Biographies from the Basement August 2021 – International Cat Day August 8th is International Cat Day, when the British charity International Cat Care invites us to focus on the welfare of domestic cats and the… More
With award season in full swing the longlist for the Women’s Fiction prize has been announced.
*Copies of the books are available for Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries.
To search the Kensington and Chelsea Libraries catalogue, click the link below: https://trib.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/rbkc/
You can select and collect the book or alternatively many are available to download via our new Libby app or via Cloud Library.
This year’s longlist honours both new and well-established writers and a range of genres and themes – family (twins and siblings, mother-daughter relationships); motherhood; rural poverty and isolation; addiction; identity and belonging; race, class and gender; grief and happiness; coming-of-age and later life. The novels span a range of different global settings, from South London to Deep South US; Ghana, Hong Kong, Barbados, Brooklyn and a fantasy realm.
*some books will be available soon or are currently on a waiting list.
Shortlist to be announced 28th April Winner announced 7th July
BOOKSELLER “NIBBIES” AWARDS
The Bookseller has shortlisted its books of the year in various categories:
Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell
The Evening and the Morning – Ken Follett
The Lying Life of Adults – Elena Ferrante
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
The Mirror and the Light – Hilary Mantel
The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett
Exciting Times – Naosie Dolan
Ghosts – Dolly Alderton
Shuggie Bain – Douglas Stuart
The Girl with the Louding Voice – Abi Dare
Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid
Rainbow Milk – Paul Mendez
Fiction: Crime and thriller:
The Guest List – Lucy Foley
Troubled Blood – Robert Galbraith
The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman
The Sentinal – Lee Child
The Patient Man – Joy Ellis
A Song for Dark Times – Ian Rankin
The Thursday Murder Club – Richard Osman
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
Troubled Blood – Robert Galbraith
A Promised Land -Barack Obama
Grown Ups – Marion Keyes
Greenlights – Matthew Mcconaughy
Piranesi- Susanna Clarke
Think like a Monk – Jay Shetty
Sandman – Neil Gaiman
A Promised Land by Barack Obama
A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough
Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty
Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day by Captain Sir Tom Moore
Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake
Me And White Supremacy by Layla F Saad
Not a Diet Book by James Smith
Skincare by Caroline Hirons
Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain
Think Like a Monk – Jay Shetty
Five Minute Mum: Give Me Five by Daisy Upton
What Mummy Makes by Rebecca Wilson
Check out these great titles from Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea Libraries.
YA (YOUNG ADULT) BOOK PRIZE 2021 SHORTLIST
10 titles have been nominated for The Bookseller’s YA book of the year, with the winner being announced on 6th May 2021 during the Hay festival. Wide ranging subjects feature in the books, and all titles are available from Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea libraries.
Summer is in full swing, and everywhere in gardens, parks, window boxes, and balconies, flowers are bursting with colour. Flowers can be exciting, calming, awe inspiring – and somehow this summer they seem more wonderful than ever. Of course, Chelsea has been home to the Royal Horticultural Society’s fabulous Flower Show for more than a century – this year it has been postponed to September, when I’m sure it will be the treasure trove we’ve come to expect.
Our Biography Collection (Special Collection of Biographies) contains many books about famous gardeners and garden designers, plant collectors and those who developed the scientific understanding of flowers. For this blog post I want to focus on three people who in very different ways have celebrated flowers and deepened our experience of them.
Have a look at these exquisite flower pictures which date from the 18th century; it may surprise you to learn that their creator was a woman who completed almost 1000 of these images between the ages of 73 and 82. You might be further surprised that they are not paintings, but collages. Mary Delany was born Mary Granville in 1700. Aged 17, she was married to a man of 60, as a way of consolidating the political aspirations of her aristocratic family. He died eight years later, and she did not remarry until her early forties, when she became the wife of Irish clergyman Patrick Delany – they divided their time between Dublin and County Down. Both Delanys were keen gardeners and Mary celebrated flowers in a range of creative work, including watercolour, embroidery and collages with shells. Delany felt that delicate tissue paper could most closely evoke the texture of actual flower petals, and eventually perfected her original method which she called “paper mosaic”, building detailed flower images with tiny cut-out shapes meticulously layered, and mounted on black paper to dramatic effect (this was revolutionary, as botanical illustrations were traditionally given white backgrounds, echoing herbaria where plant specimens were always shown against white). She was an expert botanist, and would dissect the flowers before depicting them, to make sure her work was accurate as well as beautiful. King George III and Queen Charlotte became huge fans, as well as friends. She had a circle of other eminent friends, including Jonathan Swift, and the botanist Sir Joseph Banks, who was a key figure in the founding and development of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. We are fortunate in having nine books about Mrs Delany in the collection, including a tiny volume of her letters from 1821 which is illustrated with a silhouette portrait of her at the age of 87 and a 21st century volume of recipes, remedies and etiquette tips gleaned from her letters.
William Robinson‘s career began humbly in Ireland, when he was employed as a teenaged “garden boy” by the Marquess of Waterford. His precocious expertise with flowers led him to become one of the most influential gardeners of the late19th and early 20th centuries. In 1861, when he was only 23, he moved to London to work at Regents Park, where he became an authority on British wildflowers. He wrote a range of gardening books which were so successful that he was able to buy Gravetye Manor in Sussex, where he set about creating a magnificent range of gardens. Robinson championed wild, natural styles of garden design, taking inspiration from the traditional English cottage garden – he railed against straight lines, “carpet” beds of monotonous bright colours, and the formality of topiary and statues (he was very critical of some of the contemporary plantings in Kensington Gardens, which he considered hideous). Instead he promoted the abundance of simple, often neglected, meadow flowers, blurring the boundary between garden and wild countryside, and bringing the Arts and Crafts aesthetic into the garden. His were amongst the go-to books for millions of British gardeners up until the 1930s, when he died and his fame began to fade.
Ross Gay‘s The Book of Delights is quite simply one of the most life-affirming books I have ever read. A collection of essays written over a year, it is a catalogue of the small joys of everyday life, which poet Gay describes with lyricism, humour and an acknowledgement that delight co-exists with pain, and can be rendered more precious by it. In his preface Gay lists nine themes that he traces coming up repeatedly over his year of “delights” – one of them is his garden, and I am including this book because many of its most incandescent passage relate to flowers, and remind us of their power to surprise us and to offer us joy in the middle of whatever else we are going through (in fact, flowers recur so often as a topic that as well as being classified on book websites as “Philosophy” and “Social Sciences”, the book may also be found in “Gardening”; Gay is a passionate gardener and founder of a community orchard in Bloomington, Indiana). Throughout the 102 essays, on a multitude of topics including friendship, loss, the African-American experience and the meaning of community, flowers make repeated appearances and are a recurring motif resonating with hope. Many of the essays focus on the flowers Gay plants, cherishes, unexpectedly encounters and observes with what he calls “supreme attentiveness”. The essay “Flower in the Curb” is a meditation on friendship, memory, loss, our relationship to public space and the serendipity of sudden beauty, all in three paragraphs, and though there is much more than flowers in Gay’s records of his “intense fleeting attentions”, flowers are a constant theme and some of the most memorable and uplifting passages are woven through with their scents and textures, and their profound redemptive meaning to Gay.
- Claudia, Kensington Central Library
…Writers we love!
This week on our blog, Reece from Victoria Library has reviewed the life and work of Kenyan author and gay rights activist Binyavanga Wainaina, over to Reece to tell us more….
“I’m not even sure I want to use the term ‘coming out’”.
Kenyan novelist and Journalist Binyavanga Wainaina, explained that publicly announcing his sexuality did not at all feel like he was stepping out of the darkness and into the light. Instead, it felt as if he was encountering more obstacles and more barriers to social situations. “What is my urinal policy? Do you chat casually with the person next to you as would be the case before?”. He jokingly poses these questions but alludes to a wider notion that there were still hurdles he had to climb because of his sexuality, he alternatively prefers the term “Gay in public”.
Binyavanga’s somewhat unique interpretation of his self-discovery is highly representative of his writing style and career as an author. His satirical collection of essays titled ‘How to write about Africa’ was a powerful attack on the way Non-African writers perceive Africa, deciding to celebrate the richness in culture as opposed to a “dearth” in resources. Binyavanga wanted to challenge popular perceptions of identity, culture and belonging. His fluid and poetic style earned him the Caine Prize for African Writing in 2002, one of the highest achievements in African writing.
Binyavanga was also an experimental writer. During a period in his life where he suffered from depression – he tried what he called “scribble fiction” a way in which he could liberate himself from the struggles of living through his sexual identity. He often wrote piece after piece criticising Kenyan Pentecostal churches and their approach to relationships, it is thus easy to observe how he became sceptical towards religion. But towards the end of his life he did acquire an interest into Pre-colonial Kenyan spirituality. His very first published novel – which was thought to be lost – called ‘Binguni!’ was a story about an African afterlife, featuring a queer prophet and other various entities from the internet world, questioning and enlightening his audience about the prospect of a liberal paradise.
His writing, his identity and his approach to life all flew in the face of contemporary Kenya that was enacting legislation to further criminalise homosexuality. He passed away at the age of 48 after suffering from a stroke in 2019. From starting out as a freelance food and travel writer to being listed in TIME’s 100 most influential people in 2014, his influence on the world of literature and activism can not be understated. Binyavanga Wainaina is undoubtedly a figure worth researching during this PRIDE month and beyond.
“The problem here is that I am a writer. And although, like many, I go to sleep at night fantasizing about fame, fortune and credibility, the thing that is most valuable in my trade is to try, all the time, to keep myself loose, independent and creative… it would be an act of great fraudulence for me to accept the trite idea that I am “going to significantly impact world affairs”
Binyavanga Wainaina’s books can be borrowed for free through our library catalogue – https://trib.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/rbkc/search/results?qu=Binyavanga+Wainaina&te=
Why not check one out today?!
Michaela from Church Street Library has given us her review of this year’s Hay Festival. The Hay Festival is one of the biggest annual literary events of the calendar, including a mixture of musical performances and film reviews.
Over to Michaela to read what she thinks of the festival so far…
I have recently enjoyed listening to many authors talk about their books, writing and awards from the Hay Festival.
“The Hay Festival runs from 26th May to 6th June with many events happening throughout day, with activities, talks catered to adult fiction, junior fiction, teen fiction as well award winning to non-fiction titles.
It is a great chance to listen to authors and ask questions. I joined my first event on Monday night to hear Monique Roffey – the 2021 Costa Prize Award winner – talk about her book “The Mermaid of Black Conch”, and she answered my question live!!!!
Monique talked about how she crowdfunded to get her book into print via an independent publisher and fast forward to January, she won a major literary an award. Well done to Monique.
I have also listened to the YA writer Alice Oseman talk about her prize-winning novel “Loveless” which especially during Pride, was a worthy winner. Alice also talked about her comic strip writing of “Heartstopper” series which she loved writing, but it took such a lengthy time. It was great to hear how many young people commented on the Heartstopper series.
Lastly, I listened to Benjamin Zephaniah talking about his latest book “Windrush child “. Set from a child’s perspective, it was great listening to it being read with an older voice, as Benjamin admits with his dyslexia, he gets tongue tied when reading out loud. With Windrush day this month this is certainly a book I want to read. All around he was a delight to listen to.
Many other authors coming up include: Floella Benjamin, Gareth Nix, Sarah Winman and Chris Packham.
This festival has been a must for book lovers, video clips will be available later. 😊”
All books mentioned during throughout the Hay Festival are available to borrow for free from our catalogue – https://trib.ent.sirsidynix.net.uk/client/en_GB/rbkc/
Did you know that we have an insightful podcast exploring the Biography Store Collection?
Over to Katie Williams to tell us more…
“Claudia Jessop and I wanted to seek new opportunities to promote the Biography Store Collection. With over 90,000 items in the collection it is very heavily borrowed by a wide variety of people and we wanted to shine a light more on the people whose biographies or whose lives are not celebrated as much. I have loved reading Claudia’s blogs about our collections and I thought that it would be good to get it out there into podcast form. So we formed a scooby gang, including Emma Marsh and Jackie Hastick, and we set about coming up with ideas for people who we wanted to celebrate and the logistics of how it could work.
We were very fortunate to get support from our Comms team and our first podcast was launched to coincide with our Black History Month 2020 programme. It was an absolute pleasure to celebrate the life of Claudia Jones, who was responsible for the Notting Hill Carnival and who shaped the cultural and social lives of so many people.
Our mission is this: to shine a light on those who have made an impact on our world.
Its been a really amazing experience not just discovering these people but crafting something which people will stream and enjoy. Episode 6 (about the wonderful James Baldwin) and Episode 7 (Lady Charlotte Guest) are now live “
Listen to BioEpic here:
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race” said H. G. Wells, and I think I know what he means – there is something about seeing someone zooming down a hill, or stoically labouring up one, on a simple piece of machinery that uses only human muscle power to get them speedily from a to b, that is both reassuring and inspiring. Cycling is increasingly popular, and as we mark National Bike week from 30th May to 5th June, there can be no question that the more of us take to two wheels, the better it will be for our environment and for our fitness.
Our Special Collection of Biographies at Kensington Central Library contains many books about professional cyclists, Olympians and Tour de France winners, but for this blog post I thought it would be interesting to focus on some people who didn’t cycle professionally, but in whose lives bikes played an important part in a variety of different ways.
The bicycle was vital to the clandestine work of resistance fighters and spies during the Second World War. It enabled operatives to make a quick getaway, travel anonymously, and blend into a crowd. Many heroes and heroines of the Special Operations Executive, responsible for covert operations behind enemy lines, made daring and essential use of their bikes, among them Australian Nancy Wake. Parachuted into France in 1944, Wake’s mission was to liaise with local resistance fighters and distribute the weapons and funds sent to them from Britain. When her team’s radio and codes were lost during fierce fighting with German troops, they were left with no way of updating and contacting the SOE in London; on a borrowed bike, Wake peddled a round trip distance of 300 miles to get access to the nearest means of communication. Without the thousands of bicycles used for essential missions, the outcome of the war may well have been different. Wake’s story and those of many of her valiant colleagues are told in Squadron Leader Beryl E. Escott’s Heroines of the SOE from our Collected Biography part of the collection (biographies of groups of people – this is a 3,000-book sub-collection within the collection).
Bikes have been vital to less dangerous peace time missions – for decades the image of the district nurse and midwife was linked to the bicycle (viewers of the BBC’s Call the Midwife will be familiar with the cape-flapping leap onto the bike in response to urgent calls). Joan Markham and Joanna Jones are two of the district nurses whose memoirs we have; both books’ dust jackets feature evocative illustrations of the women with their bikes. In Nurse on the District, Jones describes battling loneliness as a young nurse newly arrived in postwar London but never loses her sense of humour.
In My Little Black Bag, Markham describes her wartime work in one of the poorest areas of Manchester. “I had ridden a bike since the Fairy Cycle days [a popular inter-war children’s bike] and, as a good horsewoman is one with her horse, so I was with my old iron steed”, she says. [pic 3 and 4]
Emily Chappell gives insight into the life of a bike courier in London – with the increase in delivery services, more and more people are earning their living on two wheels and her beautifully written book What Goes Around describes our city from the vantage point of a keen observer zipping through traffic on other people’s crucial errands. This is a memoir about much more than the experience of this particular job, investigating memory, imagination, community, and what it is to inhabit an endlessly changing city.
Though she was briefly famous, Annie Londonderry began and ended her life in obscurity, and was a very incongruous person to take on the challenge of proving that a woman could circumnavigate the globe on a bike, in 1894. Born Annie Cohen, a Jewish immigrant to the USA from Latvia, 24-year-old Annie was the wife of a very religious man and mother of three young children – and had never ridden a bike before she resolved on her outrageous challenge. A brilliant publicist, Annie donned the still-shocking bloomers (see the March Biographies from the Basement blog post!) after the first leg of her journey convinced her that long skirts and a corset were just not going to be viable. She covered her clothing with embroidered advertisements in return for sponsorship – she even rented out the spokes of her wheels to be adorned with advertisements in ribbon form. Her major sponsor was Londonderry Water, which explained her change of name – also a safety measure, as riding under the name Cohen or her married name Kopchovsky would have exposed her to the antisemitism that was rife at the time. Annie’s accounts of her trip fell on a spectrum between wild exaggeration and outright fantasy – she spun gripping tales of countries she never visited at all – and she is certainly one of the extraordinary eccentrics of our collection, who you can encounter in the wonderful biography Around the World on Two Wheels by her great nephew Peter Zheutlin.
Bikes can play a part in journeys of a very personal kind, and have their fair share of romantic associations. The Amazing Story of the Man Who Cycled from India to Europe for Love by Per J Andersson pretty much does what it says in the title, which is to trace the story of Artist Pradyumna Kumar Mahanandia who fell in love with Charlotte Von Schedvin , a young Swedish woman whose portrait he painted while she was travelling through India in a van in 1975. After two years of correspondence, the pair found that their feelings for each other had not faded, and Mahanandia resolved to join her in Sweden. You can guess how he made the journey; the two married and had two children, and Mahanandia has enjoyed a successful career as an artist in Sweden.
Another life changing bicycle ride was undertaken by Mike Carter, who in One Man and His Bike recounts how at the age of 45, while commuting to work on his bike, he made the decision to peddle around the whole of the coast of Britain, a distance of 5,000 miles (many cyclists claim to have their best ideas while cycling; indeed Carter reminds us that Albert Einstein claimed that the theory of relativity came to him while on his bike). His life-affirming encounter with people and places is touching and humorous; recollecting how therapeutic hours on his bike have got him through emotionally difficult times since childhood, he expresses how the solitary contemplative cycle ride forms a connection between our own intimate emotions and the world that waits to be discovered at the end of an adventurous (cycle) path.
Whether or not you are a cyclist yourself, I am sure you will find something of interest in these books and the 90,000 others in our Special Collection of Biographies. Don’t forget to listen to our BioEpic podcast, available from Anchor, Spotify, Apple, Google, Breaker and Pocket Casts.
- Claudia, Kensington Central Library
During St Georges’ week, a Colour-in-a-Dragon competition was held in our children’s libraries in Kensington and Chelsea. The best pictures from each library were selected, given a small prize and put forward for the inter library prize.
The winners for North Kensington Library were by Sam (aged 4) and Lilah Wilson-Stephens (aged 6). They came and collected their prizes, a craft activity toy, after school on Monday 17 May. They are brother and sister and it turns out their mother is an artist, so they seem to have inherited her talent!
I chose Sam’s picture because he used lots of different colours but all in a similar colour palate, so the effect is pleasing and not messy. Most importantly, he kept all the colours inside the different sections, with very little crossing over the lines. Very good work for a four-year-old!
I chose Lilah’s because she used an excellent golden yellow for the dragon’s body, not a trace of colour crosses over any line, and all the sections are very carefully and evenly filled. Again, very good, precise work for a six-year-old!
Both Sam and Lilah were both very pleased to be the winners. They were also keen to show me their latest gymnastic moves, before heading home for tea and to play with their prizes.
North Kensington Library
Over to Zvezdana from Chelsea Library for a review on a love story with a bite!
The love story with a bite: ‘Twilight’ – books and films!
Fifteen years ago, the first ‘Twilight’ book was published, followed by ‘New Moon’, ‘Eclipse’ and ‘Breaking Dawn’, telling a story of Romeo and Juliet with a vampiric twist. Since its release ‘Twilight’ was sold over 165 million copies (numbers from 2020).
In 2015 Meyer published ‘Twilight Reimagined: Life and Death’. The story is a gender-swapped retelling of the first book, and she introduced Beau Swan and Edythe Cullen in place of Bella and Edward. The ending is different, as Meyer decided to give full closure to the story, avoiding any chance of sequels.
Last year ‘Twilight’ fans finally got long-time-promised book – ‘Midnight Sun’ -‘Twilight’ retold from Edward Cullen’s point of view. When the story was famously leaked in 2008, the project was paused for twelve years.
What is the ‘Twilight’ story about?
The main character, seventeen-year-old Bella Swan, decided to stay for a while with her father in order not to be a burden to her happily newly remarried mother. So, she is swapping sunny Phoenix for Forks, a small and constantly rainy town in Washington State. Naturally, the landscape looked completely different- Forks is “too green”, lush, mysterious, like in fairy tales. Anything is possible.
The story is told from Bella’s point of view. A pretty and shy, geeky, book-wormish type; self-conscious and timid; pale, slender but not sporty, “lacking the necessary hand-eye coordination to play sports without humiliating” herself; Bella did not fit in anywhere. So, she was more than anxious on her first day in the local high school. Surprisingly, many people – boys and girls – noticed her and she found this new situation quite intimidating.
The focus of her attention was a group of five “devastatingly, inhumanly beautiful” boys and girls, the Cullen family, who kept to themselves. From the first moment Bella saw Edward Cullen, pale bronze-haired boy, in the school cafeteria, she fell in love with him. Her life thrillingly and dangerously swirled casting a spell on her (and the readers). The Cullens were vampires and Edward managed up to now, to keep his vampire identity secret. For him it was the first time in his mortal and immortal life that he fell in love with somebody.
Suddenly, we are following deeply romantic and extraordinary suspenseful story of two lovers who should not be together, whose love is wrong, forbidden, yet, they cannot imagine the life without the other one.
I cannot say that I was convinced by the idea of retelling the same story, yet, again. It sounded like KS2 writing task, something that Meyer’s assistants could easily supply. Suspicious, I gave it a chance, bought the book, read it and – I liked it. It I interesting to see how Bella and Edward are similar. From her perspective he is like dazzling god who does everything perfectly, while she questions her worthiness constantly. On the other hand, Edward is horrified that because of his selfish need not to lose Bella, he does not have the strength to leave her and let her have normal, human life. She deserves much more.
This is what the publisher, Little, Brown and Company, wrote about this book:
“When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.
This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?
In Midnight Sun, Stephenie Meyer transports us back to a world that has captivated millions of readers and brings us an epic novel about the profound pleasures and devastating consequences of immortal love.”
‘Twilight’ movies, from Summit Entertainment, became even bigger hit than books. From ‘Twilight’ in 2008 to ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2’, in 2012, the films were fantastically successful. (Budget for five films was around $401 million; Box Office – around $3.346 billion)!
Check Stephenie Meyer’s official website for information on books and films. The Movies – Stephenie Meyer
Personally, the first film, directed by Catherine Hardwicke is the best. It closely follows the book. The critical scene when Edward saved Bella’s life and stopped the van, is even better, more plausible, in film than how it was presented in the book.
The crucial point was the perfect casting of Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen. More than 5,000 boys auditioned for the role. Thanks to his portrait of Cedric Diggory in ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’, Pattinson was in a very good position to get the role.
“There are very few actors who can look both dangerous and beautiful at the same time, and even fewer who I can picture in my head as Edward,” Meyer wrote. Although she previously said that Henry Cavill was “the only actor”, she had ever seen, “who could come close to pulling off Edward Cullen”, she was “ecstatic” with the studio’s decision to cast Robert Pattinson. That role made him a global superstar.
‘Twilight’ is not the only 2000s novel franchise getting a 2020 restart. Prequels and sequels are very popular, from ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Batman’ to ‘Hunger Games’.
Both, Stewart and Pattinson moved from Twilight saga and have successful careers, but in readers’ and viewers’ eyes they will always be the embodiment of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, similarly, as Colin Firth will always be Mr Darcy regardless how many film awards he may win.
If you would like to borrow books or films from the Twilight franchise or other works by Stephenie Meyer, have a look at our catalogue!
The first and the most of the major science fiction prizes has just been announced, the Hugo Book Awards 2021.
*Copies of the books are available for Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea Libraries.
To search the Westminster Libraries catalogue, click on the link below:
You can select and collect the book or alternatively many are available to download via our new Libby app!
The Hugo Awards was founded by the World Science Fiction Convention back in 1953. It is the oldest type of science fiction award and has is revered amongst the science fiction communities worldwide. The prize was inspired by the Academy Awards but is unique in that there are no written rules as to which works qualify as science fiction or fantasy, and the decision of eligibility in that regard is left up to the voters, rather than to the organizing committee.
The books nominated this year are a splendid mix of the philosophical, otherworldly and a splash of urban fantasy. The finalists for Hugo Best Novel Award contains 3 special titles, N.K Jemisin’s The City We Became is the first in a brand new series about whole cities, literally becoming alive. Susanna Clarke’s Piransei is a richly gothic tale about a mysterious house and its mystical inhabitants and Tamsyn Muir’s Harrow of the Ninth is set in fantastical universe of necromancy and sword-fighting. All three intriguing novels are available to borrow from our collection!
Winners to be announced 15th – 19th December
Hugo Book Awards
BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL
2021 HUGO AWARD FINALISTS: BEST GRAPHIC STORY
DIE, Volume 2: Split the Party, written by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans, letters by Clayton Cowles
Ghost-Spider vol. 1: Dog Days Are Over, Author: Seanan McGuire, Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa and Rosie Kämpe
Invisible Kingdom, vol 2: Edge of Everything, Author: G. Willow Wilson, Artist: Christian Ward
Monstress, vol. 5: Warchild, Author: Marjorie Liu, Artist: Sana Takeda
Once & Future vol. 1: The King Is Undead, written by Kieron Gillen, iIllustrated by Dan Mora, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, lettered by Ed Dukeshire
Parable of the Sower: A Graphic Novel Adaptation, written by Octavia Butler, adapted by Damian Duffy, illustrated by John Jennings (Harry N. Abrams)
2021 HUGO AWARD FINALISTS: BEST SERIES
The Daevabad Trilogy, S.A. Chakraborty
The Interdependency, John Scalzi
The Lady Astronaut Universe, Mary Robinette Kowal
The Murderbot Diaries, Martha Wells (Tor.com)
October Daye, Seanan McGuire (DAW)
The Poppy War, R.F. Kuang (Harper Voyager)
2021 HUGO AWARD FINALISTS: BEST NOVELLA
2021 HUGO AWARD FINALISTS: BEST NOVEL
Black Sun, Rebecca Roanhorse (Gallery / Saga Press)
The City We Became, N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir (Tor.com)
Network Effect, Martha Wells (Tor.com)
Piranesi, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
The Relentless Moon, Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor Books)
In a special Facebook event, Robert Galbraith in conversation with Mark Billingham, Galbraith, alias J K Rowling, was asked about ‘unreliable narrators’.
One version of the crime in ‘Troubled Blood’ comes from someone with a very warped perception of what happened. Do crime novels need unreliable narrators?
J K Rowling’s answer was that “crime novels gain from having witnesses who do not perfectly recall, because that’s real life. People tend to remember things that interest them.”
In preparation for the Book of the Week and my presentation of ‘Troubled Blood’, I visited Clerkenwell. For those who have not read the book, yet, Clerkenwell is the most important location for the latest Strike’s investigation. Forty years ago, a doctor, Margot Bamborough, disappeared from her surgery in Clerkenwell. She was supposed to meet a friend, Oonagh Kennedy, at the nearby pub – The Three Kings, but never arrived.
As lockdown is lifting, shops and pubs opening, it would be quite probable that the filming of ‘Troubled Blood’ has started.
True or not true, I do not know, but I can definitely inform you that I recorded some “suspicious” activities in Clerkenwell, in the early afternoon, on Wednesday, 28 April 2021. The Three Kings is still closed. The St James’ Church is under scaffoldings, but a filming on Clerkenwell Green is happening!
Unfortunately, no signs of Tom Burke or Holliday Grainger. Even the location at Denmark Street did not prove productive.
By Zvezdana, Your ‘unreliable reporter’.
May is National Share-a-Story Month, with the theme Myths, Magic and Mayhem. The Federation of Children’s Book Groups calls this “a celebration of the power of storytelling and story sharing” and it is aimed at “bringing children and stories together”. In earlier times there wasn’t so much of a distinction between stories aimed at adults and children; our forebears would have gathered in inter-generational groups to enjoy the storytelling which would have been one of the only entertainments. Ancient folk and fairytales still have an uncanny power to hold us spellbound; we may already know who is responsible for the nocturnal completion of the shoemaker’s work, we know what will happen when the prince kisses Snow White, we know that despite her parents’ desperate efforts, Sleeping Beauty will have her encounter with the spindle – but we still feel the suspense and awe of unfolding drama, sense the menace, and applaud the way underdog protagonists magically subvert their way through crises. Folk tales from all over the world explore universal themes of power, betrayal and vengeance, triumph over injustice and rescue from danger. As well as providing entertainment, they served an important function in passing the values and wisdom of a culture from generation to generation. After centuries of oral retelling, some were written down for the first time as societies became more literate, and were published and illustrated in versions that became iconic. In this blog post I will look at some subjects of our Biography Collection who collected and interpreted fairy tales, created their own versions of the old, or originated completely new ones.
In 17th century France, Charles Perrault wrote down stories which had been passed down orally for generations: his were the seminal versions of Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella, for example. In early 19th century Germany, brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm did the same – their rich cultural heritage also included Cinderella (a story whose basic pattern appears throughout the world, with the most ancient version occurring in China), and their versions of stories like Hansel and Gretel and Rapunzel are very much more violent than sanitised later versions. In 1830s Denmark, Hans Christian Andersen created his own often tragic tales, such as the The Little Mermaid and the Snow Queen.
Some of the leading figures in world literature either turned their hands to writing fairy tales, or introduced some of the themes and narrative patterns of such stories into their work. The great Japanese writer Natsume Sōseki included fairy stories in his large body of work. Rabindranath Tagore – giant of world literature and first non-European recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1919 – used the structure of familiar folk tales in many of his works. Alexander Pushkin wrote a collection of fairy tales in the early 1830s; he felt that the Russian language was ideal for bringing out their magic, and lamented the fact that as a child he had not been read such tales. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the African American writer Paul Laurence Dunbar used the rich tradition of the folk tales and folk idioms he had grown up with in his work, and later Zora Neale Hurston (see previous blog posts) collected folklore and traditional tales, many of which had a centuries-old history in Africa.
Another Nobel laureate, Yiddish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer, rewrote traditional Ashkenazi tales in versions for children, and in many of his stories for adults, figures from folklore such as dybbuks (spirits which possess people) and golems (creatures made of mud which come alive) regularly appear, in the characters’ imaginations if not in “reality”.
Roger Lancelyn Green was an Oxford academic and friend of Tolkien and C. S. Lewis; today he is best remembered for his numerous rewritings of myths and legends for children. His Tellers Of Tales: Children’s Books And Their Authors From 1800 To 1968 is in our Collected Biographies collection, and provided the first overview of the subject. He wrote many biographies, including of Andersen and the Scottish writer Andrew Lang, who collected enormous numbers of folk tales (and lived in Marloes Road, Kensington). Angela Carter created extraordinary versions of fairytales in her collection The Bloody Chamber of 1979, bringing out all of their most sinister and erotic elements; books on her in our collection include Susannah Clapp’s look at the postcards she sent to friends. We also have biographies of psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, who analysed the meaning of fairytales from a Freudian perspective.
When making the first ever full-length animated feature film, an idea considered ridiculous by many people at the time, what subject did Walt Disney consider the best choice on which to lavish three years’ labour by nearly 300 artists and their more than 1,000 assistants? An age-old fairy tale, of course – Snow White (a story first published by the brothers Grimm) was released in 1938, and in the 82 years since, Disney versions of fairytale figures have become ubiquitous. We have some beautifully illustrated books about Disney in the oversize part of our collection.
Of course, we don’t have to travel far from our library to reach one of the most famous sites of magical occurrences – Kensington Gardens. J. M. Barrie’s Tinkerbell must be one of the best known of all supernatural beings, and he is well represented in the collection too (including in Lang’s Tellers of Tales). Before Disney presented Tinkerbell as a feisty miniature “glamour girl”, the illustrator Arthur Rackham envisaged her in a much more ethereal Art Nouveau style. Beautiful illustrations fill our books on him; his evocations of Edwardian Kensington are spookily delicate and beautiful (and you can read more about him on the fantastic Library Time Machine blog of our Local Studies Manager Dave Walker)
It’s always fascinating to uncover bits of the stories of famous people we may not have been aware of – like the fact that in 1917 Sir Arthur Conan Doyle fell hook, line and sinker for a photographic hoax perpetrated by two young girls using current photographic techniques to photograph fraudulent cardboard “fairies”. As well as being the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle was an ardent spiritualist and in that First World War period, many people were desperate to believe in a realm beyond the real world, so torn by violence and loss.
One of my personal favourite pieces of writing is Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince; it was part of a collection of tales for children published in 1888, which all have the resonance and moral arc of fairy tales. We have a huge number of books on Wilde – a Chelsea resident, of course.
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Claudia Jessop, Kensington Central Library.