‘I seem to have banged on this year rather more than usual. I make no apology for that, nor am I nervous that it will it make a jot of difference. I shall still be thought to be kindly, cosy and essentially harmless. I am in the pigeon-hole marked ‘no threat’ and did I stab Judi Dench with a pitchfork I should still be a teddy bear.’
Alan Bennett’s third collection of prose Keeping On Keeping On follows in the footsteps of the phenomenally successful Writing Home and Untold Stories, each published ten years apart. This latest collection contains Bennett’s peerless diaries 2005 to 2015, reflecting on a decade that saw four premieres at the National Theatre (The Habit of Art, People, Hymn and Cocktail Sticks), a West End double-bill transfer, and the films of The History Boys and The Lady in the Van.
There’s a provocative sermon on private education given before the University at King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, and ‘Baffled at a Bookcase’ offers a passionate defence of the public library. The book includes Denmark Hill, a darkly comic radio play set in suburban south London, as well as Bennett’s reflections on a quarter of a century’s collaboration with Nicholas Hytner. This is an engaging, humane, sharp, funny and unforgettable record of life according to the inimitable Alan Bennett.
Publisher: Profile Faber
“For the second time in my life—and I am now seventy—I am embarking on an effort which may well come to nothing but which has possessed my mind, haunts, and will not let me sleep.”
From her opening statement, Cam, the narrator of The Magnificent Spinster, declares her grand intentions: to write a novel—a worthy and important one in celebration of her recently deceased friend and teacher, Jane Reid, whose dearth of family threatens the memory of her almost tangible greatness. And so she writes, re-creating Jane’s childhood, adolescence, and years as a teacher—including the one in which Cam was her student. She writes of Jane’s irrepressible spirit and the charming letters Jane penned about her adventures, and she recounts Jane’s growing isolation as she aged, which, rather than softening her, only made her shine brighter.
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
After seventy-six-year-old Caro Spencer suffers a heart attack, her family sends her to a private retirement home to wait out the rest of her days. Her memory growing fuzzy, Caro decides to keep a journal to document the daily goings-on—her feelings of confinement and boredom; her distrust of the home’s owner, Harriet Hatfield, and her daughter, Rose; her pity for the more incapacitated residents; her resentment of her brother, John, for leaving her alone. The journal entries describe not only her frustrations, but also small moments of beauty—found in a welcome visit from her minister, or in watching a bird in the garden. But as she writes, Caro grows increasingly sensitive to the casual atrocities of retirement-home life. Even as she acknowledges her mind is beginning to fail, she is determined to fight back against the injustices foisted upon the home’s occupants.
Publisher: The Women’s Press Ltd
‘Two years after my mother died, my father fell in love with a glamorous blonde Ukrainian divorcée. He was eighty-four and she was thirty-six. She exploded into our lives like a fluffy pink grenade, churning up the murky water, bringing to the surface a sludge of sloughed-off memories, giving the family ghosts a kick up the backside.’
Sisters Vera and Nadezhda must aside a lifetime of feuding to save their émigré engineer father from voluptuous gold-digger Valentina. With her proclivity for green satin underwear and boil-in-the-bag cuisine, she will stop at nothing in her pursuit of Western wealth.
But the sisters’ campaign to oust Valentina unearths family secrets, uncovers fifty years of Europe’s darkest history and sends them back to roots they’d much rather forget . . ..
“Deric Longden’s mum was a wonderfully endearing, eccentric lady whose passions ranged from pot plants and her beloved pussycats to Buttercup Syrup which she consumed in vast quantities. She also provided comfort, advice and her own particular brand of wisdom in the years when Deric was struggling after the death of his first wife, Diana. Deric’s many happy memories include the vision of his mother’s unmistakeable backside as she charged through Marks & Spencers; the way in which she charmed everyone she met, including the surliest of youths, and her unusual technique of selling a house which involved plying potential buyers with iced buns whilst pointing out the damp patches and dodgy electrics. Strangely, it worked. Lost For Words is a funny, poignant and ultimately heartwarming book that may well make you cry, but will certainly make you laugh.”
“Ethel and Ernest were solid members of the English working class, part of the generation that lived through the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century. They met during the Depression–she working as a maid, he as a milkman–and we follow them as they court and marry, make a home, raise their son, and cope with the dark days of World War II. Briggs’s portrayal of how his parents succeeded, or failed, in coming to terms with the events of their rapidly shifting world–the advent of radio, television, and telephones; the development of the atomic bomb; the moon landing; the social and political turmoil of the sixties–is irresistibly engaging, full of sympathy and affection, yet clear-eyed and unsentimental.”
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf