Doctor Faraday has been obsessed with Hundreds Hall since he was a child. Now he’s the Ayres’ family doctor, watching as the crumbling Hall devours their fortune, their sanity and their lives. As strange and threatening events multiply, Faraday insists on rational explanations. Is he right? Or will Hundreds Hall be the death of them all?
Just how far will a group of experimental archaeologists go to re-enact Iron Age life and rituals? Time for a rare break from my usual genre diet to enjoy Sarah Moss’s brilliant new short novel, Ghost Wall.
Nahri is a hustler with a sixth sense for sickness, trying to save up enough money from her scams to study medicine. When she accidentally summons a daeva during an improvised ritual, her dreams go up in smoke. Now she must flee her home to survive the ifrit who hunt her bloodline down. Will she find sanctuary in the City of Brass?
San Francisco, 1939. Treasure Island glows in the Bay, a beacon for Man’s perseverance and ingenuity. The vibrant City itself is full of immigrants and free spirits, shielded from the shadows of war. Anything can happen in San Francisco: forbidden love, illegal shifts in gender, and maybe – when you really need it – some actual magic.
Haunted Eliot Saxby is employed by men with more means than sense to search for traces of the recently-extinct Great Auk. He is not the only unusual passenger aboard the Amethyst. Edward Bletchley, bright and brittle, has brought his engraved guns and his mysterious cousin Clara. Will these troubled southern souls find any peace in the blood-soaked travels of an Arctic trader?
Recently qualified and newly wed, Dr Ally Moberley-Cavendish has a lot to adjust to as a wife and as a doctor in a women’s asylum. Can she and Tom survive a separation of months so soon after their marriage; is she right to stay behind with her ghosts as he sets sail for Japan?
Young Cam is tasked to journey to a distant city with a letter and a dagger that he can’t get rid of – no matter how he tries. Hunted through the wilderness, he realises he has been tricked into more than just carrying a message. But the city and its cats need a Seroster. Can Cam avoid the fate being forced on him?
I realised with glee after my fun revisiting Jurassic Park that I have lots of overlap between my bookshelves and my DVD rack. You know what this means… This month, I’m revisiting an epic tale of feuding Victorian illusionists – but which Christopher did it better? Almost spoiler-free.
In 1527, a Spanish colonial expedition landed in Florida to establish new colonies. 9 years later, the only 4 survivors finally reached Mexico City: 3 Spanish noblemen and 1 Moorish slave. This is his story.
A pre-Babelfish translation comedy.
A charming reprint of a 19th century instructional, intended to help Portuguese students learn English. Given the Portuguese authors didn’t actually speak English, unintended hilarity.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all get to talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week, it’s Historic and/or Futuristic Settings. And I’m indecisive, so I’m going with half and half.
Henry Whittaker is a ‘useful little fingerstink’. Born to a gifted Kew gardener in the reign of George III, his ambition and determination drive him across the world and to the heady heights of Philadelphia society, reinventing himself as one of America’s richest men. His daughter Alma is a marvel: intellectually gifted and impeccably educated, if socially awkward. The novel is a majestic epic weaving historical facts into a fictional tapestry as she struggles to understand the mechanisms of creation and alteration in the age of Darwin.
When my 's grandmother downsized, I was invited to rescue any books she was shedding from her sizeable collection. This led to a random assortment of older volumes leaping onto my shelves that I would never otherwise have heard of (or acquired) – this is one; others include various early Penguin non-fiction titles of the colonially-incorrect variety, some fringe erotica (cool grandma!) and a much-thumbed copy of Usage and Abusage, which the family couldn't believe I didn't already own. I picked up Liza of Lambeth because I vaguely thought I ought to have read some Maugham and because I used to live in Lambeth.
Liza is a gay young lady of the working class, who lives on Vere Street with her self-absorbed drunk mother, an assortment of cheerful children, and various hard-drinking men and endlessly-pregnant or bruised wives who claim their husbands are gentle when they haven't been drinking. The novel charts Liza's downfall from the well-loved young woman out-dancing the street in her new purple dress to the social outcast pushed into a public fistfight with her rival for the amusement of her neighbours.
Having learnt that it draws heavily on his experiences as a doctor in Lambeth, I take it that Maugham was aiming for a truthful representation of his experiences of the London working class. The picnic sequence lived up to this – I rather enjoyed this glimpse of a day off in the country – but elements such as the dancing in the street to the Italian organ grinder and much of the faux-Cockney language felt like cliches. Perhaps I'm being too harsh (were these tropes already well-trodden by 1897?), but I can't blame anyone but Maugham for the strong whiff of moral and social superiority that accompany them.
Liza is a difficult heroine to root for, being self-absorbed and hard-hearted (perhaps unsurprising, considering her mother); the only likeable character, Tom, is perceived as weak or wet and is rejected repeatedly. Although the narrator never overtly comments on Liza's choices, it's difficult not to read the novel as a cautionary tale. That said, it's even-handed in its disdain for slum life as the men – Tom excepted – are all drunks, braggarts and wife beaters.
However, I found myself most troubled by the start of Liza's affair, largely because