Aug 02, 2021
The romance of her heroine’s ‘rebellious’ red hair is much more of a feature in the Duchess of York’s historical novel than sex
She is a spirited, Titian-haired, freckled beauty, whose curls just won’t quit. While initially submitting to the strictures of high society and the tribulations of the marriage market, she endures a pasting from the press before emerging triumphant, throwing off the weight of expectations to become her true self. And write a children’s book.
The heroine of the Duchess of York’s debut novel for adults, Lady Margaret Montagu Douglas Scott, bears no small resemblance to its author, in both looks and life story. Her Heart for a Compass is out on Tuesday from romance publisher Mills & Boon, but readers hoping for the sexy shenanigans usually found in the publisher’s output will be disappointed. While Margaret indulges in a handful of kisses, and at one point has a man “adjusting his kilt, swearing under his breath”, the pleasures she experiences are all very much above the waistline. Continue reading...
Jul 30, 2021
Thought to be the first blue-collar female novelist, Holdsworth once outsold HG Wells. Now reprints and an alternative blue plaque aim to restore her reputation
Ethel Carnie Holdsworth wrote in 1914 that “literature up till now has been lopsided, dealing with life only from the standpoint of one class”. Now the Lancashire mill worker and author, a forgotten name who is believed to be the first working-class woman in Britain to publish a novel, and who in her heyday outsold HG Wells, is set to be celebrated with an alternative blue plaque and a return to print.
Born in Oswaldtwistle in Lancashire in 1886, Holdsworth began working in a textile factory at the age of 11. She also wrote poetry, saying that the rhythm of the looms helped her compose her lines. Dubbed the “Lancashire mill girl poetess” by the local paper, she came to the attention of journalist Robert Blatchford, who gave her a job on his magazine, the Woman Worker. Holdsworth published her first novel, Miss Nobody, in 1913 and went on to write a further nine. She also set up anti-fascist journal the Clear Light, and helped other working-class women learn to read and write. She stopped writing novels in 1946, worn out by the process according to her daughter. Continue reading...
Jul 29, 2021
Clare Dunkel, who was diagnosed only months ago, wrote 10 thrillers under the pen name and has been remembered as a ‘ferociously inventive’ presence
British crime novelist Mo Hayder, whose dark, shocking thrillers won her the title of “queen of fear”, has died at the age of 59 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December.
Hayder was the pen name for Clare Dunkel. Her death was announced by her publisher Transworld, which said she had “fought valiantly” since her diagnosis on 22 December, but that “the disease progressed at an alarming rate”. Continue reading...
Jul 28, 2021
The craft store had acquired the 3,600-year-old artefact for its Bible museum, but court says it had been smuggled and should be returned to Iraq
A rare and ancient tablet showing part of the epic of Gilgamesh, which had been acquired by Christian arts and crafts retailer Hobby Lobby for display in its museum of biblical artefacts, has been seized by the US government.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) alleges that the 3,600-year-old “Gilgamesh Dream Tablet”, which originated in a region that is now part of Iraq, was acquired in 2003 by an American antiquities dealer, “encrusted with dirt and unreadable”, from the family member of a London coin dealer. Once it had arrived in the US, and been cleaned, experts realised that it showed a portion of the Gilgamesh epic, one of the world’s oldest works of literature, in the Akkadian language. Continue reading...
Jul 16, 2021
Author and activist announced his departure in March but has now published resignation letter which cites ‘superficial diversity’ and ‘spiritual rot’
Author, activist and scholar Cornel West has resigned from his role as professor at Harvard University, accusing the institution of “an intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep depths”.
West, a prominent Black intellectual, had been in a dispute with Harvard over tenure. His departure from the university, and new role at Union Theological Seminary in New York, was announced in March. West has now posted his resignation letter to Harvard on his social media accounts, citing the “spiritual rot” at the US’s “market-driven universities”, and “decline and decay” at the Harvard divinity school where he taught. Continue reading...
Jul 14, 2021
New show uncovers a long tradition for princes of Wales to excuse their own behaviour by comparing it to Prince Hal’s
From Frederick in the early 18th century to Charles in our own, a series of princes of Wales have associated themselves with Shakespeare’s Prince Hal as a way to excuse youthful excesses and promise strong future leadership, according to a new exhibition exploring the relationship between Shakespeare’s works and the royal family.
Prince Hal is the boon companion of the dissolute Falstaff in Shakespeare’s plays Henry IV Parts I and II, but goes on to win military victory in Henry V. His own profligate behaviour, Hal reveals, was a trick to make his eventual character reveal more dramatic: “Herein will I imitate the sun, / Who doth permit the base contagious clouds / To smother up his beauty from the world, / That, when he please again to be himself, / Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at.” Continue reading...
Jul 14, 2021
Public sympathy for the defeated England striker has sent sales rocketing for his inspirational life guide for kids
Marcus Rashford’s children’s book You Are a Champion has shot to the top of the charts in the days after England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy.
A guide for young people in which the footballer shares stories from his own life and reveals how to “dream big” and “find your team”, You Are a Champion was published at the end of May, co-written with journalist Carl Anka. It topped the children’s bestseller charts for four weeks until it was knocked off by David Walliams’ new novel Megamonster. Continue reading...
Jul 13, 2021
Original scroll of The 120 Days of Sodom, written while the writer was jailed in the Bastille, has been bought as an ‘emblem of artistic freedom’
The manuscript of the Marquis de Sade’s infamous erotic tale The 120 Days of Sodom has been acquired by the French government for €4.55m, following a campaign to keep it in the country. Continue reading...
Jul 13, 2021
A brilliant slice of suburban nightmare, a tense airborne drama and the return of India’s first female detective, Persis Wadia
Sarah Langan Continue reading...
Titan Books, £8.99, pp304
Jul 08, 2021
Líra Könyv made to pay £600 for failing to clearly indicate the story featured ‘a family that is different than a normal family’
A bookshop chain in Hungary has been fined for selling a children’s story depicting a day in the life of a child with same-sex parents, with officials condemning the picture book for featuring such families.
The picture book, Micsoda család!, is a Hungarian translation combining two titles by US author Lawrence Schimel and illustrator Elīna Brasliņa: Early One Morning, which shows a young boy’s morning with his two mothers, and Bedtime, Not Playtime!, in which a young girl with two fathers is reluctant to go to sleep. Continue reading...
Jul 02, 2021
Academic was asked to be available at short notice ‘when Johnson found space in his diary’, but turned the project down
One of the UK’s most eminent Shakespeare scholars has revealed that they were approached by a representative of Boris Johnson to help him write his very delayed biography of the Bard.
The book, titled Shakespeare: The Riddle of Genius, and Johnson’s failure to finish it, recently made its way back into the news after Downing Street was forced to deny rumours that the prime minister had missed important Cobra meetings during the pandemic in order to work on the manuscript. Continue reading...
Jul 01, 2021
The Manningtree Witches takes the £10,000 first novel award for its ‘clever and unexpected’ story of a 17th-century Suffolk village’s moral panic
AK Blakemore has won the Desmond Elliott prize for best debut, with her historical novel about the English witch trials of the 17th century, The Manningtree Witches, praised by judges as a “stunning achievement”.
Following the story of Rebecca West, who is husbandless, fatherless and barely tolerated by the villagers of Manningtree, Essex, the novel depicts the fallout as pious newcomer Matthew Hopkins begins to ask after the women on the margins of society. It is Blakemore’s first novel, although the author has previously published two collections of poetry. Continue reading...
Jun 30, 2021
The author was repeatedly told that no one wanted to read fun books with disabled heroes. Now she has won the £5,000 Waterstones children’s book prize for her debut, A Kind of Spark
When Scottish author Elle McNicoll was first trying to enter the publishing world, she was repeatedly told that people didn’t want to read about an autistic heroine. “In job interviews, I was saying that I wanted to see more books with disabled characters in them that were not traumatic, boring or educational, but fun and full of life. A lot of the reactions were, ‘Waterstones don’t like books like that’,” she says.
Now McNicoll’s debut novel A Kind of Spark has won the Waterstones children’s book prize. Published by tiny independent Knights Of, it follows Addie, an 11-year-old autistic girl, as she campaigns for a memorial to the witch trials that took place in her Scottish village. The novel has been praised by Waterstones’ booksellers as “eye opening, heart-wrenching, sad [and] inspiring”. Continue reading...
Jun 30, 2021
While Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett never wrote a sequel, they did sketch out a plot that will now form a second season. If they wanted to continue the story, I want to watch it
In 2017, when Neil Gaiman first sat down in St James’s Park, London, ready to start filming the television adaptation of Good Omens, his showrunner’s chair collapsed under him. “I thought, that’s not really a good omen,” he wrote.
When Gaiman announced on Tuesday that the BBC and Amazon are making a second season of the hit show, moving beyond the novel Gaiman co-wrote with Terry Pratchett in 1990, his website collapsed under the sheer volume of traffic. I’d take that as, to quote Gaiman, a “really bloody excellent” omen. Continue reading...
Jun 27, 2021
Charles Dickens Museum opens new display, which will encourage visitors to follow in the author’s footsteps around the nearby sites that inspired the novel
When Charles Dickens was writing Oliver Twist in 1837, he required a suitably horrible magistrate to preside over Oliver’s trial for pick-pocketing. Dickens knew exactly who to base the character on: a notorious Mr Laing, who worked in Hatton Garden, down the road from the author’s London home on Doughty Street.
Dickens asked an acquaintance to “smuggle” him into Laing’s offices. The man would go on to appear in the novel, thinly disguised as the dreadful Mr Fang, a man of “flushed face” who, “if he were really not in the habit of drinking rather more than was exactly good for him, he might have brought action against his countenance for libel, and have recovered heavy damages”. Continue reading...
Jun 25, 2021
Summer, written at speed last year, takes political fiction award while Joshua Yaffa’s Between Two Fires takes matching nonfiction honour
Ali Smith has won the Orwell prize for political fiction for Summer, a novel written at speed last year, which judges described as “a time-capsule which will prove to be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the mood of Britain during this turbulent time”.
The Scottish author came up with her project to write four political novels in real time back in 2015, starting with Autumn. Smith began writing Summer, the final book in her Seasonal Quartet, in January 2020 and it was published in August. The novel includes references to Covid-19, Australian wildfires, Brexit and the murder of George Floyd. Continue reading...
Jun 25, 2021
Young TikTok users are sharing their passion for books with millions – bringing titles they love to life online and reshaping the publishing world, all in under a minute
In August 2020, Kate Wilson, a 16-year-old from Shrewsbury, posted on the social media video platform TikTok a series of quotes from books she had read, “that say I love you, without actually saying I love you”. Set to a melancholy soundtrack, the short video plays out as Wilson, an A-level student, holds up copies of the books with the quotes superimposed over them. “You have been the last dream of my soul,” from A Tale of Two Cities. “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same,” from Wuthering Heights. “Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own,” from Jane Eyre. It has been viewed more than 1.2m times.
Wilson’s TikTok handle, @kateslibrary, is among the increasingly popular accounts posting on #BookTok, a corner of TikTok devoted to reading, which has clocked up 9.6bn views and counting, and has been described as the last wholesome place on the internet. Here, users – predominantly young women – post short videos inspired by the books they love. Those that do best are fun, snappy takes on literature and the experience of reading. “Books where the main character was sent to kill someone but they end up falling in love,” from @kateslibrary. “Things that bookworms do,” from @abbysbooks. “When you were 12 and your parents caught you crying over a book,” from @emilymiahreads. Continue reading...
Jun 24, 2021
Rediscovered papers thought to record the memories of a longstanding friend say the ‘father of liberalism’ plagiarised and lied about never reading Thomas Hobbes
John Locke is regarded today as one of England’s greatest philosophers, an Enlightenment thinker known as the “father of liberalism”. But a previously unknown memoir attributed to one of his close friends paints a different picture – of a vain, lazy and pompous man who “amused himself with trifling works of wit”, and a plagiarist who “took from others whatever he was able to take”.
Dr Felix Waldmann, a history lecturer at Cambridge, found the short memoir at the British Library while looking through the papers of 18th-century historian Thomas Birch, who had acquired a trove of manuscripts from his contemporaries. Among these were drafts of a preface to an edition of Locke’s minor works by Huguenot journalist Pierre des Maizeaux. Sandwiched between Des Maizeaux’s drafts were five pages written in French, in which the journalist had recorded an interview with an anonymised “Mr …” about Locke. Continue reading...
Jun 22, 2021
Ambrose Follows His Nose, found half-finished last year among the late children’s author’s papers, will be published to mark his centenary in 2022
An unfinished manuscript by the late children’s author Dick King-Smith that was discovered in his daughter’s loft will be published this year, after it was completed by his great-granddaughter.
Beloved for his stories of talking animals, King-Smith died in 2011 at the age of 88, leaving more than 100 books behind him, from his debut The Fox Busters, published when he was in his 50s, to The Sheep-Pig, which was adapted into the film Babe. Continue reading...
Jun 21, 2021
Appeal has so far raised more than $200,000, after the two-storey Samir Mansour bookshop, containing tens of thousands of books, was bombed in May
Donations of money and books from around the world have flooded in to help rebuild one of Gaza’s largest booksellers, the two-storey Samir Mansour bookshop, which was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in May.
Founded 21 years ago by Palestinian Mansour, the shop was a much-loved part of the local community and contained tens of thousands of books in various languages covering everything from philosophy and art history to fiction and children’s books. It was reduced to rubble on 18 May, during the 11-day conflict that killed more than 250 people in Gaza and 13 in Israel. Continue reading...
Jun 17, 2021
Blue plaques left unchanged, but charity website details Blyton’s ‘old-fashioned xenophobia’ and Kipling’s ‘imperialist sentiments’
English Heritage has acknowledged the “racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit” in Enid Blyton’s writing, and the “racist and imperialist sentiments” of Rudyard Kipling, as part of its ongoing efforts to better reflect today’s values in its blue plaques.
While English Heritage’s blue plaques commemorating both authors remain unchanged, the charity’s online information about both now goes into detail about the problematic aspects of their writing and views. Continue reading...
Jun 17, 2021
Author of Fire and Fury’s final book on the Trump years, Landslide, will cover the president’s ‘tumultuous last months at the helm of the country’
Michael Wolff is set to write his third book about Donald Trump, focusing on the final days of his presidency in the provocatively titled Landslide.
Wolff shook Trump’s White House when he published the runaway bestseller Fire and Fury in 2018. An explosive exposé of the first stage of Trump’s presidency, it sold 1.7m copies around the world during its first three weeks on sale, and prompted the former US president to tweet, back when he was allowed access to Twitter: “Michael Wolff is a total loser who made up stories in order to sell this really boring and untruthful book.” Continue reading...
Jun 17, 2021
Friends of the National Libraries launch ‘once in a generation’ effort to raise £15m to buy the Honresfield library, packed with works by Brontë sisters, Jane Austen and Walter Scott
From the British Library to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, a consortium of libraries and museums have come together in an “unprecedented” effort to raise £15m and save an “astonishingly important” set of literary manuscripts for the nation.
The plans were formed after the announcement last month that the “lost” Honresfield library was to be put up for auction at Sotheby’s this summer. Almost entirely inaccessible since 1939, the library was put together by Victorian industrialists William and Alfred Law at the turn of the 20th century, and is a literary treasure trove that had experts dancing with excitement – and warning that action needed to be taken to prevent it being sold piecemeal to private collectors. Continue reading...
Jun 16, 2021
The novelist describes helping two writers who went on to insult her online, and condemns era of ‘angels jostling to out-angel one another’
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has written a detailed essay about the conduct of young people on social media “who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion”, who she says are part of a generation “so terrified of having the wrong opinions that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to think and to learn and to grow”.
Titled It Is Obscene, the essay was published by the Nigerian novelist and feminist on her website on Tuesday night. It attracted so much attention that her website temporarily crashed. Continue reading...