Poland, 1980. Anxious, disillusioned Ludwik Glowacki, soon to graduate university, has been sent along with the rest of his class to an agricultural camp. Here he meets Janusz, and together they spend a dreamlike summer swimming in secluded lakes, reading forbidden books - and falling in love.
But with summer over, the two are sent back to Warsaw, and to the harsh realities of life under the Party. Exiled from paradise, Ludwik and Janusz must decide how they will survive, but their different choices risk tearing them apart.
Author Tomasz Jedrowski was born in West Germany to Polish parents, and studied law at Cambridge and the Universite de Paris. He currently lives in France. Swimming in the Dark is his first novel, and my god - what a novel it is!
James Baldwin's sublime Giovanni's Room is a key touchstone of this novel, and the two share a lot - not only themes of queer love and escape, but both are exquisetely beautiful reads full of desire, discovery, and the bittersweet pain of first love.
Whilst the Gay love story is what drew me to pick this book up, the setting is just as fascinating - taking place in Poland in 1980, and allowing the reader a glimpse into the beginnings of the turmoil that, 9 years later, saw the Polish Worker's Party fall and Poland move into a full market economy.
I like to think my historical knowledge is pretty good, but I'm woefully under informed when it comes to Poland, so it was fascinating to have such an in-depth glimpse into the country's past. In terms of tone and setting I was reminded a little of An Honest Man by Ben Fergusson - one of my favourite books of 2019, and one that also deals with a gay love story under an opressive regime. However my knowledge of german history is decent, so that book was perhaps slightly less enlightening for me on that front - whereas Swimming in the Dark genuinely opened my eyes and has made me interested in the Poland of the mid to late twentieth century, helped hugely, I imagine, by the fact that the author was born to Polish parents who I imagine would have had first hand knowledge of some of the events and situations described in the book.
Jedrowski's prose truly envelops you in the story - I felt the warm summer haze of the initial chapters turn into the cold grey later in the book, and as a Gay man myself, I felt the emotional heart of this story incredibly deeply. I grew up under a far more accepting government in nineties england, but the themes that are explored here were easily related to stuff I went through as a teenager and a young adult, and, I imagine are fairly universal. I think I fell in love with Tomasz almost as much as Ludwik did - and that's a mark of how emotionally honest the author is in his writing.
My only real gripe with this book was that it wasn't longer - but that's a gripe that comes from pure selfishness - in truth it's a well balanced tale that's told with great care. I won't forget it in a hurry, and I'm eager to see what the author does next - he's certainly one to watch for me, and Swimming in the Dark is one of my favourite reads of 2020.
Does Magic Exist?
Charlie Watson thinks it does and he wants to tell you all about it. Before he was famous, Charlie Watson decided to write a book to share with the world everything he knew about Magic. This is that book. You will discover why Charlie always wears a Top Hat, why his house is full of Rabbits, how Magic Wands are made, how the Universe began, and much, much more. Plus, for the first time, Charlie tells of the strange events that led him from England to the Arctic, to perform the Extraordinary Feat that made him famouse, and he finally reveals whether that Extraordinary Feat was Magic or whether it was just a trick.
Author Mike Russell was born in 1973. As a child he enjoyed daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories, and as an adult he enjoys daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories...
His books have been described as Strange Fiction, Weird Fiction, Weird Lit, Surrealism, Magic Realism, Fantasy Fiction...but he just likes to call them Strange Books.
Mike is a full time author, and grows his own potatoes
Magic tells the story of Charlie Watson - a famous magician who has finally decided to tell all about his relationship and history with Magic. Famous for an incident in the Arctic, he regales the reader with tales of the first magician, an upside down top-hat, and a glimpse behind the scenes in a wand factory.
Charlie encounters magic, love and mystery throughout, and he speaks to the readers with an open, friendly voice that kept me engaged throughout. There are various twists and turns throughout, and Charlie is a handy guide through them for the reader - he's a hugely engaging character, and his distinct voice rings clear throughout.
In keeping with Mike Russell's previous work, and with the ethos of his publishing line, this truly is a Strange Book - but that strangeness is combined with heart and humour - quirky characterisation and an intriguing plot ensure that "Magic" is certainly strange - but also hugely readable and extremely enjoyable.
Strange Books are a beacon of individuality in the publishing world - long may that continue!
Tim Waterstone is one of Britain's most successful businessmen, having built the Waterstone's empire that started with one small bookshop in 1982. In this memoir he recalls the childhood experiences that led him to become an entrepreneur and outlines the business philosophy that allowed Waterstone's to dominate the bookselling business throughout the country. Tim explores his formative years in a small town in rural England at the end of the Second World War, and the troubled relationship he had with his father, before moving on to the epiphany he had while studying at Cambridge, which set him on the road to Waterstone's and gave birth to the creative strategy that made him a high street name, and Waterstone's the largest booksellers in Europe.
I've never been a big fan of the business memoir - I've never found "rags to riches" tales particularly exciting and as someone who has always been far more interested in the creative side of life as opposed to the business side, it's not a genre I've dipped my toe in very often.
However, as a huge lover of books, a regular shopper in Waterstones (there are 3 within a ten minute walk of my office, which, for someone with a love of books and no impulse control, is dangerous!), and as a former bookseller in a Waterstones, I was intrigued to read the tale of how Tim Waterstone (Sir Tim Waterstone now) turned a single bookshop into an empire -and I was pleased to find that "The Face Pressed Against the Window" is half personal memoir, half account of years spent running and growing his bookshops. Tim Waterstone has, unsurprisingly, rather a unique voice -and the account of his life is well told, with spirit, warm humour and a careful balance of tone that conveys both the nostalgia and the harsh realities of life in post-WWII Britain
From childhood, through University, and then a brief spell in India, Tim Waterstone comes onto his time running bookstores -but what's important is that he doesn't allow himself to wallow in his own success, but instead celebrates his staff - of the culture and creativity that his bookstores have inspired, and of the mere fact that, in this "Digital" age his idea has endured and, in recent years, thrived. A testament to the power of learning and reading - "The Face Pressed Against a Window" is a surprising, moving and heartwarming read from an industry leader.
In 2010—long before the release of Lemonade—Professor Kevin Allred created the university course “Politicizing Beyoncé” to both wide acclaim and controversy. He outlines his pedagogical philosophy in Ain’t I a Diva?, exploring the process of teaching Beyoncé and what it means to use a superstar to blow up the canon. Allred brings his syllabus to life by pairing music videos and songs with historical and academic texts, and combines analysis with classroom anecdotes. Topics range from a capitalist critique of “Run the World (Girls)” to the politics of self-care found in “Flawless”; Beyoncé’s art is read alongside Black feminist thinkers including Kimberlé Crenshaw, Octavia Butler, and Sojourner Truth.
Interrogating the entertainer’s career through a media studies lens, Allred attests that pop culture is so much more than a guilty pleasure—it’s an access point for education, entertainment, critical inquiry, and politics.
Singer, songwriter, actress, mother, wife, there's no doubting that Beyoncé is a modern day icon - a clear star since her Destiny's Child days who has only grown in terms of influence and power. As one of the most famous women on the planet, Beyoncé could have gone down a standard, crowd pleasing route -but in recent years has taken career choices that surprised and excited many, stepping away from the pure pop pleasure of her earlier work and stunning the world with the surprise drop of "Lemonade" in 2016. A visual album that combined a range of musical genres with a furious anger that allowed Beyoncé to explore black history, feminism, indifelity, sexuality, and even Yoruba culture, "Lemonade" showed the world that Beyoncé is a far deeper artist than many expected - and it's these deeper levels that author and Professor Kevin Allred has been exploring since 2010 with his course "Politizing Beyoncé" -a syllabus that analyses the work of Beyoncé alongside black feminist texts to use intersectionality as as an analytic tool through which to view both pop culture and the rest of the world. Here Allred takes his course and transforms it into a fascinating, highly readable book that explores both the political and cultural background behind the work of Ms. Knowles, explored through black feminist thinkers and ending in a fascinating read.
I've always rather taken Beyonce at face value - I've been a fan since the Destiny's Child days, and particularly enjoyed her explosion onto the music scene as a solo performer with Dangerously in Love - but I never gave her work a huge amount of thought, even in recent years when her politics have become more overt in her music. I fully appreciate that's likely due to my privilege as a Cis White Man, and as such I found "Ain't I A Diva" an eye-opening read, and Allred is careful to ensure that he doesn't wallow in dry academia, but instead fills his work with references that are relevant to both the subject and the reader. If the book is this good, I can only imagine how engagingly excellent Allred's lectures are - with the book going far deeper than I perhaps imagined, and as such is a valuable and enlightening read for anyone with an interest in popular culture.
Katharine Smyth was a student at Oxford when she first read Virginia Woolf's modernist masterpiece "To the Lighthouse" in the comfort of an English sitting room, and in the companionable silence she shared with her father. After his death -a calamity that claimed her favourite person - she returned to that beloved novel as a way of wrestling with his memory and understanding her own grief.
Smyth's story moved between the New England of her childhood and Woolf's Cornish shores and Bloomsbury squares, exploring universal questions about family, loss and homecoming. Through her inventive, highly personal reading of "To the Lighthouse" and her artful adaptation of its ground-breaking structure, Smyth guides us towards a new vision of Woolf's most demanding and rewarding novel - and crafts an elegant reminder of literature's ability to clarify and console. Braiding memoir, literary criticism and biography, All the Lives we Ever Lived is a wholly original debut: A love letter from a daughter to her father, and from a reader to her most cherished author.
ClearVirginia Woolf that evokes a range of feelings in people - some love her for her remarkably ahead of time writings, and her outspoken drive for women to be offered equality in a time when it was denied them. Some only know her for her suicide - walking into the water to end a life of mental illness and and the fears caused by World War II. For me she's an incredible writer and a powerful woman -her writings still fresh and contemporary a century after they were written. Author Katharine Smyth understands that -and her love and respect for Virginia Woolf allows her to weave a cleverly considered criticism of Woolf's work with a personal narrative of grief and loss. Clear, considered prose tells a tale of family, love and loss and commands emotion almost as powerfully as Woolf does - waves of grief and raw emotion conveyed with startling clarity.
Comparisons to Helen McDonald's "H is for Hawk" are inevitable and apt -both works of loss and grief that centre around a love for a long-dead author, but the transatlantic setting of "All the Lives We Ever Lived" gives it a very different feel that seems to fit Woolf to a tee -waves both literal and emotional crashing against the pages with palpable power. Moving, powerful and destined to stick in the mind long after the book has closed, "All the Lives We Ever Lived" is a tribute to a father, an author, and a powerful work in its own right.
Hindsight 20/Something is a chronicle of quarter-life crises-stories of moving to the midwest and losing a lover, losing your mind and changing your pronouns, renting a house with a urinal in the living room, coming out , moving back in with your parents. It's a book-shaped living room of honest friends -two nurses, an architect, a med student, two poets, a teacher, a software engineer, the depresses, the wandering, the anxious-all in their 20s. All here telling you that it's probably not okay right now. And that's okay.
543Austin Beaton is a poet essayist 20something who studied regret at the University of Oregon, where he was a finalist for the Walter and Nancy Kidd Memorial Writing Competition in Poetry. His work has appeared in Boston Accent, Porridge Magazine, Angel City Review and elsewhere. He lives near the Pacific Ocean and gives nicknames.
Hindsight 20/Something is a response to that conversation young 20somethings keep having at happy hour, over FaceTime, alone in their brain: 'I don't know what I'm doing. It's all so crazy. My job's fine, I guess. I want to move. I want a different life, but I'm not sure how to change it and even if I could, so what?'
Being in your 20's is seen as a golden time for many -youth, good looks, energy, nights out - there's a lot to enjoy and a lot to be thankful for. However, it's also a time of great uncertainty for many people - living away from home, outside of the structure that school and university provides, and faced with bills, jobs, relationships, along with the many expectations that family and society can place on an individual at that age.
Here poet and writer Austin Beaton collects the stories of a wide range of 20-somethings - covering a huge range of emotions and providing a collection that's moving, relatable and immediate - and brilliantly conveys the maelstrom of feelings and urges that can be part of being in your 20's. Family, Love, Anxiety, Depression, Drink, Drugs, Religion, Work, Music - all are covered in recollections that range from a few paragraphs long to short stories of a few pages. What's fantastic about this collection is that, whilst the stories are clearly carefully collated, they're not over-edited - leaving a certain amount of rawness and individuality to shine through in each story, making all very readable, and offering a sense of immediacy and connection to the individuals sharing their stories and journeys with the reader.
As someone only just out of my 20's, I found this a collection that's both relatable and assuring - with all the concerns and emotions explored here, I find it impossible to think that any reader wouldn't find connections and similarities with the content.
Original, immediate and necessary -this is a well curated content that's appealing, rewarding, and ultimately comforting as it enables the reader to find connections and companionship in the recollections of others.
Following the shocking events of The Silver Wolf, James Ryker is back. James Ryker receives a coded message through a secret drop point, a means of communication known only to him and one other person. The problem is, that person is his ex-boss, Mackie... and he’s already dead.But the cry for help is real, and it’s a request Ryker can’t refuse.Travelling to New York alone and without official sanction, Ryker has a single goal in mind, yet even he couldn’t have bargained for the violent world he’s soon embroiled in. Caught in the middle of a spiraling chaos, with the FBI on one side and warring underworld bosses on the other, Ryker must put all of his skills to the test in order to come out on top and keep his word. In a world full of lies and deceit, loyalty is everything, and it’s time for James Ryker to pay his dues.
Having sold over half a million copies, best-selling author Rob Sinclair is back with another installment in the James Ryker series. Having graduated from Nottingham University in 2002, Sinclair spent 13 years working for a global accounting firm, before a promise to his wife to write a 'can't put down' thriller, led to a full time career as a writer.
Sinclair has built a fascinating character in James Ryker/Carl Logan -assured, level-headed and calm in the face of danger, but also flawed, human, and hugely likeable. Building over the character of a number of books has allowed Sinclair to create a character that feels extremely real - and having read the character for some time now, he's always one I look forward to revisiting.
In The Green Viper, the reader is plunged straight into the action - and Sinclair doesn't let up on the pace. It makes for a fast, easy read full of twists - but Sinclair's skill as a writer ensures that he backs all of the style with a serious amount of substance.
Taking the reader on a transatlantic journey, Sinclair described both London and New York with an easy sense of familiarity -the descriptions never labored, but ensuring that one is swiftly transported. From there, a fascinating plot unfolds that involves the FBI, a complex cast of characters, a healthy dose of betrayal, and a breathtaking climax that is spread out over several action packed-chapters. Many action thrillers tend to be quite shallow, but that certainly isn't the case with The Green Viper. Sinclair is clear to show that the decisions of his characters have consequences, and as such moments in The Green Viper pack some serious emotional heft -with the reader rooting for Ryker throughout. The climax is satisfying, but the door is very clearly left open for another book in the series, and I'll be very keen to see exactly what kind of trouble James Ryker will be getting into next time...
"When the ship was carried across
the plains, on a sea of things that
defied inventory -pines, seaweed,
Toto washlets, asphalt, creatures
- it was one of those days when the world
would not behave, would not
turn up for inspection"
Author, editor, photographer and publisher Matthew Smith publishes an astonishingly accomplished collection of poetry in "Sea of the Edge" -a slim volume influenced by Japan and covering a wide range of subjects.
I make no secret of my love for Wundor - a publishing company only set up in the last few years, but one that has swiftly become beloved by me for consistently publishing intelligent and attractive pieces of literature, ranging from fiction through to travel guides. Not only are the works all of a high standard, but Wundor also place higher importance on presentation than most publishing companies, ensuring that every work published is as beautiful to look at as it is to read.
The first work I read by Wundor was Matthew Smith's first novel. "The Waking". A powerful meditation on family and literature, it was a book I rated extremely highly, with Smith's experience as a poet allowing him a mastery of words - ensuring that the prose in "The Waking" was immediate and effective.
As a result, I was hugely excited to read Smith's poetry - and I'm relieved to say that "Sea of the Edge" more than lived up to my expectations.
A contrasting, curated collection, these poems take the reader through intimate recollections, across the seas to Japan, and from the modern day to times past. Varying in terms of style and length, each poem is distinct enough to ensure that the readers interest is kept up throughout -every poem both different and surprising.
Available now to order from Wundor Editions, "Sea of the Edge" is a collection of poetry that's accessible, immediate and hugely accomplished.
Discover the mystery of the two-headed rose and many more Strange Secrets in this new collection of extraordinary stories by Mike Russell. ‘It can’t be real.’ ‘But it is.’ Strange Secrets invites you to discover the magical and the marvellous. Startlingly inventive and constantly entertaining, these unique, vital and vividly realised stories will take you to places you have never been before. Strange Secrets is Mike Russell’s third short-story collection.
Author Mike Russell was born in 1973. He grew up in the small village of Pulborough in the South of England. As a child, he enjoyed daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories. As an adult, he enjoys daydreaming, art, and writing strange stories.
I'm not always the biggest fan of short stories - I always tend to find that they bring to life interesting characters and ideas, yet finish with them too quickly - leaving me for a longform explanation and lamenting the fact that I have to move onto another tale and meet another group of characters. Books like "Strange Secrets" though, have begun to change my mind over recent years - and Mike Russell's skill lies in crafting strange, surreal and transportive tales that work brilliantly as short stories - glimpses into worlds that provide the reader with fresh emotions and ideas every time. The ability to provoke a reader into examining their thoughts and feelings whilst also thrilling and entertaining them is a rare one - but one Mike Russell clearly has and utilises with great skill. I'm very excited to see what he does next....
The Kenneth Williams companion is the first, and only, definitive book on the career of Kenneth Williams. Written by Adam Endacott - a London based communications Director and editor of the Architectural Technology Journal, who has spent his life documenting and collecting everything to do with Kenneth Williams. Here he brings that lifetime of research and dedication into this detailed and encyclopedic guide to the career of a brilliant man.
Kenneth Williams was born in Central London in 1926 - beginning his acting career in 1948. A stint in repertory theatre led to his comedy career beginning in earnest with "Hancock's Half Hour", "Round the Horne" regular appearances on Radio 4's "Just a Minute", and, perhaps most famously, the "Carry On" films, appearing in 26 of the 31 films. His personal life was filled with close friendships - with people including playwright Joe Orton, and actresses Maggie Smith, Sheila Hancock, and Carry on co-star Barbara Windsor. However, whilst private about his home life, Williams admitted to a deep sense of loneliness - and as his health declined in his later years, depression took a stronger hold on him. He died in 1988 from an overdose of barbiturates - whether it was suicide or accidental is still unknown. However, with his many appearances in what was regarded as a Golden Age for British comedy, Williams legacy is a beloved figure whose legacy will, no doubt, be hugely long lasting.
30 years after the death of Williams, author Adam Endacott has written this definitive and remarkably well researched guide into the many appearances of Kenneth, and it's a hugely impressive achievement. Filled with detailed information on the TV shows, Radio broadcasts and films that Williams appeared in, its a reference guide that has clearly had huge amount of work put into it - but unlike many reference books of its type, it isn't a dry read. Endacott takes care to scatter fascinating facts and personal detail throughout the book which ensures that, whilst this certainly isn't a biography, the reader gets a strong sense of Williams' character nonetheless. In addition, the sheer passion that Endacott has for Williams shines through and engages the reader - it's a great book to pick up from time to time in order to immerse yourself into the life and work of a comedy genius.