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Book Reviews: April 2024

April 1st, 2024
Some excellent new non-fiction titles with local relevance coming your way this month!
Hagstone by Sinead Gleeson
HarperCollins £16.99 hardback

Highly recommended by bookshop staffer Gill, this debut novel by Irish writer, essayist and artist Sinead Gleeson is an startlingly original literary page-turner.  
Artist Nell lives on a rugged, remote island alongside the Inions, a mysterious and reclusive community of women who consider the island a place of refuge. When Nell is commissioned to create an artwork to celebrate the Inion’s history, she gains entry to the commune and discovers things about the community and about herself that will challenge everything she thought she knew. A brooding, eerie and beautifully-written tale, which delves into the darker side of human nature, faith and the natural world.
Children’s Books

The Rising Down, Lives in a Sussex Landscape by Alexandra Harris
Faber Books £25 hardback 21st March

Celebrated critic and cultural historian Alexandra Harris is the author of Romantic Moderns and Weatherland, and in her new book The Rising Down, Alexandra returns to her birth county of Sussex to consider its artistic inheritance. Surprisingly, despite our proximity to London, Sussex does not feature prominently in pre-19th century art and literature, perhaps because the Downs and the Wealden mud made the county inaccessible. Undeterred by the paucity of records, Harris immerses herself in the County Archaeological records and treats us to a deep dive into Sussex history.
Harris takes the reader on a captivating ramble, unearthing all manner of unexpected stories, from the medieval anchorite who walled themself into the little church at Hardham, to the moose belonging to the Duke of Richmond’s menagerie at Goodwood and immortalised by George Stubbs.  She looks at the Sussex-set work of poets such as William Cowper, artists including John Constable and writers including Ford Madox Ford but also uncovers the hidden voices of the stonemasons, weavers and folk artists who contributed to the county’s rich architectural and artistic heritage.
Alexandra will discuss The Rising Down at our event on Tuesday 17th April

Another England, How to Reclaim our National Story by Caroline Lucas
Cornerstone, £22 hardback 18th April

A new book by Green Party MP and environmental campaigner Caroline Lucas is always cause for celebration and Another England does not disappoint!
Another England looks at patriotism and national identity and asks how right-wingers have hijacked ‘Englishness’ and whether it can be reclaimed. The dominant stories about ‘Englishness’ are now trumpeted by the cheerleaders for Brexit, exceptionalism, and imperial nostalgia, but Lucas argues that there are other more compelling stories about who we are:  our radical inclusivity, our deep-rooted commitment to the natural world, our history of struggle to win rights for all. These stories put the Chartists, the Diggers and the Suffragettes alongside Nelson and Churchill in the national canon.

This inspiring book draws from England’s literary heritage - medieval writers and Romantic poets, as well as looking at more modern diverse artistic voices, to find solutions to the most pressing issues of our time, from the toxic legacy of Empire, to the struggle for constitutional reform and the accelerating climate emergency. An optimistic and refreshing take on English identity which stirred new feelings of national pride in me!

Frog’s Day Out by Julia Donaldson
Macmillan £7.99 board book

Hurrah, all aboard for a new Acorn Wood story, illustrated by Axel Scheffler in his usual charming style! The Acorn Wood stories are ‘entry level’ Julia Donaldson, featuring short rhyming stories with flaps to peep under on every page. Frog and his friends are packing for a day at the beach, can you help them find their sunhats, buckets and spades before they board the steam train to the seaside?  Delightful fun for toddle cross section
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