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Today’s Big Deal features Robert Harris
10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak
‘In the first minute following her death, Tequila Leila’s consciousness began to ebb, slowly and steadily, like a tide receding from the shore…’
For Leila, each minute after her death recalls a sensuous memory: spiced goat stew, sacrificed by her father to celebrate the birth of a yearned-for son; bubbling vats of lemon and sugar to wax women’s legs while men are at prayer; the cardamom coffee she shares with a handsome student in the brothel where she works. Each fading memory brings back the friends she made in her bittersweet life – friends who are now desperately trying to find her . . .
The Last Time She Died by Zoe Sharp
She came back on the day of her father’s funeral, ten years after she vanished. But she can’t be who she says she is…
When Blake disappeared as a teenager, on a cold dark night, her father never reported her missing. She is presumed dead.
Now, ten years later, a young woman with white-blonde hair sits comfortably in the family living room and smiles at the shocked faces around her.
“Don’t you recognise me?” she says. “I’m Blake.”
Detective John Byron isn’t sure whether she’s telling the truth. But as he investigates, he soon realises no one is happy to see her.
And the people who should be welcoming her back with open arms know she can’t be Blake. Because they killed her the night she vanished…
The Italian Girl’s Secret by Natalie Meg Evans
Italy, 1943. In the hills outside Naples, the silver moon shines brightly on a whitewashed farmhouse. An urgent knock on the door breaks the silence: and in that moment, one young woman’s act of incredible bravery changes the course of the war.
For Carmela del Bosco, a farm girl in a remote Italian village, sheltering an English spy is the most dangerous thing she could do. If she’s caught by the fascists it would be the end, especially for her beloved grandmother sleeping soundly upstairs. But taking in the pleading brown eyes of the man calling himself Sebastiano slumped at her door, and his terrible injuries inflicted by the Nazi occupiers, Carmela remembers how Nonna always taught her right from wrong. Risking everything, she hides him in a ruined tower on the edge of the farm.
Each day Carmela tends his wounds, and the passion that kindles between them is a light in the darkest time. Sebastiano has information that could end the war, and needs her help to send it. But tracking down fellow members of the resistenza in the mountains meansrisking her life and bringing danger to everyone she knows.
Carmela knows she must find the courage to do what’s right for her country. But if she leaves the farm, will she ever see her beloved nonna again? And will her sacrifice tear her away from the only man she’s ever loved, forever?
In My Mother’s Footsteps by Mona Hajjar Halaby
1948, Jerusalem. Zakia is forced to flee the only home she’s ever known as war rips through the leafy streets and the bustling spice-filled souqs. Taking just one suitcase, Zakia thinks she’ll be able to return soon. But within weeks, she realises she won’t be allowed back to her beloved homeland.
2007, California. Mona grew up with her mother Zakia’s memories of Palestine, imagining the muezzin’s call for prayer and the medley of church bells her mother so vividly described to her. So, when Mona gets the opportunity to teach conflict resolution in Ramallah, she also embarks on a personal pilgrimage to find her mother’s home in militarized and occupied Jerusalem.
With cherished letters from her mother who writes to Mona regularly, sharing her story of Jerusalem, Mona dreams of one day being guided by her through the winding cobblestone alleys of the Old City. Yet it is Mona who instead holds her mother’s hand as they finally visit Jerusalem together. After fifty-nine years of exile, her mother is returning to the place she once called home – but can a lifetime of loss ever be healed?
On Hampstead Heath by Marika Cobbold
Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half- finished sentences. Now she’s a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.
When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.
On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.
These choices are just the books that I’d be tempted by rather than just any books that are on offer.
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