Havoc In Its Third Year

By Ronan Bennett
Havoc in its Third Year is Bennett’s third novel. It is set the 1630s in the period leading up to the English civil wara town in northern England which had recently removed a corrupt and tyrannical local aristocrat, only then to be ruled by a new repressive puritanical regime. Bennett is a writer of deep political conviction and this novel deals with universal themes, in particular the corrupting forces of power, fear of the outsider and the destitute and the nature of moral and political […]

Pure

By Andrew Miller
Bristol writer Andrew Miller’s sixth novel and deservedly won the 2011 Costa Book of the Year. It is 1785 and France is on the brink of revolution as the old order is about to be swept away. Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young engineer of humble background, is ordered to exhume the vast and ancient cemetery of Les Innocents in the poor Parisian quarter of Les Halles and demolish its church. Baratte, ambitious and forward thinking, “a disciple of Voltaire,” dreams of building utopias and as a man of […]

Sacred Hunger

By Barry Unsworth
Sacred Hunger
This book was published in 1992 and won the Booker Prize. It is about greed, raw capitalism and the relentless pursuit of profit, the sacred hunger, "which justifies everything and sanctifies all purposes" in the triangular slave trade. The story revolves around a conflict between Thurso, the captain of a slave ship and Paris the ship’s doctor. Life aboard the slave ship is contrasted with the life of the wealthy owners back in Liverpool. The nature and mechanics of the barbaric treatment of […]

The Given Day

By Denis Lehane
The Given Day
Italian Anarchist, Galleanists, Latvian revolutionaries, Bolsheviks, communists, NAACP, Irish cops and gangsters thrown together into a mix with immigration, racism, corruption, strikes, riot and class warfare as a city goes into meltdown leading up to the Boston police strike of 1919. Two main characters are Danny Coughlin, Irish and son of one of Boston’s most powerful police captains and Luther Lawrence, poor and black, and on the run from racism and the mob. While Danny wrestles with his […]

Half Blood Blues

By Esi Edugyan
Half Blood Blues
Berlin, 1939. A young, brilliant trumpet player, Hieronymus, is arrested in a Paris café. The star musician was never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sidney Griffiths, the only witness that day, still refuses to speak of what he saw. When Chip Jones, his friend and fellow band member, comes to visit, recounting the discovery of a strange letter, Sid begins a slow journey towards redemption. From the smokey bars of pre-war […]

The People’s Act of Love

By James Meek
The People's Act of Love
Its 1919 and the civil war which followed the Russian revolution is drawing to an end. A Czech division is trapped in Yazyk, an isolated Siberian town, with the Bolsheviks advancing along the rail route into the town. Armored trains hold the key to military power. However the townspeople are made up of religious sect of voluntary castrates. (Both these groups of people existed in Russia at the time and so the events are based loosely on historical fact.) When the enigmatic revolutionary Samarin […]

Q

By Luther Blisset
By Rite: Custom, Ceremony and Community in England 1700-1880
What a rollicking read! This book blasts you through the religious wars of 16th Century Northern Europe at a cracking pace. The authors (all four of them) are truly steeped in the knowledge of the period's history - and it shows! The characters are real, living and, all too often, bloody participants in the protestant (in this case German Anabaptist) struggle to overthrow the Catholic Church's Holy Empire. But more, it's the story of people’s struggle to overthrow the dominant mindset imposed by […]

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