Category: 1DBK

Vagabonds: Life on the Streets of Nineteenth-century London – by BBC New Generation Thinker 2022

Compelling, moving and unexpected portraits of London’s poor from a rising star British historian – the Dickensian city brought to real and vivid life.

Until now, our view of bustling late Georgian and Victorian London has been filtered through its great chroniclers, who did not themselves come from poverty – Dickens, Mayhew, Gustave Doré. Their visions were dazzling in their way, censorious, often theatrical. Now, for the first time, this innovative social history brilliantly – and radically – shows us the city’s most compelling period (1780–1870) at street level.

From beggars and thieves to musicians and missionaries, porters and hawkers to sex workers and street criers, Jensen unites a breadth of original research and first-hand accounts and testimonies to tell their stories in their own words. What emerges is a buzzing, cosmopolitan world of the working classes, diverse in gender, ethnicity, origin, ability and occupation – a world that challenges and fascinates us still.

Contraptions: a timely new edition by a legend of inventive illustrations and cartoon wizardry

A timely new edition featuring the brilliant work from among the most inventive minds in illustration and cartoon wizardry.

Heath Robinson was one of Britain’s most successful graphic artists. His work has had a huge influence on comic art in this country, but also on the image and self-image of the British.

As the champion of pragmatic man, Heath Robinson presented a vision of the British as an unflappable, ingenious and slightly demented breed of inventors that persists to the present day. The British are still a nation of garage-haunting amateur engineers who will recognise the inhabitants of Heath Robinson’s world, with their pot bellies and pots of tea, archaic faces and sturdily commonsensical approach to the problems of existence.

How to hunt tigers by elephant, how to get an even tan, rise with the sun or put out a chimney fire, these and many more pressing questions are answered in the pages of Contraptions.

With illustrations salvaged from the family archives and commentary by Heath Robinson expert, Geoffrey Beare, Contraptions is the best possible introduction to the work of one of Britain’s great comic talents.

The Spirit Engineer: ‘A fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deception, and power’ Derren Brown

‘A fiendishly clever tale of ambition, deception, and power’ DERREN BROWN

Belfast, 1914. Two years after the sinking of the Titanic, high society has become obsessed with spiritualism, attending séances in the hope they might reach their departed loved ones.

William Jackson Crawford is a man of science and a sceptic, but one night with everyone sitting around the circle, voices come to him – seemingly from beyond the veil – placing doubt in his heart and a seed of obsession in his mind. Could the spirits truly be communicating with him or is this one of Kathleen’s parlour tricks gone too far?

Based on the true story of Professor William Jackson Crawford and famed medium Kathleen Goligher, and with a cast of characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, The Spirit Engineer conjures a haunted, twisted tale of power, paranoia and one ultimate, inescapable truth…

PRAISE FOR THE SPIRIT ENGINEER

I adored this book. Haunting, witty and deeply moving, The Spirit Engineer is surely set to become a gothic classic. I was instantly drawn into the mystery and swept along by the shocking twists and turns. A beautifully written novel’ JODIE WHITTAKER, ACTOR

‘A.J. West has history at his fingertips and writes brilliantly – so clever it makes your head spin! The Spirit Engineer is a work of true invention and drama that moves at a cracking pace from the very first page and keeps you guessing. A compelling and daring book’ JEREMY VINE, BROADCASTER

‘Set in a historical moment where science and spiritualism meet, The Spirit Engineer is an ingeniously plotted debut novel’ SARAH BURTON, AUTHOR OF THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF H

‘A marvellous and menacing gothic chiller, filled with secrets and soaked in atmosphere, in which the ghouls and fiends are not of the other world, but this one…’ NEIL BLACKMORE, AUTHOR OF THE INTOXICATING MR LAVELLE 

‘A spooky tale of frustrated ambition, hidden loyalties, and desperation, told with wit, charm and devastating twists. A gothic novel that also manages to make you laugh, even if you shouldn’t’ JONATHAN HARVEY, PLAYWRIGHT

With a skilful misdirection that any Edwardian spirit medium would be proud to demonstrate, A.J. West soon turns the screw in this fascinating novel… Obsession builds until the stunning climax of the final shocking séance and its awful repercussions. Was William rights to be convinced? Did he prove ghosts exist?’ ESSIE FOX, AUTHOR OF THE SOMNAMBULIST

‘A gripping, gothic story anchored in the political and spiritual chaos of Edwardian Belfast. Part horror, part history, The Spirit Engineer is a chilling and thought-provoking tale of exploitation, faith, deception, fraud, séances, hubris, and prejudice… accomplished and page-turning. Fans of Penny Dreadful and The Nevers will love it’ GARETH RUSSELL, HISTORIAN AND AUTHOR OF THE SHIP OF DREAMS: THE SINKING OF THE TITANIC AND THE END OF EDWARDIAN BELFAST

The Master of Measham Hall

1665. It is five years since King Charles II returned from exile, the scars of the English Civil Wars are yet to heal and now the Great Plague engulfs the land. Alethea Hawthorne is safe inside the walls of the Calverton household as a lady’s companion waiting in anticipation of the day she can return to her ancestral home of Measham Hall.

But when Alethea suddenly finds herself cast out on the plague-ridden streets of London, a long road to Derbyshire lies ahead. Militias have closed their boroughs off to outsiders for fear of contamination.

Fortune smiles on her when Jack appears, an unlikely travelling companion who helps this determined girl to navigate a perilous new world of religious dissenters, charlatans and a pestilence that afflicts peasants and lords alike.

The Master of Measham Hall is the first book in a page-turning historical series. In lyrical prose, Anna Abney portrays the religious divides at the heart of Restoration England in a timeless novel about survival, love, and family loyalty.  

 

PRAISE FOR THE MASTER OF MEASHAM HALL

‘It’s rare for a historical novel to feel so timely.’ Jo Baker, Sunday Times bestselling author of Longbourn

‘Impeccably researched and wonderfully atmospheric, with a heroine you can’t help rooting for.’ Frances Quinn, author of The Smallest Man 

‘Exciting and immersive. It took me straight into the heart of Restoration England in all its rich and vivid detail. I was gripped! Such beautiful writing too – Anna is a stunning new talent.’ Nicola Cornick, international bestselling author of House of Shadows

 ‘A thoroughly engaging romp… By turns entertaining, surprising and thought-provoking, this is an impressive debut.’ Jane Johnson, author of The Sea Gate

‘A gripping depiction of what people will do to survive, the long-held beliefs and scruples questioned and cast aside as well as the unexpected kindnesses and unusual alliances made. In elegant prose, this enthralling novel puts a human face to the trials, terrors and enduring hopes of the plague years.’ Catherine Meyrick, author of The Bridled Tongue

‘A thrilling and original tale of reinvention! Death in a time of plague is expected. What happens to Abney’s heroine Alethea is not. The Master of Measham Hall  is a vivid and extraordinary journey of survival, and ultimately an exploration of what we gain and what we lose as we pass through this world.’ VL Valentine, The Plague Letters

‘A powerful and engaging story, full of good characters, satisfying plot turns, and excellent scene-setting. With all the details and insights on offer, it feels like a rich and rewarding panorama of English culture in the 1660s. The transformation of Alethea was wonderful to read, and genuinely gripping.’ Richard Hamblyn

Queen of Heaven

The White Tower. A terrible vision. Her home invaded and precious documents stolen.

Lady Isabelle must flee her pursuers, posing as a young male scholar in the New College of St Mary in Oxford. But when she learns she is with child it won’t be long until she is discovered amongst their ranks. Can she bring herself to love an infant conceived in evil? And will she ever be reunited with her beloved Richard, or will Sir Henry Lormont’s dagger find him first?

This deftly plotted 15th century novel traverses the well-trodden pilgrimage routes from Oxford to Rome encountering lepers, assassins, sea rovers and historical figures Lady Margaret Beaufort and Edmund Tudor along the way. Superbly researched by a scholar of the period, Clover blends history with the riveting story of a woman who overcomes the restrictions placed on her sex to create a page-turning novel.

Everyman’s England

A classic travelogue that brilliantly conjures 1930s Britain.

In this series of pen-portraits of England from the 1930s, Victor Canning ‘evocatively captures the pattern and colour of English life’ (The Bookseller), from Cumbria to Cornwall. Canning’s heart-warming and humorous observations of sleepy villages, pastoral scenes and busy industries are a delightful time capsule into life in England during the interwar years.  

‘What does the word England mean to you? To all of us England means something different, and yet I think there is for every man and woman some little corner which is more England than anywhere else…’

 

***PRAISE FOR EVERYMAN’S ENGLAND***

‘Wonderful… elegant, humorous, exuberant essays.’ Guardian

‘Evocatively captures the pattern and colour of English life.’ The Bookseller

‘Canning finds beauty everywhere, but never sentimentalises, and is consistently honest enough to highlight poverty and social inequality… Canning, at his very best when waxing lyrical about landscapes, offers vivid images of the English countryside…’ The Daily Mail

Beyond the Secret Garden

The definitive and revealing biography of the author of The Secret Garden.

Frances Hodgson Burnett’s favourite theme in her fiction was the reversal of fortune, and she herself knew extremes of poverty and wealth. Born in Manchester in 1849, she emigrated with her family to Tennessee because of the financial problems caused by the cotton famine. From a young age she published her stories to help the family make ends meet. Only after she married did she publish Little Lord Fauntleroy that shot her into literary stardom.

On the surface, Frances’ life was extremely successful: hosting regular literary salons in her home and travelling frequently between properties in the UK and America. But behind the colourful personal and social life, she was a complex and contradictory character. She lost both parents by her twenty-first birthday, Henry James called her "the most heavenly of women" although avoided her; prominent people admired her and there were many friendships as well as an ill-advised marriage to a much younger man that ended in heartache. Her success was punctuated by periods of depression, in one instance brought on by the tragic loss of her eldest son to consumption.

Ann Thwaite creates a sympathetic but balanced and eye-opening biography of the woman who has enchanted numerous generations of children.

The Templar’s Garden

A young woman forced to fight for her beliefs. A chaplain with a secret that could determine the fate of a kingdom.

England, 1452. Under the reign of King Henry VI the country is on the brink of civil war after the Hundred Years’ War.

Young mystic Lady Isabelle d’Albret Courteault’s family is forced to flee the Duchy of English Gascony for a new and unforeseeable life in England. While they become established in the courts, Lady Isabelle discovers dark secrets about their chaplain and tutor. As their growing relationship places her in harm’s way, can she remain steadfast in her promises to uphold the monarchy and her faith?

Set amidst a period of grave uncertainty, this is the story of a woman learning to stand up for her beliefs in a patriarchal world – a beautifully crafted narrative of faith, love and grace.

A Mirror for Monkeys

Beneath the floorboards of a ruined house, an 18th-century memoir is discovered. It reveals the life story of William Congreve, the acclaimed English playwright. The lost manuscript is penned by his faithful servant, Jeremy, who tells how they lived together through fierce political division and triumphal nationalism in that era of war with France, the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution.

Upon his death a monument in Stowe is erected to honour Mr Congreve. Atop a slender pyramid sits a monkey peering into a mirror, a court wit seeing reflected the ironies of polite society folding in on itself as Whigs and Tories feud with scant ground for compromise.

Through the prisms of memory and art, award-winning author John Spurling reimagines this tumultuous period and brings to life historical figures Dryden, Vanbrugh, Swift, Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu as never before. 

The Butcher’s Daughter

‘Historical fiction at its finest.’ @MargaretAtwood

It is 1535 and Agnes Peppin, daughter of a West-country butcher, has been banished, leaving her family home in disgrace to live out the rest of her life cloistered behind the walls of Shaftesbury Abbey. 

While Agnes grapples with the complex rules and hierarchies of the sisterhood, King Henry VIII has proclaimed himself Head of the Church of England. Religious houses are being formally subjugated, monasteries dissolved, and the great Abbey is no exception to the purge. 

Cast out with her sisters, Agnes is at last free to be the master of her own fate. But freedom comes at a price as she descends into a world she knows little about, using her wits and testing her moral convictions against her need to survive – by any means necessary…