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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.


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.

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The Appeal is the Waterstones Thriller of the Month!

***Now a Top 5 Sunday Times Bestseller!***

We are thrilled to reveal that the incredible, innovative crime novel THE APPEAL by Janice Hallett has been crowned the Waterstones Thriller of the Month!

The Waterstones exclusive edition includes the first chapter from Janice’s next book, THE TWYFORD CODE – order yours here.



In a town full of secrets…
Someone was murdered.
Someone went to prison.
And everyone’s a suspect.
Can you uncover the truth?


‘This dazzlingly clever cosy crime novel completely trumps Richard Osman. A modern Agatha Christie’ – SUNDAY TIMES

‘This is a case you’re about to become obsessed with. A triumph’ – ALEX NORTH

‘Gripping. I loved the ambitious and unusual approach’ – SOPHIE HANNAH

Dear Reader – enclosed are all the documents you need to solve a case. It starts with the arrival of two mysterious newcomers to the small town of Lockwood, and ends with a tragic death.

Someone has already been convicted of this brutal murder and is currently in prison, but we suspect they are innocent. What’s more, we believe far darker secrets have yet to be revealed.

Throughout the Fairway Players’ staging of All My Sons and the charity appeal for little Poppy Reswick’s life-saving medical treatment, the murderer hid in plain sight. Yet we believe they gave themselves away. In writing. The evidence is all here, between the lines, waiting to be discovered.

Will you accept the challenge? Can you uncover the truth?


Follow @janicehallett on Twitter


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The Five Wounds: Indie Book of the Month

We are delighted that the incredible THE FIVE WOUNDS by Kirstin Valdez Quade has been crowned Booksellers’ Association Indie Book of the Month! Look out for this stunning story of family and sacrifice in your local independent bookshop.



From an award-winning storyteller comes a stunning debut novel following one family’s extraordinary year of love and sacrifice.

An Amazon Best Book of April 2021
Named one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2021 by Oprah Magazine, The Week, The Millions, and Electric Lit.
July 2021 Book of the Month for Roxane Gay’s Book Club

It’s Holy Week in the town of Las Penas, New Mexico, and thirty-three-year-old unemployed Amadeo Padilla is to play Jesus in the Good Friday procession. He is preparing feverishly for this role when his fifteen-year-old daughter Angel shows up pregnant on his doorstep.
Vivid, darkly funny, and beautifully rendered, The Five Wounds spans the baby’s first year as five generations of the Padilla family converge: Amadeo’s mother, Yolanda, reeling from a recent discovery; Angel’s mother, whom Angel isn’t speaking to; and Tío Tíve, keeper of the family’s history. In the absorbing, realist tradition of Elizabeth Strout and Jonathan Franzen, Kirstin Valdez Quade brings to life the struggles of her characters to parent children they may not be equipped to save.

Buy your copy

This year Amadeo Padilla is Jesus. The hermanos have been preparing in the dirt yard behind the morada.

This is no silky-haired, rosy-cheeked, honey-eyed Jesus, no Jesus-of-the-children, Jesus-with-the-lambs. Amadeo is muscled, hair shaved close to a scalp scarred from teenage fights, roll of skin where skull meets neck.

Amadeo is building the cross out of heavy rough oak instead of pine. He’s barefoot like the other hermanos, who have rolled their cuffs and sing alabados. They have washed their white pants, braided their disciplinas the old way, from the thick fibers of yucca leaves, mended rips in the black hoods they will wear to ensure their humility in this reenactment. The Hermano Mayor— Amadeo’s skinny grand- tío Tíve, who surprised them all when he chose his niece’s lazy son— plays the pito, and the thin piping notes rise.

Today Amadeo woke with the idea of studding the cross with nails to give it extra weight. He holds the hammer with both hands high above his head, brings it down with a crack. The boards bounce, the sound strikes off the outside wall of the morada and, across the alley, the Idle Hour Cantina.

Amadeo has broken out in a sweat. Amadeo sweats, but not usually from work. He sweats when he eats, he sweats when he drinks too much. Thirty- three years old, same as Our Lord, but Amadeo is not a man with ambition. Even his mother will tell you that, though it breaks her heart to admit it. Yolanda still cooks for him, setting a plate before him at his place at the table.

This afternoon, though, even Amadeo’s tattoos seem to strain with his exertion, and he’s seeing himself from outside and above. A flaming Sacred Heart beats against his left pectoral, sweat drips from the point of a bloodied dagger on his bicep, and the roses winding around his side bloom against the heat of his effort. On his back, the Guadalupana glistens brilliantly, her dress scarred with the three vertical cuts of the sellos, the secret seals of obligation. The lines, each the length of a man’s hand, are raised and pink and newly healed, evidence of his initiation into the hermandad.

Though Amadeo has lived in Las Penas his whole life, today he sees the village anew: the lines are sharper, the colors purer. The weeds along the edge of the fence, the links of the fence itself, the swaying tops of the cottonwood trees— everything is in preternatural focus. The morada is lit by the sun sinking orange at his back, the line sharp between cinderblock and sky. He brings the hammer down, hitting each nail true, enjoying the oiled rotation of his joints, the fatigue in his muscles. He feels righteous and powerful, his every movement predetermined. He feels born for the role.

Then he pounds the last nail, and he’s back in his body, and the hermanos are wrapping up, heading home.


When Amadeo pulls up the gravel drive to the house, his daughter Angel is sitting on the steps, eight months pregnant. She lives in Española with her mom. He hasn’t seen her in more than a year, but he’s heard the news from his mother, who heard it from Angel.

White tank top, black bra, gold cross pointing the way to her breasts in case you happened to miss them. Belly as hard and round as an horno. The buttons of her jeans are unsnapped to make way for its fullness, and also to indicate how this happened in the first place. Her birthday is this week, falls on Good Friday. She’ll be sixteen.

“Shit,” Amadeo says, and yanks the parking brake. This last week was the most important week in Jesus’s life. This is the week everything happened. So Amadeo’s mind should be trained on sacrifice and resurrection, not his daughter’s teen pregnancy.

She must not see his expression, because she gets up, smiles, and waves with both hands. The rosary swings on his rearview mirror, and Amadeo watches as, beyond it, his daughter advances on the truck, stomach outthrust. She pauses, half turns, displays her belly.

She’s got a big gold purse with her, and a duffel bag, he sees, courtesy of Marlboro. Angel’s hug is straight on, belly pressing into him.

“I’m fat, huh? I barely got these pants and already they’re too small.”

“Hey.” He pats his daughter’s back gingerly between her bra straps, then steps away. “What’s happening?” he says. It’s too casual, but he can’t afford to let her think she’s welcome, not during Passion Week, and with his mother away.

“Ugh. Me and Mom got in a fight, so I told her to drive me here.” Her tone is light. “I didn’t know where you and Gramma were. I’ve been here, like, two hours, starving my head off. Pregnant people need to eat. I almost broke in just to make a sandwich. Don’t you guys check your phones?”

Amadeo hooks his thumbs in his pockets, looks up at the house, then back at the road. The sun is gone now, the dusk a nearly electric blue.

“A fight?” In spite of himself, Amadeo takes some pleasure in Angel’s indignation at her mother. Marissa has always made him feel insufficient.

“I can’t even. Whatever,” she says with conviction. “What me and the baby need right now is a support system. That’s what I told her.”

Amadeo shakes his head. “I’m real busy,” he says, like an actor portraying regret. “Now’s not a good time.”

Angel doesn’t look hurt, just interested. “Why? You got a job or something?”

She lifts her duffel and begins to walk toward the door, swaying under the weight of luggage and belly. “My mom’s not here,” he calls. He’s embarrassed to tell her the real reason he wants her gone, embarrassed by the fervor that being a penitente implies.

“Where’d Gramma go?” There’s real worry in her voice. She holds the screen open with her hip, waiting for him to unlock the door.

“Listen, it’s a busy week.” He rushes this next part, his breath short. “I’m carrying the cross this year. I’m Jesus.”


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Sea Change: read the opening

From acclaimed author of The Warlow Experiment, the moving story of a mother and daughter separated in Regency England

‘I’ll be back soon, my love. Tonight, I hope.’

The last Eve saw of her mother was a wave from the basket of a rising balloon. A wilful, lonely orphan in the house of her erratic artist guardian, Eve struggles to retain the image of her missing mother and the father she never knew. In a London beset by pageantry, incipient riot and the fear of Napoleonic invasion, Eve must grow into a young woman with no one to guide her through its perils.

Far away, in a Norfolk fishing village, the Rev Snead preaches hellfire and damnation to his impoverished parishioners and oppressed wife. Snead illustrates his sermons with the example of a mute woman pulled from the sea, over whom he keeps a very close watch indeed.

Buy your copy


The celebrated Aëronaut M André-Jacques Garnerin

will Ascend in his gas Balloon

at Ranelagh

on 28 June 1802 at 5 o’clock

during an elegant Afternoon Breakfast

given by the Directors of the Pic Nic Society

in recognition of the new Peace of Amiens.

M Garnerin will be accompanied by

the renowned Artist and Engraver Mr Joseph Young

and, to prove the Safety of such Travel to

Members of the Fair Sex,

the well-known Proprietress of Battle’s Coffee House

Miss Sarah Battle

They walk through the crowd towards the enormous balloon, thirty feet in diameter, forty-five feet high, as big as a four-storey house, shifting gently against its anchoring ropes despite a hot,

almost breathless day. Its alternate dark-green and yellow segments are encased in a net, its oblong car draped in tricolours and Union Jacks. On the ground around it lies a cartwheel shape of barrels and pipes in which acid and iron filings have generated the hydrogen that fills the great globe.

The aëronaut waits for them in an elegant blue coat and French hat bearing the national cockade, chatting to bystanders and smiling, as if he were a showman at Bartholomew Fair encouraging people into his booth. Jacques Garnerin is sinewy and slight, his noble nose and thin, sharp features wind-burned, his skin toughened like a sailor’s.

Sarah, in a large beribboned bonnet, her best dress with its low neckline and short sleeves fashionable enough to quell her anxiety about what to wear, steps forward slowly, weighed by regret. Her jibe, fired off in annoyance, that women are just as able to fly in balloons as men, has brought her here. She is red with heat and self-consciousness. It’s not unlike the first day she stood at the bar in her father’s coffee house, replacing her newly dead mother, when men scanned her perpetually till she felt skinned.

Joseph strides ahead, can’t stop himself, bags and satchels hung about his tall, ungainly person.

Sarah turns to hug her daughter Eve, to kiss the girl in her pretty blue gown, who looks with bright eyes from her to the balloon and back, understanding only that her mother has chosen to travel in it, aware of a vast murmuring, a heaving sea of smiles.

‘I’ll be back soon, my love. Tonight, I hope.’ She moves over to the basket, wanting it all to be over.

Garnerin, the small, foreign entertainer, hands his two British aëronauts up steps into the car, springs into it like a boy. There’s only just room, for in the centre is ballast, bags of sand marked in quantities from kilos down to grams, suspended by four cords from the hoop at the base of the balloon’s netting. Attached to the car’s ropes are a thermometer, impressive compass, telescope and a barometer for measuring altitude. Baskets of provisions are stowed in lockers under the seat where Joseph will sit together with all his boxes of pens, pencils, chalks, brushes, paint, sketchbooks and blocks, perspective glasses and his own telescope. Jacques calculates that large Joseph, his equipment and a basket of food and drink will balance the weight on the opposite side of the car to Sarah and himself.

A band strikes up ‘God Save the King’. The Official Aëronaut of France, fidgeting throughout, stands to attention for the succeeding tune, which no one recognises.

‘But that is not the “Marseillaise”,’ says Joseph, puzzled.

‘It offend Bonaparte. I tell them they must play “Veillons au salut de l’Empire”. Soon he become Emperor.’

After four verses, during which it is the crowd’s turn to fidget and chatter, Garnerin unhooks bag after bag of ballast, hands them over the side of the car until the captive balloon pulls at its tethers.

At last he signals, assistants untie the ropes, restrain the great ball solely by muscle power. The crowds hush.

A dramatic sign, the ropes are loosed, a huge cheer breaks out, the ascent begins. Sarah feels the basket leave the ground, an upward pull through her body that makes her laugh aloud. Even as

her child slips further from her, the little girl’s face blearing in her sight, her legs weaken with pleasure and she grips the car to steady herself. Jacques, so many successful flights in hand, moves about with panache, making the balloon rise slowly, letting it hang over the gardens for maximum effect. He holds a flag of the République, gives Sarah a Union Jack and, with Joseph waving his sketchbook, they all three salute the crowds thronging the Gardens and all roads that lead to Ranelagh. The great vehicle moves massively, elegantly in a north-east direction, away from the packed banks of the river, from the waterworks, the creeks and sluice gates of Pimlico fenland. Still low enough for onlookers clustered in every window and housetop, perching in trees like cawing rooks.

Joseph, breathless with excitement, sketches rapidly as they sail over Green Park and St James’s. Ducks rise up, quacking from the lakes as the huge shadow passes. Westminster to the right, Charing Cross beneath.

‘Sarah, look! See the pillory in Charing Cross?’

‘I hope there’s no one in it.’

‘Come now, it’ll cheer a prisoner to see us fly over. At least it will distract the pelters. Here! Use my pocket telescope. I’ve not enough hands for it.’ His steel spectacles have a second set of lenses, tinted, hinged up until needed, for all like mad eyebrows.

Everywhere upturned faces.


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Burley Fisher’s 10 Books for Independent Bookshop Week

We are delighted to be teaming up with Burley Fisher this Independent Bookshop Week. As part of our partnership the brilliant booksellers Ant, Dan, Enya, Sam & So have picked their top 10 Serpent’s Tail reads. Discover them below, and buy them over at the Burley Fisher website.

Follow @burleyfisher.

To quote our review of Detransition, Baby, these are books where “Everything is terrible and everything is beautiful” – a Serpent’s Tail trait of seeing the world in its fullness and from the most necessary of angles.

In chronological order of publication, we’re showing some love to…

Quicksand & Passing, Nella Larsen (1928 & 1929)

A deserved all-time bestselling title for its US publisher, Nella Larsen’s two novels, written within a year of each other, come together as an excellent diptych, as both deal with psychic dualism – and in particular, the doubled double consciousness of Black women in 1920s America, drawing on Larsen’s own experience. Part of the bright, brilliant blaze of the Harlem Renaissance, Quicksand and Passing retain their incendiary charge through their incisive and intimate portrayals of tightrope navigations of intertwined racial and gendered hierarchies. With a high-profile film adaptation of Passing starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga on its way, this is the perfect moment to read (or re-read) Larsen.

Jernigan, David Gates (1991)

Jernigan drinks too much and thinks too much. Set a year after the suicide of his wife, as he tries to raise his son Danny, this novel is a darkly comic and moving portrait of grief and self destruction. When Jernigan begins an affair with Martha, the mother of Danny’s girlfriend and a self-styled “suburban survivalist” who breeds rabbits in her basement, his drinking turns harder and his life begins to spiral completely out of control From the moment Jernigan starts talking, you are compelled to listen. Gates achieves the supposedly impossible, sustaining a main character who alienates everyone else in this entire and engrossing novel, except the reader.

I Love Dick, Chris Kraus (1997)

I Love Dick by Chris Kraus is an essential look at sexuality, monogamy and finding the beat to your own drum. Kraus is an American filmmaker and writer who grew to prominence in the artworld with her films. She has seven published books, including novels, essay collections and, most recently, a biography of Kathy Acker. Like Acker’s work, I Love Dick smashes together the memoir, art writing, and transgressive feminism. This tale isn’t sugar coated with attempts at morals or asking what it means to be a good or bad woman, it takes the intensity of the situation by the horns and just goes. Unashamed in its pursuit, the story feels like a social experiment gone rogue. The perfect book to read on the train.

White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s, Joe Boyd (2006)

If there’s someone who has seen it all in music, it’s Joe Boyd. In his book White Bicycles, the man who was pivotal in the early days of Pink Floyd, behind the desk when Nick Drake recorded River Man live with the LSO for Five Leaves Left, and managed the rise of Sandy Denny, recounts the forgotten details, secret encounters and whirlwind nights of the most important age in popular music. What’s remarkable about Boyd’s perspective is the varying vantage points he witnessed musical history from, whether as a manager, producer, club promoter or simply a friend to some of pop music’s greatest figures, there is no one who has had the access that Boyd has. It isn’t just about folk either, Boyd wanders through encounters with blues icons like Muddy Waters, psychedelic acid-rock pioneers Traffic and brushes shoulders with the likes of Miles Davis and Dylan. Always absorbing, often moving and told with great care and observation, this is a memoir of rare depth about a musical era we’d have all loved to live through.

I Hate the Internet, Jarett Kobek (2016)

The original cancel culture novel, I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek follows a semi-famous graphic novelist called Adeline. After a guest lecture to some students in which she gives a tirade against pop culture figures and women in technology, which is subsequently posted online, Adeline spends most of the novel trying to mitigate her negative online reputation while dealing with her ambivalent feelings about the huge boost in sales of her cult comic series that come along with it. This hilarious and anarchic novel attempts to cut up and imitate the online forms that it satirises, and it felt like the first natively post-social media novel I had read when it was published just as the first natively post-social media president took residence in the White House.

In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado (2019)

“I came of age, then, in the Dream House, wisdom practically smothering me in my sleep. Everything tasted like an almost epiphany.” Carmen Maria Machado dives deep into the “smothering” wisdom of folk tales to rip the roof off the Dream House of patriarchy. What does it mean to grow up with fairytales of romance that persistently cast women as passive, innocent, weak – and victims? And what happens when that pervasive fantasy meets the untold reality of violence within a lesbian relationship? In short, sharp sections that fold back and forth across time, collecting talismanic books and movies and moments that eventually plot an alternate story, Machado delves deep to offer stunning clarity as she breaks herself free. You read In the Dream House, as it was written, heart in mouth: every word tastes like blood.

Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women and Queer Radicals, Saidiya Hartman (2019)

From its epigraph from Nella Larsen’s Quicksand onwards, Saidiya Hartman’s Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments plunges the reader into the exhilarating, complicated, stylish, sexy, determined, brilliant world of free Black women in early twentieth century Northern US: a world gleaned mainly from sources compiled by those who sought to control these riotous women who were, as Hartman argues, making the modern world: fighting for autonomy in their identity, sexuality, work, and creativity, their relation to their bodies, their neighbourhoods and their place in history. Bursting forth from sociological and criminological archives, refusing to be hidden or controlled, these radical, rebellious voices are braided by Hartman into an utterly irresistible, unforgettable chorus.

Detransition, Baby, Torrey Peters (2021)

Detransition, Baby! sucks you in and doesn’t let up. Dark and funny, it’s outlandishness never seems far-fetched and more so focuses on allowing the characters to be flawed and loveable. The story is about Reese (a trans woman), Ames (Reese’s ex and detransitioned from being Amy), Katrina (a Jewish Chinese cis woman) and an unexpected pregnancy. It draws parallels between trans women and divorced cis women (the book’s dedication being to divorced women) and their struggles to reestablish their personhood. Refreshingly, the story never tries to equate any struggle with another, only to thread together compassion. Everything is terrible and everything is beautiful. Add it to your summer reading list and enjoy the ride!

Libertie, Kaitlyn Greenidge (2021)

Libertie Sampson doesn’t want to become a doctor. She doesn’t want to be a wife. She wants what her name offers: to be free. A freeborn Black girl who comes of age in rural Brooklyn just after the Civil War, witnessing its racist atrocities, Libertie loves and admires her doctor mother, but chafes at her strategic service to the disparaging white townspeople. She is drawn to complex figures of freedom’s possibilities and pains: first, Ben Daisy, a man escaping slavery but haunted by love; the Graces, two music students at the college where she is studying medicine (the only woman to do so), but falling in love with song; and Emmanuel, her mother’s skilful apprentice, the sophisticated scion of a middle-class family in Haiti, where she travels as his wife. Pregnancy leads her to uncover unbearable secrets in Emmanuel’s family, and her quest for freedom brings her full circle. A deeply satisfying tour de force.

Cwen, Alice Albinia (10% until end June) (2021)

At this point in 2021, we’re all about ready for a feminist revolution in government in the UK, right? But the inhabitants of an unnamed archipelago off Northumbria are deeply divided when Eve, a London incomer who has led a quiet, quirky and purposeful sea change in the governance and functioning of the islands, disappears, and an inquest takes place into just how her band of resisters took over. With deep roots in myths that placed a sacred island of women off the coast of Britain, Alice Albinia’s tale resonates in its consideration of gender politics, and in its spiritual search for reconnection.

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Serpent’s Tail x Burley Fisher for IBW + Pride Month

We are thrilled to be teaming up with the brilliant Burley Fisher this Independent Bookshop Week. Burley Fisher were shortlisted for Independent Bookshop of the Year and made a name for themselves delivering books by bike during lockdown last year. Their fierce championing of LGBTQ+ authors and those from underrepresented backgrounds make them the perfect partner for Serpent’s Tail.


Our activity begins with a pop-up book stall in celebration of Pride Month, along with the excellent Cipher Press, this Saturday at Broadway Market in East London. There will be books, bunting, bookmarks, treats from Meringue Girls and plenty of coffee nearby, so do come down and say hi!











Independent Bookshop Week begins on the 19th June. Look out a takeover on our instagram account, and pop in store for tote bags, bookmarks, and free coffee (while stocks last). Get 10% off a list of handpicked books – from Nella Larsen to Alice Albinia – in-store and on the BF website.


In a special episode of Burley Fisher’s podcast, Sam Fisher and So Mayer speak to Serpent’s Tail publisher Hannah Westland about radical and readable books, Torrey Peters and what it’s like to be head of an indie publisher.


You can join in the fun wherever you are with an amazing online event with the inimitable, Rathbones Prize-winning author of In the Dream House and Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado.

Get your free tickets here 

Follow all the activity online at @burleyfisher and @serpentstail, #IndieBookshopWeek and #PrideMonth.


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Coming soon: Hervé Guibert’s To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life

We are thrilled to be publishing To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life, a ‘hugely significant autobiographical novel about queer friendship, gay life and the early days of the AIDS crisis’ by French writer and photographer Hervé Guibert (1955-1991) on the Serpent’s Tail Classics list this July.

To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life will feature a newly commissioned foreword by Maggie Nelson, an introduction from Frieze editor Andrew Durbin and an afterword from Edmund White in a translation by Linda Coverdale.

Nelson said: “It’s an absolute honour to write an introduction to Hervé Guibert’s To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life, which is one of the most important books to me (my intro will try to explain why). Its reprint is a cause for celebration and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”

Dunnigan said: “To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life is a book that, once read, will live with you for a long time. Guibert’s story of a friendship betrayed and of living with AIDS is devastating, darkly funny and full of tenderness, and speaks to that ‘borderline of uncertainty, so familiar to all sick people everywhere’.

“His razor-sharp writing, visceral honesty and irreverent confrontation with death make this an unforgettable and heartbreaking book of lasting importance. Thirty years after it was first published, we are so proud to be bringing this special book back to Serpent’s Tail – its brilliance should attract lots of attention and many new readers.”

Pre-order your copy

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Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge: read the opening

‘A feat of monumental thematic imagination’ – The New York Times

May 2021 Book of the Month for Roxane Gay’s Book Club

Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Brooklyn after the Civil War, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else – is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it – for herself and for generations to come.

Libertie comes out on 29th April.

Pre-order your copy

Follow the author @SurlyBassey on Twitter

Se pa tout blesi ki geri

Not all wounds heal


I saw my mother raise a man from the dead. “It still didn’t help him much, my love,” she told me. But I saw her do it all the same. That’s how I knew she was magic.

The time I saw Mama raise a man from the dead, it was close to dusk. Mama and her nurse, Lenore, were in her office—Mama with her little greasy glasses on the tip of her nose, balancing the books, and Lenore banking the fire. That was the rule in Mama’s office—the fire was kept burning from dawn till after dinner, and we never let it go out completely. Even on the hottest days, when my linen collar stuck to the back of my neck and the belly of Lenore’s apron was stained with sweat, a mess of logs and twigs was lit up down there, waiting.

When the dead man came, it was spring. I was playing on the stoop. I’d broken a stick off the mulberry bush, so young it had resisted the pull of my fist. I’d had to work for it. Once I’d wrenched it off, I stripped the bark and rubbed the wet wood underneath on the flagstone, pressing the green into rock.

I heard a rumbling come close and looked up, and I could see, down the road, a mule plodding slow and steady with a covered wagon, a ribbon of dust trailing behind it.

In those days, the road to our house was narrow and only just cut through the brush. Our house was set back—Grandfather, my mother’s father, had made his money raising pigs and kept the house and pens away from everyone else to protect his neighbors, and his reputation, from the undermining smell of swine. No one respects a man, no matter how rich and distinguished-looking, who stinks of pig scat. The house was set up on a rise, so we could always see who was coming. Usually, it was Mama’s patients, walking or limping or running to her office. Wagons were rare.

When it first turned onto our road, the cart was moving slowly. But once it passed the bowed-over walnut tree, the woman at the seat snapped her whip, and the mule began to move a little faster, until it was upon us.

“Where’s your mother?”

I opened my mouth, but before I could call for her, my mother rushed to the door, Lenore behind her.

“Quick,” was all Mama said, and the woman came down off the seat. A boy, about twelve or thirteen, followed. They were both dressed in mourning clothes. The woman’s skirt was full. Embroidered on the bodice of her dress were a dozen black lilies, done in cord. The boy’s mourning suit was dusty but perfectly fit to his form. At his neck was a velvet bow tie, come undone on the journey. The woman carried an enormous beaded handbag—it, too, was dusty but looked rich. It was covered in a thousand little eyes of jet that winked at me in the last bit of sun.

“Go, Lenore,” my mother said, and Lenore and the woman and the boy all went to the back of the wagon, the boy hopping up in the bed and pushing something that lay there, Lenore and the woman standing, arms ready to catch it. Finally, after much scraping, a coffin heaved out of the wagon bed. It was crudely made, a white, bright wood, heavy enough that Lenore and the woman stumbled as they carried it. When the coffin passed me, I could smell the sawdust still on it.

My mother stepped down off the stoop then, and the four of them lifted it up and managed it into the office. As soon as they got it inside, they set it on the ground and pushed it home. I could hear the rough pine shuffling across the floor.

“You’re early.” Mama struggled with the box. “Don’t start with me, Cathy,” the woman said, and Lenore looked up, and so did I. No one, except Grandfather before he died, dared call Mama “Cathy.” To everyone except for me, she was always “Doctor.” But Mama did not bristle and did not correct, as she would have with anyone else.

“Word was you’d be here at midnight.”

“We couldn’t leave,” the woman said. “He wasn’t ready.”

The woman knelt down in her dusty skirts and drew a long, skinny claw hammer from the handbag. She turned it on its head and began to pull at the nails on the coffin’s face. She grunted. “Here, Lucien.” She signaled to the boy. “Put some grease into it.” He fell down beside her, took the hammer from her hands, and began to pull at the nails she’d left behind.

Mama watched, eagerly. We all did. I crossed the room to stand beside her, slipped my hand into hers.

Mama started at my touch. “If you’d only come later.”

The woman’s head jerked up, her expression sharp, and then she looked at my hand in Mama’s, and her frown softened.

“I know we’ve done it differently. This time we really tried,” she said. “Besides, my Lucien sees all this and more. If you do this work, Cathy, your children will know sooner or later.”

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#ChooseBookshops – Queer Bookshops to Buy From Today

This Monday 12th April bookshops in England and Wales are reopening! We can’t wait to be back among the books. Good job we’ve barely spent anything over the last few months of lockdown…

We love all bookshops, but have been overwhelmed by the support shown recently by queer bookshops for our Women’s Prize longlisted novel Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters.

To celebrate, we’re sharing a list of fantastic UK LGBT+ bookshops to shop with today.

Help share the word on Twitter.





Queer Lit started with 700 books but have now grown to stock over 1200 fabulous Queer titles. Follow them at @QueerLitUK







Lighthouse Bookshop is a queer-owned and woman led independent community bookshop based in Edinburgh. Follow them at @Lighthousebks







Gay’s The Word is the UK’s oldest LGBT bookshop, set up in January 1979 by a group of gay socialists as a community space where all profits were funnelled back into the business. This ethos continues today. Follow them at @GaystheWord.






Category is Books was started by wusband and wusband team, Charlotte (they/them) and Fionn (‘Fin’) Duffy-Scott (they/them), who hope to create a space for the LGBTQIA+ community to learn about, be inspired by and share in our love of queer history, culture, writing and storytelling. Follow them at @CategoryisBooks.







Paned o Gê is an independent, queer bookshop, cafe, bar and event space in Cardiff; a social enterprise designed to highlight, promote and celebrate LGBTQ+ and Welsh talent and creators. Follow them at @panedoge







The Bookish Type started out as pop-up bookstalls at events at various venues. The owners Ray and Nicola then set up a website and finally opened a bricks and mortar bookshop in September 2020. Follow them at @TypeLeeds






Portal Bookshop sells Science Fiction, Fantasy and all of the LGBTQIA books we can source from the UK, the US and beyond. Follow them @PortalBookshop







Shelflife Books & Zines is a not-for-profit radical bookshop in Cardiff working with independent publishers and DIY zine-makers to make space for marginalised and under-represented voices. Follow them @ShelflifeCdf

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Detransition, Baby and the Women’s Prize: A thank you

We at Serpent’s Tail would like to thank the Women’s Prize and the literary community for their support for our extraordinarily talented author Torrey Peters’s Detransition, Baby. In the past 48 hours we have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for Torrey’s brilliant, timely and original book. Detransition, Baby is closely concerned with the things cis and trans women have in common and what they can teach one another, and it is beautiful to see such heartfelt and thoughtful responses to its message of solidarity. We abhor bullying and personal attacks on writers and are very grateful to everyone who has taken the time to state their support for Torrey, for trans people more generally and to celebrate the vitality of women’s writing.

We’re so glad that this remarkable novel will reach even more readers as a result of the increased attention. Particularly heartening are the efforts of queer and feminist bookshops including QueerLit, the Second Shelf, Lighthouse Books and others in promoting Torrey’s novel and donating money to trans-led organisations. We see and appreciate all of the generous individuals who have taken part in pay-it-forward schemes to purchase copies for others who want to read Detransition, Baby. Thank you also to everyone who has amplified our giveaways and recommended this very special novel to their friends and loved ones. As a result of all your kindness and enthusiasm, we are going into our third reprinting of the novel.

All our thanks and lots of love from Serpent’s Tail

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Carmen Maria Machado wins the Rathbones Folio Prize

We couldn’t be more delighted that Carmen Maria Machado has won the prestigious Rathbones Folio Prize 2021 with her ground-breaking memoir In the Dream House.

The judges called it ‘A breathtakingly inventive, unflinchingly honest examination of domestic abuse in a female relationship’.

Tracing her relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado breaks down the idea of what the memoir form can do and be – and approaches a subject for which literary treatment has been extremely rare.

In a unanimous decision, the judges Roger Robinson, Sinéad Gleeson and Jon McGregor deemed In the Dream House the best book on what was a strong and widely discussed 2021 shortlist, also containing novels, auto-fiction, poetry, and poetry with photography.

Sinéad Gleeson said: “Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House is an exceptional, important book. It takes everything a reader expects from a memoir, and upends and deconstructs it, playing with the possibilities of the form. Machado explores queerness, domestic violence and bodies in a
multi-genre masterpiece, told in taut, stunning prose.”

Find out more at the Rathbones Folio Prize website

Buy your copy

Follow @carmenmmachado

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New book coming from Karen Joy Fowler

We are completely beside ourselves to be publishing Booth, Karen Joy Fowler’s first novel since the international phenomenon We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves!

Karen Joy Fowler’s 2014 novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has sold 900,000 copies in the UK across all formats and was one of the bestselling novels of 2014. It was shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and won the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.  

Karen Joy Fowler said, ‘I’m thrilled to be working again with the wonderful team at Serpent’s Tail. They’ve been very patient as this book was a long time coming — current events continually drawing my attention away from historical ones. But those long ago issues remain relevant and the Booths proved a particularly useful lens through which to tell a story about family, fame, and the Civil War. Plus lots of Shakespeare.’

commissioning editor Rebecca Gray said, ‘How do you follow up the book of a lifetime? For Karen, the answer is by writing another masterpiece. This is an utterly different book to We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, but it’s just as imaginative, thought-provoking and resonant. It takes a story we think we know and turns it inside out, creating a novel that is historically and politically serious, and an absolute pleasure to read, too. The characters feel alive on the page, the setting is beautifully done, and once again Karen finds a voice that rises off the page. This is a deep dive into history that shows how Britain and the US have intertwined stories, and how the past casts long shadows into the present. When I began reading the book I wondered if it was her Wolf Hall, and by the end I knew that it was.’


Booth is the magisterial, vivid and tragic story of a family who changed the course of American history. Junius is a famous and charismatic English actor, and self-styled rival to Edmund Kean who thrills America with his renditions of Shakespeare, when he isn’t drunk and sinking the family ever further into debt. Growing up in nineteenth century rural Maryland, his children become intimately familiar with hardship, early death and the horrors of slavery. Of the six Booth siblings who survive to adulthood, each one has their own dreams they must fight to realise – but it is Johnny who makes the terrible decision that will ensure their names are known to this day.


Karen Joy Fowler is the author of seven previous novels including The Jane Austen Book Club and three short story collections. Her most recent novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014, won the PEN/Faulkner Prize 2014 and has sold over a million copies globally. She lives in California, USA.

Press contact: Anna-Marie Fitzgerald – Senior Publicity Manager –

@SerpentsTail on Twitter and Instagram

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Torrey Peters on the Women’s Prize 2021 Longlist

We couldn’t be more thrilled that Torrey Peters’ DETRANSITION, BABY has been longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021!

The Women’s Prize for Fiction – one of the biggest annual, international celebrations of women’s creativity – today announces the 2021 longlist. Now in its 26th year, the Prize shines a spotlight on outstanding, ambitious, original fiction written in English by women from anywhere in the world.









‘Irresistible … Detransition, Baby is the first great trans realist novel‘ Grace Lavery, Guardian
‘A voraciously knowing, compulsively readable novel’ Chris Kraus
‘Tremendously funny and sexy as hell’ Juliet Jacques

Reese nearly had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York, a job she didn’t hate. She’d scraped together a life previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child. Then everything fell apart and three years on Reese is still in self-destruct mode, avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

When her ex calls to ask if she wants to be a mother, Reese finds herself intrigued. After being attacked in the street, Amy de-transitioned to become Ames, changed jobs and, thinking he was infertile, started an affair with his boss Katrina. Now Katrina’s pregnant. Could the three of them form an unconventional family – and raise the baby together?


Torrey Peters lives in Brooklyn and holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and a Masters in Comparative Literature from Dartmouth. She is the author of two novellas, Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones and The Masker. @torreypeters


The sixteen longlisted books are as follows:

Because of You by Dawn French
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Luster by Raven Leilani
No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Summer by Ali Smith
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

The judging panel – which is made up of podcaster, author and journalist, Elizabeth Day; TV and radio presenter, journalist and writer, Vick Hope; print columnist and writer, Nesrine Malik; and news presenter and broadcaster, Sarah-Jane Mee – will whittle these 16 books down to a shortlist of just 6 novels, announced on April 28th. The 25th winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction will be announced on Wednesday 7th July.

Find out more over at the Women’s Prize for Fiction

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Happy 35th birthday to Serpent’s Tail!

Serpent’s Tail turns a very respectable 35 years old this year and while for our 30th we danced in a sweaty industrial bunker behind Angel station until the early hours of a weekday morning, for our birthday this year – like everyone else – we’re celebrating from home.

We’ve teamed up with Carrie Plitt and Octavia Bright, podcasters of exquisite taste and style and hosts of the award-winning Literary Friction to bring you the very special one-off minisode Inside Publishing with Hannah Westland from Serpent’s TailHannah Westland, Serpent’s Tail’s publisher since 2012, chats about the history, present and future of the imprint and what it means to be an independent publisher in 2021.

Listen on all platforms, including:




You can hear Literary Friction’s previous interviews with our authors here: Carmen Maria MachadoMary GaitskillYelena MoskovichEsi EdugyanSarah Perry and find out more about the books discussed at our page. Look out for more birthday news and giveaways later this spring. #ST35

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Modern heroines for International Women’s Day 2021

You can trust us to publish books by, for and about dissenting women. Women who strive for change, who refuse to conform, who offer us a brand new way of looking at the world. In our picks below meet Libertie, Reese, Kim, the Essex Girl, Yona, the Black women and girls of 20th century America, and Nina.

Tell us who you’re reading for International Women’s Day – @serpentstail.

Kaitlyn Greenidge

Coming of age as a free-born Black girl in Brooklyn after the Civil War, Libertie Sampson was all too aware that her purposeful mother, a practicing physician, had a vision for their future together: Libertie would go to medical school and practice alongside her. But Libertie, drawn more to music than science, feels stifled by her mother’s choices and is hungry for something else – is there really only one way to have an autonomous life? And she is constantly reminded that, unlike her mother who can pass, Libertie has skin that is too dark. When a young man from Haiti proposes to Libertie and promises she will be his equal on the island, she accepts, only to discover that she is still subordinate to him and all men. As she tries to parse what freedom actually means for a Black woman, Libertie struggles with where she might find it – for herself and for generations to come.

Get your copy

Torrey Peters

Reese nearly had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York, a job she didn’t hate. She’d scraped together a life previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child. Then everything fell apart and three years on Reese is still in self-destruct mode, avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men.

When her ex calls to ask if she wants to be a mother, Reese finds herself intrigued. After being attacked in the street, Amy de-transitioned to become Ames, changed jobs and, thinking he was infertile, started an affair with his boss Katrina. Now Katrina’s pregnant. Could the three of them form an unconventional family – and raise the baby together?

Get your copy

Tina Baker
(Viper Books)


Glamorous, beautiful Mummy has everything a woman could want. Except for a daughter of her very own. So when she sees Kim – heavily pregnant, glued to her phone and ignoring her eldest child in a busy shop – she does what anyone would do. She takes her. But foul-mouthed little Tonya is not the daughter that Mummy was hoping for.

As Tonya fiercely resists Mummy’s attempts to make her into the perfect child, Kim is demonised by the media as a ‘scummy mummy’, who deserves to have her other children taken too. Haunted by memories of her own childhood and refusing to play by the media’s rules, Kim begins to spiral, turning on those who love her.

Though they are worlds apart, Mummy and Kim have more in common than they could possibly imagine. But it is five-year-old Tonya who is caught in the middle…

Get your copy

Sarah Perry

Essex Girls are disreputable, disrespectful and disobedient.
They speak out of turn, too loudly and too often, in an accent irritating to the ruling classes.
Their bodies are hyper-sexualised and irredeemably vulgar.
They are given to intricate and voluble squabbling.
They do not apologise for any of this. And why should they?

In this exhilarating feminist defence of the Essex girl, Sarah Perry re-examines her relationship with her much maligned home county. She summons its most unquiet spirits, from Protestant martyr Rose Allin to the indomitable Abolitionist Anne Knight, sitting them alongside Audre Lorde, Kim Kardashian and Harriet Martineau, and showing us that the Essex girl is not bound by geography. She is a type, representing a very particular kind of female agency, and a very particular kind of disdain: she contains a multitude of women, and it is time to celebrate them.

Get your copy

Yun Ko-Eun

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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Saidiya Hartman

At the dawn of the twentieth century, black women in the US were carving out new ways of living. The first generations born after emancipation, their struggle was to live as if they really were free.

These women refused to labour like slaves. Wrestling with the question of freedom, they invented forms of love and solidarity outside convention and law. These were the pioneers of free love, common-law and transient marriages, queer identities, and single motherhood – all deemed scandalous, even pathological, at the dawn of the twentieth century, though they set the pattern for the world to come.

In Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments, Saidiya Hartman deploys both radical scholarship and profound literary intelligence to examine the transformation of intimate life that they instigated. With visionary intensity, she conjures their worlds, their dilemmas, their defiant brilliance.

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Nina Renata Aron

‘The disease he has is addiction,’ Nina Renata Aron writes of her boyfriend. ‘The disease I have is loving him.’ Their affair is dramatic, urgent – an intoxicating antidote to the lonely days of early motherhood. But soon, K starts using again. Even as his addiction deepens, she stays, thinking she can save him. It’s a familiar pattern, developed in an adolescence marred by family trauma – how can she break it? If she leaves, has she failed?

In this unflinching memoir, Aron shows the devastating effect of addiction on loved ones. She also untangles the messy ties between her own history of enabling, society’s expectations of womanhood and our ideas of love. She cracks open the feminised phenomenon of co-dependency, tracing its development from the formation of Al-Anon to recent research in the psychology of addiction, and asks uncomfortable questions about when help becomes harm, and when we choose to leave.

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