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Longlisted for Booker Prize…

Wonderfully exciting news to share: we’re delighted to hear that Holland House Books title An Island, by Karen Jennings, has been longlisted for the Booker Prize.

Always exhilarating, perhaps particularly so for any independent publisher: competition is tough from the start. And of course, a huge huge congratulation to an excellent author!

Where to begin? Let’s start with the banner:

Followed by the cover ….

Cover by Ken Dawson

… which was designed by the excellent Ken Dawson (website: ccovers.co.uk.)

The image is of an island, which the artist has cunningly re-modelled to resemble the profile of a man’s head. This immediately invites speculation, and adds an edgy sense of mystery, even menace, to an otherwise tranquil setting.

Next the blurb:

Samuel has lived alone for a long time; one morning he finds the sea has brought someone to offer companionship and to threaten his solitude…

A young refugee washes up unconscious on the beach of a small island inhabited by no one but Samuel, an old lighthouse keeper. Unsettled, Samuel is soon swept up in memories of his former life on the mainland: a life that saw his country suffer under colonisers, then fight for independence, only to fall under the rule of a cruel dictator; and he recalls his own part in its history. In this new man’s presence he begins to consider, as he did in his youth, what is meant by land and to whom it should belong. To what lengths will a person go in order to ensure that what is theirs will not be taken from them?

A novel about guilt and fear, friendship and rejection; about the meaning of home.

Holland House Books

…and something about the author:

KAREN JENNINGS is a South African author. Her debut novel, Finding Soutbek, was shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for African Fiction. Her memoir, Travels with my Father, was published in 2016, and in 2018 she released her debut poetry collection, Space Inhabited by Echoes.

Currently living in Brazil, last year Karen completed post-doctoral research at the Federal University of Goiás on the historical relationship between science and literature, with a focus on eusocial insects. 

You can read more about Karen on the Authors Page of the Holland House Books site

What others have been saying:

Karen Jennings “deftly constructs a moving, transfixing novel of loss, political upheaval, history and identity, all rendered in majestic and extraordinary prose”.

Booker Prize Judges’ Comment , 2021 Booker Prize Longlist Reader

The far southern extremities of our planet produce remarkable, distilled, and ravaged tales. An Island has to be counted as among the most remarkable of these. Karen Jennings offers a chilling, immersive portrait of Samuel, a lighthouse keeper on a remote island off the African continent. He is a man at the edge of history, until the arrival of a refugee stranger returns him to everything he most needs to forget. A gripping, terrifying and unforgettable story.”

— Elleke Boehmer, Professor of World Literature, Oxford

And an Instareel (because we like that here….):

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Guest Post The Interview Chain 6

Today’s guest post from Holland House author Lynn Farley-Rose takes us back to the theatre and perceptions surrounding it:

“I think that men often have a sense of entitlement about getting into directing and that makes it easier for them. It is dominated by white Oxbridge-educated men and I didn’t realise how badly I needed a female role model until I was given one. The theatre industry is starting to shake itself up and that’s really exciting. There are a few amazing women in positions of power.”

Holly, theatre director and Interviewee Number 4 in The Interview Chain. Published by Holland House Books, 30th June 2021

Here’s one of Holly’s heroes, Vicky Featherstone artistic director of London’s Royal Court Theatre talking about one of the innovative projects that kept audiences engaged during lockdown. Aiming to inspire and provoke there’s plenty more to come as live audiences return.

Lynn Farley-Rose

treatsandmore.com

The Interview Chain: published 30th June

Available to order from Holland House Books:

www.hhousebooks.com/books/the-interview-chain

The Interview Chain is available from Amazon, Waterstones and directly from Holland House Books : The-Interview-Chain

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Delivery Guest Post 3

“…a very profound novel, polished and complex. It is practically impossible to put it down until the very end. Barasch Rubinstein is an extraordinary writer…” 

Review in Chi Tarbut

Delivery, by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein, launches today, and for her second guest post we have an excerpt from her original article on War and Peace and Birth, which explores Tolstoy’s depiction of birth, a topic rarely detailed in fiction. The full article is available to read in full on Emanuela’s own blog OnOurselvesAndOthers :

The renowned poet and cultural critic Matthew Arnold, who is widely regarded as the father of modern literary critique, famously stated: “a work of Tolstoy is not a piece of art but a piece of life.” His novels reveal a viscerally realistic worldview, aiming to depict the essence of the human condition in an accurate and authentic manner. Tolstoy once noted: “the one thing necessary in life, as in art, it to tell the truth. Truth is my hero.”

War and Peace, the masterpiece published in 1869, depicts Russia when it was invaded by Napoleon. In addition to the main protagonists, Natasha, Pierre and Prince Andrew, Tolstoy presents a variety of supporting characters, each of whom is layered and fascinating.  The reader learns about Russian society, which is described in a very realistic manner. 

It is evident that the novel is an outstanding literary pinnacle – as well as the first modern literary work to realistically depict giving birth. Various works of art portray children’s arrival into the world, but not many of them give insights into the process of giving birth itself. From antiquity to the modern age, artists have chosen not to elucidate the baby’s arrival into the world. Literary fiction portrays various ruthless painful events, which are not very appealing (wounds and illnesses, beheading and other forms of death), but the feminine experience of extracting one body from another tends to get undermined.

Tolstoy, an author fully attentive to the experience of the individual, depicts the first birth in War and Peace. Although the narrator is not present in the delivery room, he maintains the focus on giving birth. Lisa, also referred to as “the little princess”, is Prince Andrew’s wife. She is portrayed as a young and naïve woman with a juvenile beauty. She wishes no harm, but her frivolous nature stands in contrast to that of Andrew. He leaves his pregnant wife to join the battle against Napoleon. Everyone believes Andrew has died in the battle of Austerlitz. His father and sister decide to conceal his death from his wife who is nine months pregnant – but he returns home unexpectedly right before the delivery.

Even before Lisa’s husband appears, the princess is portrayed as follows: “And besides the pallor and the physical suffering on the little princess’ face, an expression of childish fear of the inevitable pain showed itself.” And then “the little princess began to cry capriciously like a suffering child and to wring her little hands with some affection.”

This description palpably evokes mixed feelings. On the one hand, Tolstoy has unequivocally affirmed that Lisa isn’t crying because of an immediate pain but because she presciently knows that she is about to experience profound suffering. The fear of giving birth is therefore acknowledged as a common feminine phenomenon, which is self-evident in my opinion. On the other hand, fear is still portrayed as capricious and childish.

As the midwife arrives Andrew’s sister tells her, “with eyes wide-open with alarm,” that the birth had begun, to which the midwife replies “You young ladies should not know anything about it.” Here again, Tolstoy acknowledges young women’s fear of giving birth, which is not typical of a single character. Furthermore, the author suggests there is a systematic attempt to conceal the pain and anguish associated with the process of giving birth from young women, perhaps because they might avoid it altogether. In 1959, Simone de Beauvoir argued in her book The Second Sex that women are subjected to myriad psychological manipulations to have children, in order to serve the larger purpose of maintaining masculine superiority. Eighty years earlier, Tolstoy portrays how young women, who had never had children, are intentionally kept away from a woman giving birth.

Andrew returns home unexpectedly and rushes to his wife’s room. The excruciating pain and excitement make her oblivious to his sudden appearance. From this point onward, she is portrayed in a rather extraordinary manner. “’I love you and had done no harm to anyone; why must I suffer so? Help me!’ her look seemed to say.” Her husband tries to assuage her but then again, her expression conveys it all: … Continue reading

Delivery launches today and is available from Holland House Books 

WaterstonesHiveWorderyAmazon and all good bookshops!

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Delivery – Guest Post 2

Delivery, by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein, will be published this coming week, and as  the launch date of 8th July approaches, we’re hosting an excerpt from the opening chapter…

“I am left alone, as if I were an old musical instrument that after much effort has made an ancient sound and now is placed back in its case.”

emanuela barasch rubinstein


Now that it is all over—life’s first cry, the exaltations and tears of joy, the newborn baby taken to be weighed and measured, the stains of blood and amniotic fluid washed off, the narrow incision stitched, the sweat wiped from my forehead—a sigh of relief escapes me, almost against my will. In spite of the hustle and bustle, the midwives’ lively conversation, a cleaner dipping a mop in a bucket and wiping the floor over and over again, a doctor asking for a senior colleague’s advice, I feel silence enveloping me. No one is demanding that I breathe vigorously, that I strain my body to its very limit, or that I try, in vain, to stop a cry of pain. I am left alone, as if I were an old musical instrument that after much effort has made an ancient sound and now is placed back in its case.

Amir has left the delivery room to call the family and tell them that a healthy baby was born. I hear his excited, somewhat cracked voice coming from the corridor; he adopts a practical tone but is unable to conceal its trembling. The baby’s weight is almost three kilograms. When he came into this world the doctor turned him upside down and only then did he begin to cry loudly. Amir says he doesn’t know who he looks like, probably both of us—only his skin is shrivelled and wrinkled like that of an old man, maybe because he remained in the womb two weeks longer than expected, and two hours without amniotic fluid. Amir hastened to end the call and now he is phoning my parents, repeating the description of the birth, not leaving out the slightest detail. It is already a script that he has learned.

Read the full chapter on On Ourselves and Others

Delivery will be published 8th July and is available to pre-order from Holland House Books, Amazon, and Waterstones

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Guest Post The Interview Chain 5

Not strictly speaking a guest post this time, as the original was written on Lynn Farley-Rose’s own blog, but we are posting an excerpt here as it introduces her book so wonderfully – The Interview Chain launched last week, jointly with an interview on BBC radio, and collects together fascinating individuals whose personal stories are both inspiring and moving; here she tells us how it all began:

“Ideas often come when you’re not expecting them and that’s just what happened with The Interview Chain. It showed up one winter morning as I stood on the platform of my local station gazing idly at the London-bound commuters on what was turning out to be the first properly chilly day of the year. As they hunched against the drizzle, most of them communed with their phones and a small minority stared vacantly across the track. Here and there, pointy-toed shoes or a bright scarf introduced a touch of drama to the sober woollen coats and beige macs. But despite being such a diverse collection of individuals, no one person stood out—there was nothing overtly remarkable about any of them. 

It’s precisely because railway stations and trains are for the most part predictable places that they provide such seductive material for fiction writers. While solitary travellers sink into temporary private bubbles, and snippets of humdrum conversation pass in and out of focus, things may appear mundane. And yet there’s an ever-present tension between the seen and the unseen and the lives of our fellow travellers may in reality prove to be anything but ordinary. The poet John Koenig came up with the word sonder to describe the realisation that each random passerby has a life that’s as vivid and complex as our own. I stared at a young woman with streaked cyan hair, at a man with a shaved head and an older woman clutching her suitcase handle for support. What mattered to them? What shaped them? What were they proud of? Had they lived enough to have regrets?

I shifted up a gear and started to think about the population of the world and the fact that my fellow travellers were an infinitesimal percentage of the seven billion individuals alive that day. Seven billion—that’s a lot of lives. A lot of stories. 

Real life stories have that extra ingredient that fiction can never have. Escaping into made-up stories and beautiful prose is one kind of pleasure, but watching a film based on fact prompts us to empathise and explore how we ourselves would react in a similar situation. Radio programmes like Desert Island Discs, Last Word, and The Listening Project are popular because they’re about real people’s lives, and are therefore always original and unpredictable. They’re amongst my own favourite listening material and I’d recently been thinking about collecting a few stories myself… especially anything that caused me to step outside my own life and talk to people who could show me a different view of the world. 

….As I stood on the platform shivering and daydreaming, my brain gradually began to do some joined-up thinking. I’d been nosily speculating about my fellow travellers in foreground mode, and hadn’t even been aware that it was gnawing away in background mode. My train arrived and I settled into the dusty carriage with the beginnings of an idea. …”

(Read the full post here: TreatsandMore:At Last – better yet, buy the book and meet the people in it!)

The Interview Chain is available from Amazon, Waterstones and directly from Holland House Books : The-Interview-Chain

“I wanted it to grow organically. I didn’t want to influence it too much.”: Lynn interviewed on BBC Radio Solent

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Guest Post: The Interview Chain 4

“I think creativity is about giving yourself permission to be raw and to make mistakes. I imagine it like putting your hand on a door—you don’t know yet what’s on the other side and that can be scary because the minute you open the door there might be a dozen…or a hundred…or thousands of people looking at you. But I’ve learned to trust that whatever shows up will be OK. The creativity is there. You just have to let go and allow it to come out without worrying about being judged by anyone else.”

After a career as a successful musician, Spencer had a car accident that forced him to change direction. Now he works as a sculptor creating fantastical sculptures using mechanical objects from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and he also helps people to find their own creativity. Interviewee Number 19 in The Interview Chain.

Published by Holland House Books, 30th June 2021

Spencer argues that everyone is creative. But what kind of creative are you—adaptive or innovative; divergent or convergent?

Lynn Farley-Rose

treatsandmore.com

The Interview Chain: published 30th June

Available to order from Holland House Books:

www.hhousebooks.com/books/the-interview-chain

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Guest Post: The Interview Chain 3

“Another thing I discovered is that addiction is not discriminatory. I’d guessed in a middle-class, naïve, prejudiced way that addiction is something that affects people when they hit rock bottom. But I learned that it is indiscriminate.”

Theatre director Holly talking about what she learned from working on the play People, Places and Things. She’s Interviewee Number 4 in The Interview Chain.

Published by Holland House Books, 30th June 2021.

“There are many more addicts among us than we think”:

Lynn Farley-Rose

treatsandmore.com

The Interview Chain: published 30th June

Available to order from Holland House Books:

www.hhousebooks.com/books/the-interview-chain

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Guest Post: The Interview Chain 2

“The thing about acting and other arts jobs is that talent isn’t tangible—it’s so objective. For every hundred people that think you’re great, there’ll be five who think you’re not very good. And you can win awards and there’ll still be people that say, ‘Actually I don’t think you’re very good.’ So it’s hard to get to a point where you can feel, ‘I’m really good at this.’ If you want to be a lawyer then you pass the Bar exams and you can say, ‘I’m a lawyer.’ That’s it—you’re a lawyer. But being an actor is different. There’s nothing that makes you feel that you’re in the right place. Even when you’re on really big jobs there’s that feeling that you’re a fraud.”

Susan Wokoma, actor and Interviewee Number 5 in The Interview Chain. Published by Holland House Books, 30th June 2021

Here’s what fellow actor David Tennant has to say about Imposter Syndrome. 

Lynn Farley-Rose

treatsandmore.com

The Interview Chain: published 30th June

Available to order from Holland House Books: https://www.hhousebooks.com/books/the-interview-chain/

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Guest Post: The Interview Chain

As the countdown begins for the launch of Lynn Farley-Rose’s latest book, we’ll be sharing some of her quotes and thoughts over the coming week. Today’s post, appropriately, relates how it all began:

“There’s an ever-present tension between the seen and the unseen and the lives of our fellow travellers may in reality prove to be anything but ordinary.”

Sonder: the realisation that each random passerby has a life that’s as vivid and complex as our own.

The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

It started with a casual conversation on a boat in London and then the Interview Chain was off, gathering stories and making connections. All vivid, all complex, all anything but ordinary…

Lynn Farley-Rose

treatsandmore.com

The Interview Chain: coming the 30th June

Available to pre-order from Holland House Books: https://www.hhousebooks.com/books/the-interview-chain/

About the author (from Holland House Books):

It was while she was working on her PhD in developmental psychology that Lynn became fascinated by what people do to cope when things get tough.

Her first book, 31 Treats And A Marriage, was a personal account of reconnecting with life after years as a wife and mother,  when everything was overturned by unforeseen calamities.

This led her to wonder about other people’s stories, particularly on the question of where people find strength and inspiration. In writing The Interview Chain she  talked to many remarkable people, each of whom had wise words to share about the human world – about things that help  to make it a kinder and more connected place.

Delivery Guest Post 5

Delivery by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein was published on July 8th by Holland House Books and has been enthusiastically reviewed, shared and on tour across the blogosphere. We continue this series of guest posts with excerpts previously shared on social media with their accompanying images.

“Barasch Rubinstein is an extraordinary writer…” 

Review in Chi Tarbu

Excerpts relating to Daphne’s husband Amir, on discovering Daphne is pregnant:

“For a moment I thought I would take her in my arms and carry her to the bed, but immediately I saw how ridiculous it would be, she would open her eyes and ask me to put her down, moving again the invisible part of her that pushes me away.”

 “something ends when you become a father. In spite of the happiness, there is also a loss; dreams about certain adventures simply crumble and fall apart. It’s very likely they would never have been fulfilled, but it makes no difference. The closer it gets to the birth, the delivery, the more real and vital the very long trip becomes—the one I’ll never take. I add more and more details: places, foreign languages, women. I can even feel the homesickness that is part of it.”

Before going to the hospital:

“The falling rain comforted me on the drive home. It seemed as though the water spattering over the car was washing away my sins. An invisible hand, ancient and obscure, was preparing me for the birth of my son. Daphne sat on the porch, exactly as I had left her, “I’m having contractions, but I think it’s still too soon to go to the hospital,” she said.”

Delivery, published by Holland House Books earlier this month, is available to order direct from Holland House books, WaterstonesHiveWordery, & Amazon.

Delivery Guest Post 4

 

“The book focuses on daily issues and touches the deepest places… I loved the novel and kept thinking about it long after reading it.” 

Lee Yanini, reviewer in the The Israeli Librarian Journal

Delivery by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein was published on July 8th by Holland House Books and has been enthusiastically reviewed, shared and on tour across the blogosphere.

As Delivery’s recent blog tour draws to a close, we re-visit excerpts previously shared on social media with their accompanying images.

Todays’s excerpts relate to Daphne on first discovering she is pregnant:

“I close my eyes again, attentive only to my body. Where is the embryo now? A terrible fear, which I always knew existed but whose acuteness I only now understand, erupts, and there is no way to stop it. The understanding that a living creature will grow and develop within my body and then break its way out is petrifying.”

“I sat in the restaurant for two hours. I had a huge crumble cheesecake, chocolate mousse, and two more glasses of wine. My sight was blurred, I almost forgot that I was pregnant… A devastating fear began to materialize, sometimes slipping and disappearing, sometimes as sharp as a broken bottle’s neck. A terrible pain, unimaginable. My stomach hatches and a huge chick is coming out, dirty and featherless. I am placed on the maternity bed, bleeding and shocked, recalling the picture at the entrance to the baby shop: a beautiful woman with a broad smile holding a newborn baby whose eyes are closed.”

“the pregnancy calls for an inner attention, concentrating on a process that will take place no matter what. For a moment I think it is a preparation, training the mother to detach from everything else and make room only for the child.”


Delivery, published by Holland House Books earlier this month, is available to order direct from Holland House books, WaterstonesHiveWordery, & Amazon.

Delivery – Guest Post

by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein

“In Delivery, a past trauma surfaces—emotionally bruising, yet heralding a change.”

Emanuela barasch rubinstein

Delivery, by Emanuela Barasch Rubinstein, will be published this coming week, and as  the launch date of 8th July approaches, we’re hosting an excerpt from Emanuela’s own blog on the origins of her novel:

Years ago, I ran into a classmate whom I hadn’t seen for years. I asked her how she was, and she replied, “You won’t believe it—I gave birth a week ago.” I complimented her for her slim figure. She smiled and said it was an easy labor, without complications, and that she was so happy with the newborn baby and glad to return to her daily routine. Despite her smiling face, as she spoke, tears began running down her cheeks. “Why are you crying?” I asked, and she responded, “I don’t know what happened to me when I gave birth. Something is broken; I don’t know what it is and how to fix it.”

After having given birth three times, having used my academic skills to examine the depiction of giving birth in fiction and films, and having taught fiction that includes scenes of labor, I came to understand that no single human experience is as repressed as giving birth. If we were to examine western fiction, films, philosophical and religious writings—even psychological research—we would have to conclude that this very primal act is largely ignored. Most people would compare it to other life-defining events: falling in love, marriage, separation from a spouse, illness, losing a loved one, or undergoing a trauma (accident, war, etc.). There are plenty of literary examples for all these events, but only very few examples of labor.  I am not referring to couple of sentences about calling a midwife or going to the hospital. A full focus on the human experience of giving birth is almost missing in literature and films. …

“I have no definite answer as to why birthing is so heavily repressed, but I think it needs to change.”

I certainly felt the consequences of such repression. I think I can say that, implicitly, I’ve always feared giving birth. When pregnant for the first time, I shared my anxiety with my family and female friends. They all insisted that the pain and agony would be completely erased once the child was born. This did not happen. I love being a mother and it is a source of endless happiness, but I forgot nothing! … The body-mind relation is, of course, a complex issue. But when we read about a man suffering on his deathbed, we don’t dismiss his thoughts and feelings only because his body is decaying. Humans are made of both mind and matter; I believe in a holistic approach which takes both into account.

Delivery gives voice to mothers but also to those affected by the birth: grandparents, and young friends. Strangely, grandparent characters are very common in children’s books, but not so much in contemporary adult fiction. It would be rather difficult to find a full discussion on the emotional implications of becoming a grandparent, the changing role of grandparents, how past experience of parenting shapes grandparenting, and the fundamental change in the very perception of age and aging. In Delivery, a past trauma surfaces—emotionally bruising, yet heralding a change. …

Continue reading the full article on Ourselves and Others

Delivery is available from Amazon, Waterstones and directly from Holland House Books

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