An extract from Larkinland by Jonathan Tulloch

Extract Larkinland Jonathan Tulloch

Larkinland Jonathan TullochJonathan Tulloch’s remarkable Larkinland is a novel which expertly and minutely captures the essence of Philip Larkin and his poetry. Tulloch deftly builds Larkin’s poems into a sustained landscape, fills it with Larkin’s characters and just for good measure adds a version of Larkin himself – meet Arthur Merryweather: librarian, poet and would-be great romantic.

In the extract below, having newly (and rather unhappily) moved to a new town, Merryweather embarks on his first journey to his new place of employment: the university library…

 

This extract begins on page 49 of Larkinland.

8.

Hiding behind his (local) morning newspaper on the trolley, Merryweather felt as though he were going not to a library but a hospital for the prognosis of some lump. The Monday morning breakfast table repeated on him as much as the kippers: that barrage of sauce bottles, chewing jaws and bad breath.
Contrary to expectations, a pleasant surprise awaited him at the university. Instead of the utilitarian, redbrick barrack rising from a raw building site his successful novelist friend had led him to expect, he found half hidden in lawns and willows, a country house brocaded with ivy. A post box was quickly located, and the weekend’s letters dispatched.At the Aide to the Vice-Chancellor’s office he had to wait for half an hour. ‘What does he want?’ he heard the administrator ask his secretary.
‘Something about the library, sir.’
‘Library? What does he want with the library?’
‘You appointed him as the new head librarian, Sir.’
‘Did I?’
Throughout their brief cup of tea, the Aide to the Vice-Chancellor continually rearranged pens on his desk as though working out some enigmatic puzzle. His curly beard and fringe gave him the look of a merino sheep. This ovine resemblance reminded the librarian that the man on the other side of the desk had been the silent partner in the interviewing panel at the British library, though he clearly didn’t remember Merryweather. ‘Found digs yet, Merriman?’
‘Yes, thank you.’ His mother’s son, in the face of authority Merryweather demurred from making correction.
The Aide to the Vice-Chancellor paused in his pen arranging. ‘The town does have some good areas; I’ve always maintained that. How do you find arrangements on the river? Yes we are rather out on a limb. Where the train runs out, the land too, wot? And we’re just left with the mud and the sky. The natives, well you might like them or you might not; on the whole the students can sometimes be keen. Not a bit like that dreadful novel doing the rounds.’ Merryweather suppressed a grin. His friend, and chief correspondent, was the writer of the deliciously scandalous academic novel doing the rounds. ‘Well, no doubt you’ll be anxious to see your little fiefdom. Very good of you to come in today, Merriman. Above and beyond…’
Was everybody off their rocker here? The librarian puzzled as, interview over, he headed in the direction the Aide to the Vice-Chancellor’s secretary had pointed out.
Merryweather’s fiefdom was yet another surprise. Had his luck changed? Leaning out of some children’s story, a pair of manorial gateposts offered a secretive avenue of chestnut trees. The avenue graciously ushered the librarian to a brownstone building bearing the simple sign: Library. In summer, that dead wood adhering to the walls would be rambling roses; spring, when it arrived, promised bluebells. For now, a robin piped the melancholy carol of a T.S. Eliot April; all that was missing was a gardener’s fork for it to perch on and begin conducting the way to a secret garden.And there was the garden fork!
Not a city sound to be heard as the new head librarian mounted his library steps for the first time. Above the door, a sculpted stone figure in the art deco style reclined on lintel. The figure – reclining or hovering? – peered down at him. Was it an angel? Art deco, the final and least expected touch. The ghosts of Evelyn Waugh’s bright young things. Et in Arcadia Ego blah, blah, blah. That was one thing about librarianship, it might be sexless and bloody boring, but, like a convalescence from a good bout of measles, it gave one plenty of time to read.
The angel watched Merryweather push and pull the entrance door, shunt and shove, thrust and shoulder. All in vain, it was locked. No sign of anyone within. No lights. Nose pressed against the glass, all the new man could see was a darkling, marble vestibule. Skulking in the shadows like a Neanderthal peering from his cave, the bust of some beetle-browed philanthropist frowned at the disturber of his peace. Knocking unanswered, Merryweather got on his knees and called through the low letterbox.
‘Oi!’ A shout from the chestnuts. The librarian struggled to his feet. Was it directed at him? ‘Yes, you, you lanky sod. What’s your game?’
For a moment, he thought the person breaking from the undergrowth, all whirring arms and neck, was a policeman. Only when the official reached him did the librarian realise his mistake. ‘I’m trying to get in,’ Merryweather explained.
‘Oh you are, are you? Well you’re not going to.’ Not the sprightliest of men, the college porter was out of breath. ‘Can’t you see it’s closed?’ Merryweather’s trilby, tie, briefcase and British Warm seemed to mollify the custodian. ‘Thought you were some grubby student.’
‘Actually – I’m the new head librarian.’
Torn between suspicion and a professional sense of caste, the porter took off his hat and scratched his head.‘Didn’t they tell you? Nowt’s open today. No students. Nothing.’ Suspicion reared to the fore.‘ How do I know you’re who you say you are? No one told me. I didn’t even know the last one had gone.’
Feeling rather ludicrous, Merryweather opened his briefcase to bring out a copy of The Library, the journal of the Bibliographical Society. The porter flipped through the pages with a yawn. ‘No, I don’t suppose you’d read something like that unless you really were a librarian.’
‘Well exactly.’
The porter fell back on the eternal sigh of his breed, as well as the habitual mix of pronouns. ‘Better come with me, sir, and I’ll see if we can’t sort you out for yourself. I’m Harry. Harry Oxley.’
Harry led him back up the chestnut avenue and across a chain of secluded lawns to where a more municipal, Winifred Holtbyish building stood. A hushed maze of parquet floors contained the porter’s lodge. Merryweather was installed on an ancient chair beneath an enormous dovecote of pigeonholes. Smelling the lodge’s varied woods and listening to the porter on the phone, he felt gratitude for having missed both the war and national service. Easy to imagine a rifle range, wet feet, and the porter, a sergeant major, explaining how to strip a Bren gun for the hundredth time. Four separate phone calls had to be made, two of them trunk. At last the hugest bunch of keys Merryweather had ever seen was plucked from a hook. ‘If you’d like to come along with me, Mr M.’ Jingling like some Dickensian turnkey, the porter led him back through the parquet labyrinth, over the lawn, through the enchanted gates and down the chest- nut avenue to the library. ‘That wants taking down,’ Harry declared, looking up at the angel as he unlocked the door. ‘Or one of these fine days it’ll come down and crush a student flat.’
Passing through the philanthropist’s marble gaze, they entered the library proper. After the imposing entrance and almost grand vestibule, the first impression was frankly underwhelming. Something about the size of a real tennis court presented itself. Less fiefdom than corner shop. Well, not quite that bad. As Merryweather’s eyes grew accustomed to the half-light, he saw that the shelves were almost spectacularly tall. They towered into a shadowed silence bound by a lofty gallery. Above that, high windows. Following Harry, Merryweather found that the premises had a second, identical room, which gave access to a couple of smaller reading rooms. In total, the whole concern was on the scale of a thriving branch library. The high windows gave the vague feel of a mausoleum. Merryweather felt half at home. When Harry switched a flick, the gruelly light barely thickened. ‘Bloody bulb’s gone again,’ he said, voice amplified to a giant’s timbre by the cavernous emptiness. ‘Pardon my French.’
There was another surprise. Following his guide between tight, dark shelves, the new librarian stepped into a well of light. A dome rose high above him. It had been hidden from him by the tall stacks. A metal staircase wound steeply up the side of the dome. ‘Careful coming up here, Sir.’ The steps creaked as the pair mounted them, the echo rippling through the several deeps of the library.‘They all like this?’ the porter asked, stopping halfway up.
‘Beg pardon?’ asked Merryweather, not sure the stairs were exactly safe.
‘Are all libraries so loud?’
‘I’ve never really thought about it.’
‘They’re supposed to be quiet, but they’re not, not when nobody’s in them. It’s only when they’re full that they’re quiet. What do you make of that?’
‘Interesting,’ said the new head librarian only quarter lying.
The winding stair led to a smoked glass door marked Head Librarian in rather skittish swirls. The porter opened up. By some architectural sleight of hand, instead of the storeroom attic Merryweather had been expecting, the room was commodious to the point of extravagance. Decorous cornices, oil paintings, armchairs, and, wonderfully incongruous, a chaise longue. Two pairs of generous windows to boot. After the crypt-like library, the view – chestnut avenue, gateposts, a lawned middle distance bound by tree-lined road – opened up like the vista from a headland. ‘Its acoustic is the opposite of a theatre,’ Merryweather said, without turning from the window. ‘That’s what makes them so loud. Libraries. Paradoxically so, given all the signs for silence.’ His eyes narrowed as he continued to gaze at the view whose limit was described by a bicycle trolling through a tracery of leafless branches. ‘A theatre is designed for projection, a library, introspection. On stage, one seeks to be heard by hundreds, a library has a far greater ambition. It aims to reach…’ Merryweather broke off. He could see Harry making off under the chestnuts. ‘And so forth.’
Shoulders easing with this unexpected bonanza of solitude, Merryweather sat at his desk. Solid as a tug. Just as well, more than likely it would be required to haul him into the waters of middle-age. Perhaps beyond. It offered all the tools of the trade. Ink bottle, ink well, blotting paper, telephone, in and out trays, an ashtray (plain), pen holder (rather decorative), enough drawer space for concealing a dismembered corpse let alone a bottle of Glenlivet, paper too, sufficient thereof for the writing of a novel. Except his novel-writing days were over, that was a business best left to his successful friend. Merryweather suppressed a belch of regret, but it was that morning’s kippers not the brace of his own unsuccessful novels, which had found little favour with the reading public when published just after the war. With the nearly pleasurable air of being a ship’s captain finding himself alone not only on his bridge but on the whole vessel, Merryweather lit the fire from the ample basket of logs, and then his first Park Drive of the day. A relatively exciting though not entirely trustworthy feeling flickered with the flames as he sat on the chaise longue: he’d be able to write poetry here.

 

Larkinland is currently half price on the Seren website: £9.99 £4.99

Half price offer ends midnight, Sunday 29 July.

 

 

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Summer Sale: a whole week of half price books

Seren Summer Sale Half Price books

The sun is shining, school’s out for the summer, and – what’s this? All our books are half price!

Half price summer sale
Fiction, non-fiction and poetry – and this is just a tiny portion of it…

Whether you’re looking for some poetry to dip into, or an immersive holiday read – we’ve got you covered. We’ve even picked out a few highlights below…

Best for…
Holiday reading:
Maria Donovan The Chicken Soup Murder£9.99 £4.99
A dear elderly neighbour has died under suspicious circumstances and the only one searching for justice is eleven-year-old Michael. No-one believes his cries of ‘murder’, so how will he prove his version of events? This is a truly touching coming-of-age story with an addictive mystery at its heart.

 


Best for…
Dipping into in moments of peace:
£9.99 £4.99
Elizabeth Parker’s debut book of poems is delicate, precise, and utterly captivating. From flowing rivers to the Forest of Dean, let yourself be lured into landscapes both captivating and strangely unfamiliar.

 

 

Best for…
Armchair reading:
£12.99 £6.49
For at least the last 1,500 years, Capel-y-Ffin has been a spiritual retreat: a beautiful, lonely, timeless place where people have gathered to escape from the outside world. And so it was for artists Eric Gill and David Jones: with fascinating insight, Jonathan Miles explores their years spent in this Welsh wilderness, and its promise of religious and artistic evolution.


Best for…
Livening up a long journey:
Christopher Meredith Brief Lives£9.99 £4.99
Whether reading on a stuffy train, whilst waiting at the airport or, perhaps, somewhere more peaceful, these six masterful short stories will transport you: to the South China Sea in 1946 to a nameless place at the end of time, and many others in-between. Christopher Meredith is a writer at the height of his powers – these beautifully crafted stories are all the proof you need.


Best for…
Broadening the mind:
Barney Norris The Wellspring£12.99 £6.49
Acclaimed novelist and playwright Barney Norris ponders cultural identity and the nature of creativity in these conversations with his father, David Owen Norris – ‘quite possibly the most interesting pianist in the world’ (Toronto Globe and Mail). This is a deeply personal, entertaining and at times provocative study of how people and societies find their voice.

 

Best for…
Keeping you up past bedtime:
Ross Cogan Bragr£9.99 £4.99
Norse gods tumble out of Ross Cogan’s new collection, intermingling with the environmental concerns so pressing in the modern day, and eulogies for vanishing wildlife. The pitch-perfect re-tellings of creation myths and bloodthirsty battles will hold you spellbound until the last page.

 

 

Our Summer Sale lasts for one week only – so treat yourself and have a browse before midnight on Sunday, 29 July! Who knows what gems you’ll find…

50% discount subject to availability. Excludes forthcoming titles.

 

Short Story of the Month | ‘Beginning Again’, Candy Neubert

Short Story Beginning Again Candy Neubert

Our Short Story of the Month for March is ‘Beginning Again’ by Candy Neubert.

Cornish Short Stories

The story will shortly be published in Cornish Short Stories: A Collection of Contemporary Cornish Writing (The History Press).

Candy Neubert lives in Cornwall but maintains strong ties with South Africa where she lived from 1990–1996. She has received numerous literary awards, including the Bridport Prize. She is the author of Foreign Bodies (Seren, 2009) and Big Low Tide (Seren, 2012).

 

Beginning Again

This is an extract. Read the full short story for free on our website.

 

She was coming straight up the beach towards him.
Through half-closed eyes, his head propped up against his rucksack, he watched her come. In silhouette at first, the kind of shape you just knew wasn’t English, couldn’t be English, but you couldn’t say why. Hair plastered back slick and wet off her face.
She came right up and stood over him, flicking water over his hot skin. Hey, he laughed. She lifted her towel, shaking it out like a sheet over a bed, lying down with a grunt.
He felt the cool coming from her, saw tiny droplets drying on her neck—Sonya, his mate, his life’s woman.
“Mm … now I’m hungry,” she said, not opening her eyes. He was, too. He sat up slowly, sun dizzy, and reached into the rucksack. Here it was, the container she always filled to the brim—he raised a corner of the lid and out came the smell of food, olives and onion and … just then he woke up, as the small figure of the boy crossed his line of vision, still quite far off, heading his way.

        The path went straight up from Porthcurno and he took it two steps at a time. Not really steps but boulders and cliff straight up from the car park, just the way to get going on a cool morning. They’d soon be warm and the mist would clear; it was only a sea mist. He positively sprang all the way, pretty fit for a business man, an office chap.

        When the path levelled out, he waited for Daniel. It was an inviting path, gorse on either side, beaten earth sprinkled with rabbit droppings, gulls laughing overhead. But he kept still and waited patiently. He was so effing patient. But Daniel wasn’t in sight.

        Finally.

        If shoulders could talk.

        If shoulders could talk, the rucksack on Daniel’s back would shrivel up and die. As if towels were heavy. Bulky, yes, but not heavy. He should try the picnic, if he wanted heavy.

        Also, Fuller had the surfboard, which was fair enough; his arms were longer. But Daniel was young and strong. They did sports training at school, didn’t they?

        The boy climbed the last bit and came to a halt five yards away, his eyes fixed on his shoes.

        Patience, mind. Fuller held his tongue and set off again. A fresh scent came from the pink flowers in the grass under the gorse, while the mist ripped back off the cliffs before his eyes—what luck, when it might have come in thick and spoiled everything.

        They did sports training and next year Mandarin, of all things. He asked Daniel about it yesterday, about the new school. The boy made a face, sticking his tongue over his front teeth. They’re all tossers, he said. He’d wanted to go to a school in Devon where they taught tractor driving.

        But they were going to have a day today, a great day. They were here, damn it. The sun was coming out and everything was sorted.

        A kestrel rose and hung in the air, over to the right. Fuller put his fingers in his mouth and whistled, and the boy raised his head.

        ‘What?’ he yelled.

        ‘Kestrel!’

        ‘Uh.’

        Now, five hundred yards ahead, a gate—it had to be the right place, the path veering off towards the cliff edge, dipping at the end, there! He stood, breathing hard. Sheer drop on one side and at his feet, far down, two perfect golden discs of sand divided by a bar of pale green water, just like the photo in the brochure. He’d found it. His chest was big and warm and happy. Daniel came up behind him.

        ‘There it is—great, eh? Looks like the Caribbean. And the sun’s out. Got all my cards in one shoe, boy.’

        ‘What?’

        ‘Y’know—got everything I want, all in one place.’

        ‘Whatever.’

        He was twelve.

        ‘Go careful now. Very careful. Watch it.’

        They did have to be careful; it was a real rabbit path, hard on the knees. Fuller couldn’t be sure that this sluggish figure was truly his son; maybe he’d dart ahead the way he always had. He put out a warning arm. Sheer drop. Careful.

        The body board was a nuisance. Glancing at the sand below, he saw people down there already. Damn. Not to worry, live and let live, hey.

        ‘I’ll let the board drop,’ he called. Please let it not break, he said to himself as it slithered from his hand, pivoted on one edge and shot out of sight. Fuller turned around to take the last slope of rock backwards.

        ‘Turn around,’ he called up.

        The boy would figure it out. Let him find out for himself, let him learn from something a bit tough.

        All the nooks and crannies and shady spots were taken. Fuller walked the whole beach and back to where the boy had stopped, his bag dumped on the sand. Every cleft and shadow already occupied. A middle-aged couple were sauntering from one of these nooks, and something about them had the boy transfixed. Fuller looked. Not a stitch. Starkers. Perfect mahogany tans all over, their buttocks going concave as they walked, the brown flesh in shallow folds. The man had a hat on.

        ‘Well, what is the world coming to?’

        ‘Where are we going?’ asked Daniel.

        ‘Here’s as good as anywhere, I guess.’

        Fuller began to unpack the stuff. He was sure he’d brought everything: shorts, food, sun lotion, you name it, he’d got it. He flipped a ball in the boy’s direction, and it rolled a way off.

        ‘Bring your water bottle?’

        Daniel looked at him.

        ‘You didn’t, did you? You forgot, didn’t you? Didn’t I say: bring your water bottle?’

        ‘Well I didn’t, did I?’

        ‘We’ll be short. Good job I brought mine, but we’ll be short.’

        ‘What you doing?’

        ‘Getting the towels out.’

        ‘That’s my bag.’

        ‘I’m getting the towels out of your bag, okay? Please Daniel, may I get the towels out?’

        No reply. The boy sat down, yanked his cap further over his eyes, and looked at the sea. Fuller pulled his own shirt off and wrapped a towel tight around his waist. Still warm and happy; that sea was calling.

        ‘Coming?’

        He and his son, racing down the sand.

        ‘Coming?’

Continue reading ‘Beginning Again’ for free here.

 

 

 

Read Women: International Women’s Day 2018

Read Women International Women's Day

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day – a day of recognition for women’s achievements, and also a time to acknowledge and challenge the gender inequality still present in society.

We are also just days away from Mother’s Day, and whilst fluffy books about romance and cooking usually dominate consumers’ gift choices, we say: why not give mum, and yourself, something important instead?

Until Monday, these two significant anthologies are 50% off – and we will also upgrade postage to First Class at no extra charge (why wait longer to enjoy these books than you absolutely have to?)

Read Women International Women's Day

Writing Motherhooded. Carolyn Jess-Cooke
RRP £12.99 £6.49
The perfect literary gift, Writing Motherhood explores the relationship between creativity and motherhood, and queries the persistent societal obsession over whether women ‘can do both’. With contributions from writers such as Carol Ann Duffy, Sharon Olds and Hollie McNish.

‘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

Women’s Work, ed. Amy Wack & Eva Salzman
RRP £14.99 £7.49
Some may ask: is the literary establishment still as dominated by men as it once was? Who gets to decide the canon? Eva Salzman opens Women’s Work with a lively polemic, making the case for the women-only anthology with characteristic wit and flair. With over 250 contributors, this generous selection of poetry by women features poets from the USA, Canada, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Australia, and New Zealand.

 

Celebrating Seren’s women writers

The list of women writers Seren has published is a long one – and we would like to take a moment to send out our love and thanks to every talented one who has graced our list – and those we look forward to publishing in future.

International Women's Day 2018

Seren/Cornerstone Festival recap – the best bits of our poetry weekend

Seren poetry festival recap

This weekend we co-hosted Cardiff’s first weekend-long poetry festival in the beautiful Cornerstone building, and were thrilled to see so many people enjoying the programme of events.

We’d like to say a huge thank you to our sponsors: Tidal Lagoon Power, the Rhys Davies Trust, and the Catholic Archdiocese of Cardiff. Thanks are also due for all at Cornerstone, who hosted us in their beautiful venue, to our official festival photographer David Hurn, and to the talented line-up of artists and authors who took part: Jonathan Edwards, Paul Henry, Brian Briggs, Philip Gross, Cyril Jones, Damian Walford Davies, Rhian Edwards, Gillian Clarke, Gwyneth Lewis, Richard Gwyn, Clare E. Potter, Susie Wild, Emily Blewitt, Katherine Stansfield, Stephen Payne, David Foster-Morgan, The Spoke, Little Rêd, Robert Minhinnick.

The mix of events combined spectacular poetry readings, beautiful music and thought-provoking film. Take a look at the slideshow below, where we have brought together photographs taken by the wonderful David Hurn, by Cornerstone photographer Chas Breton and by Seren’s Marketing Officer Rosie Johns.

 

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What about next year, we hear you ask? Will the festival return? Well, we’re pleased to say that we are already thinking about it…

 

 

 

January Sale 2018: Half Price Highlights

The New Year festivities may have been and gone, but here at Seren we’re still celebrating – all our books are half price until midnight Thursday, 11 January.

You might wonder, “with so much choice, how will I ever decide what to read next?” And to that we say: take a look at our recommendations below. Or ignore them! It’s really up to you…

Best for… curling up with on cold winter nights:

Maria Donovan The Chicken Soup MurderThe Chicken Soup Murder by Maria Donovan
£9.99 £4.99
Clear your diaries before you pick up this addictive, engrossing book – you won’t want to put it down until the mystery has been well and truly unraveled. The narrative follows sharp and imaginative young Michael, who believes his sweet elderly neighbour has been murdered whilst making him chicken soup. Nobody seems to care, so Michael decides to take on the burden of doing the right thing himself: seeking answers, and justice.

 

Best for… wintery adventures:

Wild Places by Iolo WilliamsWild Places, Iolo Williams
£19.99 £9.99
It’s not only in summer that you can explore Wales’ stunning landscapes – the colder months are filled with beauty too. From the frosty fenland at Magor Marsh to birdwatching at beautiful Dolydd Hafren, Iolo Williams’ stunningly illustrated book will guide you to the best and most nature interesting places Wales has to offer.

 

Best for… devouring along with your comfort food:

Masque by Bethany W PopeMasque by Bethany W. Pope
£9.99 £4.99
This rich and gothic re-telling of The Phantom of the Opera skillfully fleshes out the dark desires and deadly ambitions of the three central characters: the intensely ambitious Christine finds herself caught between the twin evils of the Phantom’s murderous pursuit of artistic perfection and Raoul’s ‘romantic’ vision of her as a bourgeois wife. Love, lust, adventure, romance, and the monstrous nature of unfulfilled creativity await you here.

 

Best for… moments of reflection:

Paul Deaton A Watchful AstronomyA Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton
£9.99 £4.99
Sombre and exquisite, Paul Deaton’s PBS-recommended debut collection is a thing to be treasured. These quietly intense, formal poems are haunted by the ghost of the author’s father, a figure embodied in glowering mountain ranges, icy blasts of weather, and bits of bleak, monosyllabic dialogue. Nature is also a prime factor and facilitator: both rural and urban scenes are beautifully observed and presented. There is a gift for the visceral here, for tastes and sounds. A rigorous intelligence meets an adept sensitivity.

 

Best for… satisfying your wanderlust:

The Road to Zagora by Richard Collins
£9.99 £4.99
The gloriously eccentric author stumbles across fresh snow leopard tracks in the Himalayas, is robbed in Peru, and watches a volcanic eruption in Ecuador – all in his quest to visit as many strange and beautiful places as he can after he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. You will find great humour and honesty here in equal measure, as Collins’ rich descriptions bring the many little wonders of the world to life.

 

Best for… broadening the mind:

Norena Shopland Forbidden LivesForbidden Lives by Norena Shopland
£12.99 £6.49
Wales has a rich and fascinating LGBT history that has for the most part remained, rather frustratingly, untold. This glorious new book shines much-needed light on key Welsh LGBT figures, from the twelfth century to the present day. Among them are seventeenth century poet Katherine Philips, the Ladies of Llangollen, Henry Paget, artists Gwen John and Cedric Morris, and actor Cliff Gordon.

 

Best for… brief escapes from reality:

Writing on Water Maggie HarrisWriting on Water by Maggie Harris
£8.99 £4.49
Worlds of heartbreak and tenderness, separation and fierce familial bonds are played out in Maggie Harris’ mesmerising stories, which refuse to loosen their grip on the reader even long after they are finished. These tales transport you into the Caribbean scenes and memories with which they are infused, into dreams and lives, where there is struggle, hardship, and endurance.

 

Best for… staying under the covers with:

This Is Not A Rescue Emily BlewittThis Is Not A Rescue by Emily Blewitt
£9.99 £4.99
Uplifting and witty, these poems tackle love and cats, Welshness and The Walking Dead. Sharp, satirical poems confront issues such as office lechery, misogyny, domestic violence and depression, whilst consistently subverting expectations. The poet is a whirlwind, whose passions and influences swirl around, chaotic and irresistible.

 

We hope you enjoy browsing our January sale. The half price offer ends at midnight on Thursday 11 January, so don’t delay – see what you can find before the time runs out.

January Sale half price books

 

 

We’re all about self-gifting this Christmas with Mystery Book Bundles

Mystery book bundles

Unless you’re one of Santa’s particularly jolly elves, we imagine the countdown to Christmas might be a stressful and arduous experience. With that in mind, we’ve prepared some mystery book bundles – the ideal affordable self-gift! (Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous, a gift for someone else.)

Coming in Fiction and Poetry varieties, these lovingly gift-wrapped parcels contain three books from our fantastic Seren list – and are just £9.99.

Mystery Book Bundle Fiction
Mystery Bundle: Fiction
For the Fiction Bundle, we’ve chosen a mix of enthralling literary novels and absorbing short stories.

No matter what you get, you can expect to be glued to your comfiest chair for at least a few days.

 

Mystery Book Bundle poetry
Mystery Bundle: Poetry
For the Poetry Bundle, we’ve selected a blend of exciting debuts and powerful works from established poets.

We can’t tell you what you’re likely to receive as it would ruin the surprise, but we have a wonderful mix of things ready to wrap up.

 

 

Find our Mystery Fiction Bundle and Mystery Poetry Bundle on the Seren website – while stocks last.

 

Merry Christmas GIF

 

 

What to read on Halloween

What to read on Halloween Seren

You can’t beat a chilling tale to read as darkness creeps ever earlier into the evening. From classics with haunted houses and man-made monstrosities to modern physological terrors, these books are at the top of our list of what to read on Halloween.

The Haunting of Hill HouseThe Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson’s slow-burning psychological horror sees four paranormal enthusiasts explore a brooding, mid-Victorian mansion in the hope of finding indisputable evidence of the psychic phenomenon called haunting. As they begin to cope with horrifying occurrences beyond their control or understanding, they cannot possibly know what lies ahead. For Hill House is gathering its powers – and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

 

Sugar Hall Tiffany MurraySugar Hall
Easter 1955 and Britain waits for a hanging. Dieter Sugar finds a strange boy in the red gardens of crumbling Sugar Hall – a boy unlike any he’s ever seen. As Dieter’s mother, Lilia, scrapes the mould and moths from the walls of the great house, she knows there are pasts that cannot be so easily removed. Sugar Hall has a history, buried, but not forgotten.
Based on the stories of the slave boy that surround Littledean Hall in the Forest of Dean, this is a superbly chilling ghost story from Tiffany Murray.
Enter to win a hardback copy of Sugar Hall with this month’s Seren book giveaway.

 

The Woman in BlackThe Woman in Black
Few attend Mrs Alice Drablow’s funeral. There are undertakers with shovels, of course, a local official who would rather be anywhere else, and one Mr Arthur Kipps, a solicitor from London. He is to spend the night in Eel Marsh House, where the old recluse died. Young Mr Kipps expects a boring evening alone sorting out paperwork and searching for Mrs Drablow’s will. But when the high tide pens him in, amidst a sinking swamp, and a blinding fog, what he finds – or rather what finds him – is something else entirely.

 

FrankensteinFrankenstein
Composed as part of a challenge with Byron and Shelley to conjure up the most terrifying ghost story, Frankenstein narrates the chilling tale of a being created by a bright young scientist and the catastrophic consequences that ensue. Considered by many to be the first science-fiction novel, the tragic tale of Victor Frankenstein and the tortured creation he rejects is a classic fable about the pursuit of knowledge, the nature of beauty and the monstrosity inherent to man.

 

Ritual, 1969 by Jo MazelisRitual, 1969
What are little girls made of? What will they become? From the playground to adulthood the path is beset with misunderstandings, missed dates and hidden traps for the unwary.
This darkly gothic collection of stories explores the unsettling borderland between reality and the supernatural. Not all is as it seems in a world where first impressions may only conceal disguises and false trails – and there’s no going back. Shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2017.

 

The Call of CthulhuThe Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories
Credited with inventing the modern horror tradition, H.P. Lovecraft remade the genre in the early twentieth century. Discarding ghosts and witches, and instead envisaging mankind at the mercy of a chaotic and malevolent universe. Experience the extraterrestrial terror of ‘The Call of Cthulhu’, which fuses traditional supernaturalism with science fiction, which features here alongside early tales of nightmares and insanity, and grotesquely comic stories.

 

Slade House
Turn down Slade Alley – narrow, dank and easy to miss, even when you’re looking for it. Find the small black iron door set into the right-hand wall. No handle, no keyhole, but at your touch it swings open. Enter the sunlit garden of an old house that doesn’t quite make sense; too grand for the shabby neighbourhood, too large for the space it occupies. A stranger greets you and invites you inside. At first, you won’t want to leave. Later, you’ll find that you can’t.

 

 

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International Day of the Girl 2017 – 8 Books we should All Read

international day of the girl 2017 8 books

International Day of the Girl is celebrated every year on 11 October in order to bring attention to issues of gender inequality and the barriers girls come up against, from birth to adulthood. Here are eight outstanding books we think everyone should read – books which engage with the issues girls and women face, and will leave you empowered with knowledge and eager for change.

Handmaid’s Tale Margaret AtwoodThe Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
Newly broadcast as a celebrated television series, Margaret Atwood’s modern classic, A Handmaid’s Tale, is a story of female subjugation at the hands of a male dictatorship, and the desperate hope of a young woman who cannot obliterate her memories and desires. Everyone should read this masterful story, which re-imagines modern society’s fears and flaws in a narrative at once otherworldly and entirely plausible.

 

The Colour Purple Alice WalkerThe Colour Purple, Alice Walker
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Alice Walker’s haunting novel follows Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls ‘father’, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Though violent and explicit in its portrayal of the issues facing African-American women in the US, The Colur Purple also has its moments of empowerment and joy, showing that strength can be found even in the most tragic conditions.

Yellow Wallpaper Charlotte Perkins GilmanThe Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s chilling short story was first published in January 1892, in an attempt to shine a light on the devastating impact of 19th century attitudes toward women’s health, both physical and mental. As a form of treatment, the protagonist is forbidden from reading, writing and all other forms of activity so she can recuperate from what her husband, a doctor, calls a “temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency”. With nothing to stimulate her, she instead becomes obsessed with the patterned wallpaper in her confining room, and suffers a descent into psychosis. Short but powerful, The Yellow Wallpaper is an important early work of American feminist literature, illustrating society’s profound ignorance of women’s wants and needs.

Writing Motherhood Carolyn Jess-CookeWriting Motherhood, ed. Carolyn Jess-Cooke
This important book reconsiders Cyril Connolly’s statement, that ‘there is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hall’. Through a unique combination of interviews, poems, and essays by established writers, Writing Motherhood interrogates contemporary representations of motherhood in media and literature, queries why so many novels dealing with serious women’s issues are packaged in pink covers with wellies and tea cups, and portrays the exquisite moments of motherhood as often enriching artistic practice rather than hindering it.

A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, Eimear McBride
Eimear McBride’s multi award-winning debut novel tells the story of a young woman’s relationship with her brother, and the long shadow cast by his childhood brain tumour. It is a shocking and intimate insight into the thoughts, feelings and chaotic sexuality of a vulnerable and isolated protagonist. To read A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing is to plunge inside its narrator’s head, experiencing her world at first hand. This isn’t always comfortable – but it is always a revelation.

The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, just one month before Plath tragically took her own life. The novel the story of a gifted young woman’s mental breakdown beginning during a summer internship as a junior editor at a magazine in New York City in the early 1950s. It explores unsettling themes of depression and is thought (by some) to mirror Plath’s own spiral into mental illness. It is also a feminist masterpiece, unpicking uneasy female stereotypes and despairing at what it was to be a woman at the time.

A Thousand Splendid Suns Khaled HosseiniA Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini
This tragic and achingly tender novel follows Mariam who, after a sudden and devastating loss, is sent at the age of fifteen to marry the much older Rasheed. After decades of servitude and oppression, Mariam strikes up an unlikely friendship with Rasheed’s new teenaged bride, Laila. When the Taliban take over, and life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear, we see a brilliant resilience in these Afghan women, reluctantly brought out by their deep love for one another.

The Beauty Myth Naomi WolfThe Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf
Every day, women around the world are confronted with a dilemma – how to look. In a society embroiled in a cult of female beauty and youthfulness, pressure on women to conform physically is constant and all-pervading. Naomi Wolf’s groundbreaking book will make you think about why and how you judge yourself when you’re stood in front of the mirror. First published in 1991, The Beauty Myth is sadly still all-too-relevant today.

 

 

Happy International Day of the Girl, and happy reading.

Feline favourites for International Cat Day

International Cat Day books Feline Favourites

International cat day is the purr-fect time to celebrate man’s true best friends: cats. Here are a few of our favourite feline-centric books.

This Is Not A Rescue Emily BlewittThis Is Not A Rescue, Emily Blewitt (£9.99)
The author’s much-loved tortoiseshell cat is at the centre of this sharply satirical and entertaining book of poetry, bursting into poems with powerful personality. ‘We Broke Up’, the poem begins: ‘Because my cat/ screamed her passion on our lawn’. In ‘Dear Emily’ the feline voice asks:

Will you fall the way that cats do,
arch your spine in a defiant, graceful twist
and land on your feet?

Artist Karin Jurick’s painting of her own cat, ‘Bitz’, makes up the beautiful cover.

Jayne Joso My Falling Down HouseMy Falling Down House, Jayne Joso (£9.99)
When young salaryman Takeo Tanaka loses his home, his girlfriend and his job all in quick succession, he finds himself completely alone – apart from the company of a stray cat:

A cat had joined me on my journey from the station. He was black and handsome looking, and I guessed he was still quite young – I remember how the heat kept everything weighted, our moves made in a sun and dust slow motion.

His fears and failing health keep him inside the house through four testing seasons, and he is driven to the edge of insanity, with only a cello and the black cat to connect him to the world. Joso has written a moving exploration of identity – a must-read.

Pascale Petit, FauverieFauverie, Pascale Petit (£9.99)
The Fauverie of this book is the big cat house in the Jardin des Plantes zoo, home to Aramis the black jaguar, who haunts the Paris of this poetry collection: a city savage as the Amazon.

Transforming childhood horrors to ultimately mourn a lost parent, Fauverie redeems the darker forces of human nature whilst celebrating the ferocity and grace of endangered species. Five poems from Fauverie won the 2013 Manchester Poetry Prize, and the manuscript in progress was awarded an Arts Council England Grant.

The Other Tiger by Richard GwynThe Other Tiger: Recent Poetry from Latin America, Richard Gwyn (£14.99)
The title is a nod to Borges’ poem, in which: ‘I go on pursuing through the hours/ Another tiger, the beast not found in verse.’ This anthology of Spanish language poetry from the Americas consists of 97 poets from 16 countries, born over five decades. It includes work from Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua, Chile, Uruguay, Venezuela, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia and El Salvador.

Richard Gwyn has arranged the poems thematically – Where We Live; Memory, Childhood, Family; the Natural World; Politics, Journey and Exile; Love, Sex and the Body – to cut across nationality and the generations, illustrating the things poets have in common, and how they differ, across continents.

 

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