Tomi Adeyemi: ‘We need a black girl fantasy book every month’

Author of Children of Blood and Bone says her debut novel was a response to genre fiction in which the characters were always white

It has been called the biggest fantasy debut novel of 2018, drawing comparisons with everything from Game of Thrones to Black Panther, and has netted a movie deal reported to be worth seven figures.

But Tomi Adeyemi, the 24-year-old Nigerian-American author of Children of Blood and Bone, says that such success was the last thing on her mind when she sat down to write her epic tale of an oppressive world where magic has been outlawed.

Continue reading...

How I beat anorexia by savouring the lavish meals of literature

Laura Freeman had the eating disorder since her teens, but the enticing food conjured by Charles Dickens and Laurie Lee set her free

Laura Freeman was first diagnosed with anorexia aged 14. A decade later she had begun to rebuild her life but still struggled with her attitude to food, eating small portions of the same thing for months on end. “At 24, I’d got to the point where I was recovered enough that I could eat, but only in a very formulaic way,” she says. “I had a pretty boring diet. It was more about getting through each day.”

Then one day she read a passage in Siegfried Sassoon’s 1928 Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man describing “a breakfast of boiled eggs eaten in winter”. It changed everything.

Continue reading...

Stalking bestseller that split German opinion arrives in UK

Dirk Kurbjuweit’s fact-based bestselling novel asks if violence can be justified in self-defence

A remarkable German novel based on the author’s disturbing real-life experience of being stalked by a neighbour is to be published in the UK later this month.

Fear, a bestseller in Germany that was recently turned into a TV movie, is the work of Dirk Kurbjuweit, deputy editor-in-chief of the current affairs magazine Der Spiegel. In 2003, Kurbjuweit’s downstairs neighbour waged an eight-month campaign against the family, This included waiting in the hallway to shout at Kurbjuweit’s wife, Bettina, trying to get into the family flat through the garden, papering the walls in the hallway with notices accusing the couple of sexually abusing their children, and writing poems and letters addressed to them filled with fantasies of murder.

Continue reading...

Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles: far more than sex and swords

This saga of a courageous 15th-century Scottish nobleman, contending over six volumes with many a lethal challenge, has kept me rapt for 30 years

‘Lymond is back.” So begins The Game of Kings, the first book in my greatest literary love affair: Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. I first discovered them while mooching around an empty classroom as a bored 16-year-old. There, among the dry textbooks and histories, was a tattered, much-thumbed book with a garish cover depicting a man and woman locked in passionate embrace. Intrigued, I picked it up. From the opening line, I was hooked.

Nearly 30 years later, nothing has changed. These are the books I reread through each pregnancy, the books I turn to for comfort whenever things get bad. I have owned four different sets, replacing each copy as they fall apart. Lines from all of them pop into my head at odd moments. ...

The true crime tale that merges murder and memoir – set to be summer’s ‘must-read’

Author of The Fact of a Body explains why case challenged her beliefs on the death penaltyFrom addictive podcasts such as S Town and Untold to must-watch TV from Making a Murderer to The Keepers, true crime is having something of a moment. Now a book that melds memoir and murder to tell a haunting story of abuse, deep-buried secrets and the power of mercy, has become the talk of the publishing industry and is set to be one of the hits of the summer. The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich weaves together two distinct histories: that of Ricky Langley, a paedophile who was convicted of the murder in 1992 of six-year-old Jeremy Guillory, and Marzano-Lesnevich’s abuse by her late maternal grandfather. Early reviews hail it as “a true crime masterpiece” and compare it to Truman Capote’s seminal In Cold Blood. It was, says Marzano-Lesnevich, a ...

Rome is mere ancient history as Greece comes roaring back

The darkness of the Greek legends chimes perfectly with the world’s troubled times, inspiring new novels, short stories and even a TV dramaMary Beard has cornered the market in ancient Rome. But the sun may be setting on her empire as the Greece of Plato and Sophocles is about to make a stirring comeback. Having thrilled theatregoers down the ages and formed the basis for modern soap operas, the stories of ancient Greece find themselves centre stage once again. This summer will see writers from Colm Tóibin to Natalie Haynes put a fresh spin on ancient tragedies, while Greek myths continue to inspire every thing from young adult fiction and children’s literature – the Waterstones children’s book of the month for February is Maz Evans’ riotous Who Let The Gods Out? – to urban fantasies such as Jordanna Max Brodsky’s Olympus Bound series. Even television is set to get ...

People, the final frontier: how sci-fi is taking on the human condition

The latest films and books in the genre focus on relationships as much as outer space thanks to the Tim Peake effectCall it the Tim Peake effect. Science fiction has always been as much about the human condition as saving the world from an alien invasion, but now a new wave of films and books are taking that interest one step further and developing an existentialist genre set in outer space. “The idea of putting a man on Mars is no longer a great leap of imagination,” said David Barnett, whose novel Calling Major Tom was inspired by the moment in 2015 when British astronaut Peake called the wrong number from the International Space Station. “In the 1970s and 80s, space travel felt like something out of science fiction, but now it’s part of modern life, with astronauts tweeting and going on YouTube, and because of that, putting space ...

‘She gave her mother 40 whacks’: the lasting fascination with Lizzie Borden

More than a century after a crime that gripped America, it is still a magnet for authors and film-makersHere in Britain if we know Lizzie Borden at all it’s probably as the gruesome subject of an infuriatingly catchy children’s rhyme: “Lizzie Borden took an axe/And gave her mother forty whacks/When she saw what she had done/She gave her father forty one”. But that is all set to change as a host of new projects including a film, Lizzie Borden, starring Chloe Sevigny and Kristen Stewart, a highly anticipated debut novel, See What I Have Done, and a revival of a cult US rock musical, Lizzie, place America’s most famous probable parricide back in the spotlight again. The new projects mark the culmination of a recent surge of interest in Borden’s story almost 125 years after she first hit the headlines. In 2014 US cable channel Lifetime ...

Zadie Smith: the smart and spiky recorder of a London state of mind

The novelist has a new book, Swing Time, and a forthcoming BBC version of her acclaimed NWThere is a scene in the BBC’s adaptation of Zadie Smith’s acclaimed novel NW in which a character listens as her old school friend holds court in her tastefully decorated north-west London home. The talk is of children and schools and house prices, and in that moment the gulf between the two is seemingly laid bare, one listening in disbelief at how far the other has travelled from the council estate they once called home. Yet behind that confident facade, the other woman is no less unsure about her place in the world, about the increasingly white and upper-middle-class world she moves in, about the part of London she still calls home that is inexorably changing day by day. It’s both a painfully acute dissection of how the bonds of old friendship bind ...

Why those subversive Brontë sisters still hypnotise us

The bicentenary of Charlotte’s birth next month has produced a slew of events that highlight the sisters’ appeal to all ages

They are beloved by everyone from misunderstood teens and fools for love to the serious-minded middle-aged and those of a critical bent. Now the Brontë sisters are taking centre stage again as the bicentenary of Charlotte’s birth next month brings a host of events at their Yorkshire home and elsewhere.

At Haworth parsonage on the bleakly beautiful Yorkshire moors, where Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne lived and wrote and now home to the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the bicentenary will be marked by a full programme from the Brontë Society. Highlights include Charlotte Great and Small, an exhibition curated by the novelist Tracy Chevalier, which combines new art works with existing pieces, and the launch of Reader, I Married Him, a collection of short stories.

Continue reading...

Raymond Briggs: ‘Don’t call me the king of Christmas. I don’t like children, I try to avoid them’

As a version of Fungus the Bogeyman is about to hit our TV screens, the author explains why he hates the festive period

Next Sunday families across the UK will settle down to watch Sky One’s Christmas highlight, a three-part take on Raymond Briggs’s much-loved comic book Fungus the Bogeyman. It comes complete with special effects from Andy Serkis’s Imaginarium studio and a cast including Timothy Spall, Victoria Wood and Keeley Hawes. It is a clever, witty visualisation of Briggs’s slime-saturated world and one that will no doubt join those other Briggs classics The Snowman and Father Christmas as part of the annual festive viewing experience.

For the 81-year-old author, however, that reputation as the King of Christmas is a cross to bear. “In the book version of The Snowman, there’s no Christmas, there’s nothing Christmassy in Fungus, and Father Christmas is anti-Christmas,” he says with an air of ...

Out with vampires, in with haunted houses: the ghost story is back

Literary stars from Gillian Flynn to David Mitchell are joining the ranks of haunting bestsellers

It has been supplanted in recent years by vampires, witches and other monsters, but now the good old-fashioned ghost story is back with a bang, with everyone from debut novelists to established literary stars such as David Mitchell and Gillian Flynn hoping to raise the hairs on readers’ necks this Halloween.

Flynn’s The Grownup, the chilly tale of a fraudulent medium and a possibly haunted Victorian home, which won an Edgar award in the US when it was published in George RR Martin’s Rogues anthology last year, will be available as a standalone tale for the first time on 3 November. Meanwhile Mitchell’s haunted house tale, Slade House, which began life on Twitter, arrives next week, as does Little Sister Death, a previously undiscovered ghost story by cult US author William Gay.

Continue reading...

WB Yeats, the art teacher and a night at the sexologist’s

The lost story of a memorable evening with the poet is to be published after years in a dusty drawer

It’s a story that has lain hidden in a plastic bag at the back of a dusty drawer and forgotten for more than 40 years before being uncovered, alongside faded letters and old diaries – a description of an extraordinary encounter between an art teacher and WB Yeats during a debate on methods to restore sexual potency.

Now Avies Platt’s account of her meeting and subsequent evening with the poet is set to be published in the London Review of Books. Platt, an art mistress at Wellingborough County High School for Girls in Northamptonshire, was in her early 40s when she met the 72-year-old Yeats at an open meeting of the Sex Education Society, a group headed by controversial sexologist Norman Haire – best-known for his practice of the Steinach ...

Toxic family dynamics subject of this summer’s hottest reads

Latest thrillers look at the dark secrets and lies behind the facade of the perfect family

Forget troubled marriages and put away all those books with “Girl” in the title – this summer’s hottest reads are all about families with something toxic at their heart.

From Debbie Howells’s debut thriller The Bones of You, which sees a seemingly perfect family torn apart after their teenage daughter disappears, to Lucy Atkins’s The Other Child, in which a single mother relocates to the US with her partner to discover that her new life is fraught with secrets, these domestic noirs turn their focus sharply on to family dynamics, asking: how well do we really know those we love the most?

Continue reading...