Like most people, Vic Mullan – once described by his best friend Joe as ‘a man whose sense of social responsibility is exhausted by pulling over to let an ambulance by’ – can remember where he was and what he was doing on the day of Princess Diana’s death. Yes, he can remember it particularly well: he was at home, beginning an affair with Emma, Joe’s wife.
The opening sections of David Baddiel’s second novel chart the history of an intense and passionately sexual liaison set against the background of the most hysterical time in recent memory. But as the months wear on, and life and love return to normal, so things become more complex between Vic and Emma. And then, tragedy – a real, local, small-scale tragedy, as opposed to a national, iconic, mythological one – intervenes.
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.
J. K. Rowling - The Casual Vacancy
When Barry Fairbrother dies unexpectedly in his early 40s, the little town of Pagford is left in shock. Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war. Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils... Pagford is not what it first seems. And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?
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 - 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.
Terry Pratchett - The Last Hero
He's been a legend in his own lifetime. He can remember the great days of high adventure. He can remember when a hero didn't have to worry about fences and lawyers and civilisation. He can remember when people didn't tell you off for killing dragons. But he can't always remember, these days, where he put his teeth... He's really not happy about that bit. So now, with his ancient sword and his new walking stick and his old friends - and they're very old friends - Cohen the Barbarian is going on one final quest. He's going to climb the highest mountain in the Discworld and meet his gods. He doesn't like the way they let men grow old and die. The last hero in the world is going to return what the first hero stole. With a vengeance. That'll mean the end of the world, if no one stops him in time...
Terry Pratchett - I Shall Wear Midnight
Tiffany Aching, the young witch from "The Wee Free Men", "A Hat Full of Sky" and "Wintersmith" is back in a new adventure featuring Discworld characters both familiar to fans (such as Tiffany, the Wee Free Men, Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg) and new (meet Wee Mad Arthur, the Nac Mac Feegle on the City Watch whose only previous appearance was a brief cameo in Feet of Clay and city witch Mrs Proust - a fabulous Pratchett creation). Oh, and there's a magic book or two, a twist through time, a Cunning Man - and a Giant Man of chalk...
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.
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 - Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit
Jeanette, the protagonist of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit and the author's namesake, has issues–"unnatural" ones: her adopted mam thinks she's the Chosen one from God; she's beginning to fancy girls; and an orange demon keeps popping into her psyche. Already Jeanette Winterson's semi-autobiographical first novel is not your typical coming-of-age tale. Brought up in a working-class Pentecostal family, up North, Jeanette follows the path her Mam has set for her. This involves Bible quizzes, a stint as a tambourine-playing Sally Army officer and a future as a missionary in Africa, or some other „heathen state”. When Jeanette starts going to school ("The Breeding Ground") and confides in her mother about her feelings for another girl ("Unnatural Passions"), she's swept up in a feverish frenzy for her tainted soul. Confused, angry and alone, Jeanette strikes out on her own path, that involves a funeral parlour and an ice-cream van. Mixed in with the so-called reality of Jeanette's existence growing up are unconventional fairy tales that transcend the everyday world, subverting the traditional preconceptions of the damsel in distress. In Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Winterson knits a complicated picture of teenage angst through a series of layered narratives, incorporating and subverting fairytales and myths, to present a coherent whole, within which her stories can stand independently. Imaginative and mischievous, she is a born storyteller, teasing and taunting the reader to reconsider their worldview. –Nicola Perry