Our evening bookclub is online and places can be booked by purchasing the books below.
Details of how to access the bookclub will be emailed out to attendees on the day before it takes place.
Evening Bookclub – August
The Union of Synchronised Swimmers by Cristina Sandu
Tuesday 21 September at 8pm
Join us on Zoom to discuss this fascinating book – perfectly timed for the Olympics!
Anyone purchasing the book (for a reduced price until the date of the bookclub) will be will be emailed the Zoom link no later than the morning of the meeting.
It’s summer behind the Iron Curtain, and six girls are about to swim their way to the Olympics – and a new life.
In an unnamed Soviet state, six girls meet each day to swim. At first, they play, splashing each other and floating languidly on the water’s surface. But soon the game becomes something more.
They hone their bodies relentlessly. Their skin shades into bruises. They barter cigarettes stolen from the factory where they work for swimsuits to stretch over their sunburnt skin. They tear their legs into splits, flick them back and forth, like herons. They force themselves to stop breathing.
When they find themselves representing their country as synchronised swimmers in the Olympics, they seize the chance they have been waiting for to escape and begin new lives.
Scattered around the globe, six women live in freedom. But will they ever be able to forget what they left behind?
We are no longer running the Lunchtime Bookclub online but hope to be able to start running it live and face to face in the bookshop within the next few months!
Tomorrow by Elisabeth Russell Taylor
Tuesday 20 July at 8pm
Join us on Zoom to discuss this recently reissued classic. An all time staff favourite – beautifully written and utterly heartrending.
The Zoom link will be emailed out to attendees no later than the morning of the meeting.
‘The island was singularly without pretension; just a modest chrysalis-shaped piece of undulating pasture, arable and marshland – a place ignored by those who required drama of an obvious kind.’
Every year Elisabeth Danziger travels to the Danish island of Møn to spend one week at The Tamarisks, a lavish hotel which was, fifteen years ago in 1945, her family’s second home.
With each annual visit, Elisabeth stays in the same room and walks familiar paths. She visits the local museum to peer at artefacts that once belonged to her family; she unscrews the panel of an old bath tub to retrieve the crumbling piece of paper on which is written her name and that of Daniel Eberhardt – her beloved cousin.
Elisabeth’s annual pilgrimage is part of a long-standing family promise to meet again in Møn after their separation during the War. A promise that only she has fulfilled. And she has no reason to suspect this year will be any different from all the others…
Purchase of this bookclub ticket includes a copy of Tomorrow which can be collected from the shop or posted out.
Things I Don’t Want to Know by Deborah Levy
Tuesday 8 June at 8pm
Taking George Orwell’s famous essay, ‘Why I Write’, as a jumping-off point, Deborah Levy offers her own indispensable reflections of the writing life. With wit, clarity and calm brilliance, she considers how the writer must stake claim to that contested territory as a young woman and shape it to her need. Things I Don’t Want to Know is a work of dazzling insight and deep psychological succour, from one of our most vital contemporary writers.
‘Superb sharpness and originality of imagination. An inspiring work of writing’ – Marina Warner
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto
Tuesday 27 April at 8pm
A startlingly original first work by Japan’s brightest young literary star and now a cult film. When Kitchen was first published in Japan in 1987 it won two of Japan’s most prestigious literary prizes, climbed its way to the top of the bestseller lists, then remained there for over a year and sold millions of copies. Banana Yoshimoto was hailed as a young writer of great talent and great passion whose work has quickly earned a place among the best of modern literature, and has been described as ‘the voice of young Japan’ by the Independent on Sunday.
‘The work of an original… Yoshimoto shows a brilliant, delicate discernment between the stages and agonies of loss in these two moving novellas’ – Penelope Fitzgerald
‘A perfect jewel of a novel, delicious and comforting and pure’ – Lena Dunham
‘A quality of poignant, dignified resilience makes this little work worthwhile’ – Independent
‘Yoshimoto’s writing is lucid, earnest and disarming, as emotionally observant as Jane Smiley’s, as fluently readable as Anne Tyler’s… at once familiar and bizarre’ – New York Times
‘Banana Yoshimoto is a master storyteller… The sensuality is subtle, masked, and extraordinarily powerful. The language is deceptively simple’ – Chicago Tribune
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummin
Tuesday 23 March at 8.15pm
Lydia Perez owns a bookshop in Acapulco, Mexico, and is married to a fearless journalist. Luca, their eight-year-old son, completes the picture. But it only takes a bullet to rip them apart.
In a city in the grip of a drug cartel, friends become enemies overnight, and Lydia has no choice but to flee with Luca at her side. North for the border… whatever it takes to stay alive. The journey is dangerous – not only for them, but for those they encounter along the way. Who can be trusted? And what sacrifices is Lydia prepared to make.
From its heart-stopping first sentence to its heart-shattering last, Cummins’ story of immigrants is just what we need now
From the opening page your heart will be in your mouth You will never want to put this story down, Jeanine Cummins has written a novel of such moment, such danger and such compassion, it will change your view of the world.
Weather by Jenny Offill
Thursday 18 March at 12 noon
An obligatory note of hope, in a world going to hell Lizzie Benson, a part-time librarian, is already overwhelmed with the crises of daily life when an old mentor offers her a job answering mail from the listeners of her apocalyptic podcast, Hell and High Water. Soon questions begin pouring in from left-wingers worried about climate change and right-wingers worried about the decline of Western civilization. Entering this polarized world, Lizzie is forced to consider who she is and what she can do to help: as a mother, as a wife, as a sister, and as a citizen of this doomed planet.
“This is so good. We are not ready nor worthy.” Ocean Vuong
“Gorgeous, funny and deadly serious” Max Porter
“A barometer of how it feels to live now” Sunday Times
The Warlow Experiment by Alix Nathan
Wednesday 17 February at 12 noon
Herbert Powyss lives on a small estate in the Welsh Marches, with enough time and income to pursue a gentleman’s fashionable cultivation of exotic plants and trees. But he longs to make his mark in the field of science. He hits on a radical experiment in isolation: for seven years a subject will inhabit three rooms in the cellar of the manor house, fitted out with books, paintings and even a chamber organ. Meals will arrive thrice daily via a dumbwaiter. The solitude will be totally unrelieved by any social contact; the subject will keep a diary of his daily thoughts and actions. Only one man is desperate enough to apply for the job: John Warlow, a semi-literate labourer with a wife and six children to provide for. The experiment, a classic Enlightenment exercise gone more than a little mad, will have unforeseen consequences for all included.
“An extraordinary, quite brilliant book” C J Sansom
“She is an original, with a virtuoso touch” Hilary Mantel
That Reminds Me by Derek Owusu
Tuesday 16 February at 8pm
K is sent into care before a year marks his birth. He grows up in fields and woods, and he is happy, he thinks. When K is eleven, the city reclaims him. He returns to an unknown mother and a part-time father, trading the fields for flats and a community that is alien to him. Slowly, he finds friends. Eventually, he finds love. He learns how to navigate the city. But as he grows, he begins to realise that he needs more than the city can provide. He is a man made of pieces. Pieces that are slowly breaking apart
That Reminds Me is the story of one young man, from birth to adulthood, told in fragments of memory. It explores questions of identity, belonging, addiction, sexuality, violence, family and religion. It is a deeply moving and completely original work of literature from one of the brightest British writers of today.
Winner of the Desmond Elliott Prize 2020
“Beautiful… heartfelt” Benjamin Zephaniah
“Stunning” Bernardine Evaristo
“Heartbreaking” Christie Watson
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
13 January at 12 noon
Lolly Willowes, so gentle and accommodating, has depths no one suspects. When she suddenly announces that she is leaving London and moving, alone, to the depths of the countryside, her overbearing relatives are horrified. But Lolly has a greater, far darker calling than family: witchcraft.
‘A great should of life and individuality… an act of defiance that gladdens the soul.’ – The Guardian
‘The book I’ll be pressing into people’s hands forever… It tells the story of a woman who rejects the life that society has fixed for her in favour of freedom… Tips suddenly into extraordinary, lucid wildness.’ – Helen Macdonald
‘Witty, eerie, tender… her prose, in its simple, abrupt evocations, has something preternatural about it.’ – John Updike
The Snow Ball by Brigid Brophy
Tuesday 12 January 8pm
Recently reissued by Faber and Faber, The Snow Ball caused a scandalous sensation when it was first published in 1964. Set during a New Year’s Eve party in a Georgian mansion, the novel promises a carnival of dazzling wit, subversive sexual politics and wicked satire!
Order your copy and join us for our first evening bookclub discussion of the year.
Wednesday 21 October at 12 noon
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
In 1956, towards the end of Reverend John Ames’s life, he begins a letter to his young son: ‘I told you last night that I might be gone sometime . . . You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother’s. It’s a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I’m always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after I’ve suffered one of those looks. I will miss them.’
A fictional autobiography of the Reverend John Ames, an elderly, white pastor in the small, secluded town of Gilead in Iowa (also fictional), who knows that he is dying of a heart condition.
Marilynne Robinson has used characters and events from Gilead in three more novels – Home, Lila and Jack.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Tuesday 20 October at 8pm
Author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in 1960s Florida.
Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide ‘physical, intellectual and moral training’ which will equip its inmates to become ‘honorable and honest men’.
In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back’. Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s ringing assertion, ‘Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.’ But Elwood’s fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.
The tension between Elwood’s idealism and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.
Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.
Queenie by Candice Carty Williams
Tuesday 9 September, 8pm
Marie by Madeleine Bourdouxhe
Tuesday 8 August, 8pm
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
Tuesday 7 July, 8pm
James Baldwin is as well known for his powerful essays and comment as he is for his fiction and this is one of his most famous pieces of works – a seminal piece of gay fiction.
Now feels like the ideal time to read this classic love story set in 1950s Paris, to continue the conversation about black history and black writers.
One of our recent guests, Benjamin Myers, called it ‘one of the greatest love stories ever written’.
Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe
Tuesday 16 June, 8pm
Books to make us laugh – was there ever a time when they were more needed and necessary?!
Our next bookshop bookclub book is Man at the Helm, by Nina Stibbe, the first book in a trilogy featuring Lizzie Vogel and her family. Once again, we’re in the favoured position that Nina will be joining us for our discussion on Zoom.
Nina was shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse prize for comic fiction for Man at the Helm and the follow-up novel, Paradise Lodge, before winning the prize with the most recent book in the series, Reasons to be Cheerful. So we’re going to start at the beginning and who knows – maybe some of you will stick with the Vogels for the summer and enjoy some much needed giggles and sniggering over the next few weeks and months.
One Fine Day by Mollie Panter Downes
Tuesday 19 May, 8pm
This slim but affecting novel was first published in 1946. Through a single day in the life of a woman living in an English village, it is a vivid portrait of the aftermath of war and explores themes of reconciliation to change.
Mollie wrote several novels – including the recently re-issued My Husband Simon (which Fleur loved!) – but is most famous for her wartime diaries and work as London Correspondent to the New Yorker during WWII.
As we start to imagine what life beyond lockdown could look like, and with the 75th anniversary of VE day due to be celebrated on 8th May, we think this will be a particularly interesting and timely read.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Tuesday 5 May
Another online Bookclub meeting where the author joined in – this time Zooming in from the USA.
A Gentleman in Moscow has been read and loved by so many of the shop’s staff and customers. It’s a fantastically quirky and uplifting tale of confinement.
If you were not able to join us on the night or would like to relive the conversion do look at our video:
Lanny by Max Porter
Tuesday 21 April
Max came to the shop for one of our very first author events, when we had a full house for his Grief is the Thing With Feathers, so it was lovely to have him come along again for our online Bookclub conversation about his new book.
Lanny by Max Porter£8.99