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My Holiday Wish List

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5 books I'd love to see under the tree


    It started with a drowning. Deep in the heart of Mexico City, where five houses cluster around a sun-drenched courtyard, lives Ana, a precocious twelve-year-old still coming to terms with the mysterious death of her little sister years earlier. Over the rainy, smoggy summer she decides to plant a vegetable garden in the courtyard, and as she digs the ground and plants her seeds, her neighbors in turn delve into their past. As the ripple effects of grief, childlessness, illness and displacement saturate their stories, secrets seep out and questions emerge - Who was my wife? Why did my mom leave? Can I turn back the clock? And how could a girl who knew how to swim drown? Using five voices to tell the singular story of life in an inner city mews, Umami is a quietly devastating novel of missed encounters, missed opportunities, missed people, and those who are left behind. Compassionate, surprising, funny and inventive, it deftly unpicks their stories to offer a darkly comic portrait of contemporary Mexico, as whimsical as it is heart-wrenching.

    Purple swamp hen and other stories

    'You are in the hands of a master' Daily Mail 'Thoughtful, intelligent and light of touch... Lively has the gift, rare and wonderful, of being able to peel back the layers one by one and set them before us, translucent and gleaming.' Sunday Telegraph A dream house that is hiding something sinister; two women having lunch who share a husband; an old woman doing her weekly supermarket shop with a secret past that no one could guess; a couple who don't know each other at all even after fifteen years together; and, in the story from which this collection takes its name, a bird and a servant girl in ancient Pompeii who cannot converse, but share a perfect understanding. In this new and varied collection of short stories, Penelope Lively shows that she remains a master of her craft, and one of our finest English writers.

    Forty Rooms

    Totally original in conception and execution, Forty Rooms is a mysterious, withholding, and ultimately, emotionally devastating. Grushin is dealing with issues of women's identity, of women's choices, in a way no modern novel has explored so deeply. When our protagonist finds her children grown and her husband absent, she must evaluate the choices that led her away from her bohemian poet dream and into a comfortable marriage. Was it a life well lived? A life complete? Does such a life really exist? This ambiguity is the core of this provocative novel.

    Embroidered & Embellished

    The complete visual guide to hand embroidery and embellishing. * Step-by-step photo instructions show exactly how to sew 85 different stitches * Includes 8 complete embroidery projects to stitch and embellish * The essential embroidery reference for everyone from beginners to experts.

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