Tuesday, 6 June 2017


North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

North and South is a social novel by English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. With Wives and Daughters (1865) and Cranford (1853), it is one of her best-known novels and was adapted for television twice (1975 and 2004).
The later version renewed interest in the novel and attracted a wider readership. Gaskell's first novel, Mary Barton (1848), focused on relations between employers and workers in Manchester from the perspective of the working poor; North and South uses a protagonist from southern England to present and comment on the perspectives of mill owners and workers in an industrialising city. The novel is set in the fictional industrial town of Milton in the north of England. Forced to leave her home in the tranquil, rural south, Margaret Hale settles with her parents in Milton. She witnesses the brutal world wrought by the Industrial Revolution, seeing employers and workers clashing in the first strikes. Sympathetic to the poor (whose courage and tenacity she admires and among whom she makes friends), she clashes with John Thornton: a nouveau riche cotton-mill owner who is contemptuous of his workers. The novel traces her growing understanding of the complexity of labour relations and their impact on well-meaning mill owners and her conflicted relationship with John Thornton. Gaskell based her depiction of Milton on Manchester, where she lived as the wife of a Unitarian minister.


Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old. In just a fraction of that time, one species among countless others has conquered it. Us.

We are the most advanced and most destructive animals ever to have lived. What makes us brilliant? What makes us deadly? What makes us Sapiens?

In this bold and provocative book, Yuval Noah Harari explores who we are, how we got here and where we’re going.

Sapiens is a thrilling account of humankind’s extraordinary history – from the Stone Age to the Silicon Age – and our journey from insignificant apes to rulers of the world

‘It tackles the biggest questions of history and of the modern world, and it is written in unforgettably vivid language. You will love it!’ Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs and Steel

'Unbelievably good. Jaw dropping from the first word to the last' Chris Evans, BBC Radio 2

The Winter Queen by Boris Akunin

This is the first book featuring Erast Fandorin, the famous gentleman sleuth.
Moscow 1876. A young law student commits suicide in broad daylight in Moscow's Alexander Gardens. But this is no ordinary death, for the young man was the son of an influential industrialist and has left a considerable fortune.
Erast Fandorin, a hotheaded new recruit to the Criminal Investigation Department, is assigned to the case. Brilliant, young, and sophisticated, Fandorin embarks on an investigation that will take him from the palatial mansions of Moscow to the seedy backstreets of London in his hunt for the conspirators behind this mysterious death.

The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent (Author), Ros Schwartz (Translator)

Guylain Vignolles lives on the edge of existence. Working at a book pulping factory in a job he hates, he has but one pleasure in life . . .
Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain recites aloud from pages he has saved from the jaws of his monstrous pulping machine. But it is when he discovers the diary of a lonely young woman, Julie - a woman who feels as lost in the world as he does - that his journey will truly begin.

⟹  The Independent says

Every day, Guylain Vignolles catches the 6.27am train to a job he detests. Guylain works at a book pulping factory, destroying what he loves the most. At the end of the day, he rescues pages of books from the murderous pulping machine that he refers to as “The Thing”. He dries them out and the following morning, on his daily commute, reads aloud from random sheets. He loathes his supercilious boss, “old Fatso”, and bigoted workmate Brunner. His one comrade is Yvon the factory’s security guard, who loves declaiming poetry and speaking in alexandrines.
Outside work, Guylain’s life revolves around feeding his goldfish, Rouget de Lisle, and visiting his solitary friend Giuseppe, formerly chief operator at the factory. Giuseppe lost both his legs in a horrific accident when “The Thing had devoured his lower limbs, right up to his mid-thighs”. An obsession with collecting copies of a particular book, Gardens and Kitchen Gardens of Bygone Days, made from the recycled paper pulped the day he lost his legs, offers Giuseppe some comfort. One morning, Guylain discovers a memory stick. He opens it to find “72 text files called only by their respective numbers”. From this unpromising start comes the diary of a young woman, Julie, who works as a lavatory attendant in a shopping mall. Every day, she counts the tiles in her miniature kingdom, describes the regulars and their habits, and dreams of finding Mr Right. Guylain finds himself unexpectedly smitten and begins to share pages of her diary with his fellow commuters. Meanwhile, Giuseppe decides to help locate Julie for his friend.
The Reader on the 6.27 is a delightful tale about the kinship of reading. Jean-Paul Didierlaurent explores the redemptive power of books, and plays with the notion that everyone can spar, find poetry in, tempt or seduce with words, whatever one’s station in life. For Giuseppe, books become the legs he lost. Guylain beguiles his fellow travellers and is then begged by members of the local old people’s home to read for them. 
It’s also a love story. Much of the book’s charm resides in the simplicity of Didierlaurent’s prose and his vivid characterisation. Ros Schwartz’s translation perfectly conveys the warmth and eccentricities of his memorable cast. Already a bestseller in France, The Reader on the 6.27 looks set to woo British readers and become a book club favourite.

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