Many thanks to everyone who entered the draw for a copy of Tracy Chevalier's Girl With a Pearl Earring;
the winner is Michi, and the book will be on its way to her shortly.
Incidentally, for anyone who'd like to know more about Tracy's research
for the book and about Vermeer's work and modus operandi, do listen to this conversation between Tracy and Melissa Buron, assistant curator of European art at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco where the painting itself is currently on show.
Now to a girl of a rather different stripe: Flavia de Luce is back!
It's a highlight of the reading year when Alan Bradley brings out a new book in his series about the eleven-year-old sleuth, and the latest one, Speaking from Among the Bones, is great fun. I'm nearing the climax as the tomb of St. Tancred, patron saint of Bishop's Lacey is about to be opened and the remains exhumed. Meanwhile, the church organist has been murdered, and Flavia's family is in danger of losing Buckshaw, their ancestral home. Must read on!
There is so much to enjoy and admire in Ann Weisgarber's novel The Promise (which I introduced here) that I'm just going to urge you to read it, and say little more than that.
It is an exercise in economy and restraint: there is not a superfluous word in it, nor a misplaced one. It takes loyalty, love and longing and makes of those a very moving story of subtly shifting relationships among its three main characters, and it sets this in a real place during real events - the hurricane which hit Galveston Island off Texas in 1900 and caused huge loss of life and destruction.
If you read that earlier post you'll see that it's about a woman fleeing the shame of a scandal who marries a widower she knew in her youth. Life in Oscar's rural home on the island is a far cry from Catherine's middle class Ohio upbringing, and her cultivated tastes and fine manners are out of place with the more rough and ready way of life on the dairy farm and in the simple wooden house. And then there's Nan, Oscar's blunt and practical housekeeper to contend with - Nan who made a promise to Oscar's late wife that she would take care of the couple's little boy, who feels she is a curse on any man she's ever cared for, and for whom Oscar is more than just an employer...
In a dual-voiced narrative, the reader hears two sides of the story, and Ann Weisgarber lets our sympathies lie with both. "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant" is the line of Emily Dickinson's which forms an epigraph, and in a beautifully balanced process or progress of give and take, accommodation and understanding, generosity, withdrawal and personal sacrifice, her characters' relationships are shaped and re-shaped over secrets kept or discovered, truths told or withheld; and then nature takes her devastating course.
This is a fine book, understated and sure in dialogue and idiom, spare but telling in its details, powerful in its emotional acuity. For more on the background to it, take a look at Ann's website which includes photographs of Galveston before and after the hurricane, music which features in the novel, and stories which inspired it, but then do read the book itself.
Tonight is World Book Night, and 20,000 volunteers will be giving away special WBN editions of 20 books "to people who don't regularly read or don't have access to books".
Among the writers taking part in WBN events this evening is Alexander McCall Smith (he'll be at Edinburgh Cental Library at 7pm), and he had this to say about the mass giveaway:
"In a world that sometimes seems over-burdened with conflict, World Book Night stands out as a precious beacon. It has two messages: one is that reading is sheer joy and the other is that the act of giving is intrinsically good..."
I am pleased to see that the majority of the books given away tonight will go to prisons, shelters for the homeless, hospitals, community centres and so on - if those books open eyes, light up minds and brighten lives in some way, that will be a great thing.
I can't let the evening pass without having my own giveaway, so I have bought two copies of Tracy Chevalier's Girl with a Pearl Earring, one for myself (because despite having seen the film twice I have never read the book!) and the other to send to a Cornflower Books reader. Please do throw your name into the hat for this, even if you've already read the novel or have a copy on the shelf because in that case, and in the spirit of World Book Night, you could pass it on to someone else. Everyone is free to enter, no matter where in the world you are, and to do so just leave a comment on this post naming a book which is of particular importance to you - it doesn't have to have changed your life, although perhaps it did in some way, it just has to be special to you for one reason or another (and you don't have to give the reason if you'd rather not). The draw will be open for a few days, so please do have a go.
I have been a fan of Jennie Rooney's since I read her first novel Inside the Whale (post here), and then her second, The Opposite of Falling, which is every bit as good. Now with her third book she confirms her place as a writer to watch, one whose talent extends from her storytelling skills to her dexterity with detail and to her mastery of the subjects - often complex or multi-faceted - with which her novels are concerned.
Her latest book is Red Joan, as gripping as it is thought-provoking, its narrative expertly shaped, its characters as plausible in terms of their weaknesses as for their strengths.
It is the story of Joan Stanley, a grandmother now in her eighties who has lived - for the past fifty years - an unremarkable life. But she is visited one morning by members of the security services, and in the five days of questioning which ensue, it is clear that the secrets she has kept for so long are now to be made public, and in a very big way. Relating what happened to her in Cambridge in the 1930s and '40s, both to the MI5 officers and to her increasingly incredulous QC son, Nick, Joan relives a past which saw an impressionable and idealistic girl fall under the spell of two Russian-born cousins, charismatic and manipulative both, and then for a physicist whose work was of the highest priority and of world-changing significance. Drawn into a dangerous game of espionage, Joan's motives were noble enough, but did she fully understand the consequences of her actions?
Inspired by the story of Melita Norwood, "The Spy who came in from the Co-op", the book borrows elements of that by way of background, but where it differs and diverges is in its clever use of shifting loyalties and moral imperatives, and of how emotion can colour ethics like pigment clouding clear water.
Hilary Mantel won the inaugural Walter Scott prize in 2010 with Wolf Hall; since then, the winners have been Andrea Levy's The Long Song and On Canaan's Side by Sebastian Barry. Of this year's shortlist, all I've read so far is the Anthony Quinn which is very good indeed but to my mind lacks something of the finesse of his earlier book Half of the Human Race (which I wrote about here). On a superficial level, is not the paperback cover
for the Rose Tremain very lovely?
"A dark and opulent tale of deception, betrayal and revenge in Paris, 1909," that's Imogen Robertson's The Paris Winter, and it's out soon.
"Maud Heighton came to Lafond's famous Academie to paint and to flee the constraints of her home town of Darlington. It took all her courage to escape, but Paris eats money. While her fellow students enjoy the dazzling glamour of Paris in the Belle Epoque, Maud slips into poverty.
Quietly starving and dreading another cold Paris winter, Maud takes a job as companion to young, beautiful Sylvie Morel. But Sylvie has a secret: an addiction to opium. As Maud is drawn into the Morels' world of elegant luxury, their secrets become hers. Before the New Year arrives, a greater deception will plunge her into the darkness that waits beneath this glittering city of light."
The book was inspired by Imogen's grandmothers and aunts who travelled independently around Europe in the first half of the twentieth century.
"Sumptuously evoking the Golden Age of Hollywood, a time when money is built on greed and love can be a trick of the light, Daisy Waugh's Melting the Snow on Hester Street is a compelling portrait of love, fame, and survival.
October 1929: As America helter-skelters through the last days before the Great Crash, the cream of Hollywood parties heedlessly on. Beneath the sophistication and elegance, society couple Max and Eleanor Beecham are on the brink of divorce, their finances on a knife-edge after a series of failed films. As the stock market tumbles it seems they have nowhere to turn but to the arms of their waiting lovers.
Hope is delivered in an invitation to one of the legendary weekend parties at Hearst Castle, where the champagne will be flowing and the room filled with every Hollywood big-shot around. They cannot resist one last chance of making it; after all, they've survived the insurmountable once before.
Scandalous, absurdly glamorous, the Hearst party is the epitome of Golden Era decadence, but for Max and Eleanor the time has come to make a decision that will change their future. Will they sacrifice everything for fame and fortune or plunge into their hidden past and grasp one last chance to love each other again?"
Another quick tour through some recent additions to the TBR pile begins with Warpaint by Alicia Foster, out in a few days' time.
"England, 1942: a dark world of conflict, hardship and subterfuge where information is a matter of life and death and art has become a weapon.
In a gothic villa deep in the woods near Bletchley Park, the 'Black' team use intelligence to make propaganda designed to demoralise the enemy. For Vivienne Thayer, employed as an artist at the villa, the war has worked out well so far, she has an indulgent husband and a new lover. And while the government quibbles over what cannot be shown officially, at the villa there are no such restrictions - but where does the subterfuge end?
Meanwhile, on the Home Front, three women painters - Laura Knight, Faith Farr and Cecily Browne - have been commissioned by the War Artists' Advisory Committee to record wartime life, brightening the existence of a public starved of culture, and summoning up the bulldog spirit in their art. Together they must battle with the men in power, including Churchill himself, to control the stories that can be told.
As the course of the war turns and the lives of both groups collide, each woman must ask herself what can be revealed and what must be concealed, even from those closest to them."
The book was inspired by a diary which the author found in the British Library, the account of a young doctor's attempts to expose a smallpox epidemic covered up by Cecil Rhodes in the diamond-mining area of South Africa in the 1880s. From this raw material comes a page-turner of a story about a woman who must choose between passion and duty, and about a country whose natural resources are buried deep.
Frances Irvine has led a life of wealth and status in London, but when her father dies suddenly and prematurely, she discovers she is destitute and is forced to accept the marriage proposal of Dr. Edwin Matthews, a cousin she barely knows and does not love. En route to South Africa to join him, Frances meets William Westbrook, cousin to the Cape's richest and most powerful man, and William's easy charm and charisma and ability to enjoy life and to handle every situation prove irresistible to the young woman who has been emotionally and socially cut adrift. As the voyage goes on, the relationship between William and Frances deepens and her engagement to Edwin is threatened, but whereas the contained, watchful doctor is driven by conscience and high principles, the suave William has a ruthless streak and his ambition is centred on personal gain rather than universal good; while Frances is smitten she is not wholly sure of him.
What follows is a story that is broad in scope taking in the beautiful but hostile environment, the social conditions and political capital of the diamond-mining world, the difficulties of life on the veldt and of fitting in and belonging in an alien world. Frances' sense of displacement is acute - her sudden 'expulsion' from her London life of privilege due to her father's debts, her lack of means and consequently of choice as to her future, even her ignorance of the practical matters of daily existence - it is as if her horizon is constantly shifting, and with no clear frame of reference, there is almost no-one she can trust. But in both the wilderness and the rough shanty towns of the diamond mines, Frances grows up quickly and a new maturity dispels her naivety so that eventually she is able to weigh what she has against what she thinks she wants.
As accomplished in its portrayal of the greed and corruption at the heart of its world as of its characters' motives - whether selfless or self-centred - and their complex emotional impulses, the novel is a sweeping, romantic story, vividly and beautifully written.
2012. Alice Dickinson - whom readers first encountered in The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life - goes to France to meet the grandmother who has only just learned of Alice's existence. "You come from a long line of mistakes," Pamela Avenell tells her, "and one true love story".
It's that love story which is at the heart of William Nicholson's superb new novel Motherland, a book whose characters link it to the loose Sussex trilogy - The Secret Intensity ..., All the Hopeful Lovers and The Golden Hour - but which also stands alone. It's a masterly piece of work from a writer whose gifts include an unsurpassed ear for dialogue, a fluency in the telling of a story which keeps the reader turning the page while yet wanting to linger in and savour the moment, and an empathic insight into the hearts and minds of each of his characters. You can tell that I loved every word of it.
In 1942, Kitty, an army driver stationed in Sussex, meets Ed, a
Royal Marine Commando, and his best friend Larry, a liaison officer attached to
Canadian Army Combined Operations. Kitty falls in love with Ed, but both
Ed and Larry fall in love with her - sanguine, accepting Larry wishes his rival well, and then the two men take part in Operation Jubilee, the catastrophic Dieppe Raid - in which the casualty rate was almost 70% - and Fate plays her hand.
Setting the book in England during the Second World War and in India shortly after it, William Nicholson uses real events to test his characters and real people to play opposite them. It's a winning combination, never stilted or contrived, but plausible and convincing, and in his Author's Note he quotes his sources and acknowledges his debt to the work of his wife, the social historian Virginia Nicholson, and in particular to her book Millions Like Us: Women's Lives in the Second World War.
If you're not already acquainted with William Nicholson's work, don't lose a moment, and read him at the earliest opportunity - he is that good.
The official publication date for the paperback edition of Suzanne Joinson's novel A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar
is tomorrow, but I see the book is already available in one or two places so I'm flagging it up today. I read it last year and chose it as one of my top novels of 2012, and here's what I had to say about it:
"A secret notebook. An unlikely inheritance. A collision of worlds."
That really does encapsulate the two interwoven plot strands - three
lady missionaries in the remote city of Kashgar, East Turkestan, in
early 1923, and Frieda in present-day London. As Evangeline English
travels the Silk Road with her sister Lizzie and the formidable
Millicent, representative of the Missionary Order of the Steadfast Face,
her plans to write "A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar" along the way
are disrupted by a birth, a death, and revelations which cause her to
question much about her life. Years later in London, Frieda encounters a
Yemeni man adrift in the city, and his strange presence and the sudden
knowledge that she is heir to a dead woman she has never heard of will
eventually bring her closer to making peace with her past and finding a
There's great strength in the writing here, it's very vivid and
compelling, and once the reader has settled into the two starkly
different worlds of the book, they'll be drawn on to keep turning the
pages. The book's themes are
beautifully played out, and Suzy's light touch where her material is
concerned is assured and effective; she gets her pacing right, too,
letting her tightly folded stories gradually unfurl in pleasing form and
using some beautifully crafted lines to achieve this.
What an exuberant novel this is - full of energy, atmosphere, idiom, and colour. She Rises by Kate Worsley is a debut, and an impressive one, a piece of character and integrity (it has a very pleasing sense of identity and wholeness about it), and one that has been crafted and buffed smooth.
Keep in mind the epigraph, which is from Swinburne's The Triumph of Time, and then we'll go on -
"I shall sleep, and move with the moving ships, / Change as the winds change, veer in the tide, / I will go back to the great sweet mother, / Mother and lover of men, the sea. / I will go down to her, I and no other, / Close with her, kiss her and mix her with me."
I shan't say much about the plot other than that it's set in Essex in 1740 when dairymaid Louise Fletcher goes to work in the port of Harwich as maid to a sea captain's daughter. This new world in a prosperous and almost exclusively female household serving a selfish and thoughtless young mistress takes much adjustment on the part of Louise, but while her proximity to the sea is unnerving - for it claimed the life of her father, and possibly that of her brother, too - she is both fascinated and perturbed by the novelty, the flooding of the streets at spring tide, the network of smugglers' passages connecting houses in its narrow lanes, and the nearness of sailors, that rough crew from whom she may just be able to discover something about her brother's fate.
Louise's story is interwoven with that of Luke, pressganged in a tavern and taken to serve on the warship Essex. Luke soon finds that life aboard is tough in every respect, and whether below decks or aloft in the rigging in a heavy sea, he must watch himself and choose his friends carefully on what becomes for him both "a floating prison" and "a vessel of hope". How his fate is linked to Louise's is for you to discover as you read the book.
This is a love story, an adventure, it has action aplenty, intrigue and secrets. It is a sensuous book with its roots deep in a real place, and as its tale of "disguise, deceit and deception" unfolds, it does so with vigour. If at times the plot takes an implausible turn or two, then in keeping with its subject matter it's riding the waves of fiction and moving with the story's swell.
"London, 1537. When Joanna Stafford learns her cousin is about to be burned at the stake for rebelling against Henry VIII, she makes a decision that will change not only her life, but quite possibly the fate of a nation. It will mean turning her back on everything she knows, for Joanna is a novice at Dartford Priory, and to save her family she must break the sacred rule of enclosure.
As her mission takes her from the Tower of London and the last whispered words of a queen to clandestine assignations and the royal court, she becomes entangled with a secret whose deadly past stretches farther back than anyone had imagined."
Also published today is the sequel to The Crown - The Chalice.
"1538, and the nation is reeling after Henry VIII's ruthless dissolution of the monasteries. Cast out of Dartford Priory, Joanna Stafford is trying to live a quiet life ... but family connections draw her dangerously close to a treasonous plot, and repelled by violence and the whispered conspiracies around her, Joanna seeks a life with a man who loves her. But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape the spreading darkness of her destiny.
She must make a choice between those she cares for most and taking her part in a mysterious prophecy made by three compelling sisters. Joanna embarks upon a testing journey, and as she deciphers the meaning at the core of the prophecy, she learns that the fate of a king and the freedom of a nation rest in her hands."
Tracy Chevalier's new novel The Last Runaway
is a lovely warm bath of a book - pure pleasure in which to immerse yourself and little incentive to leave it. It's the story of a young Quaker woman, Honor Bright, who leaves home and family in Dorset to sail to America in the company of her sister Grace who is to marry an émigré, but when Grace contracts yellow fever and dies, Honor's future is uncertain. Unable to return to England but with no real ties to Ohio where Grace's fiancé lives, Honor must find some sort of place for herself in this foreign community with its strange attitudes and customs.
Ohio is a place of comings and goings, a crossing point for settlers travelling from east to west, and for runaway slaves heading north to Canada and sanctuary. Its transient population numbers members of the Underground Railroad, the chain of people who will help the runaways and harbour them from slave hunters, and despite the jeopardy her actions put her in, Honor's conscience and beliefs mean she gives assistance to the fugitives where she can.
I won't say more about the plot than that, but apart from the story itself, one of the book's charms is Tracy Chevalier's portrayal of Quaker culture, of the lives of Ohio's pioneering farming families, and of the making of quilts - for Honor is a fine needlewoman, and her craft forms a neat line of running stitch throughout the book. I learned a lot through reading the novel, as its social history is fascinating, and I loved its steady pace and easy style, its essential 'quietness' - as befits its Quaker heroine. The small cast of characters makes a tight ensemble of strong contrasts, its dramatic potential realised to the full, and it's a well-rounded book, Honor's story smooth and even and pleasingly resolved. I recommend it thoroughly.
"A novel rich as the past it conjures up, weaving a story as playful and disturbing as the strange wax sculptures that its hero gives life to."
That is Sarah Dunant's summing-up of Secrecy by Rupert Thomson, "a love story, a murder mystery, a portrait of a famous city in an age of austerity, an exercise in concealment and revelation; but above all, a trapdoor narrative, one story dropping unexpectedly into another, the ground always slippery and uncertain."
Florence, 1691. "The Renaissance is long gone, and the city is a dark, repressive place where everything is forbidden and anything is possible. The Enlightenment may be just around the corner but knowledge is still the property of the few, and they guard it fiercely. Art, sex and power - these, as always, are the obsessions.
Facing serious criminal charges, Gaetano Zummo is forced to flee his native Siracusa at the age of twenty, first to Palermo, then Naples, but always has the feeling that he is being pursued by his past, and that he will never be free of it. Zummo works as an artist in wax. Fascinated by the plague, he makes small wooden cabinets in which he places graphic, tortured models of the dead and dying. But Cosimo III, Tuscany's penultimate Medici ruler, gives Zummo his most challenging commission yet, and as he tackles it his path entwines with that of the apothecary's daughter Faustina, whose secret is even more explosive than his."
Well, then - hands up all those who made it through to the end! If you have read Iain Pears' An Instance Of The Fingerpost, all four parts, all 692 closely worded pages, then I applaud you, and if you haven't finished yet, or you've abandoned it, then I'd say it is worth persevering.
It's a brilliant piece of writing, a sequence of events recounted through four dictinct voices, four sets of perceptions and preoccupations, four unique presentations of 'the facts'. It encompasses a vast amount of knowledge of life and culture in Restoration England, a time of political upheaval and manoeuvring and intellectual ferment - it's worth reading for its insight into the medical and scientific thinking of the period alone. It is complex and intricately plotted, but is it unnecessarily long?
At roughly 200 pages in, here's the note I made: "Any impatience with the relative circumlocution should be countered with a reminder that it's there for a reason; sit back and enjoy the ride and don't agitate about reaching the destination quickly or soon." You may disagree! Granted, by mid-way through the third part I was finding it hard going, but the pace picked up in part four, and the ending was surprising and ingenious - worth the wait, I think.
The author has some fun at his own expense with this passage from early in Prestcott's narrative: "It is my desire to set out clearly my account of events, and not bother with the silliness indulged in by so-called authors trying to earn spurious fame....All those elaborate conceits and hidden meanings. Say what you mean to say, then be silent, is my motto, and books would be better - and a lot shorter - if more people listened to my advice."
A crime novel and a piece of literary sleight-of-hand, a combination of artifice and scholarship, a work which puts flesh on the bones of real characters of the time, and which takes a single act in the essentially closed world of an Oxford college and uses it as fine focal point and as cause or effect of so much else in the wider world.
For the last few days I've been on a farm on the Canadian shore of Lake Erie in the present day thanks to Jane Urquhart's fine novel Sanctuary Line (from which there's a short extract here). Now I'm across the lake in Ohio and I've gone back in time to the 1850s. I'm with Honor Bright, a young Quaker woman from Dorset who has travelled to America in the company of her sister who is to be married to Adam Cox, a draper who emigrated a few years earlier.
Honor is the heroine of Tracy Chevalier's new novel The Last Runaway. She's an expert seamstress and quilter, and en route to her new home fate has brought her to the household of Belle Mills, a milliner, so in return for board and lodging for a few days, Honor is plying her needle making and decorating hats and bonnets for the ladies of the town of Wellington - headgear far more elaborate than she herself would ever wear. Honor has already encountered Belle's brother, the slave hunter Donovan, and it looks as though that acquaintanceship may prove difficult for her.
I'm only 50 or so pages in but loving the book so far, and the needlework aspect of the story - which is clearly going to be of some significance - is an added pleasure.
What are you reading just now, and where's your book taking you in terms of country and period?
I read Andrew Taylor's The Anatomy of Ghosts a couple of years ago and loved it (as you'll see here), so I'm delighted to have his latest book to look forward to:
The Scent of Death is set in Manhattan in 1778, and as the last part of America under British rule, "New York is home to a swelling tide of refugees seeking justice from the British crown. Edward Savill is sent from London to investigate the claims of dispossessed loyalists, but he soon becomes embroiled in the case of a gentleman murdered in the city's notorious Canvas Town. An escaped slave hangs for the crime, but Savill is convinced they have executed the wrong man.
Lodging with the respected Wintour family, Savill senses the mystery deepening. Judge Wintour's beautiful daughter-in-law, Arabella, hides a tragedy in her past, while his son plans a dangerous mission into enemy territory. And what of Mr. Noak, the enigmatic clerk seemingly bent on a dubious course of his own?
One thing is clear - the killing in Canvas Town was just the start of a trail of murder, and it's leading directly to Savill ..."
A new novel by William Nicholson is something to look forward to, and here is Motherland, out on 14th. February. Alice Dickinson (who was 11 in The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life) begins this book at the age of 23, "triggering a story that focuses on her great-grandmother's love affair in the 1940s". In 1942, Kitty is an army driver in Sussex who meets Ed, a Royal Marine Commando, and his best friend Larry, a liaison officer with Combined Operations. Both men take part in the catastrophic raid on the beaches of Dieppe, and both men fall in love with Kitty ... "An epic love story which captures both the beauty and the pain that love brings, set against a powerful backdrop of war and monumental change."
"Lipska does for the East End what Rankin does for Edinburgh," says crime writer James Craig, and that's quite an accolade for a debut novel. He's referring to the thriller Where the Devil Can't Go by Anya Lipska, in which Janusz Kiszka, unofficial fixer for London’s Polish community, is given the task of looking into what appears to be a routine missing persons case, but he is soon embroiled in a much more complex disappearance. "After he is threatened by drug dealing gangsters and accused of murder his search for answers takes him on a reluctant visit home to the port of Gdansk, the site of traumatic memories from the Soviet era. There, in the cellar of a former secret policeman, he uncovers evidence of a decades-old betrayal – and a conspiracy that will reach its chilling denouement in a derelict warehouse in London’s Docklands."
Sophie Hannah's psychological thrillers have an enormous, loyal following, and here is the latest, The Carrier. "When her plane is delayed overnight, Gaby Struthers finds herself forced to share a hotel room with a stranger, a terrified young woman named Lauren Cookson - but why is she so scared and why won't she explain? Lauren blurts out something about an innocent man going to prison for a murder he didn't commit, and Gaby soon suspects that Lauren's presence on her flight can't be a coincidence, because the murder victim is Francine Breary, the wife of the only man Gaby has truly loved. Tim Breary has confessed ... but he claims to have no idea why he murdered his wife."
Next, from Courttia Newland comes The Gospel According to Cane, "a gripping tale of loss, despair and hope of redemption". Beverley Cottrell had a dream life: a great job, a wonderful husband, a new baby. "But then, one winter afternoon when her son was barely a few weeks old, he was kidnapped from a parked car. Despite a media campaign, a full police investigation and the offer of a reward, Malakay was never found. Two decades later, Beverley believes that she has pieced her life together again - until a young man starts appearing wherever she goes. One dark evening the stalker gets close and tells her not to be scared. He says that he is Malakay, her son."
Pam Jenoff's The Ambassador's Daughter is a prequel to her novel Kommandant's Girl and is "a beautifully wrought coming-of-age story about a young woman deciding her destiny in a world that is redefining itself". It begins in Paris in 1919 where Margot Rosenthal has come with her German diplomat father as world leaders gather to rebuild Europe after the Great War. "Margot feels trapped and uncomfortable in the city ... but everything changes when she befriends Krysia Smok, a famous yet secretive pianist, a group of radical political activists, and Georg Richwalder, a handsome naval officer haunted by his experiences of the war. Margot finds herself questioning where her loyalties should lie."
"A multi-layered, deftly observed novel of the fallout of fame and fortune," Little Known Facts by Christine Sneed is a story about celebrity. "Life as one of Hollywood's most handsome, charismatic and critically acclaimed movie stars seems like a glitzy fairytale to the people who orbit Renn Ivins. But for his grown children, their father's fame threatens to permeate every aspect of their lives. For medical student Anna, Renn's exploits are a source of embarrassment and bemusement. Her brother Will is floundering in a quarter-life crisis, the only thing to outlast his directionless career and failed relationships is his trust fund. While Will and Anna are happy to use their father's money, they're less happy to use his influence...." Secrets and lies unravel in this "psychologically exquisite, superbly realised novel."