Book of the Week
Deaths of the Poets by Paul Farley
From Chatterton's Pre-Raphaelite demise to Keats' death warrant in a smudge of arterial blood; from Dylan Thomas's eighteen straight whiskies to Sylvia Plath's desperate suicide in the gas oven of her Primrose Hill kitchen or John Berryman's leap from a bridge onto the frozen Mississippi, the deaths of poets have often cast a backward shadow on their work. The post-Romantic myth of the dissolute drunken poet - exemplified by Thomas and made iconic by his death in New York - has fatally skewed the image of poets in our culture. Novelists can be stable, savvy, politically adept and in control, but poets should be melancholic, doomed and self-destructive. Is this just a myth, or is there some essential truth behind it: that great poems only come when a poet's life is pushed right to an emotional knife-edge of acceptability, safety, security? What is the price of poetry? In this book, two contemporary poets undertake a series of journeys - across Britain, America and Europe - to the death places of poets of the past, in part as pilgrims, honouring inspirational writers, but also as investigators, interrogating the myth. The result is a book that is, in turn, enlightening and provocative, eye-wateringly funny and powerfully moving.
Book at Bedtime
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. All the slaves lead a hellish existence, but Cora has it worse than most; she is an outcast even among her fellow Africans and she is approaching womanhood, where it is clear even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a slave recently arrived from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they take the perilous decision to escape to the North. In Whitehead's razor-sharp imagining of the antebellum South, the Underground Railroad has assumed a physical form: a dilapidated box car pulled along subterranean tracks by a steam locomotive, picking up fugitives wherever it can. Cora and Caesar's first stop is South Carolina, in a city that initially seems like a haven. But its placid surface masks an infernal scheme designed for its unknowing black inhabitants. And even worse: Ridgeway, the relentless slave catcher sent to find Cora, is close on their heels. Forced to flee again, Cora embarks on a harrowing flight, state by state, seeking true freedom. At each stop on her journey, Cora encounters a different world. As Whitehead brilliantly recreates the unique terrors for black people in the pre-Civil War era, his narrative seamlessly weaves the saga of America, from the brutal importation of Africans to the unfulfilled promises of the present day. The Underground Railroad is at once the story of one woman's ferocious will to escape the horrors of bondage and a shatteringly powerful meditation on history.
Costa Book of the Year
Sebastian Barry has won the |Costa Book of the Year award for the second time, with his latest novel, Days Without End.
Judges' chairman Professor Kate Williams said Mr Barry was the unanimous choice for his "searing, magnificent and incredibly moving description of how the West was won".
After signing up for the US army in the 1850s, aged barely seventeen, Thomas McNulty and his brother-in-arms, John Cole, go on to fight in the Indian wars and, ultimately, the Civil War. Having fled terrible hardships they find these days to be vivid and filled with wonder, despite the horrors they both see and are complicit in. Their lives are further enriched and imperilled when a young Indian girl crosses their path, and the possibility of lasting happiness emerges, if only they can survive. Moving from the plains of the West to Tennessee, Sebastian Barry's latest work is a masterpiece of atmosphere and language. Both an intensely poignant story of two men and the lives they are dealt, and a fresh look at some of the most fateful years in America's past, Days Without End is a novel never to be forgotten.
These are the books that were most popular with our customers last week......
1. The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
2. Crisis by Frank Gardner
3. Different Class by Joanne Harris
4. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon
5. Stasi Wolf by David Young
6. The Muse by Jessie Burton
7. Quiet Life by Natasha Walter
8. The Dying Detective by Leif Persson
9. Days without End by Sebastian Barry
10. 100 Women who Made History by Dorling Kindersley
If you would like to read any of these books, please send us a message from our contacts page, and we will reserve a copy for you.
Silence by Shusaku Endo
David Mitchell Father Rodrigues is an idealistic Portuguese Jesuit priest who, in the 1640s, sets sail for Japan on a determined mission to help the brutally oppressed Japanese Christians and to discover the truth behind unthinkable rumours that his famous teacher Ferreira has renounced his faith. Once faced with the realities of religious persecution Rodrigues himself is forced to make an impossible choice: whether to abandon his flock or his God. Winner of the 1966 Tanizaki Prize, Silence is Shusaku Endo's most highly acclaimed novel and a classic of its genre. It caused major controversy in Japan following its publication in 1967.