A.M. Homes wins Women’s Prize for Fiction

American novelist A.M. Homes has won this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction with her sixth novel, May We Be Forgiven.

Homes beat award winning writer Hilary Mantel and three other finalists for the $ 45,000 prize, previously known as the Orange Prize.

Miranda Richardson, who chaired a panel of judges, praised Home’s novel, as a “dazzling, original, viscerally funny black comedy” and a “subversion of the American dream.”

It defeated Mantel’s Tudor saga Bring Up the Bodies, (the bookmaker’s favourite), Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behavior; Zadie Smith’s NW, and Marie Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

The award, in its 18th year, celebrates writing by women in English from around the world.

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The 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlist announced

The awards news just keeps on coming, with the shortlist for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction announced.

For those that like a familiar face, this is a party you’ll enjoy. Literary juggernaut Hilary Mantel is joined by multiple award-winners Zadie Smith and Barbara Kingsolver.

There’s also some new blood, with the author of the brilliant Life After Life Kate Atkinson getting a nod, alongside other newbies A.M. Homes and Maria Semple. Newbies in terms of Women’s Prize shortlistings, but all wonderful, seasoned authors in their own right.

The bookies have Hilary Mantel as an early favourite, with Kate Atkinson and Barbara Kingsolver also fancied. For trivia buffs, on the other two occasions Hilary Mantel has been shortlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction, she has been pipped at the post by authors in this year’s field. Zadie Smith for On Beauty in 2006, and Barbara Kingsolver for The Lacuna. Mantel was shortlisted for Beyond Black and Wolf Hall in those years.

So sit back and check out our profiles of the wonderful books shortlisted for this prestigious award. The winner will be announced on Wednesday 5th June 2013, giving you plenty of time to read these beauties and choose your own winner.

You can also see the books that were longlisted for the Prize here.


Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

In 1910, Ursula Todd is born during a snowstorm in England, but two parallel scenarios occur – in one, she dies immediately. In the other, she lives to tell the tale. As the possibility of having a second chance at life opens up, the novel unfolds, following Ursula as she lives through the events of the twentieth century again and again. What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

About the Author

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Kate was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2011 Birthday Honours, for services to literature.

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May We Be Forgiven

by A.M. Homes

Harry is a Richard Nixon scholar who leads a quiet, regular life; his brother George is a high-flying TV producer, with a murderous temper.They have been uneasy rivals since childhood.Then one day George loses control so extravagantly that he precipitates Harry into an entirely new life. In May We Be Forgiven, Homes gives us a darkly comic look at 21st century domestic life – at individual lives spiraling out of control, bound together by family and history.

The cast of characters experience adultery, accidents, divorce, and death. But this is also a savage and dizzyingly inventive vision of contemporary America, whose dark heart Homes penetrates like no other writer – the strange jargons of its language, its passive aggressive institutions, its inhabitants’ desperate craving for intimacy and their pushing it away with litigation, technology, paranoia.

At the novel’s heart are the spaces in between, where the modern family comes together to re-form itself. May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation – simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

About the Author

A.M. Homes has been the recipient of numerous awards including Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, NYFA, and The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at The New York Public Library, along with the Benjamin Franklin Award.

She is the author of the novels, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collections, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects, the best selling memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter along with a travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and The Castle on the Hill, and the artist’s book Appendix A:

A.M. Homes was born in Washington D.C., she now lives in New York City and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton

Click here to buy May We Be Forgiven from Booktopia,
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Flight Behaviour

by Barbara Kingsolver

Discontented with her life of poverty on a failing farm in the Eastern United States, Dellarobia, a young mother, impulsively seeks out an affair. Instead, on the Appalachian mountains above her farm, she discovers something much more profoundly life-changing – a beautiful and terrible marvel of nature. As the world around her is suddenly transformed by a seeming miracle, can the old certainties they have lived by for centuries remain unchallenged?

Flight Behaviour is a captivating, topical and deeply human novel touching on class, poverty and climate change. It is Barbara Kingsolver’s most accessible novel yet, and explores the truths we live by, and the complexities that lie behind them.

About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver’s thirteen books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction include the novels The Bean Trees and the international bestseller The Poisonwood Bible which, amongst other accolades, won the 2005 Penguin/Orange Reading Group Book of the Year award. Her most recent novel The Lacuna, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.

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Bring Up the Bodies

by Hilary Mantel

By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church. But Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

In Bring up the Bodies, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. This new novel is a speaking picture, an audacious vision of Tudor England that sheds its light on the modern world. It is the work of one of our great writers at the height of her powers.

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is one of our most important living writers. She is the author of twelve books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Giving Up the Ghost, Beyond Black, which was shortlisted for the 2006 Orange Prize, and Wolf Hall, which won the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

A wildly imaginative, laugh-out-loud but also very poignant novel.

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she’s his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she’s a menace. To design experts, she’s a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum.

Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a compulsively readable, irresistibly written, deeply touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s place in the world.

About the Author

Maria Semple worked in Los Angeles as a television writer for 15 years, working on hit shows including Ellen, Saturday Night Live, Mad About You and Arrested Development. She lives in Seattle.

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NW

by Zadie Smith

Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Locke and Russell.

Five identical blocks make up the Caldwell housing estate in North West London.

If you grew up in this relic of seventies urban design, the plan was to get out and get on, to something better, somewhere else. Thirty years later, Caldwell kids Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan have all moved on, with varying degrees of success – whatever that means. Living only streets apart, they occupy separate worlds, and navigate an atomized city in which few care to be their neighbour’s keeper.

Then one April afternoon a stranger comes to Leah’s door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, and forcing Leah out of her isolation . . .

From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, where the main streets hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end, NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters.

About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975, and continues to live in the area. White Teeth is her first novel and won awards for Best Book and Best Female Newcomer at the BT Emma Awards (Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards), the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread Prize for a first novel in 2000, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction 2000, the WH Smith Book Award for New Talent, the Frankfurt eBook Award for Best Fiction Work Originally Published in 2000 and both the Commonwealth Writers First Book Award and Overall Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Her other novels are The Autograph Man and On Beauty, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2005 and won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. She also edited the collection of contemporary short fiction The Book of Other People, and wrote Changing My Mind, a collection of personal and cultural essays.

Click here to buy NW from Booktopia,
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The 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist announced

The longlist for the 2013 Women’s Prize for Fiction has been announced, and with Australia’s M.L. Stedman and Carrie Tiffany being joined by New Zealand’s Emily Perkins, the diversity of the list has been applauded the world over.

Formerly The Orange Prize for Fiction, the longlist for The Women’s Prize for Fiction will be cut down to a shortlist at the London Book Fair on April 16, ahead of the winner’s announcement on June 5. This year’s winner will receive a cash prize of £30,000 (A$43,355).

Familiar names like Hilary Mantel and past winners Zadie Smith and Barbara Kingsolver are joined by bright up and comers like Shani Boianjiu,  Bonnie Nadzam and debut novelist Francesca Segal.

Booktopia has profiled the books up for the award, as well as each author nominated, so you don’t skip a beat in the follow up to the winner being announced in June. Don’t miss out on reading these wonderful books with Booktopia, Australia’s Local Bookstore.


The Light Between Oceans

by M.L. Stedman

A bestseller around the world reaching no.4 on the New York Times fiction list.

They break the rules and follow their hearts. What happens next will break yours.

1926. Tom Sherbourne is a young lighthouse keeper on a remote island off Western Australia. The only inhabitants of Janus Rock, he and his wife Isabel live a quiet life, cocooned from the rest of the world.

Then one April morning a boat washes ashore carrying a dead man and a crying infant – and the path of the couple’s lives hits an unthinkable crossroads.

Only years later do they discover the devastating consequences of the decision they made that day – as the baby’s real story unfolds …

About the Author

M. L. Stedman was born and raised in Western Australia, and now lives in London. The Light Between Oceans is her first novel published by Random House Australia, and has so far been translated into nearly thirty languages. It has been a bestselling book around the world, including Australia, Italy, Denmark and America. It was recently voted Best Historical Novel of 2012 by members of Goodreads.

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Mateship with Birds

by Carrie Tiffany

On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.

Mateship with Birds is a novel about young lust and mature love. It is a hymn to the rhythm of country life – to vicious birds, virginal cows, adored dogs and ill-used sheep. On one small farm in a vast, ancient landscape, a collection of misfits question the nature of what a family can be.

About the Author

Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005) was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and won the Dobbie Award for Best First Book (2006) and the 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. Mateship with Birds is her second novel.

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The Forrests

by Emily Perkins

Evelyn and Dorothy – the twins – are seven when the Forrests move from New York City, the hub of the world, to Westmere, New Zealand. The Forrest Trust Fund now cut out of their lives, the family live under a cloudless sky, in the dust and the heat, outdoors and running wild. Their father – who they would only call Frank – works for a cab company over the weekends but is really an actor. Michael, the eldest, has a friend called Daniel whose father lives in a half-way house. He starts to live with them, punches Dorothy on the shoulder to stop her crying when she starts school, and becomes family.

Lee, their mother, takes them to a commune when she needs to get away from Frank. The memory of that place – the freedom, the dirty richness of the landscape, the stolen kisses – their chaotic childhood, undulates beneath the surface of all their lives, and brings them together in flickering moments when they grow far apart.

The passing of time happens quickly. Evelyn and Dorothee grow older, discover sex, love, have babies, and watch as they too grow old. Their youngest sister moves away and their parents decrease in importance in their lives. Daniel, like a shadow, is always in the back of their minds. Death changes everything, but somehow life remains the same.

In a narrative that shifts and moves, growing as wild as the characters, The Forrests is an extraordinary literary achievement. A novel that sings with color and memory, it speaks of family and time, dysfunction, aging and loneliness, about lethargy, heat, youth, and how there is always something inaccessible and secretive, lying just out of reach.

About the Author

Emily Perkins is a writer of contemporary fiction, and the success of her first collection of stories, not her real name and other stories, established her early on as an important writer of her generation. Perkins has written novels, as well as short fiction, and her writing has won and been shortlisted for a number of significant awards and prizes. She was the 2006 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow, and she used the fellowship to work on her book, Novel About My Wife, published in 2008. She is an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate Award winner (2011).

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A Trick I Learned From Dead Men

by Kitty Aldridge

What’s it like then, a dead body? I always hesitate, but if I were forced to describe it, at gunpoint so to speak, a dead person is like a newborn, weird, other-worldly, but. Familiar as your own face in the mirror. After the disappearance of their father and the sudden death of their mother, Lee Hart and his deaf brother, Ned, imagine all is lost until Lee lands a traineeship at their local funeral home and discovers there is life after death. Here, in the company of a crooning ex-publican, a closet pole vaulter, a terminally-ill hearse driver, and the dead of their local town, old wounds begin to heal and love arrives as a beautiful florist aboard a ‘Fleurtations’ delivery van.

But death is closer than Lee Hart thinks. Somewhere among the quiet lanes and sleepy farms something else is waiting. And it is closing in. Don’t bring your work home with you, that’s what they say. Too late.

Sometimes sad, often hilarious and ultimately tragic and deeply moving, A Trick I Learned From Dead Men is a pitch perfect small masterpiece from a writer described by Richard Ford as having ‘a moral grasp upon life that is grave, knowing, melancholy, often extremely funny and ultimately optimistic’.

About the Author

After training as an actress at the Drama Centre London, Aldridge worked in film, theatre and television as an actress. Her first novel Pop was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2002 and shortlisted for the Pendleton May First Novel Award 2002.

Aldridge’s short story, Arrivederci Les, won the Bridport Short Story Prize 2011.

Click here to buy  A Trick I Learned From Dead Men from Booktopia,
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Life After Life

by Kate Atkinson

In 1910, Ursula Todd is born during a snowstorm in England, but two parallel scenarios occur – in one, she dies immediately. In the other, she lives to tell the tale. As the possibility of having a second chance at life opens up, the novel unfolds, following Ursula as she lives through the events of the twentieth century again and again. What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right? During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

About the Author

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Kate was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s 2011 Birthday Honours, for services to literature.

Click here to buy Life After Life from Booktopia,
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The Marlowe Papers

by Ros Barber

On May 30th, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. That, at least, was the official version. Now let Christopher Marlowe tell you the truth: that his ‘death’ was an elaborate ruse to avoid his being hanged for heresy; that he was spirited across the channel to live on in lonely exile, longing for his true love and pining for the damp streets of London; that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colourless man from Stratford – one William Shakespeare.

With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this extraordinary novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate, mercurial and not altogether trustworthy. The son of a cobbler who rose so far in Elizabethan society that he counted nobles among his friends and patrons, a spy in the Queen’s service, a fickle lover and a declared religious sceptic, he was always courting trouble. When it caught up with him, he was lucky to have connections powerful enough to help him escape.

Memoir, love letter, settling of accounts and a cry for recognition as the creator of some of the most sublime works in the English language, this is Christopher Marlowe’s testament – and a tour de force by an award-winning poet: provocative, persuasive and enthralling.

About the Author

Ros Barber was born in Washington DC and raised in England. She is the author of three collections of poetry, the latest of which (Material, Anvil 2008) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her short fiction, which won prizes in the Asham and Independent on Sunday short story competitions, has been published by Bloomsbury and Serpents Tail. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Poetry London, London Magazine, The Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and many other publications; it also features in anthologies published by Faber, Virago, Anvil and Seren. Dr. Barber has also published academic papers on Christopher Marlowe. She lives in Brighton and has four children.

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The People of Forever are Not Afraid

by Shani Boianjiu

Lea, Navishag and Yael are school friends in a nondescript town in Israel. During dull lessons they play their invented game Exquisite Corpse and fantasise about the boys they fancy. When they hit eighteen they are conscripted into the army. Marooned on checkpoint duty with a bunch of morons, Lea relieves her boredom by creating an invented family life for a dishevelled Palestinian man she sees everyday at the border; Yael takes to sleeping with the men she is training, in between breaking up and getting back together with her wimpish boyfriend at home; and Navishag’s days are dogged by memories of her brother, Dan, who committed suicide after leaving the army. They wait in the dust for something to happen. Energetic, relentless, and with a sharp caustic humour, The People of Forever are Not Afraid captures that single, intense second just before danger erupts.

About the Author

Shani Boianjiu was born in 1987 in a small town on the Israel/Lebanon border, and she served in the Israeli Defense Forces for two years. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Vice magazine, and Zoetrope: All Story. Shani is the youngest recipient ever of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 Award, for which she was chosen by Nicole Krauss. She lives in Israel.

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Gone Girl

by Gillian Flynn

‘What are you thinking, Amy?’ The question I’ve asked most often during our marriage, if not out loud, if not to the person who could answer. I suppose these questions stormcloud over every marriage: ‘What are you thinking? How are you feeling? Who are you? What have we done to each other? What will we do?’

Just how well can you ever know the person you love? This is the question that Nick Dunne must ask himself on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police immediately suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they aren’t his. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife? And what was in that half-wrapped box left so casually on their marital bed? In this novel, marriage truly is the art of war. . .

About the Author

Gillian Flynn’s first novel Sharp Objects was the winner of two CWA Daggers, and was shortlisted for the Gold Dagger, and also for an Edgar. She lives in Chicago with her husband.

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How Should A Person Be?

by Sheila Heti

Reeling from a failed marriage, Sheila, a twenty something playwright, finds herself unsure of how to live and create. When Margaux, a talented painter and free spirit, and Israel, a sexy and depraved artist, enter her life, Sheila hopes that through close – sometimes too close – observation of her new friend, her new lover, and herself, she might regain her footing in art and life.

Using transcribed conversations, real emails, plus heavy doses of fiction, the brilliant and always innovative Sheila Heti crafts a work that is part literary novel, part self-help manual, and part bawdy confessional. It’s a totally shameless and dynamic exploration into the way we live now, which breathes fresh wisdom into the eternal questions: What is the sincerest way to love? What kind of person should you be?

About the Author

Sheila Heti is the author of five books; three books of fiction, a children’s book, and a work of non-fiction with Misha Glouberman. She is Interviews Editor at The Believer and is known for her long interviews. She lives in Toronto.

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May We Be Forgiven

by A.M. Homes

Harry is a Richard Nixon scholar who leads a quiet, regular life; his brother George is a high-flying TV producer, with a murderous temper.They have been uneasy rivals since childhood.Then one day George loses control so extravagantly that he precipitates Harry into an entirely new life. In May We Be Forgiven, Homes gives us a darkly comic look at 21st century domestic life – at individual lives spiraling out of control, bound together by family and history.

The cast of characters experience adultery, accidents, divorce, and death. But this is also a savage and dizzyingly inventive vision of contemporary America, whose dark heart Homes penetrates like no other writer – the strange jargons of its language, its passive aggressive institutions, its inhabitants’ desperate craving for intimacy and their pushing it away with litigation, technology, paranoia.

At the novel’s heart are the spaces in between, where the modern family comes together to re-form itself. May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation – simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

About the Author

A.M. Homes has been the recipient of numerous awards including Fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, NYFA, and The Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at The New York Public Library, along with the Benjamin Franklin Award.

She is the author of the novels, This Book Will Save Your Life, Music For Torching, The End of Alice, In a Country of Mothers, and Jack, as well as the short-story collections, Things You Should Know and The Safety of Objects, the best selling memoir, The Mistress’s Daughter along with a travel memoir, Los Angeles: People, Places and The Castle on the Hill, and the artist’s book Appendix A:

A.M. Homes was born in Washington D.C., she now lives in New York City and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton

Click here to buy May We Be Forgiven from Booktopia,
Australia’s Local Bookstore


Flight Behaviour

by Barbara Kingsolver

Discontented with her life of poverty on a failing farm in the Eastern United States, Dellarobia, a young mother, impulsively seeks out an affair. Instead, on the Appalachian mountains above her farm, she discovers something much more profoundly life-changing – a beautiful and terrible marvel of nature. As the world around her is suddenly transformed by a seeming miracle, can the old certainties they have lived by for centuries remain unchallenged?

Flight Behaviour is a captivating, topical and deeply human novel touching on class, poverty and climate change. It is Barbara Kingsolver’s most accessible novel yet, and explores the truths we live by, and the complexities that lie behind them.

About the Author

Barbara Kingsolver’s thirteen books of fiction, poetry and non-fiction include the novels The Bean Trees and the international bestseller The Poisonwood Bible which, amongst other accolades, won the 2005 Penguin/Orange Reading Group Book of the Year award. Her most recent novel The Lacuna, won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2010.

Click here to buy Like Flight Behaviour from Booktopia,
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The Red Book

by Deborah Copaken Kogan

A college reunion, 20 years after graduation. Can one weekend of nostalgia change some people’s lives forever?

Clover, Addison, Mia and Jane were college roommates until their graduation in 1989. Now, twenty years later, their lives are in free fall. Clover, once a securities broker with Lehman Brothers, living the Manhattan dream, is out of a job, newly married and fretting about her chances of having a baby. Addison’s marriage to a novelist with writers’ block is as stale as her artistic ‘career’. Mia’s acting ambitions never got off the ground and she now stays home with her four children, renovating and acquiring faster than her Hollywood director husband can pay the bills. Jane, once the Paris bureau chief for a newspaper, now the victim of budget cuts, has been blindsided by different sorts of loss.

The four friends have kept up with one another via the red book, a class report published every five years, in which alumni write brief updates about their lives. But there’s the story we tell the world and then there’s the real story, as the classmates arriving at their twentieth reunion with their families, their histories, their dashed dreams and secret longings, will discover over the course of an epoch-ending, score-settling, unforgettable weekend.

About the Author

Deborah Copaken Kogan is the author of Between Here and April, a novel and Shutterbabe, the bestselling memoir about her years as a war photographer. Her photographs have been published in Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, L’Express, Liberation and GEO. She has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Elle, O: the Oprah Magazine, More, Slate and Paris Match, among others. She lives in Harlem, New York, with her husband and three children.

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Bring Up the Bodies

by Hilary Mantel

By 1535 Thomas Cromwell, the blacksmith’s son, is far from his humble origins. Chief Minister to Henry VIII, his fortunes have risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, for whose sake Henry has broken with Rome and created his own church. But Henry’s actions have forced England into dangerous isolation, and Anne has failed to do what she promised: bear a son to secure the Tudor line. When Henry visits Wolf Hall, Cromwell watches as Henry falls in love with the silent, plain Jane Seymour. The minister sees what is at stake: not just the king’s pleasure, but the safety of the nation. As he eases a way through the sexual politics of the court, its miasma of gossip, he must negotiate a ‘truth’ that will satisfy Henry and secure his own career. But neither minister nor king will emerge undamaged from the bloody theatre of Anne’s final days.

In Bring up the Bodies, sequel to the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel explores one of the most mystifying and frightening episodes in English history: the destruction of Anne Boleyn. This new novel is a speaking picture, an audacious vision of Tudor England that sheds its light on the modern world. It is the work of one of our great writers at the height of her powers.

About the Author

Hilary Mantel is one of our most important living writers. She is the author of twelve books, including A Place of Greater Safety, Giving Up the Ghost, Beyond Black, which was shortlisted for the 2006 Orange Prize, and Wolf Hall, which won the 2009 Man Booker Prize.

Click here to buy Bring up the Bodies from Booktopia,
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Lamb

by Bonnie Nadzam

Lamb traces the self-discovery of David Lamb, a narcissistic middle aged man with a tendency toward dishonesty, in the weeks following the disintegration of his marriage and the death of his father. Hoping to regain some faith in his own goodness, he turns his attention to Tommie, an awkward and unpopular eleven-year-old girl. Lamb is convinced that he can help her avoid a destiny of apathy and emptiness, and even comes to believe that his devotion to Tommie is in her best interest. But when Lamb decides to abduct a willing Tommie for a road trip from Chicago to the Rockies, planning to initiate her into the beauty of the mountain wilderness, they are both shaken in ways neither of them expects.
Lamb is a masterful exploration of the dynamics of love and dependency that challenges the boundaries between adolescence and adulthood, confronts preconceived notions about conventional morality, and exposes mankind’s eroded relationship with nature.

About the Author

Bonnie Nadzam was born in Cleveland, went school in Chicago and has moved continually westward ever since. She holds a BA in English Literature and Environmental Studies from Carleton College; a Master of Fine Arts from Arizona State University; and an MA and PhD from The University of Southern California and has taught creative writing at Colorado College. Her short stories have been published in Granta Magazine, Orion Magazine, Harper’s Magazine, The Paris Review Daily, The Iowa Review, The Kenyon Review, Coffin Factory, and several other magazines.

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Ignorance

by Michèle Roberts

After every war there are stories that are locked away like bluebottles in drawers and kept silent. But sometimes the past can return: in the smell of carbolic soap, in whispers darting through a village after mass, in the colour of an undelivered letter. Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angele Baudry grow up, side by side yet apart, in the village of Ste Madeleine. Marie-Angele is the daughter of the grocer, inflated with ideas of her own piety and rightful place in society. Jeanne’s mother washes clothes for a living. She used to be a Jew until this became too dangerous. Jeanne does not think twice about grasping the slender chances life throws at her. Marie-Angele does not grasp; she aspires to a future of comfort and influence.

When war falls out of the sky, along with it tumbles a new, grown-up world. The village must think on its feet, play its part in a game for which no one knows the rules. Not even the dubious hero with ‘business contacts’ who sweeps Marie-Angele off her feet. Not even the reclusive artist living alone with his sensual, red canvases. In these uncertain times, the enemy may be hiding in your garden shed and the truth is all too easily buried under a pyramid of recriminations.

Ignorance is a mesmerising exploration of guilt, faith, desire and judgment, bringing to life a people at war in a way that is at once lyrical and shocking.

About the Author

Michèle Roberts is the author of twelve highly acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House which won the W.H. Smith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her memoir Paper Houses was BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week in June 2007. She has also published poetry and short stories, most recently collected in Mud- stories of sex and love (2010). Half-English and half-French, Roberts lives in London and in the Mayenne, France. She is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

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The Innocents

by Francesca Segal

Adam has just proposed to his childhood sweetheart. Rachel is everything he has ever wanted – pretty, kind, thoughtful, safe and sure of her place in the world. Her family loves him, they share the same friends, in fact they are a perfect young couple set for a life of married bliss and comfort in north-west London. But on to the scene comes Ellie, Rachel’s younger, sexier but vulnerable and mysterious cousin from New York.

Despite his contentment, Adam finds himself uncontrollably drawn to Ellie – her beauty is overwhelming, her history is compelling, and she comes to represent all that is missing from his life: excitement, curiosity, freedom. And so his struggle begins – should he turn towards a new life of adventure and discovery, risking all that he holds dear, or stay true to love, responsibility and the ties of his community, giving up the possibility of any alternative?

The Innocents is an age-old tale of love, temptation, confusion, commitment and coming to terms with the choices we’ve made, that – in a wry, humorous, affectionate voice – tells the story of one young man’s pre-wedding panic as he grapples with the conflicts between responsibility and passion, security and freedom, tradition and independence.

Francesca Segal’s triumphant debut invites us in to a close-knit community, where a universal drama unfolds, with assurance and grace.

About the Author

Francesca Segal was born in London in 1980. Brought up between the UK and America, she studied at Oxford University before becoming a journalist and writer. Her work has appeared in Granta, The Guardian, and The Jewish Chronicle, amongst others. She has been a features writer at Tatler, and for three years wrote the Debut Fiction column in The Observer.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette

by Maria Semple

A wildly imaginative, laugh-out-loud but also very poignant novel.

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To Elgie Branch, a Microsoft wunderkind, she’s his hilarious, volatile, talented, troubled wife. To fellow mothers at the school gate, she’s a menace. To design experts, she’s a revolutionary architect. And to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, quite simply, mum.

Then Bernadette disappears. And Bee must take a trip to the end of the earth to find her.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette is a compulsively readable, irresistibly written, deeply touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s place in the world.

About the Author

Maria Semple worked in Los Angeles as a television writer for 15 years, working on hit shows including Ellen, Saturday Night Live, Mad About You and Arrested Development. She lives in Seattle.

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Honour

by Elif Shafak

From the award-winning author of “The Forty Rules of Love” and “The Bastard of Istanbul Elif Shafak”, “Honour” is a novel of love, betrayal and a clash of cultures. “My mother died twice. I promised myself I would not let her story be forgotten…” Leaving her twin sister behind, Pembe leaves Turkey for love – following her husband Adem to London. There the Topraks hope to make new lives for themselves and their children. Yet, no matter how far they travel, the traditions and beliefs the Topraks left behind stay with them – carried in the blood.

Their eldest is the boy Iskender, who remembers Turkey and feels betrayal deeper than most. His sister is Esma, who is loyal and true despite the pain and heartache. And, lastly, Yunus, who was born in London, and is shy and different. Trapped by the mistakes of the past, the Toprak children find their lives shattered and transformed by a brutal act of murder…A powerful novel set in Turkey and London in the 1970s, “Honour” explores pain and loss, loyalty and betrayal, the trials of the immigrant, the clash of tradition and modernity, as well as the love and heartbreak that too often tears families apart.

About The Author

Elif Shafak is the acclaimed author of “The Bastard of Istanbul” and “The Forty Rules of Love” and is the most widely read female novelist in Turkey. Her work has been translated into more than thirty languages. She is a contributor for “The Telegraph”, “Guardian” and the “New York Times” and her TED talk on the politics of fiction has received 500 000 views since July 2010. She is married with two children and divides her time between Istanbul and London.

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NW

by Zadie Smith

Hobbes, Smith, Bentham, Locke and Russell.

Five identical blocks make up the Caldwell housing estate in North West London.

If you grew up in this relic of seventies urban design, the plan was to get out and get on, to something better, somewhere else. Thirty years later, Caldwell kids Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan have all moved on, with varying degrees of success – whatever that means. Living only streets apart, they occupy separate worlds, and navigate an atomized city in which few care to be their neighbour’s keeper.

Then one April afternoon a stranger comes to Leah’s door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, and forcing Leah out of her isolation . . .

From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, where the main streets hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end, NW is a quietly devastating novel of encounters.

About the Author

Zadie Smith was born in north-west London in 1975, and continues to live in the area. White Teeth is her first novel and won awards for Best Book and Best Female Newcomer at the BT Emma Awards (Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards), the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread Prize for a first novel in 2000, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction 2000, the WH Smith Book Award for New Talent, the Frankfurt eBook Award for Best Fiction Work Originally Published in 2000 and both the Commonwealth Writers First Book Award and Overall Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Her other novels are The Autograph Man and On Beauty, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2005 and won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006. She also edited the collection of contemporary short fiction The Book of Other People, and wrote Changing My Mind, a collection of personal and cultural essays.

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Alif the Unseen

by G. Willow Wilson

Welcome to the Empty Quarter, the domain of Djinn, ghouls, demons and the effrit who take the shapes of beasts. You used to walk among us, and we among you. Now things are different. Now we are Unseen.

Alif is a 23-year-old Arab/Indian hacker working in the Arab Emirates. His job is to provide security to enemies of the Arab states, ranging from pornographers to militant Islamists. Alif has fallen in love with the beguiling Intisar, an aristocratic woman he meets online. But their budding love affair is cruelly ended when her father arranges a marriage for her with a man of her class… a man who turns out to be the state’s leading censor, a shadowy and powerful figure known only as ‘the Hand’. The state security forces come after Alif with guns drawn, and he must go underground, trying all the while to fight back against a piece of code he wrote to protect his lover but which the Hand is using to create the most sophisticated state surveillance the world has ever known.

As their final communication, Intisar sends the heartbroken Alif a mysterious old book. Bound in what looks like human skin, and titled The Thousand and One Days, Alif soon realizes that this token of affection is actually a dangerous source of old world magic. And as the keeper of this amulet – the secret book of the jinn – Alif is about to become a wanted fugitive from both the corporeal and the celestial worlds…A life and death struggle ensues as the might of heaven and earth is unleashed.

About the Author

G. Willow Wilson was born in New Jersey in 1982 and raised in Colorado. Shortly after graduating from Boston University, Willow moved to Cairo, where she converted to Islam. She divides her time between Cairo and Seattle. Wilson’s graphic novel, Cairo, was named a Best Graphic Novel of 2007 by Publishers Weekly, the Edmonton Journal/CanWest News, and Comics Worth Reading. Wilson is also the author of two comics series: Air, which was nominated for the 2009 Eisner Award for Best New Series; and Vixen, winner of the 2009 Glyph Comics Fan Award for Best Comic; she is the first Muslim writer to be recognised for either award.

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Hilary Mantel : “Well, I don’t know, you wait 20 years for a Booker Prize and two come along at once.”

From the Man Booker website: Hilary Mantel is tonight named the winner of the £50,000 ($81,000) Man Booker Prize for Fiction for her novel Bring up the Bodies, published by Fourth Estate.

Hilary Mantel is the first woman and the first British author to win the prize twice. She is only the third double winner alongside J.M. Coetzee and Peter Carey. She is also the first person to win the prize for two novels in a trilogy, following her success in 2009 with Wolf Hall.

Hilary was previously longlisted in 2005 for Beyond Black. She was also a judge for the prize in 1990 when A.S. Byatt won with Possession.

Bring up the Bodies is the second win for Fourth Estate, following the success of Wolf Hall. The second book in Mantel’s trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, Bring up the Bodies charts the bloody downfall of Anne Boleyn. Mantel has been widely praised for her rich ‘descriptive intimacy’ (Telegraph), ‘novelistic intelligence’ (New Yorker) and ability to transport the reader to the fifteenth century. Margaret Atwood praised her in The Guardian, saying ‘literary invention does not fail her: she’s as deft and verbally adroit as ever’, whilst the judges admired Mantel’s ‘even greater mastery of method, her powerful realism in the separateness of past and present – and the vivid depiction of English character and landscape’.

Sir Peter Stothard, Chair of judges, made the announcement at the awards dinner which was televised live by the BBC from London’s Guildhall. Mantel was presented with a cheque for £50,000 by Peter Clarke, Chief Executive of Man.

Sir Peter comments: ‘This double accolade is uniquely deserved. Hilary Mantel has rewritten the rules for historical fiction. In Bring up the Bodies, our greatest modern writer retells the origins of modern England.’

Winning the prize in 2009 brought Hilary Mantel worldwide recognition and record sales; winning the prize this year will mean a further considerable increase. In addition to her £50,000 prize, she was also given, along with the rest of the 2012 shortlist, £2,500 and a specially commissioned handbound edition of her book.

Stothard was joined on the 2012 judging panel by: Dinah Birch, academic and literary critic; Amanda Foreman, historian, writer and broadcaster; Dan Stevens, actor; and Bharat Tandon, academic, writer and reviewer.

This year’s shortlist has been widely acclaimed. With the judging panel’s emphasis on the role of the novelist in renewing the English language, the media has celebrated the ‘return of the literary novel’ with the Man Booker Prize.

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Cherise Saywell, author of Desert Fish, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Cherise Saywell

author of Desert Fish

Ten Terrifying Questions

———————

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Northern NSW, in Lismore, the oldest of four girls. I grew up nearby in Casino. I hung about after I left school, failed miserably as a trainee accountant, and then worked as a receptionist in an aged care home before moving to Brisbane and going to university. In my late twenties I travelled to Scotland on a working holiday. I met my partner there, and we have two sons.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

I can’t remember what I wanted to be when I was twelve. I didn’t think so far ahead at that age. I thought girls grew into Continue reading

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. A review by novelist Kylie Ladd.

You don’t need me to tell you that Wolf Hall, by British novelist Hilary Mantel, is good. It won the 2009 Man Booker prize, and was also shortlisted for the 2009 Costa Novel award and 2010 Orange Prize for fiction. That sort of success speaks for itself. Clearly, the novel is good.

What I can tell you, though, is that the book is absolutely gripping, mesmerising and magnificent. I chose Wolf Hall almost purely on the basis of its length (650 pages) when looking for something to take away with me on a two-week driving trip through the Kimberley region in remote north-west Australia. Knowing that I’d be spending at least four- and sometimes up to eight- hours in the passenger seat every day, and sure that the scenery couldn’t be gripping for all that time, I was after a book that was. Something big, in every sense of the word, something so vast I could lose myself in it. Wolf Hall delivered in spades.

Guest Reviewer, novelist Kylie Ladd.

In a nutshell, Wolf Hall is the story of six years in the reign of King Henry VIII, from 1529 to 1535. It is told from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, a commoner who rose to the position of the king’s Chief Adviser, and who is said to have been “as great a statesman as England has ever seen”. Since I’ve started raving about the book, a number of friends have complained to me that they couldn’t get into it, with one (writer Kate Hunter) despairing that it had “more characters than Twitter”. Admittedly, the political machinations detailed in Wolf Hall are quite complex at times, and it’s possible that I had an advantage as a reader having previously studied British History at university.

That said, all you really need to know is that in the period that the book is Continue reading

Barbara Kingsolver Wins The Orange Prize

LONDON (AP) – American novelist Barbara Kingsolver took home the prestigious Orange Prize for Fiction on Wednesday with her sixth novel, The Lacuna, beating bookmakers’ favorite Hilary Mantel.

Kingsolver, who had not published a novel in nine years, said she was “stunned and thrilled” as she received the 30,000 pound ($45,000 ) prize — open to any novel by a woman published in English — at London’s Royal Festival Hall.

“We chose The Lacuna because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy” Daisy Goodwin, chair of judges said.

WINNER!

The Lacuna

Barbara Kingsolver

‘You had better write all this in your notebook, she said, the story of what happened to us in Mexico. So when nothing is left of us but bones, someone will know where we went.’

The Lacuna is a gripping story of identity, connection with our past, and the power of words to create or devastate. Crossing two decades, from the vibrant revolutionary murals of Mexico City to the halls of a Congress bent on eradicating the colour red, The Lacuna is as deep and rich as the New World itself.

$16.95 Save 32% Buy Now – Click Here

Runners Up:

The Very Thought of You

Rosie Alison

England, 31st August 1939: the world is on the brink of war. As Hitler prepares to invade Poland, thousands of children are evacuated from London to escape the impending Blitz. Torn from her mother, eight-year-old Anna Sands is relocated with other children to a large Yorkshire estate which has been opened up to evacuees by Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton, an enigmatic childless couple.

Soon Anna gets drawn into their unravelling relationship, seeing things that are not meant for her eyes – and finding herself part-witness and part-accomplice to a love affair, with unforeseen consequences. A story of longing, loss and complicated loyalties, combining a sweeping narrative with subtle psychological observation, The Very Thought of You is not just a love story but a story about love. Buy Now.

Black Water Rising

Attica Locke

“This is a stunning crime noir read from début author, and it has been getting a lot of attention overseas. Black Water Rising is laid out so clearly you can feel the sweat of the Bayou heat trickling down between your shoulder blades, you can see the marshes oozing, you can feel the pulse in the temple of its hero, journeyman Afro American lawyer Jay Porter.

Attica Locke weaves a tangled web of murder and intrigue, court room drama, set-up and counter set-up, unholy alliance of politics and business. Most of all, she tells a story of a man held ransom by his past. And Porter’s past plunges straight right back to the birth, and some might say abrupt strangling, of the civil rights movement in America.

Attica Locke has been getting a lot of attention for her début novel, and a lot of excellent reviews. With an action-oriented plot she has made a tight, tense thriller out of it, a story where the big picture is just as menacing as the personal drama. Talk about the sins of the father being visited on the son. I couldn’t put this one down.” Toni Whitmont, Booktopia BUZZ Editor-in Chief. Buy Now.

Wolf Hall

Hilary Mantel

Go backstage during the most dramatic period in English history: the reign of Henry VIII.

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey’s clerk, and later his successor.

From one of our finest living writers, WOLF HALL is that very rare thing: a truly great English novel, one that explores the intersection of individual psychology and wider politics. With a vast array of characters, and richly overflowing with incident, it peels back history to show us Tudor England as a half-made society, moulding itself with great passion, suffering and courage. Buy Now.

A Gate at the Stairs

Lorrie Moore

With America quietly gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, a ‘half-Jewish’ farmer’s daughter from the plains of the Midwest, has come to university – escaping her provincial home to encounter the complex world of culture and politics. When she takes a job as a part-time nanny to a couple who seem at once mysterious and glamorous, Tassie is drawn into the life of their newly-adopted child and increasingly complicated household. As her past becomes increasingly alien to her – her parents seem older when she visits; her disillusioned brother ever more fixed on joining the military – Tassie finds herself becoming a stranger to herself.

As the year unfolds, love leads her to new and formative experiences – but it is then that the past and the future burst forth in dramatic and shocking ways. Refracted through the eyes of this memorable narrator, A Gate at the Stairs is a lyrical, beguiling and wise novel of our times. Buy Now.

The White Woman on the Green Bicycle

Monique Roffey

When George and Sabine Harwood arrive in Trinidad from England as young newlyweds, they have with them just a couple of suitcases and Sabine’s prized green bicycle. Their intention is to stay for not more than three years, but George falls in love with the island. Sabine, however, is ill at ease with the racial segregation and unrest in her new home, and takes solace in the freedom of her green bicycle.

George and Sabine become more entangled in their life on the island – in all its passion and betrayals – and Sabine’s bicycle takes her places she wouldn’t otherwise go. One day George makes a discovery that forces him to realise the extent of the secrets between them, and is seized by an urgent, desperate need to prove his love for her – with tragic consequences. Buy Now.
Click Here to View Past Winners

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