The Improbability of Love
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2016
WINNER OF THE BOLLINGER EVERYMAN WODEHOUSE PRIZE FOR COMIC FICTION 2016
A BBC RADIO 2 BOOK CLUB PICK
Annie McDee, alone after the disintegration of her long-term relationship and trapped in a dead-end job, is searching for a present for her unsuitable lover in a neglected second-hand shop. Within the jumble of junk and tack, a grimy painting catches her eye. Leaving the store with the picture after spending her meagre savings, she prepares an elaborate dinner for two, only to be stood up, the gift gathering dust on her mantelpiece.
But every painting has a story - and if it could speak, what would it tell us?
For Annie has stumbled across `The Improbability of Love', a lost masterpiece by Antoine Watteau, one of the most influential French painters of the eighteenth century. Soon Annie is drawn unwillingly into the art world, and finds herself pursued by a host of interested parties that would do anything to possess her picture. For an exiled Russian oligarch, an avaricious Sheika, a desperate auctioneer, an unscrupulous dealer and several others, the painting symbolises their greatest hopes and fears. In her search for the painting's true identity, Annie will uncover the darkest secrets of European history - and in doing so, she will learn more about herself, opening up to the possibility of falling in love again.
Irreverent, witty and sharply sweet, The Improbability of Love explores the confusion and turmoil of life and the complexities of love, loss and hurt - revealing the lows to which human nature can stoop and the heights to which the soul can soar.
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047
`Shriver's intelligence, mordant humour and vicious leaps of imagination all combine to make this a novel that is as unsettling as it is entertaining' FINANCIAL TIMES
The brilliant new novel from the Orange Prize-winning author of We Need to Talk about Kevin.
It is 2029.
The Mandibles have been counting on a sizable fortune filtering down when their 97-year-old patriarch dies. Yet America's soaring national debt has grown so enormous that it can never be repaid. Under siege from an upstart international currency, the dollar is in meltdown. A bloodless world war will wipe out the savings of millions of American families.
Their inheritance turned to ash, each family member must contend with disappointment, but also - as the effects of the downturn start to hit - the challenge of sheer survival.
Recently affluent Avery is petulant that she can't buy olive oil, while her sister Florence is forced to absorb strays into her increasingly cramped household. As their father Carter fumes at having to care for his demented stepmother now that a nursing home is too expensive, his sister Nollie, an expat author, returns from abroad at 73 to a country that's unrecognizable.
Perhaps only Florence's oddball teenage son Willing, an economics autodidact, can save this formerly august American family from the streets.
This is not science fiction. This is a frightening, fascinating, scabrously funny glimpse into the decline that may await the United States all too soon, from the pen of perhaps the most consistently perceptive and topical author of our times.
Names for the Sea: Strangers in Iceland
Sarah Moss had a childhood dream of moving to Iceland, sustained by a wild summer there when she was nineteen. In 2009, she saw an advertisement for a job at the University of Iceland and applied on a whim, despite having two young children and a comfortable life in Kent. The resulting adventure was shaped by Iceland s economic collapse, which halved the value of her salary, by the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull and by a collection of new friends, including a poet who saw the only bombs fall on Iceland in 1943, a woman who speaks to elves and a chef who guided Sarah s family around the intricacies of Icelandic cuisine. Moss explored hillsides of boiling mud and volcanic craters and learned to drive like an Icelander on the unsurfaced roads that link remote farms and fishing villages in the far north. She watched the northern lights and the comings and goings of migratory birds, and as the weeks and months went by, she and her family learned new ways to live. "Names for the Sea" is her compelling, beautiful and very funny account of living in a country poised on the edge of Europe, where modernization clashes with living folklore."
~The New York Times bestselling novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer~
`Miller's Valley reads like a companion to Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge' Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens
Mimi Miller's family have lived in Miller's Valley for generations and at times it feels like nothing ever changes - until now when the town is under threat. But as Mimi looks back on the span of her life in this place, she confronts the toxicity of secrets, the dangers of gossip, the flaws of marriage, the risks and inequalities of friendship, loyalty and passion. Home, she acknowledges, is somewhere it's just as easy to feel lost as contented.
A captivating, beautifully crafted story of family and memory that recalls the work of Anne Tyler or Elizabeth Strout, Miller's Valley reminds us that the place where you grew up can disappear, and the people in it too, but all will live on in your heart for ever.
'Qualities and shades of love are this writer's strong suit, and she has the unusual talent for writing about them with so much truth and heart that one is carried away on a tidal wave of involvement and concern' Elizabeth Jane Howard
'Mesmerizing. Quindlen makes her characters so richly alive, so believable, that it's impossible not to feel every doubt and dream they harbor . . . Overwhelmingly moving' New York Times
The Bricks That Built the Houses
Award-winning poet and rapper Kate Tempest's electrifying debut novel takes us into the beating heart of the capital in this multi-generational tale of drugs, desire and belonging. It gets into your bones. You don't even realise it, until you're driving through it, watching all the things you've always known and leaving them behind. Young Londoners Becky, Harry and Leon are leaving the city in a fourth-hand Ford Cortina with a suitcase full of stolen money. Moving back in time - and into the heart of London - The Bricks that Built the Houses explores a cross-section of contemporary urban life with a powerful moral microscope, giving us intimate stories of hidden lives, and showing us that good intentions don't always lead to the right decisions. Taking us into the homes and hearts of ordinary people, their families and their communities, Kate Tempest exposes moments of beauty, disappointment, ambition and failure. Wise but never cynical, driven by empathy and ethics, The Bricks the Built the Houses questions how we live with and love one another.