Oryx & Crake – Margaret Atwood

Summary A post global-warming dystopian novel from the pen of Margaret Atwood, it focuses on Jimmy (aka Snowman), who believes himself to be the only human survivor of a deliberate viral destruction of the human race. This is the first part of the MaddAddam trilogy, so essentially is setting the scene for the next novels … Continue reading Oryx & Crake – Margaret Atwood

Bonfire of the Perfect – Susan Appleyard

Summary A historical romance novel, set at the time of the Albigensian crusade. For those who may not know, this was a crusade in the Languedoc region of France, by northern Catholics against the perceived heresies of the Cathars, lasting from 1209 to 1229, with another series of repressions in the late 1240’s. The plot … Continue reading Bonfire of the Perfect – Susan Appleyard

SPQR – Mary Beard

Summary: The author gives us a deeply-researched view of Rome, from the founding myths of Romulus & Remus and the suckling she-wolf, to 212 CE, when every freeborn man in the Roman Empire was given citizenship. This was the culmination of 1000 years of Empire, yet the author argues it could be the beginning of … Continue reading SPQR – Mary Beard

The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

Summary: A fantasy novel about Kingdoms in decline, a powerful dark force on the rise and bent on revenge, and a mysterious sect of female sorceresses, working in secret to prevent the end of the world. The novel has political intrigue, legends, and dragons. Each Kingdom/Empire has its own narratives, culture and beliefs, and though … Continue reading The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

The Serpent and The Eagle – Edward Rickford

Summary: This is a historical fiction novel, about the Spanish military campaign that destroyed the world of the Aztecs The novel, first in a trilogy, features the historic personalities, as well as numerous fictional ones. Hernan Cortes is there, on his ship Santa Maria de la Conception, as well as Montezuma in his glittering palace. … Continue reading The Serpent and The Eagle – Edward Rickford

The Time Travellers Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

Summary: The story is essentially a time-travelling love story. Henry DeTamble has Chrono-Displacement – he periodically gets pulled out of linear time to moments in his past, present and future. All those he loves are in linear time, so they are older or younger, depending on when he is displaced to. Clare is the eponymous … Continue reading The Time Travellers Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

The Etymologicon – Mark Forsyth

  Etymology – the study of words and how their meaning has changed throughout history, and of the origins of a word. This is an interesting book. The author ranges across continents, languages, ancient and modern societies, and even different species, in what seems to be a free association of thoughts. I learnt that “Buffalo … Continue reading The Etymologicon – Mark Forsyth

An Instance of the Fingerpost – Iain Pears

Summary: This is a historical murder mystery novel, set in the Oxford England of the middle 17th Century, just after the Restoration of Charles II to the throne. The mystery plays out from four different narrative viewpoints, each narrator having their own chapter. The genesis is the murder of an Oxford Don, Dr Grove, in … Continue reading An Instance of the Fingerpost – Iain Pears

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

Summary: This is a non-fiction journalistic investigation into the life of Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta was an average African-American woman, struggling to make ends meet in 1950’s America, raising a large family (five children) while living on the edge of poverty. What made her life exceptional was her death, or rather the reason for her death. … Continue reading Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot

The Carhullan Army – Sarah Hall

Summary: This is a dystopian near-future. Britain is essentially a wasteland, ruled by the Authority (a totalitarian type government), and everything is grey and bleak. Everything in people’s lives is controlled, right down to women being forced to fit contraceptive devices. The hometown of our narrator, Penrith, is over-crowded, filled with despairing people doing meaningless … Continue reading The Carhullan Army – Sarah Hall