By John Julius Norwich
'Never before had the world seen four such giants co-existing. Sometimes friends, more often enemies, always rivals, these four men together held Europe in the hollow of their hands.' Four great princes - Henry VIII of England, Francis I of France, Charles V of Spain and Suleiman the Magnificent - were born within a single decade. Each looms large in his country's history and, in this book, John Julius Norwich broadens the scope and shows how, against the rich background of the Renaissance and destruction of the Reformation, their wary obsession with one another laid the foundations for modern Europe. Individually, each man could hardly have been more different - from the scandals of Henry's six wives to Charles's monasticism - but, together, they dominated the world stage. From the Field of the Cloth of Gold, a pageant of jousting, feasting and general carousing so lavish that it nearly bankrupted both France and England, to Suleiman's celebratory pyramid of 2,000 human heads (including those of seven Hungarian bishops) after the battle of Mohács; from Anne Boleyn's six-fingered hand (a potential sign of witchcraft) that had the pious nervously crossing themselves to the real story of the Maltese falcon, Four Princes is history at its vivid, entertaining best. With a cast list that extends from Leonardo da Vinci to Barbarossa, and from Joanna the Mad to le roi grand-nez, John Julius Norwich offers the perfect guide to the most colourful century the world has ever known and brings the past to unforgettable life.
Fascinating Footnotes From History
By Giles Milton
'Giles Milton is a man who can take an event from history and make it come alive . . . an inspiration for those of us who believe that history can be exciting and entertaining' Matthew Redhead, The TimesDid you know that Hitler took cocaine? That Stalin robbed a bank? That Charlie Chaplin's corpse was filched and held to ransom? Giles Milton is a master of historical narrative: in his characteristically engaging prose, Fascinating Footnotes From History details one hundred of the quirkiest historical nuggets; eye-stretching stories that read like fiction but are one hundred per cent fact.There is Hiroo Onoda, the lone Japanese soldier still fighting the Second World War in 1974; Agatha Christie, who mysteriously disappeared for eleven days in 1926; and Werner Franz, a cabin boy on the Hindenburg who lived to tell the tale when it was engulfed in flames in 1937. Fascinating Footnotes From History also answers who ate the last dodo, who really killed Rasputin and why Sergeant Stubby had four legs. Peopled with a gallery of spies, rogues, cannibals, adventurers and slaves, and spanning twenty centuries and six continents, Giles Milton's impeccably researched footnotes shed light on some of the most infamous stories and most flamboyant and colourful characters (and animals) from history.
Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers
In August 1931, New Zealand farmer Richard Buckley hit the local headlines - or rather his trousers did. One minute they were drying in front of the fire; the next there was a huge blast and a ball of flames. Farmer Buckley's trousers had exploded. The culprit? A popular pesticide of the day, which when combined with clothing fibres unexpectedly formed a highly combustible compound. This incendiary story is a striking example of how scientific advances meant to improve people's lives can sometimes backfire. Contrary to the widespread belief that science and technology move steadily on from one discovery to the next, the fascinating stories in this entertaining collection present some of the unfamiliar characters and events that litter the path of scientific progress. Based on the New Scientist's weekly 'Histories' column, Farmer Buckley's Exploding Trousers shows how setbacks and mishaps are the norm, and breakthroughs are the exception.
Flood of Fire
By Amitav Ghosh
The thrilling climax to the Ibis trilogy that began with the phenomenal Booker-shortlisted Sea of Poppies.It is 1839 and tension has been rapidly mounting between China and British India following the crackdown on opium smuggling by Beijing. With no resolution in sight, the colonial government declares war. One of the vessels requisitioned for the attack, the Hind, travels eastwards from Bengal to China, sailing into the midst of the First Opium War. The turbulent voyage brings together a diverse group of travellers, each with their own agenda to pursue. Among them is Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company who leads a company of Indian sepoys; Zachary Reid, an impoverished young sailor searching for his lost love, and Shireen Modi, a determined widow en route to China to reclaim her opium-trader husband's wealth and reputation. Flood of Fire follows a varied cast of characters from India to China, through the outbreak of the First Opium War and China's devastating defeat, to Britain's seizure of Hong Kong.Flood of Fire is a thrillingly realised and richly populated novel, imbued with a wealth of historical detail, suffused with the magic of place and plotted with verve. It is a beautiful novel in its own right, and a compelling conclusion to an epic and sweeping story - it is nothing short of a masterpiece.
A Family Daughter
By Maile Meloy
Brilliantly entertaining, A Family Daughter might also be the most insightful novel about families and love that you will read this year.It's 1979, and seven-year-old Abby, the youngest member of the close-knit Santerre family, is trapped indoors with the chicken pox during a heat wave. The events set in motion that summer will span decades and continents and change the Santerres forever. A rich, full novel about passion and desire, fear and betrayal, A Family Daughter illuminates both the joys and complications of contemporary life, and the relationship between truth and fiction.
Following A Lark
By George Mackay Brown
A country boy creeps unwillingly to school on a lark-filled summer morning. Norse crusaders, preparing to sail on Earl Rognvald's crusade in 1151 break into the burial chamber at Maeshowe seeking treasure, and cut runes in its massive stones. And the famous Iceland poet Thorbjorn leaves his farm to join the group of poets whose lyrics stud like gems that famous pilgrimage. The ancient northern ceremonies of solstice and equinox, Easter and Yule, are brought to vivid life in the poems collected in this book, and so also are some of the holidays of the Christian calender. The cycle of seasons is more noticeable in the north, especially perhaps winter, the time of story-telling and music. There are tributes to the great poet of winter, Robert Burns, and a celebration of the Irish veteran of the Peninsular War who founded a tavern in Orkney in 1821. The life of an islander is 'sweetly compacted' in The Laird and the Three Women.
The Face at the Window: Three Stories
By Louise Welsh
The three stories in this short collection from acclaimed author Louise Welsh all confront fear. In 'The Face at the Window' Fiona is convinced someone is breaking into her house, but the only evidence for the break-in is a face at the window that no one else can see. In 'Realm of the Census' Maryanne travels from house to house, collecting census information from strangers, and encounters a woman who lives with ghosts. In 'The Queen of Craigielee' Ailsa is photographing the interior of an abandoned high-rise which is about to be demolished when she sees the faint figure of a girl in a doorway of one of the condemned flats. These three dark stories are tales to savour; they will linger in the mind long after you've finished reading them.
For the Islands I Sing
By George Mackay Brown
George Mackay Brown wrote this memoir in the years before his death in 1996, but he did not want it published while he lived. Here we see the author's simple, bardic honesty turned on himself.In particular, he looks at Orkney, where he was born the youngest child in a poor family, and which he rarely left.
By L R Fredericks
FATE is the story of Lord Francis Damory's quest for the elixir of immortality. Set against the magnificent background of the eighteenth century where science and magic, death and beauty meet in the gilded salons of the decadent nobility and the brothels and debtors' prisons of London, Francis tells of his many love affairs and his deadly duels, his encounters with courtesans and castrati, alchemists and anatomists, Rosicrucians, visionaries, monsters, charlatans, spies and assassins. His travels take him through France, across the Alpine passes to Venice and the pirate-infested Mediterranean Sea to Egypt, Cyprus and distant, exotic Constantinople on the trail of his mysterious ancestor Tobias who might - just possibly - still be alive.
The Final Testament
By James Frey
James Frey isn't like other writers. He's been called a liar. A cheat. A con man. He's been called a saviour. A revolutionary. A genius. He's been sued by readers. Dropped by publishers because of his controversies. Berated by TV talk-show hosts and condemned by the media. He's been exiled from America, and driven into hiding. He's also a bestselling phenomenon. Published in 38 languages, and beloved by readers around the world. What scares people about Frey is that he plays with truth; that fine line between fact and fiction. Now he has written his greatest work, his most revolutionary, his most controversial. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.What would you do if you discovered the Messiah were alive today? Living in New York. Sleeping with men. Impregnating young women. Euthanizing the dying, and healing the sick. Defying the government, and condemning the holy. What would you do if you met him? And he changed your life. Would you believe? Would you?The Final Testament of the Holy Bible. It will change you. Hurt you. Scare you. Make you think differently. Live differently. Enrage you. Offend you. Open your eyes to the world in which we live. We've waited 2,000 years for the Messiah to arrive. We've waited 2,000 years for this book to be written. He was here. The Final Testament of the Holy Bible is the story of his life.
By L R Fredericks
FARUNDELL is a story of magical awakening as a young man searches for meaning in the aftermath of the First World War, a young girl comes of age and an old man journeys through memory to death. There's an enigmatic book, an erotic obsession, magic both black and white, a ghost who's not a ghost, a murder that's not a murder, a treasure that's not a treasure. It's about love, loss and longing; language, imagination and the nature of reality. In the golden summer of 1924 Paul Asher, still shattered by the trauma of the Western Front, comes to Farundell, an idyllic country house set deep in the Oxfordshire countryside. There, he falls under the spell of the rich and eccentric Damory family: the celebrated Amazon explorer Perceval, Lord Damory, now blind and dying, whose story echoes Paul's own strange dreams, brilliant thirteen-year-old Alice, on the cusp of adulthood and, like Paul, a seeker of knowledge and, most fatefully, the wild and beautiful Sylvie, with whom he falls passionately in love. Before summer's end, there will be tragedy, comedy, resolution and, for Paul, a revelation that will change his life forever.A stunningly original debut novel, Farundell is literary fiction with a metaphysical twist. Although complete in itself, it is the first in a linked series of novels about these people, places and themes.
By Tawni O'dell
Growing up in hard-scrabble coal country with a drunk father and a runaway mother hasn't been easy for teen brothers Kyle and Klint. And when their dad smashes his truck and dies after a few too many beers, the boys are shocked that their often-absent mother plans to take them back to her new home out West. After all, their mom hasn't cared for Kyle and Klint for years.She still doesn't. Their mom quickly hands the boys over to 75-year-old Candace Jack, a curmudgeon with an acidic tongue who surprises herself in agreeing to take the boys.Living together isn't easy, but the boys discover that Candace has a tragic, passionate past and the three discarded souls help each other to heal.With Tawni O'Dell's trademark tenderness, vivid sense of place, and complex characters, Fragile Beasts is a beautifully crafted novel told from two very different points of view: a fourteen-year-old boy's and a seventy-five-year-old woman's.It's a wonderfully touching novel with two fascinating narrators who will wholly capture readers' hearts.
The First Emperor
By Anthony Everitt
Caesar Augustus is one of the most fascinating figures in history. Plucked as teenager from provincial obscurity by his great-uncle Julius Caesar, who adopted him posthumously in his will, Augustus transformed the chaotic Republic into an orderly imperial autocracy. His consolidation of the Roman empire arguably laid the foundations of Europe.Although a sickly young man, with a tendency to fall seriously ill at moments of crisis, Augustus taught himself to be brave and was intelligent, painstaking and patient. He worked extraordinarily hard, and, within a generation, had rebuilt Rome, transforming it into a splendid metropolis and centre for civil government and the arts. In this dynamic and engaging biography, Anthony Everitt uncovers the deeply human character of this extraordinary man. It is also an exhilarating portrait of Roman social customs and politics.
By Brenda Maddox
Ernest Jones was a born empire builder, who imported the intellectual ferment of early twentieth-century European analysis to our shores. In 1938 he daringly flew to Vienna to rescue Freud from the Nazi threat. With the media frenzy that greeted Freud's arrival in England, psychoanalysis hit the mainstream. When Jones subsequently wrote the definitive, three-volume biography of his mentor, Freud's trailblazing reputation was secured. Jones himself was a remarkable man, mercurial and quixotic. The son of a colliery clerk in South Wales, his insinuation into the inner circle of psychoanalysis is an improbable story. Likewise, the devastating, if dubious, sexual success he enjoyed with female patients caused intrigue among his contemporaries. As Jones's analytic reputation reached new heights, rumours as to what Freud dubbed his 'dark inconsistencies' grew. Award-winning biographer Brenda Maddox insightfully and gracefully breathes life into this enigmatic character. Freud's Wizard is a riveting resurrection of a critical, heretofore overlooked, architect of our modern intellectual landscape.
Foreign Devils on the Silk Road
By Peter Hopkirk