Category: FIC032000

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 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 Young Survivors

What if everyone you loved was suddenly taken away? Five siblings struggle to stay together as the tides of war threaten to tear them apart.

 

When Germany invades France in the Second World War, the five Laskowski children lose everything: their home, their Jewish community and most devastatingly their parents who are abducted in the night. There is no safe place left for them to evade the Nazis, but they cling together, never certain when the authorities will come for what is left of them.

 

Inspired by the poignant, true story of the author’s mother, this moving historical novel conveys the hardship, the uncertainty and the impossible choices the Laskowski children were forced to make to survive the horrors of the Holocaust.

 

***PRAISE FOR THE YOUNG SURVIVORS***

 

‘A haunting account… a devastating story of twins separated, of grandparents, parents and cousins, entire families, disappeared – a story that had to be told.’ Elizabeth Fremantle

‘A story that will make you weep, wonder and remember.’ Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key

 

‘A poignant and gripping debut. Set against the darkest days of WWII, the novel reminds us that the bonds of family and the power of love can never be extinguished.’ Alyson Richman, bestselling author of The Lost Wife

‘A heartbreaking yet uplifting story of loss and love told through the eyes of children… gripping and deeply moving.’ James MacManus

 

‘A hugely impressive debut.’ Michael Newman, CEO of The Association of Jewish Refugees

 

‘A novel that is arrestingly sincere, full of touching moments and informed by careful research. The beating heart of The Young Survivors is the author’s emotional connection to her characters, which is unmistakably based on longstanding and deep engagement with her own family’s past.’ Dr Toby Simpson, Director of The Wiener Holocaust Library

Ike and Kay

Acclaimed author and managing director of The Times Literary Supplement, James MacManus, creates a compelling historical novel that brings to life an unbelievable but true love story set during the Second World War. In 1942, Cork-born Kay Summersby’s life is changed forever when she is tasked with driving General Eisenhower on his fact-finding visit to wartime London. Despite Eisenhower’s marriage to Mamie, the pair takes an immediate liking to one another and he gifts Kay a rare wartime luxury: a box of chocolates. So begins a tumultuous relationship that against all military regulation sees Kay travelling with Eisenhower on missions to far flung places before the final assault on Nazi Germany. She becomes known as “Ike’s shadow” and in letters Mamie bemoans his new obsession with ‘Ireland’. That does not stop him from using his influence to grant Kay US citizenship and rank in the US army, drawing her closer when he returns to America. When the US authorities discover Eisenhower’s plans to divorce from his wife they threaten the fragile but passionate affair and Kay is forced to take desperate measures to hold onto the man she loves…

From the fogbound streets of London reeling from the Blitz, acclaimed author James MacManus, conjures a compelling historical novel based on the true story of the secret love affair at the heart of the Second World War.

It is 1942, and war-battered London plays host to the imposing figure of General Ike Eisenhower on a vital mission for the US army. Kay Summersby, an ambulance driver who survived the horrors of the Blitz, is chosen to be his aide, a role that will change her life forever. Charmed by Ike’s affable and disarming nature so different from the stiffness of British military convention she accompanies him during the North African campaign against Rommel and the war in Europe against Nazi Germany. Amid the carnage a secret affair unfolds between the General and Kay but rumours of Ike’s infidelity reach across the ocean to Washington – and worse yet, to his wife. In a time where scandal and war threaten to break them apart, can Ike and Kay hold on to their love?

Ike and Kay is a thrilling tale of wartime romance, brimming with love, duty, sacrifice and heartbreak, set against the backdrop of the most tumultuous period of the twentieth century.

Sleep in Peace Tonight

It is January 1941, and the Blitz is devastating England. Food supplies are low and tube stations have become bomb shelters. As the U.S. maintains its sceptical isolationist position, Winston Churchill knows that Britain is doomed without the aid of its powerful ally. As bombs rain down over London a weary Harry Hopkins, President Roosevelt’s most trusted advisor, is sent to London as his emissary and comes face to face with the Prime Minister himself and an attractive and determined young female driver who may not be what she seems. In Sleep in Peace Tonight, a tale of loyalty, love, and the sacrifices made in the name of each, James MacManus conjures to life not only Blitz-era London and the behind the scenes at the White House, but also the poignant lives of personalities that shaped the course of history during Britain’s darkest hour.

Midnight in Berlin

Berlin, 1938. Newly-appointed military attache Noel Macrae and his extrovert wife Primrose arrive at the British Embassy. Prime Minister Chamberlain is intent on placating Nazi Germany, but Macrae is less so. Convinced Hitler can be stopped by other means than appeasement, he soon discovers he is not the only dissenting voice in the Embassy and finds that some senior officers in the German military are prepared to turn against the Fuhrer. Gathering vital intelligence, Macrae is drawn to Kitty Schmidt’s Salon (a Nazi bordello) and its enigmatic Jewish hostess Sara Sternschein-a favourite of sadistic Gestapo boss Reinhard Heydrich. Sara is a treasure-trove of knowledge about the Nazi hierarchy in a city of lies, spies and secrets. Does she hold the key to thwarting Hitler or is Macrae just being manipulated by her whilst his wife romantically pursues his most important German military contact, Florian Koenig? In James MacManus’ absorbing new novel the author evokes a time and place when the personal and political stakes could not be higher and where the urge for peaceful compromise conflicts with higher ideals and a vicious regime bent on war. As loyalties are stretched to the limit and Europe slides towards another war, could just one act of great courage and sacrifice change everything?