Author of The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead, brilliantly dramatizes another strand of American history through the story of two boys sentenced to a hellish reform school in 1960s Florida. Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict & clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But given the time & the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, & so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide ‘physical, intellectual & moral training’ which will equip its inmates to become ‘honorable & honest men’. In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional & sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials & tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, & where any boy who resists is likely to disappear ‘out back’.

Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King’s ringing assertion, ‘Throw us … More

Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other. In the early 1700s, Sarah, accused of being a witch, flees for her life. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Ruth navigates a new house, a new husband and the strange waters of the local community. Six decades later, the house stands empty. Viv, mourning the death of her father, catalogues Ruth’s belongings and discovers her place in the past – and perhaps a way forward.

Each woman’s choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men in their lives. But in sisterhood there … More

Set in Reformation Europe, Q begins with Luther’s nailing of his 95 theses on the door of the cathedral church in Wittenberg. Q traces the adventures and conflicts of two central characters: an Anabaptist, a member of the most radical of the Protestant sects and the anarchists of the Reformation, and a Catholic spy and informer, on their thrilling journey across Germany, Italy & the Netherlands. The four young writers who shelter behind the pseudonym Luther Blissett have created a world of intrigue, violence and intense political & religious passion.

  Far from the traditional example of historical fiction, Q is the stuff of which cults are made. Available in … More

Sugar Money recounts Lucien and his older brother Emile’s near-impossible mission to bring back slaves left behind on Grenada, some forty people who are now enslaved by the British. Lucien and the other slaves are owned by les Freres de la Charite who want slaves to replace those who are sickening and dying, in order to tend the sugar plantation and start a distillery.

Unwilling to risk their own lives, they send the brothers. And so begins what Lucien hopes will be an adventure … More

Overlooked classics of American literature: Cloudsplitter by Russell Banks. Owen Brown is the last surviving son of America’s most famous political terrorist, John Brown, who in 1859 raided the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, intending to galvanise the Southern slaves into rebellion. Now Owen tells John’s story. This incredible novel recreates pre-Civil War America, when slavery was tearing the country apart, and tells of one man’s passage from abolitionist to guerrilla fighter &, finally, martyr.

Deeply researched, brilliantly plotted, and peopled with a cast of unforgettable characters both historical and wholly invented, Cloudsplitter is dazzling … More