Books

Stars and Bars

Henderson Dores is an Englishman in New York – and completely out of his depth.

He should be concentrating on his job as an art assessor, but his complicated personal life keeps intruding. And that’s before we even get to his sense of alienation, of being a fish out of water. For Henderson is a shy man lost in a country of extraverts and weirdos. Subway poets, loony millionaires, Bible-bashers and sharp-suited hoods stalk him wherever he goes. But it is only when he’s sent to America’s deep South to examine a rare collection of paintings that matters take a life-threatening turn. Still, if it doesn’t kill you, they say it can only make you stronger . . .

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Find our more about the film adaptation of Stars and Bars

An Ice-Cream War

An Ice-Cream War is William Boyd’s sparkling debut novel on the grimly comic side of conflict, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.

‘What do you think would happen if I shot an elephant in the balls?’
‘I think it would hurt a great deal.’

Millions die on the Western Front but in East Africa a quite different war is being waged – one with little point and which is so ignored that it will carry on after the Armistice because no one bothers to tell both sides to stop.

As the conflict sweeps up natives and colonials, so those left at home and those fighting abroad find themselves unable to escape the tide of history bearing down on them.

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A Good Man in Africa

Escapee from suburbia, overweight, oversexed …

Morgan Leafy isn’t overburdened with worldly success. Actually, he is refreshingly free from it. But then, as a representative of Her Britannic Majesty in tropical Kinjanja, it was not very constructive of him to get involved in wholesale bribery. Nor was it exactly oiling his way up the ladder to hunt down the improbably pointed breasts of his boss’s daughter when officially banned from horizontal delights by a nasty dose …

Falling back on his deep-laid reserves of misanthropy and guile, Morgan has to fight off the sea of humiliation, betrayal and ju-ju that threatens to wash over him.

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Love is Blind

When Brodie is offered a job in Paris, he seizes the chance to flee Edinburgh and his tyrannical clergyman father, and begin a wildly different new chapter in his life. In Paris, a fateful encounter with a famous pianist irrevocably changes his future – and sparks an obsessive love affair with a beautiful Russian soprano, Lika Blum. Moving from Paris to St Petersburg to Edinburgh and back again, Brodie’s love for Lika and its dangerous consequences pursue him around Europe and beyond, during an era of overwhelming change as the nineteenth century becomes the twentieth.

Love is Blind is a tale of dizzying passion and brutal revenge; of artistic endeavour and the illusions it creates; of all the possibilities that life can offer, and how cruelly they can be snatched away. At once an intimate portrait of one man’s life and an expansive exploration of the beginning of the twentieth century.

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Any Human Heart

Every life is both ordinary and extraordinary, and Logan Mountstuart’s — lived from the beginning to the end of the twentieth century — is a rich tapestry of both. As a writer who finds inspiration in Paris and London, as a spy betrayed in the war and as an art-dealer in ’60s New York, Logan mixes with the men and women who shape his times. But as a son, friend, lover and husband, he makes the same mistakes we all do in our search for happiness. Here, then, is the story of a life lived to the full — and a journey deep into a very human heart.

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The Argument

It was supposed to be a fun night out at the cinema for Meredith and Pip. But Meredith hated the film and Pip didn’t. Now it’s turned into an argument – the perfect opportunity to share their differences.

With their marriage at breaking point, they turn to their respective friends, Jane and Tony. But maybe Jane likes Pip a little too much and maybe Tony doesn’t like Meredith enough.

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The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth

A philandering art dealer tries to give up casual love affairs – seeking only passionate kisses as a substitute. A man recounts his personal history through the things he has stolen from others throughout his life. A couple chart the journey of their five year relationship backwards, from awkward reunion to lovelorn first encounter. And, at the heart of the book, a 24-year old young woman, Bethany Mellmoth, embarks on a year-long journey of wishful and tentative self-discovery.

The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth depicts the random encounters that bring the past bubbling to the surface; the impulsive decisions that irrevocably shape a life; and the endless hesitations and loss-of-nerve that wickedly complicate it. These funny, surprising and moving stories are a resounding confirmation of Boyd’s powers as one of our most original and compelling storytellers.

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Trio

A producer. A novelist. An actress. 

It is summer in 1968, the year of the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy. While the world is reeling our trio is involved in making a rackety Swingin’ Sixties British movie in sunny Brighton. All are leading secret lives.

 

As the film is shot, with its usual drastic ups and downs, so does our trio’s private, secret world begin to take over their public one. Pressures build inexorably – someone’s going to crack. Or maybe they all will.

 

From one of Britain’s bestselling and best loved writers comes an exhilarating, tender novel that asks the vital questions: what makes life worth living? And what do you do if you find it isn’t?

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