Peach Blossom Spring by Melissa Fu
With every misfortune there is a blessing and within every blessing, the seeds of misfortune, and so it goes, until the end of time. It is 1938 in China, and the Japanese are advancing. A young mother, Meilin, is forced to flee her burning city with her four-year-old son, Renshu, and embark on an epic journey across China.
For comfort they turn to their most treasured possession – a beautifully illustrated hand scroll. Its ancient fables offer solace and wisdom as they travel through their ravaged country seeking refuge. BBC Radio 2 Book Club
The Promise by Damon Galgut The Booker Prize Winner 2021
On a farm outside Pretoria, the Swarts are gathering for Ma’s funeral. The younger generation, Anton and Amor, detest everything the family stand for – not least their treatment of the Black woman who has worked for them her whole life. Salome was to be given her own house, her own land…yet somehow, that vow is carefully ignored.
As each decade passes, and the family assemble again, one question hovers over them. Can you ever escape the repercussions of a broken promise? BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets. So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people.
Or maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain. Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself. BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime
Antwerp The Glory Years by Michael Pye
A rich history of Antwerp from the author of the acclaimed bestseller The Edge of the World, Even before Amsterdam there was a dazzling North Sea port at the hub of the known world: the city of Antwerp. Antwerp was sensational like nineteenth-century Paris or twentieth-century New York, somewhere anything could happen or at least be believed: killer bankers, easy kisses, a market in secrets and every kind of heresy. For half the sixteenth century, it was the place for breaking rules – religious, sexual, intellectual.
In Antwerp, things changed. One man cornered all the money in the city and reinvented ideas of what money meant. Another gave Antwerp a new shape purely out of his own ambition. BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week
Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo
The powerful, urgent manifesto on never giving up from Booker prize-winning trailblazer, Bernardine EvaristoIn 2019, Bernardine Evaristo became the first black woman to win the Booker Prize since its inception fifty years earlier – a revolutionary landmark for Britain. Her journey was a long one, but she made it, and she made history. Manifesto is her intimate and fearless account of how she did it.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD ‘Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked…’To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably-priced furniture, making a life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver’s Row don’t approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it’s still home. Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his facade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it.
The Frequency of Others by Keith Stuart
A BBC2 BETWEEN THE COVERS BOOK CLUB PICK ‘A fascinating, beautiful, heartwarming novel. It kept me gripped from the very first chapter’ — BETH O’LEARY In Second World War Bath, young, naive wireless engineer Will meets Austrian refugee Elsa Klein: she is sophisticated, witty and worldly, and at last his life seems to make sense . .. until, soon after, the newly married couple’s home is bombed, and Will awakes from the wreckage to find himself alone. No one has heard of Elsa Klein.
Factory Summers by Guy Delisle. A Graphic Novel
The legendary cartoonist aims his pen and paper towards his high school summer job. For three summers beginning when he was 16, cartoonist Guy Delisle worked at a pulp and paper factory in Quebec City. Factory Summers chronicles the daily rhythms of life in the mill, and the twelve-hour shifts he spent in a hot, noisy building filled with arcane machinery. Delisle takes his noted outsider perspective and applies it domestically, this time as a boy amongst men through the universal rite of passage of the summer job.
Will this House Last Forever by Xanthi Barker
A heartfelt and wholly original memoir about the pain of having to come to terms with a parent’s mortality, the way grief so utterly defies logic, and about learning to see the flaws in those that we love, and let them go.
When Xanthi Barker’s father died when she was in her mid twenties, she could make no sense of her grief for a man who had been absent for most of her life. Her father, poet Sebastian Barker, had left Xanthi, her mother and her brother to pursue writing and a new relationship, when Xanthi was a baby.
The Broken House: Growing Up Under Hitler by Horst Kruger
In 1965 the German journalist Horst Kruger attended the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt, where 22 former camp guards were put on trial for the systematic murder of over 1 million men, women and children.
Twenty years after the end of the war, this was the first time that the German people were confronted with the horrific details of the Holocaust executed by ‘ordinary men’ still living in their midst. The trial sent Kruger back to his childhood in the 1930s, in an attempt to understand ‘how it really was, that incomprehensible time’. He had grown up in a Berlin suburb, among a community of decent, lower-middle-class homeowners.
The Shadow of the Mine by Ray Hudson
No one personified the age of industry more than the miners. The Shadow of the Mine tells the story of King Coal in its heyday – and what happened to mining communities after the last pits closed. Coal was central to the British economy, powering its factories and railways.
Tens of thousands were cast onto the labour market with a minimum amount of advice and support. Yet British politics all of a sudden revolves around the coalfield constituencies that lent their votes to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives in 2019. Even in the Welsh Valleys, where the ‘red wall’ still stands, support for the Labour Party has halved in a generation.
The Hummingbird by Sandro Veronesi
Marco Carrera is ‘the hummingbird,’ a man with the almost supernatural ability to stay still as the world around him continues to change.
As he navigates the challenges of life – confronting the death of his sister and the absence of his brother; taking care of his parents as they approach the end of their lives; raising his granddaughter when her mother, Marco’s own child, can no longer be there for her; coming to terms with his love for the enigmatic Luisa – Marco Carrera comes to represent the quiet heroism that pervades so much of our everyday existence.
A thrilling novel about the need to look to the future with hope and live with intensity to the very end.
Soon to be a major motion picture
The Rules of Revelation by Lisa McInerney
Ireland. Great nationalists, bad mothers and a whole lot of secrets. Ryan Cusack is ready to deliver its soundtrack.
Former sex-worker Georgie wants the truth about Ryan’s past out there but the journalist has her own agenda. Mel returns from Brexit Britain, ill-equipped to deal with the resurgence of a family scandal. Karine has always been sure of herself, till a terrible secret tugs the rug from under her.
Burning Man The Ascent of D H Lawrence by Frances Wilson
D H Lawrence is no longer censored, but he is still on trial – and we are still unsure what the verdict should be, or even how to describe him.
History has remembered him, and not always flatteringly, as a nostalgic modernist, a sexually liberator, a misogynist, a critic of genius, and a sceptic who told us not to look in his novels for ‘the old stable ego’, yet pioneered the genre we now celebrate as auto-fiction. But where is the real Lawrence in all of this, and how – one hundred years after the publication of Women in Love – can we hear his voice above the noise? Delving into the memoirs of those who both loved and hated him most, Burning Man follows Lawrence from the peninsular underworld of Cornwall in 1915 to post-war Italy to the mountains of New Mexico, and traces the author’s footsteps through the pages of his lesser known work.
The Devil You Know by Gwen Adshead and Eileen Horne
Arson. Gang crime. Who are the people behind these acts of terrible violence? What are their stories? And what is it like to sit opposite them?Dr Gwen Adshead is one of Britain’s leading forensic psychiatrists, and she has spent thirty years providing therapy inside secure hospitals and prisons.
Whatever her patient’s crime she aims to help them to better know their minds by helping them to articulate their life experience. Through a collaboration with co-author Eileen Horne, Adshead brings her work to life in these fascinating, unflinching portraits of individuals who newspaper headlines, TV dramas and crime fiction label ‘monsters’. Case by case, Adshead takes us into the treatment room and reveals these men and women in all their complexity and vulnerability.
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two – and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away. Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life, she turns to science for answers.
LONGLISTED FOR THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION 2021 from the bestselling author of Homegoing.
The Shadowy Third by Julia Parry
A sudden death in the family delivers Julia Parry a box of love letters. Dusty with age, they reveal an illicit affair between the celebrated Irish novelist, Elizabeth Bowen, and the academic Humphry House – Julia’s grandfather. So begins a life-changing quest to discover and understand this affair, one with profound repercussions for Julia’s family, not least her grandmother, Madeline. Inspired by Bowen’s own obsession with place and memory, Julia travels to all the locations in the letters – from Kolkata to Cambridge; from Ireland to Texas weaving present-day storytelling with historical narrative and literary exploration.
Klara and the Sun by Kazou Ishiguro
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. Radio 4 Book at Bedtime from Monday 8th March
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Jean Swinney is a journalist on a local paper, trapped in a life of duty and disappointment from which there is no likelihood of escape. When a young woman, Gretchen Tilbury, contacts the paper to claim that her daughter is the result of a virgin birth, it is down to Jean to discover whether she is a miracle or a fraud. As the investigation turns her quiet life inside out, Jean is suddenly given an unexpected chance at friendship, love and – possibly – happiness. But there will, inevitably, be a price to pay. Radio 4 Book at Bedtime from Monday 22nd February
We Are All Birds of Uganda by Hafsa Zayyan
Hasan struggles to keep his family business afloat following the sudden death of his wife. As he begins to put his shattered life back together piece by piece, a new regime seizes power, and a wave of rising prejudice threatens to sweep away everything he has built.
Present-day LONDON, Sameer, a young high-flying lawyer, senses an emptiness in what he thought was the life of his dreams. Called back to his family home by an unexpected tragedy, Sameer begins to find the missing pieces of himself not in his future plans, but in a heritage he never knew.
Moving between two continents over a troubled century, We Are All Birds of Uganda is an immensely resonant novel that explores racial tensions, generational divides and what it means to belong. MALORIE BLACKMAN ‘Rightfully tipped for greatness.’ SUNDAY TIMES’This moving tale of love and loss … is well worth the wait’ Reviewed on Radio 2 Book Club 2021
How to Avoid a Climate Disaster by Bill Gates
In this urgent, authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical – and accessible – plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe. Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet’s slide toward certain environmental disaster.
Karachi Vice by Samira Shackle
Karachi. Pakistan’s largest city is a sprawling metropolis of 20 million people. It is a place of political turbulence in which those who have power wield it with brutal and partisan force, a place in which it pays to have friends in the right places and to avoid making deadly enemies. It is a society where lavish wealth and absolute poverty live side by side. There is Parveen, the activist whose outspoken views on injustice corruption repeatedly lead her towards danger. And there is Zille, the hardened journalist whose commitment to getting the best scoops puts him at increasing risk. Radio 4’s Book of the Week from Monday 1st February.
Light Perpetual by Francis Spufford
November 1944. A German rocket strikes London, and five young lives are atomised in an instant. November 1944. That rocket never lands. A single second in time is altered, and five young lives go on – to experience all the unimaginable changes of the twentieth century. Because maybe there are always other futures. Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime from Monday 8th February.