By Andrew Cowan
It's market day in an English city two years into the Great War. The farmers are coming in from the country, the cattle are being driven through the streets and that evening a trainload of wounded soldiers is due to arrive. At the local mansion, its new hospital tents to the ready, waits Montague Beckwith, himself a psychological casualty of the war. In the town's poorest quarter, Winnie Barley prays that Walter, her missing son, will be on the train (but that her violent husband is not). In the pharmacy, Gertie Dobson dreams of romance while her father keeps unsuitable men at bay. And everywhere is Walter, a ghostly presence who watches as the girl he loved from a distance is drawn into Montague's orbit. Weaving together multiple viewpoints, Andrew Cowan creates a panoramic, extraordinarily vivid portrait of a place as individual as it is archetypal. Here is a community where the war permeates high and low; where the factory now produces barbed wire, the women are doing the men's jobs, and the young men are no longer so eager to answer the King's call. And here is the tragic story of a casual betrayal, and a boy who proved that those at the bottom of the heap - the worthless ones - could be the most valiant of them all.
By Patricia Morrisroe
A fourth-generation insomniac, Patricia Morrisroe decided that the only way she'd ever conquer her lifelong sleep disorder was by becoming an expert on the subject. So, armed with half a century of personal experience and a journalist's curiosity, she set off to explore one of life's greatest mysteries: sleep. Wide Awake is the eye-opening account of Morrisroe's quest - a compelling memoir that blends science, culture, and business to tell the story of why she - and millions of others - can't sleep at night.Over the course of three years of research and reporting, Morrisroe talks to sleep doctors, drug makers, psychiatrists, anthropologists, hypnotherapists, 'wake experts', mattress salesmen, a magician, an astronaut, and even a reindeer herder. A mesmerising mix of personal insight, science and social observation, Wide Awake is for the millions who suffer from sleepless nights and hazy caffeine-filled days. A humorous, thought-provoking and ultimately hopeful book is an essential bedtime companion. It does, however, come with a warning: reading it may promote wakefulness.
The Widow and her Hero
By Thomas Keneally
In 1943, when Grace and Leo Waterhouse married in Australia, they were part of a young generation ready to sacrifice themselves to win the war, while being confident they would survive. Sixty years on, as Grace recounts what happened to her doomed hero, she can say what she suspected then: that for many men, bravery is its own end. The tale she tells is one of great love, lost innocence, a charismatic but unstable Irish commander, dashing undercover missions against the Japanese in Singapore, and - in her eyes - reckless, foolhardy exploits. As fresh details continue to emerge, Grace is forced to keep revising her picture of what happened to Leo and his fellow commandoes - until she learns about the final piece in the jigsaw, and an ultimate betrayal. As absorbing as it is thought-provoking, this timely novel poses unsettling questions about what drives men to battle and heroic deeds, and movingly conveys the life-long effect on those who survive them.
The Welsh Girl
By Peter Ho Davies
In 1944, a German Jewish refugee is sent to Wales to interview Rudolf Hess; in Snowdonia, a seventeen-year-old girl, the daughter of a fiercely nationalistic shepherd, dreams of the bright lights of an English city; and in a nearby POW camp, a German soldier struggles to reconcile his surrender with his sense of honour. As their lives intersect, all three will come to question where they belong and where their loyalties lie. Peter Ho Davies's thought-provoking and profoundly moving first novel traces a perilous wartime romance as it explores the bonds of love and duty that hold us to family, country, and ultimately our fellow man. Vividly rooted in history and landscape, THE WELSH GIRL reminds us anew of the pervasive presence of the past, and the startling intimacy of the foreign.
The Woman Who Waited
By Andreï Makine, Andrei Makine
When a young, rebellious writer from Leningrad arrives in a remote Russian village to study local customs, one woman stands out: Vera, who has been waiting thirty years for her lover to return from the Second World War. As fascinated as he is appalled by the fruitless fidelity of this still beautiful woman, he sets out to win her affections. But the better he thinks understands her the more she surprises him, and the more he gains uncomfortable insights into himself. Lyrically evoking the haunting beauty of the Archangel region, Makine tells a timeless story of the human heart and its capacity for enduring love, selfish passion and cowardly betrayal.
By Jill Dawson
In 18th-century France, a child is captured in the forests near Aveyron where he seems to have been living wild for seven years. Now 12 years old, the Wild Boy is put on public display as a freak, and finally handed over to the ambitious, emotionally repressed Doctor Itard, who is charged with educating the boy, whom he names Victor, and trying to discover the secrets of his strange, secret life. But Victor soon becomes a pawn in the raging debate about nature vs nurture, and Itard's attempts to civilise him bear little fruit. Instead, Victor seems drawn to Mme Guerin, his motherly guardian - and to her vivacious daughter, Julie, who is herself falling for Itard as he struggles to understand both Victor and his own confused emotions. Giving a vivid sense of the Revolutionary period, the novel brings to life through the stories of three fascinating characters a mysterious case that resonates in the modern day preoccupation with autism.