By Pamela Erens
'Erens brilliantly captures the dark side of adolescence . . . On a par with the likes of Jeffrey Eugenides' The Virgin Suicides' Independent'Flawlessly executed and irrefutably true' John Irving'A must for fans of Nabokovian tragedy' Irish TatlerThe events of 1979-80 reverberate around the campus of Auburn Academy and linger many years later in the mind of narrator Bruce Bennett-Jones. Aviva Rossner and Seung Jung are an unlikely couple at the elite East Coast boarding school and are not shy in flaunting their newly discovered sexuality. Their blossoming relationship is watched with envy and fascination by Bruce and other classmates, who believe their liaison to be one of pure, unadulterated passion and pleasure.But nothing is what it seems, and as Aviva and Seung struggle to understand themselves and each other, things begin to fall apart. Their ultimate descent into shame and betrayal has disastrous consequences beyond their own lives.
By George Mackay Brown
In his fourth novel, George Mackay Brown takes us to an Orkney torn between its Viking past and its Christian future. Set in the early 11th Century, it tells the story of Ranald Sigmundson, who turns his back on a successful life of political intrigues and battles to design a ship to take him on a journey even greater than the first great voyage of his life, the one to Vinland.
Venus of Empire
By Flora Fraser
Celebrated for her looks, notorious for her passions, immortalized by Antonio Canova's statue and always deeply loyal to her brother, Pauline Bonaparte Borghese is a fascinating figure. At the turn of the nineteenth century, she was considered by many to be the most beautiful woman in Europe. She shocked the continent with the boldness of her love affairs, her opulent wardrobe and jewels, and, most famously, her decision to pose nearly nude for Canova's sculpture, which has been replicated in countless ways through the years. But just as remarkable as Pauline's private life was her fidelity to the emperor (if not to her husbands). She was witness to Napoleon's great victories in Italy, and she was often with him and her rival for his loyalty, the Empress Josephine, at Malmaison. When he was exiled to Elba, Pauline was the only sibling to follow him there, and after Waterloo she begged to be allowed to join him at Saint Helena No biographer has gone so deeply into the sources or so closely examined one of the seminal relationships of the man who shaped modern Europe. In Venus of Empire, Flora Fraser casts new light on the Napoleonic era while crafting a dynamic, vivid portrait of a mesmerizing woman.
A Voyage Long and Strange
By Tony Horwitz
Long before the Pilgrims, other Europeans pioneered North America, seeking land, converts and cities of gold. By exploring Americas lost, or often repressed, heritage, award-winning writer Tony Horwitz unmasks the countrys founding myths. A Voyage Long and Strange opens with the Vikings in ad 1000, but focuses on the neglected period in early American history between Columbus voyage of 1492 and the Pilgrims arrival in 1620. Horwitz recaptures the adventures of non-English explorers and the drama of the first contact with native peoples during this period. He also sets out on his own journey of rediscovery, travelling in the explorers wake to reveal the enduring influence that early Europeans had on America.Why, Horwitz asks, do we remember history the way we do? During his long and strange journey, from Indian sweat lodges to Columbus crypt, he exposes the revealing gap between what we enshrine and what we forget about our past. A Voyage Long and Strange is a gripping historical adventure that illuminates not only Americas early European history, but also the memory and myths that give the past power in the present day.
By Rosemary Sullivan
The Franco-German armistice, signed in June 1940 following the German invasion of France, called on the Vichy government to surrender on demand all refugees considered enemies of the Third Reich. Suddenly, thousands of artists, scientists and other intellectuals feared for their lives. The Emergency Rescue Committee, based in New York, compiled a list of two hundred people it considered the most endangered, including artists and writers André Breton, Max Ernst and Benjamin Péret. The committee sent Varian Fry to set up its headquarters in Marseilles, with the aim of helping these artists to escape. A number of them were sheltered at the Villa Air-Bel. Amidst the chaos and terror of wartime France, the villa became an oasis of calm, and a centre of creativity. Rosemary Sullivan explores the diaries, memoirs and letters of the individuals involved as she uncovers their private worlds and the web of relationships they developed. Central to her task is to understand what it must feel like to move from freedom to occupation: to feel threatened, administered, restrained. Villa Air-Bel brilliantly dramatizes the slow, relentless process by which ordinary lives were turned into lives lived in terror. In the end every artist in the house, as well as two thousand others, found asylum outside of France through the courageous intervention of Fry and his committee.
The Violins of Saint-Jacques
By Patrick Leigh Fermor
On an Aegean island one summer, an English traveller meets an enigmatic elderly Frenchwoman. He is captivated by a painting she owns of a busy Caribbean port overlooked by a volcano and, in time, she shares the story of her youth there in the early twentieth century. Set in the tropical luxury of the island of Saint-Jacques, hers is a tale of romantic intrigue and decadence amongst the descendents of slaves and a fading French aristocracy. But on the night of the annual Mardi Gras ball, catastrophe overwhelms the island and the world she knew came to an abrupt and haunting end. The Violins of Saint-Jacques captures the unforeseen drama of forces beyond human control. Originally published in 1953, it was immediately hailed as a rare and exotic sweep of colour across the drab monochrome of the post-war years, and it has lost nothing of its original flavour.