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The Serpent’s Tail Book Club – AUGUST 2022

 

AUGUST 2022: ALL OF YOU EVERY SINGLE ONE

This month, we’ve chosen Beatrice Hitchman’s All Of You Every Single One for our Serpent’s Tail Book Club pick. This is an exhilarating queer love story set in early twentieth-century Vienna and has recently been longlisted for the Polair Prize for LGBTQ+ literature. Scroll down for more about this gripping novel, reading questions and to apply for a set of books for your book group.

Find more about the Serpent’s Tail Book Club and FAQs here.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

An exhilarating queer love story set in early twentieth-century Vienna

‘The exquisite story of two women trying to make a life together in wartime Austria, and all the love, friendship and danger that implies’ – Sophie Ward

All of You Every Single One is an epic novel about family, freedom and how true love might survive impossible odds.

When Julia flees her unhappy marriage for the handsome tailor Eve Perret, she expects her life from now on will be a challenge, not least because the year is 1911. They leave everything behind to settle in Vienna, but their happiness is increasingly diminished by Julia’s longing for a child.

Ada Bauer’s wealthy industrialist family have sent her to Dr Freud in the hope that he can fix her mutism and do so without a scandal. But help will soon come for Ada from an unexpected quarter and change many lives irrevocably.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Beatrice Hitchman is an author and academic. Her first novel Petite Mort was nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Polari Prize, the HWA Debut Prize and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize. She currently works as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Brighton.


READING GROUP QUESTIONS

  1. If you could spend one day and one night in Julia and Eve’s Vienna, what would you do in that time?
  2. Dora (A Case Study) by Sigmund Freud bears a loose relation to the character of Ada. What do you think about the ways that the true nature of Ada’s suffering is rendered in the book and how it compares to that of the historical individual?
  3. Eve and Julia weather a number of storms over the course of their relationship but remain loyal to one another. What becomes the focus of their story when the possibility of lasting romantic love is no longer in question?
  4. If you could run away and start over again, where would you go? How have things changed between 1911 and today for people who need a fresh start?
  5. Frau Berndt points out that the group’s plan to rescue Elsa plays into some peoples’ worst stereotypes about queer and Jewish people, but with a benevolent aim in mind. How do the characters use their identities (perceived or real) to subvert people’s expectations of them?
  6. Do you believe that Isabella ever really felt anything for Ada? How much do you think she knew about Emil’s behaviour?
  7. How do the events of the first half of the novel prepare the reader for the second half, after the time jump?
  8. Was it fair for Eve and Julia to keep the identity of Elsa’s biological parents a secret from her into her adulthood?
  9. What do you think the metronome signifies for Max and Elsa?
  10. Frau Berndt thinks of the friends as all being her children. How do the characters expand and challenge the definition of a family over the course of the novel?

 

Beatrice Hitchman is an author and academic. Her first novel Petite Mort was nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize, the Polari Prize, the HWA Debut Prize and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Prize. She currently works as a Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Brighton.


READING GROUP QUESTIONS

  1. If you could spend one day and one night in Julia and Eve’s Vienna, what would you do in that time?
  2. Dora (A Case Study) by Sigmund Freud bears a loose relation to the character of Ada. What do you think about the ways that the true nature of Ada’s suffering is rendered in the book and how it compares to that of the historical individual?
  3. Eve and Julia weather a number of storms over the course of their relationship but remain loyal to one another. What becomes the focus of their story when the possibility of lasting romantic love is no longer in question?
  4. If you could run away and start over again, where would you go? How have things changed between 1911 and today for people who need a fresh start?
  5. Frau Berndt points out that the group’s plan to rescue Elsa plays into some peoples’ worst stereotypes about queer and Jewish people, but with a benevolent aim in mind. How do the characters use their identities (perceived or real) to subvert people’s expectations of them?
  6. Do you believe that Isabella ever really felt anything for Ada? How much do you think she knew about Emil’s behaviour?
  7. How do the events of the first half of the novel prepare the reader for the second half, after the time jump?
  8. Was it fair for Eve and Julia to keep the identity of Elsa’s biological parents a secret from her into her adulthood?
  9. What do you think the metronome signifies for Max and Elsa?
  10. Frau Berndt thinks of the friends as all being her children. How do the characters expand and challenge the definition of a family over the course of the novel?

 

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BOOTH longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022

We are delighted with the news that Booth, Karen Joy Fowler’s epic historical novel, has been longlisted for the Booker Prize 2022!

About the book

From the Booker-shortlisted, million-copy bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic novel about the infamous, ill-fated Booth family.Junius is the patriarch, a celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England, both a mesmerising talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his children grow up in a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, the country draws ever closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war. Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each has their own dreams they must fight to realise – but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will change the course of history – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.

Discover the full longlist

 

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Serpent’s Tail Book Club: JULY 2022

 

JULY 2022: BEFORE THE RUINS

This month, we’ve chosen Victoria Gosling’s suspenseful debut novel Before the Ruins for our Serpent’s Tail Book Club pick. This is a poignant and insightful book about lost love, the power of friendship and whether missed chances are really gone forever. Scroll down for more about this gripping novel, a Q&A from Victoria and to apply for a set of books for your book group. 

Find more about the Serpent’s Tail Book Club and FAQs here.

 

ABOUT THE BOOK

One long, hot summer Andy and her friends begin a game that will take their whole lives to play out.

‘Engrossing, beguiling, and with an undertow of menace, Before the Ruins is a masterly debut from a richly talented author.’ Sarah Waters

‘Jaw-droppingly brilliant writing’ Marian Keyes

Andy believes that she has left her past far behind her. But when she gets a call from Peter’s mother to say he’s gone missing, she finds herself pulled into a search for answers.

Bored and restless after their final school exams, Andy, Peter, Em and Marcus broke into a ruined manor house nearby and quickly became friends with the boy living there. Blond, charming and on the run, David’s presence was as dangerous as it was exciting. The story of a diamond necklace, stolen from the house fifty years earlier and perhaps still lost somewhere in the grounds inspired the group to buy a replica and play at hiding it, hoping to turn up the real thing along the way. But the game grew to encompass decades of resentment, lies and a terrible betrayal.

Now, Andy’s search for Peter will unearth unimaginable secrets – and take her back to the people who still keep them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Victoria Gosling grew up in Wiltshire and studied at Manchester University and the University of Amsterdam. She has lived in London, Australia, Brazil, the Czech Republic and Berlin. Victoria is the founder of The Reader Berlin and organises The Berlin Writing Prize. @victoriagosling

 


Listen to Victoria’s Before the Ruins playlist below:


Q&A WITH VICTORIA:

1. Your book is a coming-of-age story, a mystery and a thriller, with a touch of romance. Tell us about the process of writing across genres.

Initially, I was working on two separate ideas, or rather investigating two separate seams of material. One related to a group of teenagers playing a game at an abandoned manor house. The other seam was much more introspective. I had a sense of an older character, isolated, devoting herself to work and screens… then it became apparent that this character was an older version of Andy, one of the teenagers. I don’t plan novels so much as allow ideas to coalesce in my head and then try to make sense of the material. 

I was passionate about reading as a child and I think I’m always trying to satisfy both that reader—who wants missing diamonds, unsolved mysteries, murders—and a reader who is more literary-minded, who wants a response to the world in which we find ourselves, to the business of living. Only later did I realise that as a result the novel wasn’t clearly one genre or another. I hoped publishers would find it fresh but worried it’d be turned down as difficult to market. Fortunately, Serpent’s Tail saw something in it. I love their list and couldn’t be happier that Before the Ruins found a home on it.

2. Is there anything readers have picked up on that you weren’t expecting? 

I’ve had a couple of readers write to me saying they know where the diamonds are! Whether they were right or not, I cannot say…

3. Your writing has been compared to Agatha Christie, Tana French and Alan Hollinghurst. Who do you see as your writing influences?

As a child I did love Agatha Christie, particularly Crooked House. I also love Graham Greene for the compelling simplicity of his novels, and I read a lot of Joseph Conrad as a teenager. 

Discover more of Victoria’s literary influences over at her Bookshop.org shelf:


READING GROUP QUESTIONS

  1. What were your first impressions of Andy and how do they compare to your impressions of her at the end of the book?
  2. Do you believe that the friends ever came into contact with the original diamonds?
  3. How does the title relate to the events of the novel? Does it have more than one possible meaning?
  4. Games and gameplaying are a recurring theme – can you describe some of the games that Andy and her friends play with each other apart from hiding the necklace?
  5. What did you initially think had happened to Peter and why?
  6. What is the importance of social media and surveillance technology in the novel? Is it different from the friends spying on one another in the Manor House?
  7. Andy hope desperately for what she calls ‘magic’ at various points in her life. Do you think she encounters it?
  8. During her meeting with Andy, Alice says ‘None of you seemed prone to telling the truth’. What is the biggest truth revealed in the novel? How does it change things?
  9. What role does social class or the friends’ perceptions of it play in Before the Ruins?
  10. How do you see Andy and David’s relationship evolving beyond the final pages?

 

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The Cherry Robbers – read an extract

First they get married, then they get buried

‘Sarai Walker has done it again … upends the Gothic ghost story with a fiery feminist zeal.’ Maria Semple, bestelling author of Where’d You Go Bernadette

A New York Times spring fiction pick for 2022
A GoodReads pick for May 2022

The reclusive Sylvia Wren, one of the most important American artists of the past century, has been running from her past for sixty years. Born Iris Chapel, of the Chapel munitions dynasty, second youngest of six sisters, she grew up in a palatial Victorian ‘Wedding Cake House’ in New England, neglected by her distant father and troubled, haunted mother.

The sisters longed to escape, but the only way out was marriage. Not long after the first Chapel sister walks down the aisle, she dies of mysterious causes, a tragedy that repeats with the second sister, leaving the rest to navigate the wreckage, with heart-wrenching consequences.

The Cherry Robbers is a wonderfully atmospheric, propulsive novel about sisterhood, mortality and forging one’s own path. Read an extract below.

Follow the author on Twitter: @quesaraisera


BELLFLOWER

1950

1.

Later, once the tragedies began to happen, one after another, the children in the village made up a rhyme about us.

The Chapel sisters:
first they get married
then they get buried

It didn’t help matters that we lived in an enormous Victorian house that looked like a wedding cake. If this were a novel, that detail would push the boundaries of believability, but that’s what our house looked like and I can’t change reality. Our home, on the west side of Bellflower Village, was a foremost example of the so-called wedding-cake style of architecture. It was one of the most photographed private residences in Connecticut; I’m sure even now you can find a picture of it in a textbook somewhere.

The house, with its cascading tiers and ornamental details, looked as if it were piped with white icing. The eyes are drawn first to the central tower, looming and Gothic, perched above the rest of the house and circled with tiny dormered windows. (You could imagine Rapunzel tossing her braid out of one of those windows.) Below the tower, the sloping mansard roof banded around the top of the house, punctuated by third-floor windows, which looked miniature from the ground. A prominent widow’s walk and balustrade marked the second floor, then there was the ground floor, with
its bay windows and portico, curlicues everywhere, and tall stalks of flowers ringing the base.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale, that’s what everyone said. If you could have sliced the exterior of this wedding-cake house with a knife, you would have found inside six maidens — Aster, Rosalind, Calla, Daphne, Iris, Hazel — each of whom were expected to become a bride one day. It was the only certainty in their lives.

Dearly beloved.
Dearly departed.

2.

Aster went first. As the oldest, she was used to going first, so I suppose it’s fitting this story begins with her walking down the aisle into what came after, what my mother called the “something terrible.” Someone had to go first, and since Aster was always the kindest and most responsible, I’m certain she would have seen it as her duty to light the way for her sisters even if she hadn’t been the oldest. As it was, she didn’t know she was the beginning of a story. Only the younger among us would live to see it through.

The summer before Aster’s wedding was the last normal summer. That’s when she met Matthew. As much as I don’t want to think about him and all that he wrought, there wouldn’t have been a wedding without him.

That summer in 1949 we went to Cape Cod as we did every year, staying in a suite of three rooms at the hotel on Terrapin Cove, which was located at the elbow of the Cape. These two weeks in July were the only time of the year my mother and sisters and I traveled away from the wedding cake. Our summer vacation was our annual airing out, when the dome placed over us was lifted and we, choosing from any number of metaphors, scurried away like ants, flitted into the breeze like butterflies, scattered on the wind like petals.

Since we were used to being confined at home, we didn’t scatter far and usually spent our days on the beach spread out on an assemblage of blankets. My father, never one for leisure, stayed at home during the week so he didn’t have to miss work. He joined us on weekends, but even when he joined us, he wasn’t really there, staying in the hotel for most of the day with his papers and ledgers. He’d come outside occasionally, looking out of place in his unfashionable brown suit, squinting into the sun, his hand a visor on his brow. He’d look for his wife and daughters, an island in the sand, and once he’d spotted us, he wouldn’t wave or smile, only turn and go back inside, secure in the knowledge we were there. I assumed he had this scheduled on his calendar: 11 a.m., family time.

My sisters and I sat with our mother on the beach in front of the hotel every day of our vacation, encircled by open parasols. Belinda (I’m going to refer to her by her name as much as possible; she was her own person, after all, not simply our mother) always held a parasol over her head at the beach, as she did when she worked in her garden at home. She wore white linen dresses, her long white hair (it had turned white in her mid-forties) looped into a bun like a Victorian’s with just enough at the sides to cover her missing earlobes. Like the wedding cake, she seemed to exist outside our time. She looked like the austere, melancholy women in Julia Margaret Cameron’s photography — wide downcast eyes, an oval face with prominent cheekbones and a subtly aquiline nose, and pale skin lined like a sheet of linen paper that had been lightly crinkled then smoothed back out.

She liked the beach; it calmed her in a way home never could. She didn’t swim, didn’t partake in sunbathing or any other merriment, but she liked walks. Mostly, she read books, which she stacked neatly next to her canvas chair, Emily Dickinson’s poetry or a novel by one of the Brontës. Her nostrils would flare as she read, inhaling the salty breeze. It was as close as she’d get to taking the waters.

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Viper wins Imprint of the Year at the British Book Awards

We are thrilled to share that Viper has been named Imprint of the Year at the British Book Awards!

The annual book industry awards were announced last night, and we couldn’t have been more excited when Viper was announced as the winner in the Imprint of the Year category. The award recognises our amazing bestsellers from Janice Hallett’s The Appeal to Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street, and publisher Miranda Jewess’s work on the list.

We have only been around for a few years but we’re very proud of the impact we’ve made. We’d like to say a huge thank you to all the authors, booksellers, bloggers, readers and everyone who’s helped us become an award-winning imprint.

Discover the Viper list

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… to be the first to hear about killer new reads and breaking news from the world of crime writing.

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The Serpent’s Tail Book Club

JUNE 2022: IN THE DREAM HOUSE

We are thrilled to be launching our first ever Serpent’s Tail Book Club with Carmen Maria Machado’s incomparable In the Dream House. This is an unforgettable, genre-bending memoir of domestic violence in a queer relationship. We think it makes a great book group read for Pride Month.

Find more about the Serpent’s Tail Book Club and FAOs here.

ABOUT THE BOOK

In the Dream House is a revolutionary memoir about domestic abuse by the prizewinning author of Her Body and Other Parties.

‘Ravishingly beautiful’ Observer
‘Excruciatingly honest and yet vibrantly creative’ Irish Times

WINNER OF THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2021

In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing experience with a charismatic but volatile woman, this is a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse.

Each chapter views the relationship through a different lens, as Machado holds events up to the light and examines them from distinct angles. She casts a critical eye over legal proceedings, fairy tales, Star Trek and Disney villains, as well as iconic works of film and fiction, infusing all with her characteristic wit, playfulness and openness to enquiry. The result is a powerful book that explodes our ideas about what a memoir can do and be.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carmen Maria Machado is the author of Her Body and Other Parties, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and In the Dream House, which was the winner of the Rathbones Folio Prize. She is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and is the Abrams Artist-in-Residence at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Philadelphia with her wife.

Follow Carmen on Instagram @carmenmariamachado

 

Discover Carmen’s literary influences over at her Bookshop.org shelf.

Listen to Carmen’s In the Dream House playlist

READING GROUP QUESTIONS

Much of the memoir concerns the missing evidence of queer lives and the incomplete archive of queer stories. How does Carmen Maria Machado explore this absence in the telling of her own story?

In ‘Dream House as an Exercise in Point of View’, Carmen divides herself into an ‘I’ and a ‘You’, which inform the narration that follows through the rest of the book. How often did these two versions of the character overlap in your reading, if at all, and how conscious did you remain of their separation?

The book explores the expectation that victims of abuse must provide evidence before people can believe them. How does this contradict or compliment the idea of the absence of the archive?

At what point in the story did the Woman’s behaviour towards Carmen turn from worrying to frightening in your eyes? Why?

What would constitute unacceptable behaviour in your own relationships?

What do you make of the idea that queer abuse is about homophobia, in the same way abuse in heterosexual relationships is about sexism?

Carmen Maria Machado often focuses on the corporeal in her writing, perhaps to ground aspects of magical realism. Where is the body situated in In the Dream House and how is it framed within the narrative?

In ‘Dream House as Time Travel’, one of the questions that has haunted Carmen is whether ‘knowing would have made [her] dumber or smarter’. What do you think?

Regarding the legal framework surrounding domestic abuse, alongside the film Gaslight, Carmen Maria Machado notes that the legal system does not provide protection against verbal, emotional and psychological abuse. Although now recognised as a legal cause of action in the UK as well as many US states, how do we talk about consequences for abuse when behaviour cannot be classified as illegal?

What do you imagine the Dream House looks like?

 

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The Essex Serpent TV: the trailer is here!

‘It’s when we’re most lost that the source of light is closest…’

We are so excited to be sharing with you the spine-tingling trailer for the TV adaptation of Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent.

Starring Claire Danes as Cora and Tom Hiddleston as Will, The Essex Serpent follows London widow Cora Seaborne who moves to Essex to investigate reports of a mythical serpent. She forms an unlikely bond with the village vicar, Will, but when tragedy strikes, locals accuse her of attracting the creature. 

The Essex Serpent was first published in 2016. It was a Sunday Times bestseller and won Book of the Year at the British Book Awards as well as Waterstones Book of the Year.

Watch the trailer below – and get your copy in your local bookshop or via Waterstones, Amazon or Bookshop.org.

Coming 13th May to Apple TV.

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Join Torrey Peters on tour

The brilliant author of Woman’s-Prize-longlisted Detransition, Baby is coming to the UK! Find out where to see her, who she’s being interviewed by, and how to get tickets below.

FRIDAY 20 MAY, BRITISH LIBRARY with Shon Faye – TICKETS

SATURDAY 21 MAY, BATH FESTIVAL with Elizabeth Day – TICKETS

WEDNESDAY 25 MAY, STRANGE BREW BRISTOL with Travis Alabanza – TICKETS

THURSDAY 26 MAY, HAY FESTIVAL – TICKETS

FRIDAY 27 MAY, DUBLIN INTERNATIONAL LITERATURE FESTIVAL – TICKETS

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Alex Wheatle on the World Book Night 2022 list

We are thrilled that Alex Wheatle’s WITNESS, a thrilling, pacy story that is full of moral complexity and insight into gang violence, has been chosen as one of the World Book Night books for 2022.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

To tell the truth? Or protect his family?

Cornell is having a bad time. Kicked out of secondary school for a fight he didn’t start, he finds himself in a Pupil Referral Unit. Here he makes friends with one of the Sinclair family. You don’t mess with the Sinclairs, and when Ryan Sinclair demands Cornell comes with him to teach another student some respect, Ryan witnesses something that will change his life.

Torn between protecting his family and himself, Cornell has one hell of a decision to make.  

ABOUT WORLD BOOK NIGHT:

World Book Night is a national celebration of reading and books that takes place on 23 April every year. Print books are gifted throughout the UK and Ireland with a focus on reaching those who don’t regularly read for pleasure or have access to books, through organisations including prisons, libraries, colleges, hospitals, care homes and homeless shelters.

Witness is one of the Quick Reads titles, aiming to inspire emerging or lapsed readers to get back into books. One in six adults in the UK find reading difficult, and one in three people do not regularly read for pleasure. These books cost just £1 at bookshops, or are free at libraries across the country.

Take a look at the 2022 booklist, featuring Alex Wheatle’s WITNESS and find out how you can join in the celebrations on 23 April: https://worldbooknight.org/

Follow @WorldBookNight @readingagency and Alex Wheatle @brixtonbard

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BOOTH: read an extract

From the Booker-shortlisted, million-copy bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves comes an epic novel about the infamous, ill-fated Booth family.

SIX BROTHERS AND SISTERS. ONE INJUSTICE THAT WILL SHATTER THEIR BOND FOREVER

Junius is the patriarch, a celebrated Shakespearean actor who fled bigamy charges in England, both a mesmerising talent and a man of terrifying instability. As his children grow up in a remote farmstead in 1830s rural Baltimore, the country draws ever closer to the boiling point of secession and civil war.

Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each has their own dreams they must fight to realise – but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will change the course of history – the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family.

Read an extract below.


Sixteen years pass. The family grows, shrinks, grows. By 1838, the children number at nine, counting the one about to arrive and the four who are dead. Eventually there will be ten.

These children have:

A famous father, a Shakespearean actor, on tour more often than at home.

A paternal grandfather, skinny as a stork, with white hair worn in a single braid, his clothing also fifty years out of fashion, breech trousers and buckle shoes. He’s come from London to help out during their father’s long absences. He was once a lawyer, treasonably sympathetic to the American revolutionaries, enthusiastic for all things American. Visitors to his London house were made to bow before a portrait of George Washington. Now that he lives here, he hates it. He likens the farm to Robinson Crusoe’s island, himself a marooned castaway on its desolate shore. He’s rarely sober, which makes him less helpful than might have been hoped.

An indulgent mother. A dark- haired beauty with retiring manners, she’d once sold flowers from her family nursery on Drury Lane. She’d first seen their father onstage as King Lear and was astonished, when meeting him, to find that he was young and handsome. He’d had to perform the Howl, howl, howl speech right there in the London street before she’d believe he was the same man. “When will you spend a day with me?” he’d asked within minutes of learning her name. “Tomorrow?” and she’d surprised herself by saying yes.

During their brief courtship, he’d sent her ninety- three love letters, pressing his suit with his ambition, his ardor, the poems of Lord Byron, and the promise of adventure. Soon enough, she’d agreed to run away with him to the island of Madeira, and from there to America.

Perhaps adventure was more implied than promised outright. After they’d left their families in England, after they’d had their first child, after they’d arrived in Maryland and leased the farm on a thousand- year lease, after he’d arranged to move the cabin onto it, only then did he explain that he’d be touring without her nine months of every year. For nine months of every year, she’d be left here with his drunken father.

What else could he do? he asked, leaving no pause in which she might answer; he was a master of timing. He needed to tour if they planned to eat. And clearly, she and the baby couldn’t come along. There is nothing worse than an unhappy, complaining shrew for a wife, he’d finished, by way of warning. He didn’t plan on having one of those.

So here she’s been, on the farm, for sixteen years now. For seventeen years, almost without break, she’s been either expecting a baby or nursing one. It will be twenty continuous years before she’s done.

Later, she’ll tell their children it was Lord Byron’s poems that tipped the scales. She’ll mean this as a caution but she’ll know it won’t be taken as such. All her children love a good romance.

None of the children know that they’re a secret. It will come as quite a shock. They’ve no cause for suspicion. Much like the secret cabin, everyone they know knows they’re here.

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The Appeal is on the Waterstones Book of the Year shortlist!

The Appeal, the bestselling modern-day Agatha Christie by author Janice Hallett, has been shortlisted for the 2021 Waterstones Book of the Year!

The Appeal is – in Waterstones’ words – a gripping whodunnit set in a sleepy town during the amateur dramatics society’s disastrous performance. It was inspired by author Janice Hallett’s own lifelong interest in amateur dramatics. A bookseller favourite, the pitch-perfect debut went on to be Waterstones’ most successful Thriller of the Month and is now shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year.

Janice Hallett says: “To say I feel honoured The Appeal is on this shortlist would be a cliché and an understatement. It means the world to me that Waterstones has chosen to highlight a book that’s not only by a debut author, but also one that has an unusual, experimental structure. This demonstrates just how forward-thinking and fearless their booksellers are when it comes to championing new fiction. I can’t thank them enough for getting behind The Appeal.”

Bea Carvalho, Waterstones Head of Fiction, says: “In a brilliant year for Crime Fiction, The Appeal stood out for its playfulness, originality, and sheer enjoyability. A sharp, smart whodunnit which unfolds through a series of documents, allowing the reader to take on the role of detective, it is a highly addictive read which is the very definition of ‘unputdownable’. Our most successful Thriller of the Month ever, The Appeal has been championed by booksellers everywhere for good reason: it is cosy crime at its absolute best, and a pitch-perfect crowd-pleaser which begs to be reread and recommended.”

Waterstones have a glorious red hardback exclusive edition this Christmas – order your copy now!

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A recipe from Ruby Tandoh’s Cook As You Are

A warm invitation to relax into and enjoy the experience of cooking and eating.’ Nigella Lawson

Ruby Tandoh wants us all to cook, and this is her cookbook for all of us – the real home cooks, juggling babies or long commutes, who might have limited resources and limited time. From last-minute inspiration to delicious meals for one, easy one-pot dinners to no-chop recipes for when life keeps your hands full, Ruby brings us 100 delicious, affordable and achievable recipes, including salted malted magic ice cream, one-tin smashed potatoes with lemony sardines and pesto and an easy dinner of plantain, black beans and eden rice.

This is a new kind of cookbook for our times: an accessible, inclusive and inspirational addition to any and every kitchen. You don’t have to be an aspiring chef for your food to be delectable or for cooking to be a delight. Cook as you are.

Follow @rubytandoh

Get your copy of Cook As You Are


STORECUPBOARD BROWNIES

The very best, fudgiest, most chocolatey brownies are those made with a lot of dark chocolate. But let’s be realistic: by the time your sweet-toothed cravings are baying for brownie blood, you’ve probably already eaten all the chocolate in the house, from a lone Malteser rolling round at the bottom of a blazer pocket to those last Bounties in the chocolate tin. With that in mind, this is a brownie recipe for when you weren’t planning to make brownies at all: a cocoa-based emergency recipe for when the craving strikes but your cupboards are pretty much bare.

A quick note: cocoa powder is not the same as drinking chocolate powder! The latter is bulked out with sugar and often with milk powder, too – ideal for sweet, milky hot chocolate, but it doesn’t have the chocolatey kick you’ll need for these brownies.

Bakes: 8–10 brownies

Ready in: less than 40 minutes, but you’ll need to let the brownies cool before tucking in

Make-ahead and storage tips: page 334

150ml vegetable, olive or coconut oil
175g soft light brown sugar
2 medium or large eggs
3 tablespoons milk, dairy or non-dairy
100g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
1½ teaspoons instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, optional
½ teaspoon salt
Special equipment: 15

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas mark 4 and line your tin with baking paper. If you don’t have this exact tin size and shape, a 20cm round tin is very close in volume and is a fine alternative. It’s also worth noting that if you make half of the above quantity, it’ll fit perfectly in a 900g loaf tin – ideal for an emergency stash.
2. Whisk together the oil and light brown sugar in a large bowl (melt the coconut oil first, if that’s what you’re using and if it’s solid). Add the eggs and the milk.
3. Into this wet mix, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, instant coffee granules, vanilla extract (if you have it) and salt. Stir until the batter is more or less smooth, with no big clumps. Pour into the prepared baking tin and bake for 15–20 minutes. When ready, it shouldn’t be liquid or wobbly if you shake it, but a knife inserted into the centre should still come out with a small amount of gooey batter on it. Give them a few minutes more if necessary, but err on the side of fudgy and underdone rather than cakey and overbaked. Once they’re completely cool, cut into pieces and serve.

Variations and substitutions:
To make vegan brownies, forget the eggs, and use 150ml non-dairy milk instead of the 3 tablespoons specified above. For a gluten-free version, make the brownies as above but use a gluten-free plain
flour blend in place of the plain white flour.

These are also delicious made with butter! Just swap the oil for 180g melted butter, and decrease the amount of milk from 3 tablespoons to 1 tablespoon.

Swap the soft light brown sugar for caster sugar if that’s all you have.

Occasionally I make these with miso, which adds a gentle salty, umami edge. Leave out the salt in this case, and whisk 1–2 tablespoons white miso into the batter, to taste.

If you or your family don’t consume caffeine, you can of course use a decaffeinated coffee or leave the coffee granules out altogether. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’re a coffee aficionado and don’t keep granules in the house, just use strong espresso in place of the 3 tablespoons milk (or a long black or white coffee in place of the 150ml non-dairy milk, if you’re making the vegan version.)

As far as additions go, the world’s your oyster here. I kept the ingredient list as short as I could get away with, but if you happen to have walnuts or pecans, chunks of dark or white chocolate, freeze‑dried berries or fudge pieces in the cupboard, by all means, chuck them in.

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3 books for Women in Translation Month

Tired of staycations? Us too. How about being transported to the pine islands of Matsushima instead?

August is Women in Translation month, and our intern, Carina Bryan, has put together a list of award-winning books for you to escape into.

Tell us about your favourite woman in translation – @SerpentsTail


THE PINE ISLANDS – Marion Poschman (Translated by Jen Calleja)

A charming, playful, profound tale of lost souls in search of transformation in modern Japan.

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER INTERNATIONAL PRIZE 2019

When Gilbert wakes one day from a dream that his wife has cheated on him, he flees – immediately and inexplicably – for Tokyo, where he meets a fellow lost soul: Yosa, a young Japanese student clutching a copy of The Complete Manual of Suicide. Together, Gilbert and Yosa set off on a pilgrimage to see the pine islands of Matsushima, one looking for the perfect end to his life, the other for a fresh start.

Playful and profound, The Pine Islands is a beautiful tale of friendship, transformation and acceptance in modern Japan.

 


THE LITTLE COMMUNIST WHO NEVER SMILED – Lola Lafon (Translated by Nick Caistor)

The Montreal Olympics, 1976. A fourteen-year-old girl steps out onto the floor of the Montreal Forum and into history.

Twenty seconds on the uneven bars is it all it takes for Nadia Comaneci, the slight, unsmiling child from Communist Romania, to etch herself into the collective memory. The judges award her an unprecedented perfect ten, the first in Olympic gymnastics.

In The Little Communist Who Never Smiled, Lola Lafon weaves an intricate web of truth and fiction around Comaneci’s life, from her discovery by legendary gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi up to her defection to the United States in 1989.

Adored by young girls in the West and appropriated as a political emblem by the Ceausescu regime, Comaneci was a fearless, fiercely determined child whose body would become a battleground in the Cold War story of East against West. Lafon’s novel is a powerful re-imagining of a childhood in the spotlight of history, politics and destiny.


THE DISASTER TOURIST – Yun Ko-eun (Translated by Lizzie Buehler)

A satirical Korean eco-thriller with a fierce feminist sensibility.

WINNER OF THE CWA CRIME IN TRANSLATION DAGGER

Yona has been stuck behind a desk for years working as a programming coordinator for Jungle, a travel company specialising in package holidays to destinations ravaged by disaster. When a senior colleague touches her inappropriately she tries to complain, and in an attempt to bury her allegations, the company make her an attractive proposition: a free ticket for one of their most sought-after trips, to the desert island of Mui.

She accepts the offer and travels to the remote island, where the major attraction is a supposedly-dramatic sinkhole. When the customers who’ve paid a premium for the trip begin to get frustrated, Yona realises that the company has dangerous plans to fabricate an environmental catastrophe to make the trip more interesting, but when she tries to raise the alarm, she discovers she has put her own life in danger.

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Two new books coming from Catriona Ward

We are thrilled to have bought two more “twisting and chilling” novels from crime and thriller writer Catriona Ward, author of The Last House on Needless Street!

Looking Glass Sound will tell the story of unsuccessful author Tom, who has travelled to a lonely cottage on the New England coast, fleeing the break-up of his marriage. He intends to write his final novel, with the protagonist based on his nemesis, Sky, who is now dead.

The synopsis explains: “Sky and Tom were once close, but after the publication of Sky’s first novel, ‘Looking Glass Sound’, Sky’s fame and ego drove them apart. Tom’s book will be a thinly veiled account of their friendship, painting Sky as a monstrous Patricia Highsmith figure. But this final act of revenge does not go as planned. Tom discovers notes in Sky’s handwriting in the cottage, written in his favourite green ink, making crushing comments about Tom’s writing and broken heart. Is Sky haunting Tom? Or is he still alive?”

Viper published Ward’s modern gothic thriller The Last House on Needless Street in March this year, to critical acclaim. It was a BBC2 “Between the Covers” Book Club pick, a bestseller, and both a Times and Observer Thriller of the Month. The paperback is publishing on 17th September, with Ward’s next novel, Sundial, coming in March 2022.

Miranda Jewess, editorial director at the Serpent’s Tail crime imprint Viper, acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, plus audio, to Looking Glass Sound and an untitled second novel in a two-book deal from Jenny Savill at Andrew Nurnberg Associates. Looking Glass Sound is scheduled for publication in March 2023.

Jewess said: “Looking Glass Sound is a twisting and chilling tale, where nothing is as it seems and the reader never knows who to believe. To say any more would be to spoil it, which is something I adore about Cat’s novels; they ask the reader to trust her, and she always repays that trust. The response to The Last House on Needless Street was a dream come true for a young imprint, and we’re delighted that Cat will continue to publish with Viper for years to come. She’s such a talented and responsive author to work with—I feel extremely lucky.”

Ward added: “In a few short years Miranda Jewess and Viper have proved, again and again, that their innovative, dedicated and inspirational publishing can introduce unconventional, high-concept books to a wide readership. Individually and as a team Viper have enormous heart and the keenest of instincts. I feel immensely privileged to be setting out on another adventure with this dynamic, exciting imprint.”

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All of You Every Single One: read an extract

‘You’ll learn to be too much, too. I think it might help.’

When Julia flees her unhappy marriage for the handsome tailor Eve Perret, she expects her life from now on will be a challenge, not least because the year is 1911. They leave everything behind to settle in Vienna, but their happiness is increasingly diminished by Julia’s longing for a child.

Ada Bauer’s wealthy industrialist family have sent her to Dr Freud in the hope that he can fix her mutism and do so without a scandal. But help will soon come for Ada from an unexpected quarter and change many lives irrevocably.

All of You Every Single One is an epic novel about family, freedom and how true love might survive impossible odds.

Buy your copy

Read an extract below.


PROLOGUE

The lake is freezing. The words – gelid, boreal, glacial – don’t do it justice. Chunks of the whole break away, float and sink. Black oiliness, the consistency of nightmares; impossible to see where you should put your feet.

Snow is falling, silent and determined. The beach is quickly smothered – the pebbles, the upturned boat and the reeds become mere grey shapes. The lawn, sloping upwards to the house, glitters. The occupants are in the deep sleep of the very cold. They knew the storm was coming, but the body does not always understand what it’s told the first time. The blood retreats in such circumstances to the inner organs; fingers curl into soft palms; the hair forms a nest around the neck and shoulders.

The nursery is different. In this room, the fire burns all night – it’s hard enough to get a three-week-old to sleep without the added complication of the cold. The baby is awake, waving her fists in vague figures of eight, staring up at the woman bending over the crib, who makes a shushing sound, and though the child is too small to understand, or to make out more than the blurred outline of a face, she closes her eyes.

An ember from the fire lands on the rug. The woman stares at it as it flares and dies. She picks up the haversack, in which are packed cloth nappies, blankets, some stale bread that won’t be missed and fifty Kronen stolen from Herr K.’s wallet. The baby is gathered up in a bundle of warmth and cloth. She turns to the door, opens and listens: the rasp of the butler’s snoring. She spares a thought for him – he has always been kind to her – then walks down the corridor and hesitates at the top of the stairs. The child smacks her lips in the darkness as she creeps on.

In the downstairs hallway, she puts the baby, very gently, on to the carpet runner and goes to accomplish the business of covering her tracks. On her return, she unhooks her coat from the coat-rack next to the front door. It is even colder on this level, heat rising, as it will; she can feel her fingers stiffening already. She lifts the coat and shrugs it on.

An oil lamp has been wavering, unnoticed, along the corridor from the back of the house: gold corona, craggy shadows. A man’s face, bruised with sleep. His fingers, where they hold the lamp base, are a throbbing, sea-anemone pink.

‘I heard a noise,’ he says.

He must already know something is wrong, but he has always been slow to cross into the waking world. He raises one fist to grind it into his eye – trying to appear charming and childlike, even now – and with the other he puts the lamp on the hall table. The halo moves, showing him what’s on the floor: the blind-mouse eyes and pale round face, bundled in bonnet and blankets. The bag.

‘Where are you taking her?’ he asks. The beginnings of a sneer. ‘Out for a walk?’

She snatches up the first lamp and brings it round in a wide arc; it connects with his temple. The clunk of bone sinking tectonically into itself: if she’s lucky, a compound depressed fracture of the left parietal bone. He folds to the floor like a cheap prima donna, and she picks up his daughter and moves to the door. Oil has spilled on the carpet and the lamp is extinguished. There is no blood that she can see. The door creaks as it opens but it is too late to worry about that. She steps out into the suffocating quiet of the snowstorm.

In fairy tales, such things happen at midnight. In fact, it is half past two in the morning, in a home belonging to the prominent Bauer family – the engineering Bauers – in the small community of Podersdorf on the shores of the Neusiedlersee, Austria’s largest lake. It is 1913, and somebody in this house is stealing a baby.