A pinch and a punch for the first of the month!
December, it seems, is a rather quiet month when it comes to new releases, so trying to find books to feature here has been a bit of a tough job. However, the good news is that many of the books coming out in the UK this month are lovely gift editions, perfect for Christmas presents I dare say.
The books have been arranged in alphabetical order according to author's surname.
Considered one the masterpieces of realist fiction, George Eliot’s novel, 'Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life', explores a fictional 19th century Midlands town in the midst of modern changes. The proposed Reform Bill promises political change; the building of railroads alters both the physical and cultural landscape; new scientific approaches to medicine incite public division; and scandal lurks behind respectability. The quiet drama of ordinary lives and flawed choices are played out in the complexly portrayed central characters of the novel — the idealistic Dorothea Brooke; the ambitious Dr. Lydgate; the spendthrift Fred Vincy; and the steadfast Mary Garth. The appearance of two outsiders further disrupts the town’s equilibrium — Will Ladislaw, the spirited nephew of Dorothea’s husband, the Rev. Edward Casaubon, and the sinister John Raffles, who threatens to expose the hidden past of one of the town’s elite. 'Middlemarch' displays George Eliot’s clear-eyed yet humane understanding of characters caught up in the mysterious unfolding of self-knowledge.
This is part of a new series of 26 collectible hardcover editions, featuring a specially commissioned illustrated letter of the alphabet by type designer Jessica Hische. (More information about the series on the Classic Penguin blog.) I've chosen 'E is for Eliot' because Middlemarch is one of those classics I've been meaning to read for ages... I did give it a whirl about 7 or 8 years ago, but maybe it's time to pick it up again — and what better excuse do I need to treat myself to this lovely new edition?
One of the books that 'everybody should read', this was named the 'second greatest novel of the 20th century' by the Modern Library and has now been filmed six times, including the latest version directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. This deluxe collector's edition of the timeless classic comes with a luxurious slipcase. With its haunting and evocative depiction of the Roaring Twenties and post-war America, and the backdrop of 1920s America, with its emerging consumerism, glamour and disillusionment, makes this novel historically relevant and engaging. With psychologically complex characters and an enigmatic antihero at its core, 'The Great Gatsby' is truly a masterpiece of literary fiction, and a classic that everyone should read.
This is an old favourite (my review is here), but this edition looks lovely — and at £7.99 very good value.
‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’, both winners of The Man Booker Prize, in 2009 and 2012 respectively, are the first two instalments in Hilary Mantel’s Tudor trilogy. Through the eyes and ears of Thomas Cromwell, the books’ narrative prism, we are shown Tudor England, the court of King Henry VIII. Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with a delicate and deadly expertise in manipulating people and events. In ‘Wolf Hall’ we witness Cromwell’s rise, beginning as clerk to Cardinal Wolsey, Henry’s chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. He is soon to become his successor. By 1535, when the action of ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ begins, Cromwell is Chief Minister to Henry, his fortunes having risen with those of Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife. Anne’s days, though, are marked. Cromwell watches as the king falls in love with silent, plain Jane Seymour, sensing what Henry’s affection will mean for his queen, for England, and for himself.
I've read quite a few of Hilary Mantel's books, and I've enjoyed them all, including her memoir (you can read my reviews here), but I am yet to read either of these titles. They look very attractive, if rather hefty, in this slipcase....
From its beginnings as a pestilent port and colonial backwater, Hong Kong became the 'pearl' of a declining British empire, and then ascended to its present status as a gleaming city of commerce. Throughout its history, Hong Kong has been steeped in drama, intrigue, and seismic social shifts. Shih Shu-ching, an acclaimed Taiwanese writer, sets her epic tale of one beautiful and determined woman's family amid this rich and colorful history, capturing in vivid, panoramic detail the unique tensions and atmosphere that characterize the city. After being kidnapped from her home in rural China, Huang, the novel's heroine, is brought to Hong Kong and sold into prostitution. Thanks to her shrewd, sometimes devious business dealings and unexpected twists of fate, she emerges from these cruel beginnings to become a wealthy landowner. 'City of the Queen' follows the fortunes of Huang's family, including those of her devoutly Christian daughter-in-law, who tries to redeem the sins she believes Huang has committed; her grandson, who becomes the first Chinese judge on the Hong Kong Supreme Court; and her great-granddaughter, a quintessential Hong Kong young woman, who turns her back on family tradition to revel in the pleasures offered by the 1970s and 1980s metropolis. Critically praised and long popular in the Chinese-speaking world, 'City of the Queen' is now available for the first time in English.
I went through a phase of reading Chinese fiction, but haven't read any for about a year. This one sounds particularly good, although the price (£44) is a bit out of my range right now. It is part of a series of modern Chinese literature in translation from Taiwan.
'Brideshead Revisited' is Evelyn Waugh's stunning novel of duty and desire set amongst the decadent, faded glory of the English aristocracy in the run-up to the Second World War. The most nostalgic and reflective of Evelyn Waugh's novels, it looks back to the golden age before the Second World War. It tells the story of Charles Ryder's infatuation with the Marchmains and the rapidly disappearing world of privilege they inhabit. Enchanted first by Sebastian Flyte at Oxford, then by his doomed Catholic family, in particular his remote sister, Julia, Charles comes finally to recognise his spiritual and social distance from them.
Little Brown is republishing Evelyn Waugh's back catalogue in these lovely hardcover editions (the full range is available from the Hatchette Book Group website). I've never read Brideshead Revisited, but I watched the 2008 film earlier this year and adored it.
________________________________________________________________________Please note that the release dates quoted are for the UK and are subject to change. Are there any on this list that have piqued your interest?