Friday 24 January 2014

Compass Points 71

Meet the five eccentric Harvey sisters Morgan, Pandora, Cressida, Thisby and Teresa. All are unconventional, unschooled and oddly named by their famous detective writer father and fragile mother. Still living in the comfort of the rural family home, apart from Pandora who has done the impossible and managed to bag herself a husband, the eccentric sisters are largely left to their own devices, living at a distance from the outside world. So when Gregory turns up on their doorstop unexpectedly one afternoon, his car having broken down outside their front door, Morgan declares it fate and welcomes the somewhat stunned Gregory into the female dominated household. The excitement Gregory’s visit instils into the house disrupts the sisters’ stable world, making them question their secluded existence. However, Mrs Harvey is not at all pleased by the blossoming friendship and new acquaintances Gregory brings into the girls lives. Can the close family unit stay together in the face of change? Guard Your Daughters is a delightfully funny enthralling moving period novel, by Diana Tutton, which has been out of print for 60 years, and is republished in March in a  new edition (paperback, 9781843914921, £8.99) by Hesperus Classics with a beautiful jacket – just right for its target market! And what is its target market I hear you ask? Well, I think we can all  tell from the above blurb that we are about to enter that well-loved land first made popular by Jane Austen – and then commandeered by Dodie Smith and Louise M Alcott; where large quantities of sisters live together in a crumbling mansion all waiting for Mr Right to turn up and change their lives. Nothing wrong with that at all – and there are thousands of readers out there looking for something very much along these lines. Guard Your Daughters will fit the bill perfectly, and you can find out more and order it here.  

In the meantime, if you too would like to live in a picturesque setting with lots of squabbling sisters (Elizabeth Taylor, Winona Ryder, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Romola Garai and Clare Danes for example)  while you wait for Colin Firth, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant or Gabriel Byrne to turn up (oooh yes please) ; then why not have a little Friday afternoon wallow in the following:  firstly the trailer for the 1949 film of  Little Women, then perhaps for contrast the trailer for the 1994 Little Women film – and how about the Sense and Sensibility trailer and also the trailer for I Capture the Castle. And of course we must see the start of the most popular sister story of them all – the beginning of the 1995 TV series of Pride and Prejudice.

Phew – that’s enough giggling girls for the moment, what about something for the boys? Ah ha – here’s something that sounds suitably manly; The Fifty Year Sword by Mark Z. Danielewski (978 1908885999 £20.00 hardback) coming from Cargo in March From the National Book Award finalist and one of the USA’s most revered cult writers, this is an explosive and thrilling ghost story. A local seamstress named Chintana finds herself responsible for five orphans on her birthday. The children are captivated by the storyteller who arrives and tells a tale of vengeance - and produces a long black box he sets before them. As midnight approaches, the box is opened, a fateful dare is made, and the children as well as Chintana come face to face with the consequences of a malice retold... The Los Angeles Times called this “a terrific premise that is equally well executed in a book that is mostly sci-fi but incorporates some elements of modern dystopian fiction… thrilling.”  It is quite a hard novel to describe, but that Dallas Morning News had a good try, describing it as “a seriously experimental confection of modern horror literature. . . . Composed mostly of dialogue, some attributed to various speakers, some not, some near-abstract drawings of needlework constructions, and a lot of white space—all wrapped in the pages of a very classy piece of book production—The Fifty Year Sword might be the oddest book of the year. In certain ways, it might be the most interesting and enjoyable. . . ..” . There’s no doubt that this book is unique; the Chicago Tribune called it  “A swift, old-style ghost story with crisp, eerie illustrations. The text itself becomes blade cuts. The tale’s momentum and dark tone take over, speeding the story to its surprise end. . . The Fifty Year Sword is a pleasure to read.”  Since his revolutionary debut House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski has continuously astonished critics and fans with his blend of beautiful prose and wild experiments with typography and design. These passions culminate in The Fifty Year Sword which is a novella of startling simplicity, tremendous artistry and with a terrifying sting in the tale. You can hear Mark Z. Danielewski talking for just one minute about the book on YouTube here.

I mentioned The Foundling Boy by Michel Déon (pb9781908313560) a couple of weeks ago, and this classic of modern French fiction published in the UK by Gallic has been getting rave reviews. The Independent on Sunday praised Déon's “quiet, wryly funny prose and story-telling abilities' and described his novel as 'a delight” while the Sunday Times said: “It is shamefully parochial of us that this eminent writer has been so ignored by the anglophone world'” and noted “the general air of light irony and the innocent-abroad subject suggest roots in Candide and Henry Fielding's The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling” and the New Statesman said “'Remarkable … Rooted in 19th-century realism but profoundly subversive of its conventions … Deserves a place alongside Flaubert's Sentimental Education and Le Grand Meaulnes.” Lots of you independent booksellers out there have been really getting behind this book – thank you very much indeed! These include Toppings of Bath and Ely, who chose The Foundling Boy for their reading group, and also Mr B's in Bath, who included it in their Christmas catalogue to great success. The bloggers too are more than enthusiastic – have a look at reviews here from Jenny Messenger, Jera's Jamboree and Liz Loves Books.

I’m sure many of us have think F**k It on a regular basis – but not many of us have managed to turn it into an entire life philosophy; bestselling series of books and serious money maker.  One man who has however, is John C Parkin and if you don’t believe such a simple concept could possibly lead to something so mega, then check out his website at . If you would like to share in his good fortune, then you could do a lot worse than join the F**k It craze, and sell some copies of the book (£10.99 paperback 9781781802960). This now classic text has been updated with inspirational new material, coming from Hay House in March. F**k It has taken the world by storm, helping countless people to let go, stop struggling and finally do what they want; to ignore what everyone else is telling them and go their own way. John  C Parkin suggests that saying F**k It is the perfect Western expression of the Eastern spiritual ideas of letting go, giving up and finding real freedom by realising that things don't matter so much (if at all). It's a spiritual way that doesn't require chanting, meditating, wearing sandals or eating pulses. And it's the very power of this modern-day profanity that makes it perfect for shaking us Westerners out of the stress and anxiety that dominate our lives. This book has now sold over 95,000 copies and been translated into 19 languages and received extensive press.

There is already a buzz building for the next Pascal Garnier novel, The Front Seat Passenger, (paperback, £7.99 978 1908313638) with early copies having been delivered to Mr B's Bookshop in Bath who tweeted: “You’ll have to wait until March but we can confirm it is awesome!” Pascal Garnier is critically acclaimed in the UK and this novel has more of the beautiful, pared-back prose that is his hallmark. As the Independent says, his writing would suite those readers “with a taste for Georges Simenon or Patricia Highsmith.” And the Sunday Times says that ‘the combination of sudden violence, surreal touches and bone-dry humour have led to Garnier’s work being compared with the films of Tarantino.” This new novel begins with Fabien and Sylvie, who had both known their marriage, was no longer working. And yet when Sylvie is involved in a fatal car accident, her husband is stunned to discover that she had a lover who died alongside her. With thoughts of revenge on his mind, Fabien decides to find out about the lover’s widow, Martine, first by stalking her, then by breaking into her home. He really needs to get Martine on her own. But she never goes anywhere without her formidable best friend, Madeleine...
The Front Seat Passenger is published by Gallic in March, and you can order it here.

Talking of complimentary tweets, The Yellow Lighted Bookshop in Gloucestershire this week recently tweeted “We love Good For Nothing! Best book we’ve read in the last year! Thank you vv much”. You’ll remember that this is also the book which Andrew Marr also raved about – it’s just been published by Skyscraper Publications, and as Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveller’s Wife enthused; Brandon Graham is a very funny, painfully observant, no-holds-barred American writer. … This is a brilliant book. When times are really horrible it's good to be able to laugh (especially at ourselves).” This debut novel, containing humour with a bite, is genuinely laugh out loud funny – and if you haven’t read it yet I urge you to give it a try!

We are pleased to tell you that Parallax, a collection of poetry by Sinéad Morrissey published by Carcanet (paperback 978 1 847772 04 6) is the Winner of the 2013 T S Eliot Prize for Poetry. The judges said “In a year of brilliantly themed collections, the judges were unanimous in choosing Sinéad Morrissey’s Parallax as the winner. Politically, historically and personally ambitious, expressed in beautifully turned language, her book is as many-angled and any-angled as its title suggests.” These remarkable poems are assured and disquieting, and explore the paradoxes in what is seen, read and misread in the surfaces of the presented world. Stephen Knight, writing in the Independent called her “The outstanding poet of her generation.”  As you would expect, there has been an enormous amount of publicity for Sinéad’s win of such an important poetry prize; and Newsnight, Radio 4, and Radio 1 have all interviewed her. Parallax has also been featured on the BBC News , and there have been articles in the Belfast Telegraph, the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the New Statesman and the Telegraph.

And if you find the idea of parallel universes intrinsically fascinating, then have a look here for a four minute, easy to understand explanation of the possible science behind such a concept!

That’s all for now folks, more next week!

This blog is read weekly by over 700 booksellers, 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.

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