Mrs Winterson asked her: _why be happy when you could be normal_? This book is the story of a life's work to find happiness. It is a book full of stories: about a girl locked out of her home, sitting on the doorstep all night; about a tyrant in place of a mother, who has two sets of false teeth and a revolver in the duster drawer, waiting for Armageddon; about growing up in an northern industrial town now changed beyond recognition, part of a community now vanished; about the Universe as a Cosmic Dustbin. It is the story of how the painful past Jeanette Winterson thought she had written over and repainted returned to haunt her later life, and sent her on a journey into madness and out again, in search of her real mother. It is also a book about other people's stories, showing how fiction and poetry can form a string of guiding lights, a life-raft which supports us when we are sinking. Funny, acute, fierce and celebratory, this is a tough-minded search for belonging, for love, an identity, a home, and a mother.
David Lodge - Small World
The unbridled greed, pettiness, buffoonery and intellectual gobbledegook in the world of higher scholarship are the topics of this thorough and thoroughly funny "roman à English department". It's interesting for a couple of reasons, aside from its humour and lampoonery: it's an insider's view of things--always the best kind--and it takes its old- fashioned time telling a story, complete with reasonable digressions about the state of literary criticism and what may or may not be a realistic view of the academic life.
Joanne Harris - Peaches for Monsieur le Curé
It isn't often you receive a letter from the dead. When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to follow the wind that blows her back to Lansquenet, the village in which eight years ago, she opened up a chocolate shop. But returning to her old home, Vianne is completely unprepared for what she is to find there. Women veiled in black, the scent of spices and peppermint tea - and there, on the bank of the river Tannes, facing the church, a minaret.