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Hester: a thrilling tale of witchcraft, desire and ambition

Edinburgh, early 1800s: Isobel, a seamstress, and her husband Edward set sail for New England, in flight from his opium addiction and mounting debts. But, arriving in Salem, Isobel soon finds herself penniless and alone.

 

When she meets the young Nathaniel Hawthorne, the two are instantly drawn to each other: he is haunted by his ancestors, who sent innocent women to the gallows – while she is an unusually gifted needleworker, troubled by her own strange talents. Nathaniel and Isobel grow closer and closer. Together, they are dark storyteller and
muse; enchanter and enchanted. But which is which?

 

***PRAISE FOR HESTER***

 

‘A masterpiece that should be required reading alongside Hawthorne’s classic tale of adultery. Enthralling, ambitious and a total knockout’ Fiona Davis, bestselling author of The Lions of Fifth Avenue

 

‘Full of lush and colourful prose, Hester proves that a woman will do whatever she must to prosper, even when she is left with nothing but courage – and a few secrets of her own’ Sarah Penner, bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary

Black Butterflies: the exquisitely crafted debut novel that captures life inside the Siege of Sarajevo

‘An intensely evocative and deeply moving debut – I held my breath as I read’ Ruth Gilligan, RSL Ondaatje Prize-winning author of The Butchers

Sarajevo, spring 1992. Each night, nationalist gangs erect barricades, splitting the diverse city into ethnic enclaves; each morning, the residents – whether Muslim, Croat or Serb – push the makeshift barriers aside.

When violence finally spills over, Zora, an artist and teacher, sends her husband and elderly mother to safety with her daughter in England. Reluctant to believe that hostilities will last more than a handful of weeks, she stays behind while the city falls under siege. As the assault deepens and everything they love is laid to waste, black ashes floating over the rooftops, Zora and her friends are forced to rebuild themselves, over and over. Theirs is a breathtaking story of disintegration, resilience and hope. 

Praise for Black Butterflies

‘Beautifully written and hauntingly evocativeBlack Butterflies distils into a single consciousness a nation’s violent trauma and an artist’s sense of hope. Priscilla Morris has crafted a rich and highly accomplished debut’ Sam Byers, author of Perfidious Albion

‘In this compelling and convincing debut novel, Morris brilliantly evokes a world slipping, day by day, under the surface of the opaque waters of war. Dark and yet starkly beautifulBlack Butterflies is a narrative of how violence scars the soul of a city and its inhabitants. It is at once a testament to the victims and survivors of the Siege of Sarajevo, to the power of art and to Morris’s skills as a storyteller, all the more keenly felt for the subtlety with which they are deployed’ Aminatta Forna, author of Happiness

Black Butterflies is incredible, a must-read. There are few novels that stay with you after the final page is read, but this is one. Brutal yet also uplifting, immersive and real, it shows what the human spirit is capable of’ Karen Angelico, author of Everything We Are

‘An astonishingly good debut, chronicling one of the darkest times in global history. It reads so authentically that I might assume it was a book in translation, albeit by an excellent translator. Like food and fuel in the Siege of Sarajevo, no word is wasted. Zora’s story broke my heart, and I hope it will open the hearts of all those who read it to refugees, at a time when history is destined to repeat itself’ Liz Nugent, author of Our Little Cruelties

Black Butterflies is an elegy to the vibrant and inclusive society that was subjected to a murderous assault in 1992. But it is more than this: without sentimentality, it examines political and philosophical questions that come abruptly to the fore when the inhabitants of a modern city are starved and shot. This novel comes at an apt time, not just because it marks the thirtieth anniversary of the beginning of the Siege of Sarajevo, but because it testifies to the ease and speed with which things can fall apart’ Kevin Sullivan, author of The Longest Winter

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

I, Hogarth

Hogarth’s epoch-defining paintings and engravings, such as Gin Lane and The Rake’s Progress, are renowned. He was London’s painter par excellence, and supplies the most enduring vision of the eighteenth century’s ebullience, enjoyments and social iniquities. From his lifelong marriage to Jane Thornhill, his inability to have children, his time as one of England’s best portrait painters, his old age and unfortunate dip into politics, and ultimately his death, I, Hogarth is the artist’s life through his very own eyes.

Recommended for readers of Peter Ackroyd and Hilary Mantel, this novel charts Hogarth’s personal story in four parts carefully blending the facts of his life with fiction, beginning with a childhood spent in a debtor’s prison and ending with his death in the arms of his wife.

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. 

Stanley and Elsie

The First World War is over, and in a quiet Hampshire village, artist Stanley Spencer is working on the commission of a lifetime, painting an entire chapel in memory of a life lost in the war to end all wars. Combining his own traumatic experiences with moments of everyday redemption, the chapel will become his masterpiece.

When Elsie Munday arrives to take up position as housemaid to the Spencer family, her life quickly becomes entwined with the charming and irascible Stanley, his artist wife Hilda and their tiny daughter Shirin.

As the years pass, Elsie does her best to keep the family together even when love, obsession and temptation seem set to tear them apart…

Rainsongs

Award-winning writer Sue Hubbard delivers a poignant story of transformation, conjuring the rugged beauty of County Kerry’s coastline.

Newly widowed, Martha Cassidy has returned to a remote cottage in a virtually abandoned village on the west coast of Ireland for reasons even she is uncertain of. Looking out from her window towards the dramatic rise of the Skelligs across the water, she reflects on the loss of Brendan, her husband and charming curator, his death stirring unresolved heartache from years gone by. Alone on the windswept headland, surrounded by miles of cold sea, the past closes in.

As the days unfold, Martha searches for a way forward beyond grief, but finds herself drawn into a standoff between the entrepreneur Eugene Riordan and local hill farmer Paddy O’Connell. While the tension between them builds to a crisis that leaves Paddy in hospital, Martha encounters Colm, a talented but much younger musician and poet. Caught between its history and its future, the Celtic Tiger reels with change, and Martha faces redemptive choices that will change her life forever.

Beautiful Fools

Beautiful Fools reimagines the relationship between F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald; a lyrical portrayal of an intense romance that ultimately destroyed them. Their standing as one of America’s most debonair couples is tarnished by alcoholism, debt and Zelda’s increasing instability. But they endure, both unaware that Scott’s sudden death will soon end their love story once and for all. Spargo gives us a touching vision of the Fitzgeralds’ marriage and the man who penned The Great Gatsby.

The Ten Thousand Things (Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction)

Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (2015), The Ten Thousand Things takes us on a journey across fated meetings, grand battles and riveting drama.

In the turbulent final years of the Yuan Dynasty, Wang Meng is a low-level bureaucrat employed by the government of Mongol conquerors established by the Kublai Khan. Though he wonders about his own complicity with this regime he prefers not to dwell on his official duties, choosing instead to live the life of the mind. Wang is an extraordinarily gifted artist and his paintings are at once delicate and confident; in them one can see the wind blowing through the trees, the water rushing through rocky valleys, the infinite expanse of China’s natural beauty.

But this is not a time for sitting still as Wang must soon travel through an empire in turmoil. In his wanderings he encounters master painters, a fierce female warrior known as the White Tigress who will recruit him as a military strategist, and an ugly young Buddhist monk who rises from beggary to extraordinary heights.

The Ten Thousand Things seamlessly fuses the epic and the intimate with the precision and depth that the real-life Wang Meng brought to his painting.

***PRAISE FOR THE TEN THOUSAND THINGS***

‘It has the sort of sensual prose that makes the reader purr with delight and is surely destined to be one of the books of the year.’ The Daily Mail

‘Spurling has mastered many aspects of Chinese history and legend.’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Told by Wang from the cell into which he has been thrust in his old age, the story of his career becomes an intelligent, graceful meditation on the difficulties of reconciling spiritual life with the material world.’ The Sunday Times

‘I’ve never read anything like it… great feats of scholarship and imagination have gone into making these people, so distant from us in space and time’ Literary Review

‘This intricately wrought study of medieval Chinese scholar-artists is wonderfully well imagined.’ The Spectator

‘It is ostensibly a historical novel, but Spurling has in fact written a love letter to Chinese art.’ New Statesman

This is a remarkable novel that deserves to be read slowly and savoured as one would a stunning landscape or a beautiful painting.’ Herald Scotland

‘Those who appreciate a subtle, thoughtful narrative, and are willing to engage with the kind of philosophical questions that are as relevant today as they were in 14th-century China, will relish every page of it.’ BBC History magazine

‘In this immersive tale of a landscape artist’s life, written with restrained lyricism, John Spurling has also given us an entertaining and insightful study about the art of nature, and the nature of art.’ Tan Twan Eng, author of The Garden of Evening Mists