Category: DND

Iris and the Friends

Novelist and thinker Iris Murdoch died on 8 February 1999 after living for three years with Alzheimer’s disease. Her husband, novelist and academic John Bayley, had previously written movingly of the impact of her illness in Iris: A Memoir. Iris and the Friends tells of the final year of Murdoch’s life, when she was visited more by her own imaginary "friends" than by the exigencies of real life. It brings the story through Bayley’s increasingly precarious hold on present reality, to his own breakdown, Murdoch’s final happy weeks in a home for the terminally ill and finally her quiet death. Although ostensibly a sequel, it is more an exploration of Bayley’s new friends: the memories that were sparked off precisely as Murdoch lost her own–of his childhood, army years, first loves and, of course, their marriage. But there are other "friends". At one point Bayley writes: "The old Eng. Lit. again. I taught it for nearly fifty years and feel detached from it now." Yet literature emerges here as the one remaining constant in his life. Scarcely two pages go by without a reference, almost involuntary, to Hardy, Coleridge, Austen, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Thurber, James, Lawrence, Woolf or Murdoch. Sometimes Iris appears to respond to the shared literary in-jokes, but more often the pair become "two animals pushing together, nudging and grooming each other, grunting together as they bask in a mutual doze."

Iris

In 1998 John Bayley wrote a best-selling, critically acclaimed memoir of his wife, the great philosopher and novelist Iris Murdoch, who had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease since 1996. At times unbearably moving, at times poignantly comical, this memoir provides a fitting memorial to Dame Iris. It is an enchanting portrait of a remarkable marriage and an inspiration for anyone whose life is affected by Alzheimer’s.

The Last Full Measure

Behind every soldiers death lies a story, a tale not just of the cold mathematics of the battlefield but of an individual human being who gave his life. What psychological and cultural pressures brought him to his fate? What lies and truths convinced him to march towards his death? Covering warfare from prehistory through the present day, The Last Full Measure tells these soldiers stories, ultimately capturing the experience of war as few books ever have.

Floating

‘Lovely, lively, passionate… a celebration of nature’s ability to inspire healing and joy’ Robert MacFarlane

In the breaststrokes of Roger Deakin’s Waterlog, this is the story of one man’s search for himself across the breadth of Britain’s wild waters.

Joe Minihane became obsessed with wild swimming and the way it soothed his anxiety, developing a new-found passion by following the example of naturalist Deakin in his own swimming memoir. While fighting the currents – sometimes treading water Minihane swims to explore, to forget, to find the path back to himself through nature, and in the water under an open sky he finally begins to find his peace.

Floating is a remarkable memoir about a love of swimming and a deep appreciation for the British countryside: it captures Minihane’s struggle to understand himself, and the healing properties of wild stretches of water. From Hampstead to Yorkshire, Dorset to Jura, the Isles of Scilly to Wales, Minihane uses Waterlog to trace his own path by diving right in.

One Kiss or Two?

Every encounter begins with a greeting. Be it a quick ‘Hello!’ or the somewhat longer and gracious ‘Sula manchwanta galunga omugobe!’ shaking hands or shaking, well, rather more private parts of our anatomy, we have been doing it many times daily for thousands of years. It should be the most straightforward thing in the world, but this apparently simple act is fraught with complications, leading to awkward misunderstandings and occasionally even outright violence.

In the illuminating and entertaining One Kiss or Two? Andy Scott goes down the rabbit hole to take a closer look at what greetings are all about. In looking at how they have developed, he discovers a kaleidoscopic world of etiquette, body-language, evolution, neuroscience, anthropology and history. Through in-depth research and his personal experiences, and with the help of experts, Scott takes us on a captivating journey through a subject far richer than we might have expected.

The Life and Loves of E. Nesbit: Author of The Railway Children

A SUNDAY TIMES BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

Winner of the Rubery Book Award 2020 (Non Fiction)

Edith Nesbit is considered the inventor of the children’s adventure story and her brilliant children’s books influenced bestselling authors including C.S. Lewis, P. L. Travers, J.K. Rowling, and Jacqueline Wilson, to name but a few. But who was the person behind the best loved classics The Railway Children and Five Children and It? Her once-happy childhood was eclipsed by the chronic illness and early death of her sister. In adulthood, she found herself at the centre of a love triangle between her husband and her close friend. She raised their children as her own.

Yet despite these troubling circumstances Nesbit was playful, contradictory and creative. She hosted legendary parties at her idiosyncratic Well Hall home and was described by George Bernard Shaw – one of several lovers – as ‘audaciously unconventional’. She was also an outspoken Marxist and founding member of the Fabian Society. Through Nesbit’s letters and deep archival research, Eleanor Fitzsimons reveals her as a prolific activist and writer on socialism. Nesbit railed against inequity, social injustice and state-sponsored oppression and incorporated her avant-garde ideas into her writing, influencing a generation of children – an aspect of her legacy examined here for the first time.

Eleanor Fitzsimons, acclaimed biographer and prize winning author of Wilde’s Women, has written the most authoritative biography in more than three decades. Here, she brings to light the extraordinary life story of an icon, creating a portrait of a woman in whom pragmatism and idealism worked side-by-side to produce a singular mind and literary talent.

***PRAISE FOR THE LIFE AND LOVES OF E. NESBIT***

‘A terrific book.’ Neil Gaiman

‘A very well-researched biography.’ Kate Atkinson

‘Eleanor Fitzsimons’ painstaking research gives us a new insight into the bizarre Bohemian life of the groundbreaking children’s author E. Nesbit. It’s a fantastic read.’ Jacqueline Wilson 

‘Absolutely superb!’ Hilary McKay, children’s author of The Skylarks War (shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards)

‘In this long-overdue new biography, Eleanor Fitzsimons gives us a nuanced yet compelling portrait of E. Nesbit’s many-facetted personality, life and works, as well as of the politically and culturally vibrant milieu in which she lived.’ Fiona Sampson, author of In Search of Mary Shelley

‘What a stirring and unexpected story Eleanor Fitzsimons tells and what a subject she has found. I can’t think of a single writer who doesn’t owe something to Edith Nesbit’s glorious books for children. The extraordinary woman who wrote them proves to be every bit as brave, funny and imaginative as her own intrepid characters.’ Miranda Seymour, author of In Byron’s Wake

‘One of the greatest children’s writers, and an acknowledged much loved influence on Joan Aiken E. Nesbit is celebrated in this wonderful new biography by Eleanor Fitzsimons.’ Lizza Aiken, daughter of Joan Aiken

‘An exceptional biography about an absolutely fascinating individual.’ Adam Roberts, Vice-President of the H.G. Wells Society

‘A fascinating, thoughtfully organized, thoroughly researched, often surprising biography.’ Kirkus Review

‘Fitzsimons delivers a sprightly and highly readable life of a writer who deserves even wider recognition.’ Publishers Weekly

Reach for the Ground

For forty years Bernard wrote only about himself, and the tale of his life, loves and failures has become legendary. Reach for the Ground is an irresistible collection of the best of Jeffrey Bernard’s celebrated Low Life contributions to the Spectator. The column was once described as ‘a suicide note in weekly installments’ and became a national institution whose passing was noted with great sorrow. Peter O’Toole’s affectionate introduction recalls a forty-year-old friendship and three sparkling autobiographical essays encapsulate the defining experiences of Bernard’s life.