Strong women have been in the news this week, thanks to International Women’s Day, so this is a good time to tell you about The Huntingfield Paintress by Pamela Holmes (pb, 978 1910692660, £8.99) which is published by Urbane Publications in May. Deborah Moggach described this as “an atmospheric and enjoyable story of a singular and freethinking woman” and it is inspired by the true story of Mildred Holland and the famous parish church of Huntingfield in Suffolk. This plucky and headstrong woman revelled in the eight years she and her vicar husband, spent travelling 1840's Europe. But William’s new posting in a tiny Suffolk village is a world apart and Mildred finds a life of tea and sympathy dull and stifling in comparison. What options exist for a clever, creative woman in such a cossetted environment? A sudden chance encounter fires Mildred’s creative imagination and she embarks on a herculean task that demands courage and passion. Defying her loving but exasperated husband and the mistrustful locals, Mildred rediscovers her passion and lives again through her dreams of beauty. The national PR campaign, for The Huntingfield Paintress will include coverage in women’s mag and radio interviews. Stories of strong women combined with atmospheric local history are doing rather well at present – and I think this could be popular – it feels like an excellent title for book groups. AN Wilson called it “a genuinely original, utterly enchanting story” and Esther Freud said it was “a slice of Suffolk history brought beautifully to life” – so there is no doubt that it is well written (Pamela Holmes won the won the Jane Austen Short Story Award in 2014) and you can find out more and order it here.
Ooh, I love a novel with a painterly theme – think Goldfinch or Girl with a Pearl Earring and have a look at the Guardian’s list of Top Ten novels featuring works of art.
In May comes an important war memoir from Biteback. Pumpkin Flowers: A Soldier’s Story by Matti Friedman (hb, 9781785900433, £12.99). Pulitzer Prize–winning biographer Kai Bird said: “it reminds one of Michael Herr’s unforgettable Vietnam memoir, Dispatches. It, too, is destined to become a classic text on the absurdities of war. Evocative, emotionally wrenching, and yet clear-eyed and dispassionate, Pumpkin Flowers is a stunning achievement.“ Part memoir, part reportage, part elegy for lost youth, this powerful narrative captures the birth of today’s chaotic Middle East and the rise of a 21st century type of war in which there is never a clear victor, and innocence is not the only casualty It is an unflinching look at the way we conduct war today and an essential chronicle of how war in the Middle East is shaping the 21st century Award-winning writer Matti Friedman recreates the harrowing, otherworldly experiences of a band of young men, plucked by conscription from westernised boyhoods, and charged with holding a remote outpost in Lebanon - a pointless task that changed them forever and foreshadowed the unwinnable conflicts the United States would soon confront in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Pumpkin Flowers contains black and white illustrations and photos and you can find out more and order it here.
Acres of newsprint this week have been devoted to the extraordinary news that today’s children are to be taught that sentences ending with an exclamation mark can only begin with “How” or “What”. Clearly all of our wonderful authors are going to strongly disagree with this, along with editors, publishers – pretty much everyone really. Here’s an entertaining piece in the Guardian on how the government want to penalise enthusiasm – and here's what the Daily Mail has to say on the subject. No! No! No!!!!!
Congratulations to Myrmidon, whose title The Anatomist’s Dream by Clio Gray is among the 20 longlisted titles for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction which was announced this week. Commenting on 2016's longlist, Chris White, Waterstone’s fiction buyer, said: "As ever, it's an interesting list with much to make an old bookseller smile." Sheila O'Reilly of Dulwich Books in London added: "The Bailey's longlist is a wonderful selection of great writing with recognizable names such as Kate Atkinson and Anne Enright to a some of the best debut novelists of the past year. What the longlist does is raise the profile of the prize and begin the conversation about the best women writers in 2016. I see the prize as a celebration of women’s writing and why not, does it still need to be justified? Probably but let’s steer the conversation away from the justification and onto the wonderful writing the Bailey’s celebrates." Author Lionel Shriver has weighed into the debate nonetheless, saying literary prizes just for women are "problematic", while calling International Women's Day "creepy" at an event to mark the occasion. You can read about that in an article in the Bookseller here. The winner will receive a cheque for £30,000 announced at an awards ceremony in London’s Royal Festival Hall on 8th June 2016.
“Chop off my head and hawk it to the highest bidder. I'm the Anatomist's Dream, did you know? That's what they call me.” In a small salt-mining town, Philbert is born with a 'taupe', a disfiguring inflammation of the skull. Abandoned by his parents and with only a pet pig for company, he eventually finds refuge in a traveling carnival, as it makes its annual migration across Germany bringing entertainment to a people beset by famine and repression. Philbert finds a caring family in an assortment of 'freak show' artists, magicians and entertainers. But when he is persuaded to undergo examination by the renowned physician Dr Ullendorf, he embarks on an altogether darker and more perilous journey that will have far-reaching consequences for a whole nation. The Anatomist’s Dream by Clio Gray (pb, £12.99, 978 1910183212) is a sumptuous feast for the senses and you can read an extract on the Myrmidon website here.
Could Donald Trump actually become President? That possibility appears to be getting every closer. But if it all goes tits up for him – then maybe he could turn his hand to book reviewing instead? This amusing article from our friends at BuzzFeed really made me laugh as it hypothesises how Trump would review some literary classics…
And there’s always time for Cassetteboy – here’s his hilarious take on how Trump may get himself to the White House!
More congratulations – this time to Choc Lit, whose title The Wedding Cake Tree was a category winner in the Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards this week. The Wedding Cake Tree by Melanie Hudson was awarded Contemporary Category Romantic Novel of the Year at an awards ceremony in London. The overall prize – Romantic Novel of the Year was won by Letters to the Lost (Simon & Schuster) by Iona Grey. The judges commented: “This wonderful range of books demonstrates the breadth and depth of the genre and illustrates its enduring popularity and appeal to a wide and discerning audience.” The Wedding Cake Tree (pb, 978-1781892244, £7.99) is the emotional, fun-filled tale of celebrity photographer Grace Buchanan who in order to inherit her childhood home has to drop everything for two weeks and travel the country with a mysterious stranger; war-weary Royal Marine, Alasdair Finn. This romantic whirl of a novel has had glowing feedback from readers: “Pure brilliance…This story has truly touched me…Thank you Melanie Hudson, the world is a brighter place with you and your book in it” is typical – so it is clearly a very worthy winner. Well done Melanie Hudson and Choc Lit!
Very exciting news for Biteback who have just signed a deal to publish four new volumes of diaries from Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former chief press secretary and director of communications and strategy. Iain Dale, (MD of Biteback) said "When I heard from Ed Victor that we had agreed terms, I literally punched the air. I’ve read every word of the previous four volumes and, in my opinion, Alastair’s diaries represent the most valuable political historical documents of the last 20 years. There’s no spin, no editing out the awkward bits, just raw politics told in an entertaining and engaging manner. You get a unique perspective from someone who, even after he had left No. 10, was still right at the centre of things. I’ve been trying to entice Alastair to Biteback for some time and I could not be more delighted." Alastair Campbell said: "I am very pleased to be working with Iain Dale – not a bad guy for a Tory. The first book with Biteback – Volume 5: Never Really Left – will be published in the autumn, and although it begins the day after I left Downing Street, it becomes clear that I never fully left and was centrally involved with Tony Blair up to the election of 2005, where this volume will end. It also, therefore, covers the publication of and fallout from the Hutton Inquiry, and the deal I helped put together to get Tony and Gordon Brown co-operating during the campaign, as well as my attempts – and failures – to adapt to a new kind of life, branching out into different areas, alongside the realization of continuing mental health issues that required proper attention." Volume 5: Never Really Left will be published in autumn 2016, with subsequent books over the next three years. The books will be supported by a major publicity campaign – something to look forward to as this is going to be BIG!
Many of us enjoyed the GoogleDoodle this week celebrating the 105 birthday of Clara Rockmore: master of the theremin – the world's first electronic music instrument and also the first ever instrument that could be played without being touched! The theremin inspired the likes of the Rolling Stones, and the Beach Boys and was the instrument that led to the creation of the first synthesizer. You can read all about it in this article in the Telegraph here. A good chance to remind everyone about The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr (pb, £8.99, 978 1910709054) which was published by Aardvark in January. This beautifully written novel is the fictional memoir of Dame Lena Gaunt: musician, octogenarian, junkie. Lena’s is a life characterized by the pull of the sea, the ebb and flow of passion and loss, and her enduring relationship with that extraordinary instrument, the theremin. It combines music and art as she moves the reader around the globe through the dazzling 30s and 40s, paying tribute to the life of an artist in all its forms. “Delightful”, “fascinating”, “exquisite”– the reviews for this compelling first novel have been outstanding. And you can read an extract on BookOxygen.com here. Order The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt here.
Who’s watching The Night Manager on Sunday evenings – isn’t it exciting? Those whizz kids at Urbane who never miss a chance to promote their books on social media are suggesting that fans of #Night Manager and also #Hugh Laurie who love a bit of undercover espionage will probably also enjoy Escape to Perdition – the high quality page turning thriller which was published last June and is perfect for fans of Le Carre. The five star reviews of this title on Amazon would seem to bear this out – “a hard hitting political thriller and so much more”, “a damn good read with an excellent plot partly based on fact and part fiction” are typical. Escape to Perdition (pb, £8.99, 978 1909273795) by James Sylvester is available now – so if you’re mounting an undercover, spy-themed table or window display – don’t forget to include it!
And since we’ve mentioned the consistently brilliant Hugh Laurie – here is a very funny interview where he is chatting to Ellen DeGeneres about the differences between UK and US slang.
And to finish with some music – here’s Hugh singing the old Ray Charles classic, Hallelujah I Love Her So!
How versatile is Hugh – here he is with Jools Holland and here is in a different musical mode entirely – but still equally fab!
Manx Litfest@manxlitfest We have couple of @BirlinnBooks authors coming to #ManxLitfest2016 - must say what a pleasure it is to deal with team at Birlinn. Top notch!
UrbanePublications @urbanebooks Thrilled to see The Busby Babes reviewed in the latest edition of @FourFourTwo
NeilMackay @NeilMackay Hey folks @AyeWrite and @FreightBooks you have no idea how long it took me to find a non X-rated excerpt to read from @TheWolfTrial ...
Scottish Book Trust @scottishbktrust 'My friends laugh at me but training to be a professional librarian is a sort of calling – like becoming a priest':
UrbanePublications @urbanebooks Urbane are delighted to announce the signing of Emmy-winning and BAFTA nominated writer @BillHumble
Choc Lit@ChocLituk Fascinating post by @SarahWaights on women & politics to tie in with paperback release of Never Marry a Politician. http://goo.gl/7hPXBQ
Carcanet Press @Carcanet Listen out for Elaine Feinstein on this episode of Poetry Please celebrating Women's Poetry. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072htxz … #IWD2016
VeryBritishProblems @SoVeryBritish "Can I just borrow you?" You're not in trouble "Can I just grab you?" You might be in trouble "Can I have a quick word?" You're fired.
Freight Books @FreightBooks Five stars for Treats by Lara Williams from @thelistmagazine! Thank you!
goodreads @goodreads One idea for #RandomActsOfKindnessDay: Buy someone a book!
That’s all for now folks! More next week!This blog is taken from an e-newsletter which is sent weekly to over 700 booksellers as well as publishers and publicists. If you would like to order any of the titles mentioned, then please click here to go to the Compass New Titles Website or talk to your Compass Sales representative.