Nadifa Mohamed, The Fortune Men – Livestream Event
Tuesday 25 May, 7.30pm
Award-winning author Nadifa Mohamed will be in conversation about her beautifully gripping new novel The Fortune Men with BBC World Service presenter Razia Iqbal.
The story of a murder, a British miscarriage of justice, and a man too innocent for his times
Mahmood Mattan is a fixture in Cardiff’s Tiger Bay, 1952, which bustles with Somali and West Indian sailors, Maltese businessmen and Jewish families. He is a father, chancer, petty criminal. He is a smooth-talker with rakish charm and an eye for a good game. He is many things, but he is not a murderer.
So when a shopkeeper is brutally killed and all eyes fall on him, Mahmood isn’t too worried. Since his Welsh wife Laura kicked him out for racking up debts he has wandered the streets more often, and there are witnesses who allegedly saw him enter the shop that night. But Mahmood has escaped worse scrapes, and he is innocent in this country where justice is served. Love lends him immunity too: the fierce love of Laura, who forgives his gambling in a heartbeat, and his children. It is only in the run-up to the trial, as the prospect of returning home dwindles, that it will dawn on Mahmood that he is in a fight for his life – against conspiracy, prejudice and cruelty – and that the truth may not be enough to save him.
As brilliantly written as it is devastating, The Fortune Men brings to life forgotten and recent Black British history in a confronting and vital way.
’A writer of great humanity and intelligence. Nadifa Mohammad deeply understands how lives are shaped both by the grand sweep of history and the intimate encounters of human beings.’ Kamila Shamsie
‘Nadifa Mohamed just gets better and better. Long regarded as one of our most promising young novelists, she has fully arrived with The Fortune Men. Chilling and utterly compelling, it shines an essential light on a much-neglected period of our national life.’ Sathnam Sanghera
‘The Fortune Men is that rare novel that breaks your heart and, in so doing, gives you life. Nadifa Mohamed is a revelation – she writes with the fierce compassionate lightning of a truth-teller, lays bare the ghastly colonial condition that afflicts so many of us, where truth cannot overcome injustice. If a novel can be an avenger then The Fortune Men is the one we’ve all been waiting for.’ Junot Diaz
John Preston, Fall – Livestream Event
Monday 24 May, 7.30pm
From the bestselling author of A Very English Scandal, the jaw-dropping life story of notorious business tycoon Robert Maxwell
In February 1991, the media mogul and former MP Robert Maxwell made a triumphant entrance into Manhattan harbour aboard his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, to complete his purchase of the ailing New York Daily News. Crowds lined the quayside to watch his arrival, taxi drivers stopped their cabs to shake his hand and children asked for his autograph. But just ten months later, Maxwell disappeared from the same yacht off the Canary Islands, only to be found dead in the water soon afterward.
Maxwell was the embodiment of Britain’s post-war boom. Born an Orthodox Jew, he had escaped the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, fought in World War 2, and was decorated for his heroism with the Military Cross. He went on to become a Labour MP and an astonishingly successful businessman, owning a number of newspapers and publishing companies. But on his death, his empire fell apart, as long-hidden debts and unscrupulous dealings came to light. Within a few days, Maxwell was being reviled as the embodiment of greed and corruption. No one had ever fallen so far and so quickly.
What went so wrong? How did a war hero and model of society who laid such store on the importance of ethics and good behaviour become reduced to a bloated, amoral wreck? In this gripping book, John Preston delivers the definitive account of Maxwell’s extraordinary rise and scandalous fall.
Sue Stuart-Smith, The Well Gardened Mind – Livestream Event
Wednesday 19 May, 7.30pm
How can gardening relieve stress and help us look after our mental health? What lies behind the restorative power of the natural world?
In a powerful combination of contemporary neuroscience, psychoanalysis and brilliant storytelling, The Well Gardened Mind investigates the magic that many gardeners have known for years – working with nature can radically transform our health, wellbeing and confidence.
With illuminating stories of how people struggling with stress, depression, trauma and addiction can change their lives, this inspiring and wise book of science, insight and anecdote – now translated into fifteen languages – shows how our understanding of nature and its restorative powers is only just beginning to flower.
Max Hastings, Operation Pedestal – Livestream Event
Thursday 13 May, 7.30pm
Join us for a fascinating evening in with author and journalist Max Hastings, where he’ll be discussing his latest book Operation Pedestal -The Fleet that Battled to Malta 1942.
Operation Pedestal was a crucial relief mission that became an epic, bloody naval battle and a pivotal moment in the Second World War.
In his signature brilliant style, Max Hastings gives a thrilling narrative of this little-known but crucial naval battle, retelling the intense action which perfectly encapsulates the spirit and power of the Royal Navy, surely the fiercest and most iconic fighting force of WW2.
The gripping story of an epic battle at sea, from one of Britain’s most acclaimed historians of war.
In August 1942, beleaguered Malta was within weeks of surrender to the Axis, because its 300,000 people could no longer be fed. Churchill made a personal decision that at all costs, the ‘island fortress’ must be saved. This was not merely a matter of strategy, but of national prestige, when Britain’s fortunes and morale had fallen to their lowest ebb.
The largest fleet the Royal Navy committed to any operation of the western war was assembled to escort fourteen fast merchantmen across a thousand of miles of sea defended by six hundred German and Italian aircraft, together with packs of U-boats and torpedo craft. The Mediterranean battles that ensued between 11 and 15 August were the most brutal of Britain’s war at sea, embracing four aircraft-carriers, two battleships, seven cruisers, scores of destroyers and smaller craft. The losses were appalling: defeat seemed to beckon.
This is the saga Max Hastings unfolds in his first full length narrative of the Royal Navy, which he believes was the most successful of Britain’s wartime services. As always, he blends the ‘big picture’ of statesmen and admirals with human stories of German U-boat men, Italian torpedo-plane crews, Hurricane pilots, destroyer and merchant-ship captains, ordinary but extraordinary seamen.
Operation Pedestal describes catastrophic ship sinkings, including that of the aircraft-carrier Eagle, together with struggles to rescue survivors and salvage stricken ships. Most moving of all is the story of the tanker Ohio, indispensable to Malta’s survival, victim of countless Axis attacks. In the last days of the battle, the ravaged hulk was kept under way only by two destroyers, lashed to her sides. Max Hastings describes this as one of the most extraordinary tales he has ever recounted. Until the very last hours, no participant on either side could tell what would be the outcome of an epic of wartime suspense and courage.
In Conversation: Douglas Stuart and Madeleine Bunting – Livestream Event
Tuesday 11 May, 7pm
The Orwell Prize Longlist Conversations: Care
Join Douglas Stuart, Madeleine Bunting and The Orwell Foundation as they discuss the political implications behind their Orwell-Prize longlisted work.
Douglas Stuart is longlisted for The Orwell Prize for Political Fiction 2021 for his book Shuggie Bain, and Madeleine Bunting is listed for the Political Writing prize for her book Labours of Love.
The event will be hosted by Nicci Gerrad, and Ciaran Jenkins (the Scotland Correspondent for Channel 4 News, known for robust interviews and breaking stories) will also be a participant in the conversation with Douglas Stuart and Madeleine Bunting.
The Orwell Prize longlists feature the finest political writing across non-fiction, fiction and journalism of last year: work that our judging panels believe best fulfils Orwell’s state ambition “to make political writing into an art.” Throughout the spring of 2021, the Orwell Foundation will be celebrating this writing in several ways, including a series of online events in association with independent bookshops across the U.K. These will spotlight some of the major themes arising from the longlists, and will feature writers from different lists being brought together to discuss their work.
The full longlists can be viewed on the Orwell Foundation’s website.
Vince Cable, Money and Power – Livestream Event
Thursday 22 April, 7.30pm
We’re delighted to be welcoming economist and politician Vince Cable to our virtual stage, where he’ll be discussing his new title Money and Power.
Through economics, our politicians have the power to transform people’s lives for better or worse. Deng Xiaoping who lifted millions out of poverty by opening up China; Franklin D Roosevelt whose ‘New Deal’ helped the USA break free of the Great Depression. Or Peron and his successors in Argentina who brought the country to the brink of ruin.
Vince Cable examines the legacy of sixteen world leaders who transformed their countries’ economic fortunes and who also challenged economic convention. From Thatcher to Trump, from Lenin to Bismarck, Money and Power provides a whole new perspective on the science of government.
Jonathan Dimbleby, Barbarossa – Livestream Event
Tuesday 20 April 7.30pm
Barbarossa, Hitler’s invasion of Russia in June 1941, was the largest military operation in history, its aim nothing less than ‘a war of extermination’ to annihilate Soviet communism, liquidate the Jews and create lebensraum for the so-called German master race. But it led to the destruction of the Third Reich, and was entirely cataclysmic; in six months of warfare no fewer than six million were killed, wounded or registered as missing in action, and soldiers on both sides committed heinous crimes behind the lines on a scale without parallel in the history of warfare.
In Barbarossa, drawing on hitherto unseen archival material – including previously untranslated Russian sources – in his usual gripping style, Jonathan Dimbleby recounts not only the story of the military campaign, but the politics and diplomacy behind this epic clash of global titans.
Paula Byrne, The Adventures of Miss Barbara Pym -Livestream Event
Monday 19 April 7.30pm
She was Pym to friends. Miss Pym in her diaries. Sandra in seduction mode. Pymska at her most sophisticated. She became beloved as one of the wittiest novelists of the late twentieth century, with an unparalleled ability for revealing the inner workings of domestic life. Her friend Philip Larkin announced her the era’s own Jane Austen. But who was Barbara Pym and why is this English writer – one of the great chroniclers of the human heart – not more widely known?
Written with the wit and shrewd observations to match its subject, Paula Byrne’s new biography is the first to make full and unexpurgated use of Pym’s archive. Whilst it has no desire to ‘dig dirt’, the information uncovered in this book for the first-time sheds dramatic new light on both Pym the woman and the writer. Byrne quotes copiously from Pym’s diaries and letters as her observations on everything from food, clothes to heartbreak provide fascinating commentary on the transformation of middle-class women’s lives between the 1920s and 1970s.
Caleb Azumah Nelson, Open Water – Live Stream Event
Monday 12 April, 7.30pm
Caleb’s debut novel has already been called a ‘book of the year’ by our booksellers – we think it’s amazing! So we’re really excited to be hosting this event with our friends at Village Books, Dulwich and Chorleywood, to showcase the work of such a talented new writer.
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential British debut of recent years.
‘An amazing debut novel. You should read this book. Let’s hear it for Caleb Azumah Nelson, also known as the future’ Benjamin Zephaniah
‘A very touching and heartfelt book’ Diana Evans, award-winning author of ORDINARY PEOPLE
‘A lyrical modern love story, brilliant on music and art, race and London life, I enjoyed it hugely’ David Nicholls, author of ONE DAY and SWEET SORROW
‘Caleb is a star in the making’ Nikesh Shukla, editor of THE GOOD IMMIGRANT and BROWN BABY
‘A stunning piece of art’ Bolu Babalola, bestselling author of LOVE IN COLOUR
‘For those that are missing the tentative depiction of love in Normal People, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water is set to become one of 2021’s unmissable books. Utterly transporting, it’ll leave you weeping and in awe.’ Stylist
‘An exhilarating new voice in British fiction’ Vogue
‘A poetic novel about Black identity and first love in the capital from one of Britain’s most exciting young voices‘ Harper’s Bazaar
‘An intense, elegant debut’ Guardian
Roger Morgan-Grenville, Shearwater – Livestream Event
Thursday 8 April, 3pm
Ten weeks into its life, a Manx shearwater chick will emerge from its burrow and fly 8,000 miles from the west coast of the British Isles to the South Atlantic. It will be unlikely to touch land again for four years.
Part memoir, part homage to wilderness, Shearwater traces the author’s 50-year obsession with one of nature’s supreme travellers. In the finest tradition of nature writing, Roger Morgan-Grenville, author of Liquid Gold – described by Mary Colwell (Curlew Moon) as ‘a book that ignites joy and warmth’ – unpicks the science behind its incredible journey; and into the story of a year in the shearwater’s life, he threads the inspirational influence of his Hebridean grandmother who instilled in him a love of wild places and wild animals.
Full of lightly-worn knowledge, acute human observation and self-deprecating humour, Shearwater brings to life a truly mysterious and charismatic bird.
Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet – Livestream Event
Wednesday 7 April, 7pm
In collaboration with our friends at Village Books and Sevenoaks Bookshop, we’re delighted to be welcoming Maggie O’Farrell to our virtual stage.
TWO EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE. A LOVE THAT DRAWS THEM TOGETHER. A LOSS THAT THREATENS TO TEAR THEM APART.
On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a sudden fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?
Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London.
Neither parent knows that Hamnet will not survive the week.
‘Richly sensuous… something special’ The Sunday Times
‘A thing of shimmering wonder’ David Mitchell
Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright: a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.
Gardening for Bumblebees – Livestream Event
Thursday 1 April, 7pm
From the Sunday Times bestselling author of A Sting In The Tale comes this practical guide to creating a paradise for pollinators.
There are twenty six different species of bumblebees to be found in the UK, of around 250 species worldwide. Bumblebees are among the most important of our insects; these superb pollinators ensure that wildflowers set seed and reappear each year, and that our vegetable and fruit crops give us bountiful harvests. With the decline in the populations of our wild bees, these beloved creatures need looking after more than ever.
Gardening for Bumblebees shows you how you can provide a refuge for bumblebees to feed, breed and thrive. No matter how large or small your space is, Dave Goulson shows you how you can make a pollinator-friendly haven. In this book you will learn the best trees, shrubs and flowers for pollinators, how to create the perfect nest and breeding site, and the best ways to control pests. Gardening For Bumblebees will encourage and inspire gardeners and allotmenters alike to make their patch more bee friendly.
Naomi Ishiguro – Livestream event
Wednesday 31 March, 7.30pm
Join us for an evening in with the wonderful Naomi Ishiguro, where she’ll be chatting with Sevenoaks Bookshop bookseller Anastasia about her new novel Common Ground.
Did you ever have a friend who made you see the world differently?
It’s a lonely life for Stan, at a new school that feels more ordeal than fresh start, and at home where he and his mother struggle to break the silence after his father’s death. When he encounters fearless, clever Charlie on the local common, all of that begins to change. Charlie’s curiosity is infectious, and it is Charlie who teaches Stan, for the first time, to stand on his own two feet. But will their unit of two be strong enough to endure in a world that offers these boys such different prospects?
The pair part ways, until their paths cross once again, as adults at a London party. Now Stan is revelling in all that the city has to offer, while Charlie seems to have hit a brick wall. He needs Stan’s help, and above all his friendship, but is Stan really there for the man who once showed him the meaning of loyalty?
Craig Brown – Livestream event
Wednesday 17 March, 7pm
John Updike compared them to ‘the sun coming out on an Easter morning’. Bob Dylan introduced them to drugs. The Duchess of Windsor adored them. Noel Coward despised them. JRR Tolkien snubbed them. The Rolling Stones copied them. Leonard Bernstein admired them. Muhammad Ali called them ‘little sissies’. Successive Prime Ministers sucked up to them. No one has remained unaffected by the music of The Beatles. As Queen Elizabeth II observed on her golden wedding anniversary, ‘Think what we would have missed if we had never heard The Beatles.’
One Two Three Four traces the chance fusion of the four key elements that made up The Beatles: fire (John), water (Paul), air (George) and earth (Ringo). It also tells the bizarre and often unfortunate tales of the disparate and colourful people within their orbit, among them Fred Lennon, Yoko Ono, the Maharishi, Aunt Mimi, Helen Shapiro, the con artist Magic Alex, Phil Spector, their psychedelic dentist John Riley and their failed nemesis, Det Sgt Norman Pilcher.
From the bestselling author of Ma’am Darling comes a kaleidoscopic mixture of history, etymology, diaries, autobiography, fan letters, essays, parallel lives, party lists, charts, interviews, announcements and stories. One Two Three Four joyfully echoes the frenetic hurly-burly of an era.
We’re delighted to announce that Craig will be in conversation with David Hepworth, author of Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There : How a Few Skinny Brits with Bad Teeth Rocked America
Anna Jones – Livestream Event
Monday 15 March, 7.30pm
Award-winning cook Anna Jones blazes the trail again for how we all want to cook now: quick, sustainably and stylishly.
In this exciting new collection of over 200 simple recipes, Anna Jones limits the pans and simplifies the ingredients for all-in-one dinners that keep things fast and easy. These super varied every night recipes celebrate vegetables and deliver knock-out flavour but without taking time and energy.
There are one-tray dinners, like a baked dahl with tamarind-glazed sweet potato, quick dishes like tahini broccoli on toast, one-potsoups and stews like Persian noodle as well as one-pan fritters and pancakes such as golden rosti with ancho chilli chutney.
One brings together a way of eating that is mindful of the planet. Anna gives you practical advice and shows how every small change in planning, shopping and reducing waste will make a difference. There are also 100 recipes for using up any amount of your most-eaten veg and ideas to help you use the foods that most often end up being thrown away.
This book is good for you, your pocket and the planet.
Donna Leon – Live stream event
Thursday 11 March, 7.30pm
Join us for an evening in with bestselling crime writer Donna Leon, where we’ll be chatting all things Brunetti and of course her latest novel Transient Desires.
In his many years as a Commissario, Guido Brunetti has seen all manner of crime and known intuitively how to navigate the various pathways in his native Venice to discover the person responsible. Now, in the thirtieth novel in Donna Leon’s masterful series, he faces a heinous crime committed outside his jurisdiction. He is drawn in innocently enough: two young American women have been badly injured in a boating accident, joy riding in the Laguna with two young Italians. However, Brunetti’s curiosity is aroused by the behaviour of the young men, who abandoned the victims after taking them to the hospital. If the injuries were the result of an accident, why did they want to avoid association with it?
As Brunetti and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, investigate the incident, they discover that one of the young men works for a man rumoured to be involved in more sinister night-time activities in the Laguna. To get to the bottom of what proves to be a gut-wrenching case, Brunetti needs to enlist the help of both the Carabinieri and the Guardia di Costiera. Determining how much trust he and Griffoni can put in these unfamiliar colleagues adds to the difficulty of solving a peculiarly horrible crime whose perpetrators are technologically brilliant and ruthlessly organised.
Lisa Jewell – Invisible Girl
Monday 8 March, 7.30pm
Join us for a thrilling evening-in with bestselling author Lisa Jewell.
YOU DON’T SEE HER. BUT SHE SEES YOU…
MIDNIGHT: In an area of urban wasteland where cats hunt and foxes shriek, a girl is watching…
When Saffyre Maddox was ten, something terrible happened, and she’s carried the pain of it ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides, learning his secrets, invisible in the shadows.
Owen Pick is invisible too. He’s never had a girlfriend; he’s never even had a friend. Nobody sees him. Nobody cares.
But when Saffyre goes missing from opposite his house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at Owen.
Accusing him. Holding him responsible for Saffyre’s disappearance…
Hadley Freeman – House of Glass
Wednesday 3 March, 7pm
After her grandmother died, Hadley Freeman travelled to her apartment to try and make sense of a woman she’d never really known. Sala Glass was a European expat in America – defiantly clinging to her French influences, famously reserved, fashionable to the end – yet to Hadley much of her life remained a mystery. Sala’s experience of surviving one of the most tumultuous periods in modern history was never spoken about.
When Hadley found a shoebox filled with her grandmother’s treasured belongings, it started a decade-long quest to find out their haunting significance and to dig deep into the extraordinary lives of Sala and her three brothers. The search takes Hadley from Picasso’s archives in Paris to a secret room in a farmhouse in Auvergne to Long Island and to Auschwitz.
A moving memoir following the Glass siblings throughout the course of the twentieth-century as they each make their own bid for survival, House of Glass explores assimilation, identity and home – issues that are deeply relevant today.
Devilishly Dark Debuts: Ashley Audrain, Abigail Dean and Inga Vesper
Tuesday 2 March, 7.30pm
Get ready for a gripping evening with three exciting debut authors.,
Ashley Audrain, Abigail Dean and Inga Vesper will be discussing their thrilling new books as part of our very first virtual ‘panel’ event. which will be chaired by the brilliant Joe Haddow.
The Push by Ashley Audrain
‘I think she pushed him,’ I said to you quietly. ‘I think she pushed him . . .’
The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn’t right.
I had always known that the women in my family aren’t meant to be mothers.
My husband Fox says I’m imagining it. He tells me I’m nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.
But she’s different with me. Something feels very wrong.
Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?
Girl A by Abigail Dean
Girl A,’ she said. ‘The girl who escaped. If anyone was going to make it, it was going to be you.’
Lex Gracie doesn’t want to think about her family. She doesn’t want to think about growing up in her parents’ House of Horrors. And she doesn’t want to think about her identity as Girl A: the girl who escaped. When her mother dies in prison and leaves Lex and her siblings the family home, she can’t run from her past any longer. Together with her sister, Evie, Lex intends to turn the House of Horrors into a force for good. But first she must come to terms with her six siblings – and with the childhood they shared.
Beautifully written and incredibly powerful, Girl A is a story of redemption, of horror, and of love.
The Long, Long Afternoon by Inga Vesper
Yesterday, I kissed my husband for the last time . . .
It’s the summer of 1959, and the well-trimmed lawns of Sunnylakes, California, wilt under the sun. At some point during the long, long afternoon, Joyce Haney, wife, mother, vanishes from her home, leaving behind two terrified children and a bloodstain on the kitchen floor.
While the Haney’s neighbours get busy organising search parties, it is Ruby Wright, the family’s ‘help’, who may hold the key to this unsettling mystery. Ruby knows more about the secrets behind Sunnylakes’ starched curtains than anyone, and it isn’t long before the detective in charge of the case wants her help. But what might it cost her to get involved? In these long hot summer afternoons, simmering with lies, mistrust and prejudice, it could only take one spark for this whole ‘perfect’ world to set alight . . .
Juliet Nicolson – Frostquake
Wednesday 10 February, 8pm
On Boxing Day 1962, when Juliet Nicolson was eight years old, the snow began to fall. It did not stop for ten weeks. The drifts in East Sussex reached twenty-three feet. In London, milkmen made deliveries on skis. On Dartmoor 2,000 ponies were buried in the snow, and starving foxes ate sheep alive.
It wasn’t just the weather that was bad. The threat of nuclear war had reached its terrifying height with the recent Cuban Missile Crisis. Unemployment was on the rise, de Gaulle was blocking Britain from joining the European Economic Community, Winston Churchill, still the symbol of Great Britishness, was fading. These shadows hung over a country paralysed by frozen heating oil, burst pipes and power cuts.
And yet underneath the frozen surface, new life was beginning to stir. A new breed of satirists threatened the complacent decadence of the British establishment. A game-changing band from Liverpool topped the charts, becoming the ultimate symbol of an exuberant youthquake. Scandals such as the Profumo Affair exposed racial and sexual prejudice. When the thaw came, ten weeks of extraordinary weather had acted as a catalyst between two distinct eras.
From poets to pop stars, shopkeepers to schoolchildren, and her own family’s experiences, Juliet Nicolson traces the hardship of that frozen winter and the emancipation that followed. That spring, new life was unleashed, along with freedoms we take for granted today.
A brilliant concept transformed into a brilliant and revelatory book. Completely fascinating and engrossing – William Boyd
The freezing winter of 1962-63 finally thawed in early March and as if on cue British society and politics became molten and mobile. Those who lived through it will never forget it. Those who didn’t, need to know about it. Juliet Nicolson is brilliant at recapturing mood, moment and character. It’s as if the inhabitants of that extraordinary time have flung open the door and welcomed her in from the blizzard outside to tell her all. This book is a must – Peter Hennessy
Frostquake is wholly remarkable . . . a rare and engrossing read that brought that time straight back to my memory and consciousness – Vanessa Redgrave
I was absolutely enthralled from first page to last. It’s truly remarkable, so well written, and the scope of her research is extraordinary. I particularly admire the way she entwines her own family’s experience with what was going on at the time – a very vivid, accurate and perceptive portrayal of the period at all social, political and cultural levels – Selina Hastings
This is an absolutely mesmerising book. Where I knew of the events concerned I was fascinated by the vivid retelling, and when I didn’t I was utterly gripped – Antonia Fraser
Mick Herron – Slough House
Wednesday 3 February, 8pm
‘Kill us? They’ve never needed to kill us,’ said Lamb. ‘I mean, look at us. What would be the point?’
A year after a calamitous blunder by the Russian secret service left a British citizen dead from novichok poisoning, Diana Taverner is on the warpath. What seems a gutless response from the government has pushed the Service’s First Desk into mounting her own counter-offensive – but she’s had to make a deal with the devil first. And given that the devil in question is arch-manipulator Peter Judd, she could be about to lose control of everything she’s fought for.
Meanwhile, still reeling from recent losses, the slow horses are worried they’ve been pushed further into the cold. Slough House has been wiped from Service records, and fatal accidents keep happening. No wonder Jackson Lamb’s crew are feeling paranoid. But have they actually been targeted?
With a new populist movement taking a grip on London’s streets, and the old order ensuring that everything’s for sale to the highest bidder, the world’s an uncomfortable place for those deemed surplus to requirements. The wise move would be to find a safe place and wait for the troubles to pass.
But the slow horses aren’t famed for making wise decisions…
Black Girls Book Club presents: Conversations with Namina Forna
Thursday 4th February at 7pm
Black Girls Book Club are thrilled to present conversations with YA author Namina Forna, one of the most anticipated debut authors of 2021. Join us for an exclusive opportunity to hear Melissa and Natalie, Founders of BGBC, discuss Namina’s West-African inspired feminist fantasy, The Gilded Ones. Already listed as a “must-read” by Cosmopolitan, Elle, Bustle, Buzzfeed, and Refinery29, this is an exclusive event where you can join the conversation and pose questions to the three fabulous women on the panel.
The first 20 people to book the ‘book and ticket’ option will receive an exclusive The Gilded Ones goodie bag.
About The Gilded Ones
Sixteen year old Deka lives in Otera, a deeply patriarchal ancient kingdom where a woman’s worth is tied to her purity and she must bleed to prove it. But when Deka bleeds gold – the colour of impurity – she faces consequences worse than death.
Steeped in West-Africa culture and boldly exploring a woman’s life in war, The Gilded Ones is like nothing you’ve ever read before.
About Namina Forna
Namina Forna was born in Sierra Leone and emigrated to the US in the 1990s at the age of nine. She has been travelling back and forth ever since. She now works as a writer and producer for film and TV in LA and was a finalist for NBC / Universal Writers on the Verge and semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriting Lab. The Gilded Ones is her debut novel for Young Adults.
About Black Girls Book Club
Black Girls Book Club was founded by Melissa Cummings-Quarry & Natalie A Carter to create a safe space for Black women to come together over a shared love of books. They have interviewed, amongst many others, Tayari Jones, Malorie Blackman, Diane Abbott and Bernardine Evaristo. They have featured in British Vogue, Stylist, Time Out, and on the BBC and Sky Arts. Their debut book GROWN: The Black Girls Guide to Growing up will be published by Bloomsbury in 2021.
Jon Sopel – UnPresidented
Interviewed by James Naughtie
Thursday 28 January 7.30pm
We are collaborating with two fellow independent bookshops (Chorleywood Bookshop and Village Books) to bring you a live streamed event with the BBC North America Editor Jon Sopel.
You can purchase a copy of UnPresidented and ticket for the live stream event or a ticket only.
Jon Sopel joins us live from Washington as he takes us behind the scenes of a presidential race that Trumped all others!
Experience life on the campaign trail through Jon’s very personal account of this extraordinary race for the White House. As the election heats up and a global pandemic slowly sweeps in, challenging the very institutions of American politics and the Trump presidency, Jon shows us what really goes on behind the scenes at every key moment.
Tim Bouverie – Appeasing Hitler
Monday 18 January 7.30pm-8.30pm
Tim will talk about his book, the Sunday Times Bestseller Appeasing Hitler: Chamberlain, Churchill and the Road to War. This is the first significant narrative history of appeasement and a compelling reappraisal of one of the most controversial episodes in history.
‘Astonishing’ Antony Beevor
‘One of the most promising young historians to enter our field for years’ Max Hastings
‘A brilliant and sparkling debut that reads like a thriller. I couldn’t put it down’ Peter Frankopan
‘Vivid, detailed and utterly fascinating… This is political drama at its most compelling’ James Holland
Tuesday 10 November, 8pm
At Sevenoaks Bookshop we love to feature and support debut novelists. This year many brilliant debut novels will not have received the attention they deserve so this is more important to us than ever. We loved this book and can’t wait to share it with you!
Haunted by an incident in which a child was lost from the circus, our narrator, a tightrope artiste, weaves together her spellbinding tales of circus legends, earthy magic and folklore. A Girl Made of Air brings the circus to life in all of its grime and glory; Marina, Manu, Serendipity Wilson, Fausto, Big Gen and Mouse will live long in the hearts of readers. As will this story of loss and reconciliation, of storytelling and truth.
For fans of Angela Carter and Erin Morgenstern.
Originally from Leeds, Nydia Hetherington moved to London in her twenties to embark on an acting career. Later she moved to Paris where she studied at the Jacques Lecoq theatre school before creating her own theatre company. When she returned to London, she completed a creative writing degree at Birkbeck.
Wednesday 28 October, 7.30pm
The long awaited follow-up of The Island.
25th August 1957. The island of Spinalonga closes its leper colony. And a moment of violence has devastating consequences.
When time stops dead for Maria Petrakis and her sister, Anna, two families splinter apart and, for the people of Plaka, the closure of Spinalonga is forever coloured with tragedy.
In the aftermath, the question of how to resume life looms large. Stigma and scandal need to be confronted and somehow, for those impacted, a future built from the ruins of the past.
Wednesday 23 September 7.30pm
A funny, moving and uplifting novel about life’s complications, the power of friendship and how it defines us all, from Ruth Jones, co-writer of Gavin and Stacey and author of the smash-hit, number one bestselling debut, Never Greener.
Meet Lana, Judith and Catrin. Best friends since primary school when they swore an oath on a Curly Wurly wrapper that they would always be there for each other, come what may.
After the trip of a lifetime, the three girls are closer than ever. But an unexpected turn of events shakes the foundation of their friendship to its core, leaving their future in doubt – there’s simply too much to forgive, let alone forget. An innocent childhood promise they once made now seems impossible to keep . . .
Packed with all the heart and empathy that made Ruth’s name as a screenwriter and now author, Us Three is a funny, moving and uplifting novel about life’s complications, the power of friendship and how it defines us all. Prepare to meet characters you’ll feel you’ve known all your life – prepare to meet Us Three.
‘A touching celebration of the beauty and endurance of female friendship.’ Dawn French
‘I loved this brilliantly gripping depiction of the complexities of female friendship over the years. Love, betrayal, comedy and loss – Us Three has it all.’ Fiona Neill
‘A warm, smart, uplifting tale of true friendship.’ Beth O’Leary, author of The Flatshare and The Switch
‘This novel oozes warmth and honesty. A big-hearted book that provides a cast of characters you’ll lose your heart to.’ Adele Parks, author of Lies, Lies, Lies and Just My Luck
Tuesday 21 July 8pm
The author of bestselling and much-loved books such as The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy and The Music Shop.
“I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but Miss Benson’s Beetle is even better. The characters have a richness and depth that drew me into their story immediately. And what characters! This book is far more than an unexpected adventure, it’s a beautiful portrayal of female friendship in all its frailties, contradictions and strengths. It made me think we all have the power to be so much more than we imagine when we cut the chains of expectation. I actually feel as if I’ve just lost a positive, powerful friend – I’m cut adrift, I haven’t been so immersed in a novel for years” Raynor Winn, author of The Salt Path
Tuesday 30 June at 8pm (GMT)
New York Times bestselling author Lily King. We feel incredibly lucky and so thrilled about this! Lily’s last UK published novel Euphoria is an incredible book. It was a Sevenoaks Bookshop bestseller – a real word of mouth hit among our customers because of the sheer quality of Lily’s writing. If you haven’t already read it – do so now!
Lily discussed her new novel, Writers and Lovers, a tale of art, love and ambition, all told with such exquisite consideration, certain sentences and images clean take your breath away.
‘Lily King is one of our great literary treasures and Writers & Lovers is suffused with her brilliance. It is captivating, potent, incisive, and wise, a moving story of grief, and recovering from grief, and of a young woman finding her courage for life’. Madeline Miller, author of Circe
“Writers & Lovers made me happy. Even as the narrator grieves the loss of her mother and struggles to make art and keep a roof over her head, the novel is suffused with hopefulness and kindness. Lily King writes with a great generosity of spirit.” Ann Patchett
“I loved this book not just from the first chapter or the first page but from the first paragraph… The voice is just so honest and riveting and insightful about creativity and life.” Curtis Sittenfeld, London Evening Standard
“Delightful… An unmistakable broadside against fiction’s love affair with macho strivers, even — or especially — when layers of lyricism and tenderness coat their machismo. The emotional force of Writers & Lovers is considerable.” New York Times Book Review
You can watch the full length recording of our event with Lily here:
Tuesday 26 May 8pm
Benjamin Myers introduced his new novel, The Offing.
The Offing is absolutely a book to read now – filled with hope and love and the joys of reading and writing. Set in the aftermath of WWII, it is the story of a young man setting out on a walking adventure for the summer, before returning to his home town to start a job in a mine. It’s about England, the North, nature, the sea and a life-changing encounter with a woman he meets on his travels. For anyone reading our current bookclub book, One Fine Day, it is a great companion read.
‘…the book recalls JL Carr’s A Month in the Country Myers’s sensitive portrayal of an emotionally mature man looking back at a single life-changing summer is as quietly gripping as Carr’s novella.’
‘What a radical thing, these days, to have written a book so full of warmth and kindness… Gorgeous’
Max Porter, author of Lanny
You can watch the full length recording of our chat with Benjamin here:
Chiddingstone Castle Virtual Literary Festival 2020
Podcast series now live!
Sadly the Festival will not be taking place at the Castle this year but the organisers have arranged a brilliant series of recorded interviews which will be available from Saturday 9 May, and we can deliver the authors’ books direct to you. More information…