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Book Club

December/January's gr Book Club pick is Dark Tides, the latest novel in the ‘Fairmile’ series from bestselling historical fiction author PHILIPPA GREGORY. Before you get stuck into the book, join us as we recap Philippa’s writing career thus far, and why her new series has been worth the wait. 

 

Dark Tides by Philippa GregoryPrior to her career as a historical fiction author, Philippa Gregory had studied journalism and English literature, before finding her calling with a history degree. Her debut novel, Wideacre, (1987) was written while completing a PhD in 18th-century book history. After finishing her studies she followed it up with two more novels, The Favoured Child and Meridon, which continued the story of Beatrice Lacey trying to gain control of the Wideacre estate at the end of the 18th century.

After this success she wrote a number of stand-alone novels such as The Wise Woman and A Respectable Trade, the latter of which was adapted by Gregory for a miniseries on BBC Television, earning her a BAFTA nomination. 

In 1998 and 1999, Phillipa released Earthly Joys and Virgin Earth, as part of the ‘Tradescant’ series, which followed 17th-century gardener John Tradescant witnessing a number of prominent events in England’s history. This was followed by Zelda’s Cut in 2000, which saw Philippa dabbling with psychological fiction in the present day. 

2001 saw Philippa Gregory’s breakout novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, which was based upon the life of 16th century Mary Boleyn, sister of Anne Boleyn. Other than launching both a telefilm (2003) and a theatrical release (2008), it also marked the beginning of what would be her most successful and prolific series, ‘The Plantagenet and Tudor Novels’, which saw its final entry with The Last Tudor in 2017. In between the ‘Tudor’ books Philippa penned four books in her ‘Order of Darkness’ series, her first foray into both fantasy and young adult genres. 

Tidelands, the first in the ‘Fairmile’ series which saw her eschewing courts and royals for the ‘ordinary’ and disenfranchised lower class women in 15th-century Northern England, was published in 2019. The story follows Alinor in 1648, living a claustrophobic life during a time of witch-mania and political turmoil. When she meets a Catholic priest on the run, she guides the runaway across the treacherous marshes, an act of kindness that puts them both in danger. 

In our interview with her last year, Philippa remarked, ‘The most important thing to me in historical fiction is that the history is correct. The fiction should beautifully crafted. It should be as good as a novel as it can possibly be. I have this sort of platonic ideal of how wonderful a novel is going to be, and I strive for it daily. But the history, for me, you can’t compromise on it.’ 

Philippa Gregory

Midsummers Eve, 1670. A wealthy man waits outside a poor London warehouse to meet with Alinor, the woman he failed 21 years before. He has everything to offer – wealth, land, status – and he believes she has the only thing he cannot buy: his son and heir. The warehouse is failing, clinging on to poor business in Restoration London – a city gone mad for pleasure. But will Alinor and her family sell out to Sir James? Meanwhile in New England, Alinor’s brother Ned, who rebelled against the Crown, cannot find justice in the New World, as the King’s revenge stretches across the Atlanic and turns the pioneers against each other and against the native Americans. 

 

A beautiful widow, Livia, arrives from Venice, telling them Alinor’s son, Rob, has drowned and that she needs the family’s help with a profitable new trade. She will import beautiful statues of marble and bronze to fuel the classical craze among the wealthy landowners. She enchants the warehouse family with her son, their new heir; her sensual carefree warmth; and promises of wealth to come. She captures Sir James and spins them all into a mesh of deceit which only the brave little daughter of the warehouse can break. Sarah searches for the truth about Livia in Venice bringing home the stunning denouement to this, the second book in the ‘Fairmile’ series. 

Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory is published by Simon & Schuster

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Next Month's Book Club Pick

Florence Adler Swims Forever

 

 

 

 

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  1. Midsummers Eve, 1670. A wealthy man waits outside a poor London warehouse to meet with Alinor, the woman he failed twenty-one years before. He has everything to offer, wealth, land, status, and he believes she has the only thing he cannot buy: his son and heir. The warehouse is failing, clinging on to poor business in Restoration London—a city gone mad for pleasure. But will Alinor and her family sell-out to Sir James? Meanwhile in New England, Alinor’s brother Ned, who rebelled against the Crown, cannot find justice in the New World, as the King’s revenge stretches across the Atlanic and turns the pioneers against each other and against the native Americans. A beautiful widow, Livia, arrives from Venice, telling them Alinor’s son, Rob, has drowned and that she needs the family’s help with a profitable new trade. She will import beautiful statues of marble and bronze to fuel the classical craze among the wealthy landowners. She enchants the warehouse family with her son, their new heir; her sensual carefree warmth; and promises of wealth to come. She captures Sir James and spins them all into a mesh of deceit which only the brave little daughter of the warehouse can break. Sarah searches for the truth about Livia in Venice bringing home the stunning denouement to this, the second book in the Fairmile series.

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  2. Group: How One Therapist and a Circle of Strangers Saved My Life

    The refreshingly original debut memoir of a guarded, over-achieving, self-lacerating young lawyer who reluctantly agrees to get psychologically and emotionally naked in a room of six complete strangers - her psychotherapy group - and in turn finds human connection, and herself. Christie Tate had just been named the top student in her law school class and finally had her eating disorder under control. Why then was she driving through Chicago fantasising about her own death? Why was she envisioning putting an end to the isolation and sadness that still plagued her in spite of her achievements? Enter Dr. Rosen, a therapist who calmly assures her that if she joins one of his psychotherapy groups, he can transform her life. All she has to do is show up and be honest. About everything - her eating habits, childhood, sexual history, etc. Christie is skeptical, insisting that that she is defective, beyond cure. But Dr. Rosen issues a nine-word prescription that will change everything: “You don’t need a cure, you need a witness.” So begins her entry into the strange, terrifying, and ultimately life-changing world of group therapy. Christie is initially put off by Dr. Rosen’s outlandish directives, but as her defenses break down and she comes to trust Dr. Rosen and to depend on the sessions and the prescribed nightly phone calls with various group members, she begins to understand what it means to connect. Group is a deliciously addictive read, and with Christie as our guide - skeptical of her own capacity for connection and intimacy, but hopeful in spite of herself - we are given a front row seat to the daring, exhilarating, painful, and hilarious journey that is group therapy - an under-explored process that breaks you down, and then reassembles you so that all the pieces finally fit.

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  3. The Mirror And The Light

    With The Mirror and the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man's vision: of a modern nation making itself through conflict, passion and courage.

    Download a READING GUIDE here.

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  4. Stone Sky Gold Mountain

    Family circumstances force siblings Ying and Lai Yue to flee their home in China to seek their fortunes in Australia. Life on the gold fields is hard, and they soon abandon the diggings and head to nearby Maytown. Once there, Lai Yue finds a job as a carrier on an overland expedition, while Ying finds work in a local store and strikes up a friendship with Meriem, a young white woman with her own troubled past. When a serious crime is committed, suspicion falls on all those who are considered outsiders. Evoking the rich, unfolding tapestry of Australian life in the late nineteenth century, Stone Sky Gold Mountain is a heartbreaking and universal story about the exiled and displaced, about those who encounter discrimination yet yearn for acceptance.

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  5. American Dirt

    The unforgettable story of a mother and son fleeing a drug-cartel to cross the US-Mexico border. 'I couldn't put it down. I'll never stop thinking about it' – Ann Patchett 'One hell of a novel about a good woman on the run with her beautiful boy' – Stephen King Fear keeps them running. Hope keeps them alive. Vivid, visceral, utterly compelling, American Dirt is the first novel to explore the experience of attempting to illegally cross the US-Mexico border. Described as 'A Grapes of Wrath for our times' (Don Winslow) it is a story that will leave you utterly changed. Yesterday, Lydia had a bookshop. Yesterday, Lydia was married to a journalist. Yesterday, she was with everyone she loved most in the world. Today, her eight-year-old son Luca is all she has left. For him, she will carry a machete strapped to her leg. For him, she will leap onto the roof of a high speed train. For him, she will find the strength to keep running.

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  6. Truganini: Journey through the apocalypse

    Cassandra Pybus's ancestors told a story of an old Aboriginal woman who would wander across their farm on Bruny Island, in south-east Tasmania, in the 1850s and 1860s. As a child, Cassandra didn't know this woman was Truganini, and that Truganini was walking over the country of her clan, the Nuenonne. For nearly seven decades, Truganini lived through a psychological and cultural shift more extreme than we can imagine. But her life was much more than a regrettable tragedy. Now Cassandra has examined the original eyewitness accounts to write Truganini's extraordinary story in full. Hardly more than a child, Truganini managed to survive the devastation of the 1820s, when the clans of south-eastern Tasmania were all but extinguished. She spent five years on a journey around Tasmania, across rugged highlands and through barely penetrable forests, with George Augustus Robinson, the self-styled missionary who was collecting the survivors to send them into exile on Flinders Island. She has become an international icon for a monumental tragedy - the so-called extinction of the original people of Tasmania. Truganini's story is inspiring and haunting - a journey through the apocalypse.

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  7. The Spill

    In 1981, a car overturns on a remote West Australian road. Nobody is hurt, but the impact is felt for decades. Nicole and Samantha Cooper both remember the summer day when their mother, Tina, lost control of their car - but not in quite the same way. It is only after Tina's death, almost four decades later, that the sisters are forced to reckon with the repercussions of the crash. Nicole, after years of sabotaging her own happiness, seems finally content but still can't get through to her sister. And Samantha is hiding something that might just tear apart the life she's worked so hard to build for herself. The Spill explores the cycles of love, loss and regret that can follow a family through the years - moments of joy, things left unsaid, and things misremembered. Above all, it is a deeply moving portrait of two sisters falling apart and finding a way to fit back together. More about this book
  8. The Origin of Me

    A beguilingly original and satirical debut novel of friendships, imagination, and the bodies we live in Lincoln Locke’s fifteen-year-old life is turned upside down when he’s thrust into bachelor-pad living with his father, after his parents’ marriage breaks up, and into an exclusive new school. Crestfield Academy offers Lincoln a new set of peers – the crème de la crème of gifted individuals, who also happen to be financially loaded – and a place on the swim relay team with a bunch of thugs in Speedos. Homunculus, the little voice inside his head, doesn’t make life any easier; nor does Lincoln’s growing awareness of a genetic anomaly that threatens to humiliate him at every turn. On a search for answers to big LIFE questions, he turns to the school library, where he spies a nineteenth-century memoir, My One Redeeming Affliction by Edwin Stroud, a one-time star of Melinkoff’s Astonishing Assembly of Freaks. As Lincoln slowly reads this peculiar, life-changing book, the past reaches into his present in fascinating and alarming ways. Ways that defy imagination . . . Audacious, funny and wonderfully inventive, The Origin of Me is a song to friendship, to young love, to the joy of imagination, and to celebrating differences.

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  9. Songspirals: Sharing Women's Wisdom of Country Through Songlines

    A rare opportunity to connect with the living tradition of women's songlines, as recounted by Yolngu women from far north Australia. 'We want you to come with us on our journey, our journey of songspirals. Songspirals are the essence of people in this land, the essence of every clan. We belong to the land and it belongs to us. We sing to the land, sing about the land. We are that land. It sings to us.' Aboriginal Australian cultures are the oldest living cultures on earth and at the heart of Aboriginal cultures is song. These ancient narratives of landscape have often been described as a means of navigating across vast distances without a map, but they are much, much more than this. Songspirals are sung by Aboriginal people to awaken Country, to make and remake the life-giving connections between people and place. Songspirals are radically different ways of understanding the relationship people can have with the landscape. For Yolngu people from North East Arnhem Land, women and men play different roles in bringing songlines to life, yet the vast majority of what has been published is about men's place in songlines. Songspirals is a rare opportunity for outsiders to experience Aboriginal women's role in crying the songlines in a very authentic and direct form.

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  10. Greenwood

    2038. On a remote island off the Pacific coast of British Columbia stands the Greenwood Arboreal Cathedral, one of the world's last forests. Wealthy tourists flock from all corners of the dust-choked globe to see the spectacle and remember what once was. But even as they breathe in the fresh air and pose for photographs amidst the greenery, guide Jake knows that the forest is dying, though her bosses won't admit it. 1908. Two passenger locomotives meet head-on. The only survivors are two young boys, who take refuge in a trapper's cabin in a forest on the edge of town. In twenty-six years, one of them, now a recluse, will find an abandoned baby - another child of Greenwood - setting off a series of events that will change the course of his life, and the lives of those around him. Structured like the rings of a tree, this remarkable novel moves from the future to the present to the past, and back again, to tell the story of one family and their enduring connection to the place that brought them together.

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