All the Way to the Bank by J.R. Hartley

Remember those good old days when you couldn’t lose a telephone handset because it was made of Bakelite and was attached to the telephone?  When gentlemen wore Covert coats and ties even when they weren’t going to work and there was a Charing Cross Road full of second hand book shops?  Well you probably also remember that Yellow Pages advertisement featuring one J.R. Hartley and his quest to find a particular fly fishing book – by, oh yes, J.R. Hartley.

Nostalgia is a comforting thing and often the best time to enjoy it is when one has the time and relaxation to do so – as on holiday.  So it is good news indeed to discover that Hartley’s memoirs (as dictated to Mr Russell), Fly Fishing by J.R. Hartley and J.R. Hartley Casts Again, are back in print in one volume.  Even for those whose idea of hell is a bank, a rod and a packet of soggy sandwiches wrapped in greaseproof paper, these fictional memoirs are much more than a discussion of the relative merits of the Damsel fly and the Cats Whisker.  They are a collection of evocative stories of school, university and beyond with a distinctly clubbable feel.  So settle back in your armchair (with antimacassar firmly in place) and enjoy their gentle humour and the illustrations by the incomparable Patrick Benson.

J. R. Hartley All the Way to the Bank
Hardback  £15.95 (239pp)

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Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift

It is Mothering Sunday 1924 and a maid, orphan Jane Fairweather, has a day to herself whilst the rest of the household are away visiting their families.  She plans to immerse herself in a book from her employer’s library but instead spends the day with her lover: the only surviving son of a well to do family who have lost their other boys in the Great War.  In a nod to Classical tradition, the action takes place during one twenty four hour period with flashbacks to the beginning of the affair and the mature Jane looking at the episode as a turning point in her life.  It is both sensual and shocking – to tell more would spoil it – and leaves many threads tantalizingly unresolved at the end.  It packs a punch far greater than its length (a mere 136 pages) and makes you want to return to the novels of Forster and Conrad and reassess the years between the two World Wars.  The reclining nude by Modigliani, which graces the dustjacket, was chosen specifically by the author and compliments the writing within perfectly.

Graham Swift  Mothering Sunday
Hardback  £12.99  (136pp)

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The Hollow Men by Rob McCarthy

It is always satisfying to read the first book in a proposed series and be left with a desire to learn more about the characters and how their lives change and develop. Hollow Men is such a book.  It centres around the life and experiences of an (ex-army) police doctor, Dr Harry Kent.  Set in South London, it cleverly mixes police procedural, everyday life at a busy A&E department and the local underworld of disaffected youth, criminal activity and slightly naïve do-gooders.  It also harks back to Harry’s time in the army serving during the conflict in Afghanistan – the pressures felt by serving soldiers at the time and their often shattered lives afterwards.  It is at heart a gripping tale with enough food for thought (about our Health Service, the plight of the forgotten in society as well as the ‘protected’ elites) to make it more than a just a romp.

Rob McCarthy The Hollow Men
Hardback  £14.99  (368pp)

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The Barchester Chronicles, 6 Volumes by Anthony Trollope

“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?   …. Was ever anything so civil?” (Anthony Trollope, ‘The Warden’).  To which one might add that the pleasure of seeing a well turned out book is pretty hard to beat.  Penguin Clothbound Classics have produced elegant editions since the first volumes were published in 2008.  Now we have a set of The Barchester Chronicles to add to the mix, again designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.  They can be bought either separately or as a set.

ANTHONY TROLLOPE    The Barchester Chronicles    6 volumes
Hardback  £12.99 each

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The Yellow Diamond by Andrew Martin

If you know and love the Mayfair area – or just have a shopper’s pleasure in the place – then this literary thriller is for you.  Set against the backdrop of Savile Row and St James’s it delves deeper into the world of the Russian oligarch and the rivalries and tensions that make up their world.  When Detective Superintendent George Quinn is shot and a diamond ring stolen it is up to Quinn’s successor DI Blake Reynolds to unravel the mystery, helped and hindered by Quinn’s strangely protective p.a.  As the mystery shifts north to the wilds of Yorkshire and to the exotic world of the South of France this is very much a cosmopolitan cautionary tale of lust and greed where no one is safe from temptation.

Andrew Martin      The Yellow Diamond
Hardback  £14.99  (320pp)

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Exposure by Helen Dunmore

Simon Callington seems to be like any other minor civil servant: a modest house in Muswell Hill, a hard working wife and three children.  But normality is misleading.  When a colleague asks Simon to return a top secret file to the Admiralty, no questions asked, events begin to spiral out of control and the past refuses to remain hidden.  Set in the 1960’s with the Cold War at its height, this is a tense, evocative novel which refuses to leave you long after the tale is finished.  The characters are deftly drawn and the echoes of The Ballad of Reading Gaol and The Railway Children are hard to ignore but central to the story.  I urge you to read it.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
Hardback  £16.99 (400pp)

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