‘To Sir, With Love’, is a 1959 autobiographical novel by E. R. Braithwaite set in the East End of London. The novel is based on true events concerned with Braithwaite taking up a teaching post in a school there. In 1945, Rick Braithwaite, a smart, highly educated ex-RAF pilot, looks for a job in British engineering. He is deeply shocked to realise that, as a black man from British Guiana, no one will employ him because of the colour of his skin..

.. In desperation he turns to teaching, taking a job in a tough East End school, and left to govern … More

An unnamed narrator, recently bereaved, travels to Olevano, a small village south-east of Rome. It is winter, & from her temporary residence on a hill between village & cemetery, she embarks on walks & outings, exploring the banal & the sublime with equal dedication & intensity. Seeing, describing, naming the world around her is her way of redefining her place within it. Written in a rich & poetic style, Grove is an exquisite novel of grief, love & landscapes.

‘The language and atmosphere is again redolent of Kinsky’s compatriot WG Sebald, the much-missed psychogeographer. With Grove, she has reached … More

Doggerland is a superbly gripping debut novel about loneliness & hope, nature & survival – set on an off-shore windfarm in the not-so-distant future. ‘His father’s breath had been loud in the small room. It had smelled smoky, or maybe more like dust. He had knotted & unknotted a strap on the bag he was holding – he must have been leaving to go out to the farm that day. ‘I’ll get out,’ he’d said..

  ..’I’ll come back for you, ok?’ The boy remembered that; had always remembered it. And, for a time, he’d … More

First published OTD in 1949, George Orwell’s, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Thematically, 1984 centres on the consequences of government over-reach, totalitarianism, mass surveillance, and repressive regimentation of all persons and behaviours within society, The story takes place in an imagined future, the year 1984, when much of the world has fallen victim to perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, historical negationism, and propaganda.

Winston Smith works for the Ministry of Truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from … More

Possibly the definitive fictional account of the experiences of the Empire Windrush generation, it was recently selected by the BBC as one of its ‘100 Novels That Shaped Our World’. It is 1948, and England is recovering from a war. But at 21 Nevern Street, London, the conflict has only just begun. Queenie Bligh’s neighbours do not approve when she agrees to take in Jamaican lodgers, but Queenie doesn’t know when her husband will return, or if he will come back at all..

What else can she do? Gilbert Joseph was one of the several thousand Jamaican men who joined the RAF to … More

The Plague is Albert Camus’s world-renowned fable of fear & courage. The townspeople of Oran are in the grip of a deadly plague, which condemns its victims to a swift & horrifying death. Fear, isolation & claustrophobia follow as they are forced into quarantine. Each person responds in their own way to the lethal disease: some resign themselves to fate, some seek blame, & a few, like Dr Rieux, resist the terror.

An immediate triumph when it was published in 1947, The Plague is in part an allegory of France’s suffering under … More

First publlished OTD in 1914, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, a semi-biographical novel by the Irish house painter & sign writer Robert Noonan, who wrote the book in his spare time under the pen name Robert Tressell. Clearly frustrated at the refusal of his contemporaries to recognise the inequity and iniquity of society, Tressell’s cast of hypocritical Christians, exploitative capitalists & corrupt councillors provide a backdrop for his main target—the workers who think that a better life is “not for the likes of them”. Hence the title of the book; Tressell paints the workers as “philanthropists” who throw themselves into back-breaking work for poverty wages to generate profit for their masters.

One of the characters, Frank Owen, is a socialist who tries to convince his fellow workers that capitalism is the … More

The novel begins in Marseilles “thirty years ago” (c. 1826), with the notorious murderer Rigaud telling his cellmate John Baptiste Cavalletto how he killed his wife. Arthur Clennam is detained in Marseilles with a group of travellers in quarantine. He meets new friends in the quarantine. He is returning to London to see his mother after 20 years in China with his father, handling that part of the family business. His father died there. On his deathbed, his father had given him a mysterious message, murmuring “Your mother,” which message and a watch Arthur mails to Mrs Clennam.

Inside the watch casing is an old silk paper with the initials DNF (do not forget) worked in beads. It … More

The Last Man is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel by Mary Shelley, which was first published in 1826. The book tells of a future world that has been ravaged by a plague. Shelley states in the introduction that in 1818 she discovered, in the Sibyl’s cave near Naples, a collection of prophetic writings painted on leaves by the Cumaean Sibyl. She has edited these writings into the current narrative, the first-person narrative of a man living at the end of the 21st century, commencing in 2073 and concluding in 2100.

The Last Man is Mary Shelley’s apocalyptic fantasy of the end of human civilisation. Set in the late twenty-first century, … 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