Black Tudors review – hidden lives revealed

Miranda Kaufmann’s account of the lives of 10 black people who made their homes in Tudor England sheds new light on our island’s story

Why and how did they come to England? How were they treated? What were their lives like? These are the questions that Miranda Kaufmann perceptively probes in Black Tudors. This account of people of African descent in Renaissance England overturns misconceptions, showing that “it is vital to understand that the British Isles have always been peopled with immigrants”. She concentrates on 10 individuals, ranging widely in social class and location, from cities to the countryside, including a royal trumpeter, a porter, a silk weaver, and an independent single woman. Meticulous research draws on sources from letters to legal papers, and Kaufmann also reflects on the challenges: “Fleshing out these biographies from the meagre documentation that remains is not easy, but it is a mission that must ...

True Stories & Other Essays by Francis Spufford – review

This career-spanning collection brings lucid thought and prose to subjects as various as landscape, books and religion

In his 2010 book, Red Plenty – stories set in Soviet Russia – Francis Spufford crossed the border between fact and fiction, fusing history and imagination to compelling effect. In his opening essay here, he asks: “Is it difficult to be truthful?” This career-spanning collection – variously covering books, religion, technology, musings on Antarctica (“I’ve found myself thinking about the strangely fictive qualities of polar landscape, so page-like in its whiteness”) – makes us consider the world anew. Unpicking complex questions in his lucid prose, Spufford shows how his geographical journeys inform his imaginative journeys.

True Stories & Other Essays by Francis Spufford is published by Yale University Press (£20). To order a copy for £17 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online ...

True Stories & Other Essays by Francis Spufford – review

This career-spanning collection brings lucid thought and prose to subjects as various as landscape, books and religion

In his 2010 book, Red Plenty – stories set in Soviet Russia – Francis Spufford crossed the border between fact and fiction, fusing history and imagination to compelling effect. In his opening essay here, he asks: “Is it difficult to be truthful?” This career-spanning collection – variously covering books, religion, technology, musings on Antarctica (“I’ve found myself thinking about the strangely fictive qualities of polar landscape, so page-like in its whiteness”) – makes us consider the world anew. Unpicking complex questions in his lucid prose, Spufford shows how his geographical journeys inform his imaginative journeys.

True Stories & Other Essays by Francis Spufford is published by Yale University Press (£20). To order a copy for £17 go to guardianbookshop.com or call 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online ...

Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck – review

A retired Berlin professor finds a new role among African asylum seekers in Jenny Erpenbeck’s gripping new novel translated by Susan Bernofsky

Time has begun to torture Richard, a recently retired university professor in Berlin, mired in lonely memories and worried that his former colleagues won’t miss him. One evening he sees a news report about a group of African asylum seekers on hunger strike in the city. He is moved by their plight and decides to research the refugee crisis, befriending them and offering practical and emotional support. Likewise, they help him in unexpected ways.

This new novel by the author of The End of Days and Visitation is full of departures and disappearances. It is both a gripping story about the life of the modern migrant and a meditation on how we all find meaning in life.

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Joan: The Remarkable Life of Joan Leigh Fermor review – vivid focus

Simon Fenwick’s compelling portrait reveals the photographer was much more than just a travel companion to her famous husband

In this engrossing biography, the woman hitherto overshadowed by her husband is brought from black-and-white to full colour: a talented professional photographer, she left behind 3,000 pictures and a treasure trove of letters, from which archivist Fenwick pieces together a powerful portrait.

Joan’s adventures with the travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, whom she met in Cairo in 1944 and remained with until her death, are evocatively chronicled. Their peripatetic lives included journeys through Greece, the Caribbean islands and the jungles of central America. She encouraged his “psychological need to write”, and we see her influence on his work.

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The City Always Wins by Omar Robert Hamilton review – a stirring debut

The Egyptian revolution of 2011, seen through the eyes of two young activists, is vividly brought to life in this moving chronicle of mortality

Cairo is the city evoked in this ambitious debut novel and it is seen from a prismatic range of perspectives, including those of Mariam and Khalil, two young activists whose lives are thrown into turmoil by the Arab spring. The couple work for a media collective that disseminates information about repression and revolution in a narrative spliced with tweets, Facebook posts and newspaper headlines, compellingly exploring the powers and pitfalls of communication. The author is also a film-maker and a cinematic style captures both brutality and beauty, from “the echo of bullets ricocheting through the air” to “the chorus of birds that fills the dusk air in Zamalek”. The novel also travels into the hearts of the people who inhabit this city (“the unending city of ...