July Book Giveaway: win a copy of The Women of Versailles

July Giveaway The Women of Versailles

You’ll need to hurry, because there are only a few days left for you to enter our monthly giveaway – and this month, the prize is a copy of Kate Brown’s ‘extraordinarily timeless’ debut novel, The Women of Versailles.

To enter, simply sign up to the Seren newsletter before 1st August:
https://www.serenbooks.com/newsletter/signup

Book Giveaway The Women of Versailles


About The Women of Versailles:
The Women of Versailles Kate Brown
Princess Adélaïde, daughter of Louis XV, is at odds with the etiquette of the French court. Adélaïde envies her brother, is bored with her sister and, when Madame de Pompadour, a bourgeoise, comes to court as her father’s mistress, she is smitten, with dangerous results. Adélaïde pushes against the confines of the court, blind to the difference between a mistress and princess, with tragic results. Forty-four years later, under the looming shadow of the revolution, what has happened to the hopes of a young girl and the doomed regime in which she grew up?

‘Dark and rich, The Women of Versailles is filled with political intrigue, sexual awakening, and the roots of revolution.’ – Peggy Riley

 

We will pick a winner at random from all our email subscribers on 1st August. Make sure you have signed up to Seren News before then to be in with a chance of winning!

Why not give your friends a chance to win too, by recommending that they sign up to our newsletter before the end of the month using this link?
www.serenbooks.com/newsletter/signup

 

 

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Summer sale, half-price spotlight: Alun Lewis

Half price Alun Lewis summer sale

Our Legend of the Month’s extraordinary war poetry, short stories, and biographies (written by John Pikoulis) are all included in the half-price summer sale – and the offer ends this Sunday.

Who was Alun Lewis?
Alun Lewis was born on the 1st July, 1915 in Cwmaman. A pacifist by nature, Lewis nevertheless eventually joined the Royal Engineers as World War Two broke out, and later qualified as a Second Lieutenant despite how unhappy military life made him. In December 1942, he arrived at a new station in Nira, India, and in the same year his poetry collection Raiders’ Dawn was published. It would be the only collection published during his lifetime. Lewis died on 5th March, 1944, in what many maintain to be a tragic accident. After his death came the publication of his second collection of poetry, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), followed by Letters from India (1946) and In the Green Tree (1948). Most recently, Lewis’ lost novel from the 1930s, Morlais, (2015) has been brought into print for the first time, marking the centenary of this great writer’s birth.

See below for our selection of Alun Lewis titles.

Alun, Gweno & Freda by John PikoulisAlun, Gweno & Freda, John Pikoulis
£14.99  £7.49
Alun Lewis maried Gweno Ellis in 1941, but they were almost immediately separated as Lewis prepared for his deployment with the British army’s Royal Engineers. Alun, Gweno & Freda delves into the charged relationships Lewis maintained with Gweno, and with Freda Ackroyd, an expatriate in India, arguing both were key to his writing and his mental health. The circumstances surrounding Lewis’ death by a single shot from his own gun are illuminated, too, contributing to the ongoing debate about whether this was an accident or suicide.

Alun Lewis Collected PoemsAlun Lewis: Collected Poems, ed. Cary Archard
£9.99  £4.99
Lewis’ remarkable body of poetic work is skillfully brought together by editor Cary Archard. The Collected Poems includes the complete texts of his two published books, Raiders’ Dawn (1942) and Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets (1945), reprinted in chronological order and retaining the important
original section headings under which Lewis chose to arrange and group his poetry. Lewis’s two collections are a remarkably detailed and full account of the experience of becoming a soldier and going to war. As Archard states, ‘no-one can read this collection of poems, together in one volume for the first time, without being struck by how the singularity of his voice permeates a surprising diversity of forms’.

Morlais Alun LewisMorlais, Alun Lewis
£12.99  £6.49
South Wales. The Depression. Choices for young people are limited yet miner’s son Morlais Jenkins seems destined to follow the educational route out of Glannant, despite his lowly background. When the local colliery owner and his wife offer to adopt Morlais on the death of their son, his parents recognise the opportunity for an even brighter future for Morlais. But what price must each of them pay? As the story unfolds through turbulent times in their mining village, Morlais comes to a new understanding of life as he grows from a young boy into a young man.
Founded on vivid and authentic passages of everyday life, Morlais is an enthralling story of place and people and shows what an exciting talent was lost when Alun Lewis died aged only twenty-eight.

Alun Lewis: A Life, John PikoulisAlun Lewis: A Life, John Pikoulis
£8.95  £4.47
From his childhood days in the depressed valleys of South Wales, Lewis felt he had a vocation to be a writer. Pikoulis traces Lewis’s development from the remarkable schoolboy stories written as an unhappy boarder, through his university education at Aberystwyth and Manchester to his return to the valleys as a teacher. Lewis’s poems and stories, authentic and moving, were popular with both readers and critics, catching the tone of the ’phoney war’ years, and later the disturbing but exciting experience of his war in India. His vivid letters home, which have been compared to Keats’ letters, capture both the atmosphere of war and the essence of Lewis’s character, and Pikoulis draws on them to portray a fascinating man and writer.

 

Half price summer sale Seren

 

 

Legend of the Month: Alun Lewis

Legend of the Month Alun Lewis

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Alun Lewis.

Alun Lewis, the remarkable Second World War writer, died aged twenty-eight in Burma during the Second World War, but produced a vast number of poems and short fiction in the years previously.

Born and brought up near Aberdare in south Wales, Lewis read history at Aberystwyth and Manchester. After a brief period teaching and despite pacifist inclinations, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers. He later joined the South Wales Borderers and was posted to India.

Becoming a soldier had a stimulating effect on Lewis’s writing: Raiders’ Dawn, a collection of forty-seven poems, appeared in 1942 and early in 1943, The Last Inspection, a book of short stories, was published, both to considerable critical acclaim. Lewis died in an accident on active service in Burma in 1944. His second volume of poems, Ha! Ha! Among the Trumpets, was published in 1945 and his Indian short stories, together with some letters, in In The Green Tree (1948). Morlais, Lewis’ previously unpublished novel from the 1930s, was published by Seren in July 2015 to mark the centenary of his birth.

Find out more about Alun Lewis’ life and writing in John Pikoulis’ latest biography, Alun, Gweno & Freda, an illuminating account through the particular prism of Lewis’ relationships with his wife Gweno and Freda Aykroyd, an expatriate in India. If you’d like to read Alun Lewis’ poetry, we recommend Alun Lewis: Collected Poems, a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’.

 

Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

And don’t forget to sign up to our free, no-purchase-necessary Book Club for 20% off every book you buy from us.

 

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Happy Father’s Day

To all Dads, Grandads and those soon-to-be: we wish you a very happy Father’s Day. In celebration, we are happy to announce that all orders placed on our website in the next week will come with a complimentary ‘Dad joke’ to add to your collection.

Happy Father's Day
Mums, children, friends – we are so sorry. Because surely Dad won’t be able to resist treating himself to Mike Rees’ fascinating Men Who Played the Game, which pays tribute to sportsmen who fought in the Great War. He certainly won’t be able to stop himself from getting a copy of Lloyd Jones’ magnificent, newly back-in-print novel, Mr Vogel. And you can try, but we highly doubt you’ll be able to stop Dad from indulging in a little musical nostalgia with Peter Finch’s personal history of rock and pop: The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back.

 

 

So go on Dads, treat yourself.

 

Legend of the Month: Iolo Williams

Legend of the Month Iolo Williams

Each month we are celebrating one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. This month the spotlight falls on Iolo Williams.

Wild Places – Iolo Williams gIolo Williams has just returned to our TV screens with Trefi Gwyllt Iolo on S4C and BBC’s Springwatch, where in Episode 8 he goes head to head with Martin Hughes-Games, pitting two iconic birds (the barn owl and the kestrel) against each other in a challenge to see which is the ultimate hunter. So what better time to have this nature expert as our Legend of the Month?

Previously Iolo has worked as the presenter of seventeen TV shows, in two languages; he is also an author, and a public lecturer. With a degree in Ecology, he has worked in farming, timber and for the RSPB in the field, and as a regional co-ordinator. Williams is the author of five books in Welsh and two in English: Llyfr Adar, Llyfr Natur, Blwyddyn Fan Hyn a Fan Draw, Cynefin Glan Y Môr, Blwyddyn Iolo, Wild about the Wild, and most recently, Wild Places: Wales’ Top 40 Nature Sites (Seren, 2016).

Wild Places is an ode to the beauty and significance of Wales’ nature places and features forty of Iolo’s favourites, scattered all around the country. From mountains to meadows, coastal sites to towering cliffs, his list takes in all the best of what Wales has to offer, and reveals how to get the most out of each site – where to spot dolphins and salmon, where hares box and otters swim, where to see Wales’ great variety of hawks and other birds of prey.
Wild Places is available from our website: £19.99 (20% off when you join our Book Club).

Meet Iolo at our Secrets of Skomer Island event at the Teifi Marshes Centre, where he will join former Skomer warden and author, Rosanne Alexander, to talk about the island’s important landscape and wildlife.  Tickets are limited, so book now to avoid disappointment:
£5 from The Wildlife Trust website
(all ticket proceeds go to the Trust)

Rosanne Alexander Iolo Williams Skomer event

 

Find a great selection of books by our other legendary writers on the Year of Legends page.

 

 

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Legend of the Month: Ruth Bidgood

Legend of the Month Ruth Bidgood

Each month we are shining the spotlight on one fantastic Seren author in honour of Wales’ Year of Legends. Our selection for April is the poet Ruth Bidgood.

Ruth Bidgood turns 95 this year, and her poetry career spans over five decades. She was born in Blaendulais, near Neath, educated at Oxford, and worked as a coder in Alexandria, Egypt in World War Two. She has lived in mid-Wales since the mid-sixties.

Legend of the Month Ruth Bidgood

She has published fourteen books of poetry, including The Fluent Moment (Seren, 1996), Singing to Wolves (Seren, 2000), and her New and Selected Poems (Seren, 2004). Her twelfth collection, Time Being (Seren, 2009), won the Roland Mathias Prize and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her most recent collection is Land Music (Cinnamon, 2016). As well as poetry, she has written a prose book about Wales, Parishes of the Buzzard (Goldleaf, 2000), and published many articles in country historical journals.

Matthew Jarvis writes of Bidgood’s achievement: ‘The heart of Ruth Bidgood’s poetry is her varied and intertwined rendition of the mid-Wales area that she has made her home… Artistically, what she has achieved in such material is nothing less than a mid Wales epic.’

Here is ‘Legacy’, from New and Selected Poems, which featured as our Poem of the Month in the April edition of Seren News:

Ruth Bidgood 'Legacy' New and Selected Poems

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Find more of Ruth Bidgood’s poetry on the Year of Legends page, alongside books by March’s featured author, Dannie Abse.

 

 

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A literary Mother’s Day Gift: the Writing Motherhood anthology

Writing Motherhood 30% off Mother's Day

Today we welcome the arrival of Writing Motherhood, a creative anthology of poetry, interviews and essays by established writers, edited by Carolyn Jess-Cooke.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-CookeThe perfect literary gift for Mother’s Day, Writing Motherhood explores the relationship between creativity and motherhood, with contributions from writers such as Carol Ann Duffy, Sharon Olds and Hollie McNish. Until Sunday 26 March, you can buy Mum her copy at 30% off, direct from the Seren website.

‘This is a truly inspiring collection, all the more so for its wit and its grit, its poetry and its honesty; here we have women producing ‘good art’ despite – and often  because of – ‘the pram in the hall.’ – Shelley Day

Read a free excerpt from Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s Introduction, below.


INTRODUCTION

There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall.
– Cyril Connolly

This book presents a selection of the most important contemporary
writing by women on the tensions between motherhood
and writing.
Cyril Connolly wrote about the ‘pram in the hall’ in his 1938
book Enemies of Promise, yet his caveat is directed at men (he took
it as given that women create babies, not art). Nonetheless, the
quote is still in use to capture those devastating effects brought to
artistic creation by a new baby. I’m not alone when I admit the
arrival of my first child felt like stepping inside a whirlwind. I had
plenty to worry about – SIDS, whether she was gaining enough
weight, whether we could afford maternity leave, etc. – but I do
remember that among my worries was a serious concern that I
might never be able to write again. My brain felt completely
scrambled. I could barely construct a text message for weeks,
months. Time was disjointed. It seemed to take an inordinate
amount of time to do even the smallest task. I remember thinking,
over and over, why did nobody tell me how hard this is? After the birth
of my son, however, writing proved effective in pushing back the
darkness of postnatal depression, and also inspired a new direction
in my creative practice; I had always thought I would only
ever write poetry, but the problem-solving, immersive elements of
narrative proved much more potent in batting back depression.
After the births of our third and fourth children, let’s just say that
I became a bit more creative in how I managed my time.
PUBLISHING MOTHERHOOD

In 2014, Arts Council England funded my Writing Motherhood
project to tour literary festivals in the UK to discuss the impact of
motherhood on women’s writing. I had read a number of reports
and articles that claimed the key to literary success was childlessness,
or for a woman to have just one child, or at least to bear in
mind that each child ‘costs’ a female writer four books. None of
these reports aimed their caveats at men. I became curious – and
not a little dismayed – by the idealization of motherhood, and by
the casual sexism that was prevalent and unchallenged in discourses
about motherhood. I set up the Writing Motherhood
project because I wanted to empower mothers and to encourage
them to talk about their experiences. Although the assumption
about mothers and writing was that we just didn’t have the time
or inclination (we’re all too busy dealing with that pram in the
hallway!), I perceived that other forces were at work, prohibiting
women’s writing from making it into the public sphere and/or
being perceived as good literature.

 


 

A few highlights from the kalaidescope of female experience featured here are Carolyn Jess-Cooke’s interview with Sharon Olds (where she discusses her famous rejection by a US literary magazine for writing about her children), excerpts from Hollie McNish’s motherhood diary, and Carol Ann Duffy’s beautiful portrait of being and having a daughter. This is a poignant and beautiful book celebrating motherhood, recognising it not as the ‘enemy of good art’, but often as its inspiration.

Writing Motherhood 30% off Mother's Day

Writing Motherhood: 30% off until Mother’s Day (26 March). Order your copy now

 

Top of the Non-Fiction: what to buy in the half price sale

Top of the Non Fiction Seren half price sale

There’s still time to take advantage of our big January sale – which ends midnight, Friday 13th (not such an unlucky day, after all!)
All our books are half price, and that includes a gloriously diverse range of non-fiction: everything from biography to art, history to criticism. Here we pick a few of our favourites.

The Girl who Lived on Air by Stephen Wade examines the strange story of The Girl Who Lived on AirSarah Jacob, ‘the Welsh fasting girl’. Though not the first anorexic, she was arguably the first to cause a national furore, and was made to be the centre of a lucrative and also media-hungry ‘spin’ on the nineteenth century nexus of knowledge between science and superstition, folk-belief and religious asceticism. Stephen Wade covers new ground in examining the medical issues surrounding the case, the legal complexities, the prison life of Sarah’s parents, and the significance of folklore and superstition.
Alun Lewis biographer John Pikoulis covers new ground in Alun, Gweno & Alun, Gweno & Freda by John PikoulisFreda, which examines Lewis’ life and writing through the particular prism of his relationships with his wife, Gweno, and Freda Aykroyd, an ex-patriot in India whose house provided respite for British officers on leave. The book argues that Lewis’s charged relationships with these two women were the key to both his writing and his mental health, and goes on to explore the circumstances surrounding Lewis’ sudden death, and weigh into the ongoing debate over whether it was accidental, or suicide.
Losing Israel by Jasmine Donahaye is more than biography. This moving and honest losing_israelrgbwelsh-book-of-the-yearmemoir, which won the Wales Book of the Year, Non-Fiction Category (2016), recounts the author’s struggles with identity and history after she stumbles upon the collusion of her family in the displacement of Palestinians in 1948. Biography, travel writing and birdwatching are all weaved together in this fascinating re-evaluation of memory, family and cultural identity.
Robert Minhinnick’s Watching the Fire Eater, newly back in stock, takes us Watching the Fire Eater Robert Minhinnickfrom Copacabana to urban Yorkshire, from New Mexico to a Welsh funfair, from The Netherlands to the Clare coast. Minhinnick’s essays cover a variety of subjects – sunbathing, third world poverty, the demise of Margaret Thatcher, to name a few – but at the core this is a vivid series of attempts to strip away the exhausted mythologies of the writer’s own country and the increasingly-packaged places he visits.
The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Back is Peter Finch’s The Roots of Rock, from Cardiff to Mississippi and Backserenade to rock and popular music, and an infectiously nostalgic trip from the 1950s onwards that is guaranteed to enthrall music lovers. From an old valve radio playing in the Cardiff suburbs in the ’50s to live music today in America and beyond, Peter Finch tours countries and decades to illustrate how rock and pop has evolved, giving us sharp-eyed accounts of gigs from Champion Jack Dupree to the Garth Mountain Boys, visits to musical shrines and theme parks – Dollywood, Grand Ole Opry, Graceland, Stax – and music, lots and lots of music.

 

See our full Non-Fiction list on the Seren website, and hurry – sale ends midnight, Friday 13 January.

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Poetry Picks: what to buy in the half price sale

poetry picks sale

If your bookshelves are looking a bit bare (or even if they’re full to bursting – who are we to judge?) then we hope our half price sale helps you discover new and intriguing collections to add to your ‘must read’ pile.

Until midnight this Friday (13th January), all books on the Seren website are 50% off. This includes hundreds of poetry books – and in an effort to help you with your decision-making, we’ve picked out a few of our favourites.

Carrie Etter’s Imagined Sons is visceral and emotionally intense, a reflection on the experience of a birthmother who imagined Sons Carrie Ettergave up her son when she was seventeen. These haunting, psalm-like prose poems are bursting with courage and insight. She describes possible encounters with this son, now in his late twenties, expressing how ‘sometimes the melancholy arrives before the remembering’. These poems leave a mark upon the reader, and explore with profound skill the aching agony of displaced motherhood.
The Museum of Disappearing Sounds by Zoë Skoulding is a collection of the_museum_of_disappearing_soundsdensely intellectual poems, experimental, rich and resonant. Rather than aspiring to reach beyond language, these poems focus on the spaces that words occupy, looking at how ‘a sentence reverses itself between two pairs of eyes’ or noting ‘the distance drifted by a word shaken loose from border controls’. Exploratory and alive to the senses, these poems create new perspectives on language and the world in which it exists.
Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes is (in contrast) utterly my family and other superheroes jonathan edwardsjoyful and hilarious, and introduces the reader to a mishmash of odd characters, including Evel Knievel, Sophia Loren, Ian Rush, Marty McFly, a bicycling nun and a recalcitrant hippo. Winner of the Costa Poetry Prize, and shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, Jonathan Edwards’ debut has charmed the masses, and is a must-read – if you haven’t already.
Kim Moore’s The Art of Falling twists and manipulates the idea of falling into The Art of Falling Kim Moorean abundance of meanings, and weaves this central theme alongside vivid and unabashedly realistic descriptions of the North and ‘My People’: ‘who swear without knowing they are swearing… scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers’. Blisteringly raw poems appear in the central sequence, ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’: the story of a woman embroiled in a relationship marked by coercion and violence. These are poems that confront the reader, steeped in realism, not designed to soothe or beguile. Midnight, Dhaka is the debut collection by Mir Mahfuz Ali. As a boy, Mahfuz Midnight, Dhaka Mir Mahfuz Aliwitnessed atrocities and writes about them with a searing directness in poems like ‘My Salma’: ‘They brought Salma into the yard, / asked me to watch how they would explode / a bullet into her’. His trauma becomes transformative, and his poetry the key to unlocking memories of a childhood that are rich in nuance, gorgeous in detail and evocative of a beautiful country. Influenced by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) and Jibanananda Das (1899-1954), as well as modern British poets, Mahfuz brings his own unique voice in these poems, which celebrate the human capacity for love, survival and renewal.

 

See our full Poetry list on the Seren website, and hurry – sale ends midnight, Friday 13 January.

January Sale: 50% off all Seren books

January Sale 50% off

The big January sale has now begun – all our books are 50% off for one week only.

Seren January Sale 50% off

The time for gift giving might be over but all that means is you have the perfect excuse to treat yourself instead.

If you’re looking for a new novel to grip you, we suggest Jayne Joso’s critically acclaimed My Falling Down House, a story of modern Japanese identity.

Tony Curtis’ New & Selected collection, From the Fortunate Isles, is a must-read for poetry lovers, and The Other Tiger, the new bilingual anthology of South and Latin American poetry translated by Richard Gwyn, will open up a new continent of undiscovered riches for you.

For nature lovers we recommend Iolo Williams’ Wild Places: Wales’ Top 40 Nature Sites – this is a book to get you out of the house, making the most of the beautiful wildlife sites within reach.

Explore our Poetry, Fiction and Non-Fiction categories, where all our books are half price until midnight on Friday 13th January.