Those eagle-eyed amongst may have noticed that I didn’t include any Sceptre titles in my Hodder and Stoughton Toppling the TBR pile post a few weeks ago. Well that may have been because I couldn’t see any catalogue. I’ve now managed to rectify that and it couldn’t come at a better time.
2016 marks the 30th birthday of Sceptre. Back in 1986 one of the first titles they launched was the Booker Prize-winning Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. Over the next three decades Sceptre have repeatedly published highly regarded and prize winning novels from authors including Rose Tremain, Melvyn Bragg, Michael Chabon, Jill Dawson, David Mitchell, Siri Hustvedt, Tracey Emin, Chris Cleave, Peter Ho Davies, Andrew Miller and Kevin Powers to name but a few.
So with such an illustrious history and a special anniversary to mark, Sceptre is sure to have a whole host of treats to tempt a book lover.
Here’s what we can expect….
January and the release of the paperback edition of The Chimes by Anna Smaill. In The Chimes, a boy called Simon stands at a roadside on his way to London. He has no directions as the written word is banned, he has no memories, no parents. All he has is a song, a melody that pulls him towards the truth of what happened to his parents. The world around Simon pulsates with music. It is controlled by a giant musical instrument that wipes away memories and leaves each new day like the last. It is blasphemy to talk about before. But Simon is remembering, waking with a sense he has something urgent to do. And then he meets Lucian, who can hear things others can’t, who has secrets of his own and who may know something about the danger Simon faces.
Onto February and When the Floods Came by Clare Morrall is published. Imagine you live in an abandoned block of flats with your parents and younger siblings. You have never met anyone your own age. You live in a world isolated since a virus swept through the population and most of the survivors fled to the south coast. You grow used to the violent weather cycles but are connected to the world online. You are about to meet your fiancé who is coming from down south. Then a charming stranger enters your world. And you don’t know if he can be trusted….
Also out this month is the paperback edition of The Song Collector by Natasha Solomons. Fox is a well known composer, determined to be left alone as he mourns the death of his wife. He is brought back to the real world when he discovers his four year old grandson is a piano prodigy. Compelled to re-engage with life he also has to face a rift that occurred years earlier. In 1946 three brothers were brought back to the family house, determined to save it from ruin. But then singer Edie Rose arrives and a chain of events occur that lead to betrayal. A story of rediscovering the joy in life and that its never too late to seek forgiveness. I have a copy of this to read so keep an eye out for my review soon.
Moving onto March and Stork Mountain by Mirolslav Penkov is published. A young American student returns to Bulgaria, the place of his birth, hoping to trace his grandfather. He finds him in a remote village high on the Strandja Mountain. It is a place where pagan rituals meet Christian beliefs. The young man falls for a young Muslim girl and all the while old conflicts reignite and old ghosts arise.
Quicksand by Man Booker shortlisted author of A Fraction of the Whole, Steve Toltz is also published in paperback this month. Aldo Benjamin is an unlucky man. But to his writer friend Liam is a muse, a source of stories that include a life-long love affair, get rich quick schemes, a sexually confused evening, a brothel and a conversation with God.
Onto April and the release of Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave. Already gathering rave reviews this is the story of Mary North, who, the moment war is declared leaves school and enlists. Tom Shaw has decided not to, until his flatmate Alistair enrols and he can no longer avoid the war. When Mary is made a teacher she does everything she can to protect the children under her care. Tom, meanwhile will do anything for Mary. And then Mary and Alistair meet and it love as well as war that will test the three of them.
Best selling author Fredrik Backman, who’s debut novel A Man Called Ove was picked as a Richard and Judy Summer read in 2015 returns in April with the paperback release of his second novel, My Grandmother Sends her Regards and Apologises. Seven year old Elsa’s granny is called eccentric or crazy but to her she is the source of stories of knights and princesses, of dragons and castles. These are her superpowers because Elsa is becoming aware that heroes and villains aren’t just the stuff of stories, they can live down the corridor. Then as Christmas comes Elsa’s grandmother may have some things to apologise for. And Elsa may have some adventures of her own.
Arriving in May is Napoleon’s Last Island by Booker prize winner Thomas Keneally. To some he was a hero, to others an ogre. To young Betsy Balcombe, Napoleon Bonaparte was fascinating and exciting. Set on the island of St Helena, where the commander was sent in exile, the Balcombes and Napoleon become friends but they don’t envisage the vindictive governor of the island, which leads to trouble for them all.
The High Places by Fiona McFarlane is a collection of short stories that take place in locations around the world from Australia to Greece and include stories of revelations of old friends on holiday, accidents on dark country lanes and a lottery win, all with the theme of people being forced to see themselves in new and sometimes disconcerting light.
Fredrik Backman is back in May with the ebook and trade paperback editions of Britt-Marie Was Here. Britt-Marie is a bit of an acquired taste. She is particular, though some may call it fussy or judgemental. She may appear to be a passive-aggressive busy-body but underneath is a warm hearted woman full of imagination and dreams. Then Britt-Marie finds herself jobless, husband-less and in a backwater called Borg running the children’s football team. And is a little unprepared to say the least. (The hardback edition is out in July). I have a copy of this so keep a look out for my review.
On to June and Jill Dawson’s The Crime Writer is published. It is 1964 and crime writer Patricia Highsmith is seeking refuge in a Suffolk cottage. Though she is trying to concentrate on writing and flee her fans she also has a secret romance with a married lover to consider. But her lover vanishes, a stalker from Paris seems to have found and a journalist comes to interview her. All of these things mean Highsmith’s life takes a catastrophic turn. Or does it, for like everything in Patricia Highsmith’s life, all is not as it first appears.
Also out this month is Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was by Sjon. Set in Iceland in 1918, this is the story of Mani Steinn who awake lives on the edge of society but who at night dreams in pictures. When the Spanish Flu arrives, killing hundreds, the shadows at the edge of existence get darker and Mani has to take another look at society and his role in it.
The Crossing by Andrew Miller is also published in paperback in June. In this new book from the Costa award-winning author, a woman – a girlfriend, daughter and a mother, takes to the sea after tragedy strikes, unaware as to where the journey will take her.
July sees the publication of Fell by Jenn Ashworth. Annette Clifford returns to her childhood home in Morecombe to find it crumbling and abandoned. What she doesn’t know is that she is not alone, the spirits of her parents are with her, and they long to make amends. Because the summer of 1963 is returning to them and they see it clearly, when Netty, Annette’s mother was ill, and when a stranger moved in. A stranger that drew their attention away from Annette with his claims of miracle cures. Now they steer her towards another stranger, one who can save her.
July also sees four books by poet Irina Ratushinskaya being published. Grey is the Colour of Hope and In the Beginning both being works of non-fiction and The Odessans and Fictions and Lies being novels.
Onto August and Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan. Set in New York, Berlin and Connecticut, it tells the story of Yuki, a Japanese girl who moved to the US in the 60s’a and her son, Jay, who in the present day wants to find the woman who abandoned him when he was two years old.
Tell It Slant by Peter Ho Davies is also published this month. This traces the lives of four people, real and imagined, capturing the history of the Chinese in the US. Covering the tales of a Chinese boy having to make his own way in the 1860s, a film star and flapper, forbidden to kiss on screen in the 1920s, a man killed in 1980s Detroit because he looked Japanese and a writer in the present day who has all he wants, except for a child.
Onto September and the paperback release of Melvyn Bragg’s Now is the Time. A story set during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, fourteen year old King Richard is fearful given the return of the plague and the lack of money available to him. Then the unthinkable. A group of commoners invade the capital, intent on saving England and rescuing the Kind from his corrupt ministers.
Finally we arrive in October and the paperback edition of David Mitchell’s Slade House is released. Set in the same world as the bestselling The Bone Clocks and stemming from a short story David Mitchell published on Twitter, Slade House is a tale of a house on Slade Alley. There’s a door with no handle that opens when you touch it. You enter into a courtyard that is too large for the space it is in, too grand for the shabby neighbourhood. You will be greeted by name by a stranger and invited in. At first you will feel as if you never want to leave. And then you will find that you can’t.
So there you have it, a selection of novels suitably enticing and fitting of a 30th birthday celebration. So whilst I wish Sceptre many happy returns I’ll be making a list of presents I want to give myself from the titles above. I know what will be on my wishlist. What about you?