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This Just In

Interesting new titles in December

The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

HarperCollin
The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber

Michael Faber's new book, his first in thirteen years, is full of emotion and deep humanity. The Book of Strange New Things is a mind-blowing work that fearlessly tackles the search for meaning in an unfathomable universe. It concerns Peter and Beatrice, whose marriage is tested when Peter travels as a missionary, spreading the Gospel to a faraway land, and Beatrice is left to deal with troubles at home. In the most extraordinary and spellbinding ways, it deals with faith-religious faith, to be sure, but also faith in oneself, faith in salvation and faith in those we love. Riveting, mysterious and eye-opening, Faber's latest novel is sure to be one of the most read and discussed books of the year.

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Claxton by Mark Cocker

Jonathan Cape
Claxton by Mark Cocker

In a single twelve-month cycle of daily writings Mark Cocker explores his relationship to the East Anglian landscape, to nature and to all the living things around him. The separate entries are characterised by close observation, depth of experience, and a profound awareness of seasonal change, both within in each distinct year and, more alarmingly, over the longer period, as a result of the changing climate. The writing is concise, magical, inspiring.

Cocker describes all the wildlife in the village – not just birds, but plants, trees, mammals, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, bush crickets, grasshoppers, ants and bumblebees. The book explores how these other species are as essential to our sense of genuine well-being and to our feelings of rootedness as any other kind of fellowship.

A celebration of the wonder that lies in our everyday experience, Cocker’s book emphasises how Claxton is as much a state of mind as it is a place. Above all else, it is a manifesto for the central importance of the local in all human activity.

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1381: The Year of the Peasants' Revolt by Juliet Barker

Belknap Press
1381: The Year of the Peasants

Written with the fluency readers have come to expect from Juliet Barker, 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt provides an account of the first great popular uprising in England and its background, and paints on a broad canvas a picture of English life in medieval times. Skeptical of contemporary chroniclers’ accounts of events, Barker draws on the judicial sources of the indictments and court proceedings that followed the rebellion. This emphasis offers a fresh perspective on the so-called Peasants’ Revolt and gives depth and texture to the historical narrative. Among the book’s arguments are that the rebels believed they were the loyal subjects of the king acting in his interests, and that the boy-king Richard II sympathized with their grievances.

Barker tells how and why a diverse and unlikely group of ordinary men and women from every corner of England—from servants and labourers living off wages, through the village elite who served as bailiffs, constables, and stewards, to the ranks of the gentry—united in armed rebellion against church and state to demand a radical political agenda. Had it been implemented, this agenda would have transformed English society and anticipated the French Revolution by four hundred years. 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt is an important reassessment of the uprising and a fascinating, original study of medieval life in England’s towns and countryside.

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Joan of Arc by Helen Castor

Faber & Faber
Joan of Arc by Helen Castor

Helen Castor brings us afresh a gripping life of Joan of Arc. Instead of the icon, she gives us a living, breathing young woman; a roaring girl fighting the English, and taking sides in a bloody civil war that was tearing fifteenth century France apart.

Here is a portrait of a 19-year-old peasant who hears voices from God; a teenager transformed into a warrior leading an army to victory, in an age that believed women should not fight. And it is also the story behind the myth we all know, a myth which began to take hold at her trial: that of the Maid of Orleans, the saviour of France, a young woman burned at the stake as a heretic, a woman who five hundred years later would be declared a saint.

Joan and her world are brought vividly to life in this refreshing new take on the medieval world. Helen Castor brings us to the heart of the action, to a woman and a country in turmoil, a world where no-one - not Joan herself, nor the people around her, princes, bishops, soldiers or peasants - knew what would happen next.

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