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Storytime: Dinosaurs

Saturday, April 30th 2011 at 11:00 AM

Come and say RAAHH with us while we read great dinosaur stories and colour in. Wouldn’t it be great if dinosaurs still roamed the earth? Although, where would we live then?

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Goldblatt and Vladislavić win Kraszna-Krausz Book Award

Friday, April 29th 2011 at 10:45 AM

Congratulations to David Goldblatt and Ivan Vladislavić who took honours in the Kraszna-Krausz Book Awards winning the “Best Photography Book 2011” award for their collaboration, TJ & Double Negative, published by Contrasto.

This year’s winner was announced as part of the Sony World Photography Awards at the Odeon Leicester Square, London on Wednesday, 27 April.

Judges Mary McCartney (Chair), David Campany and Yuka Yamaji said: “Goldblatt and Vladislaviċ’s ambitious project explores the relationship between text and image. A highly effective pairing of fiction and photography, this innovative collaboration redefines the possibilities for writing on and about photography.”

Ivan Vladislavić will be launching the stand-alone edition of Double Negative at the Book Lounge on Tuesday 10th May.

TJ/Double Negative brings together in a sleeved collectors’ edition produced in Italy two of the finest artists at work in South Africa today: the photographer David Goldblatt and the novelist Ivan Vladislavić to present a double portrait of Johannesburg in a subtle and unfailing game of resonance and connections. The result is an exceptional dialogue where images and words alternate.

Commencing in the 1950s, Goldblatt’s masterful lens documents and comments on life over six decades in this incomparable African city. Selected form a massive body of work, this distillation presents a unique pictorial history of the city of Johannesburg: the City of Gold, Chowburg, eGoli, Jozi, Goutini, Duiwel’s Dorp. “Johannesburg is a fragmented city. It is not a place of smoothly integrated parts. And it has a name that does not roll easily off the tongue” – with these words David Goldblatt introduces us into the sophisticated world of TJ – former initials of the city’s car plates.

A new novel by Ivan Vladislavić is the partner of the book of photographs. In Double Negative, a young man in Johannesburg receives from a senior photographer an induction into the intricate nature of photography and artistic representation. He says “If I try to imagine the lives going on in all these houses, the domestic dramas, the family sagas, it seems impossibly complicated. How could you ever do justice to something so rich in detail? You couldn’t do it in a novel, let alone a photograph.” The novel traces the young man as he heads into his career that takes him overseas and back, developing in the process an ever widening perspective on not only the social and political change in the country but also on questions to do with observation and the observing subject. It brings into sharp focus the history of South Africa’s recent past and the difficulty of imaging and re-imagining it.

David Goldblatt has been photographing and documenting South African society for over 50 years. Born in Randfontein in 1930 to parents who came to South Africa to escape the persecution of Lithuanian Jews in 1890, he was simultaneously part of privileged white society and a victim of religious persecution and alienation. Motivated by his contradictory position in South African society, Goldblatt began photographing this society, and in 1963 decided to devote all of his time to photography. He was awarded the prestigious Henri Cartier-Bresson Award (2009), for his project “TJ”.

Ivan Vladislavić is the award-winning author of three short story collections Missing Persons, winner of the Olive Schreiner Prize, Propaganda By Monuments and The Exploded View, collected together as Flashback Hotel . He is also author of the novella The Folly and a non-fiction book on Johannesburg, Portrait With Keys, which was the winner of the 2007 SA Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for non-fiction, and the University of Johannesburg Prize 2007, and shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize 2007.

Hurrah for Lauren Beukes!

Thursday, April 28th 2011 at 12:59 PM

Proud South African author  and dear friend of the Book Lounge Lauren Beukes has won the Arthur C Clarke Award for Zoo City for the best science fiction novel of the year published in the United Kingdom.

Beukes, also the author of Moxyland, was announced winner last night at a ceremony held in partnership with the Sci-Fi-London Film Festival, and was awarded a cheque for £2011 and an engraved bookend.

The 25th anniversary of the Arthur C Clarke Award saw five other candidates shortlisted from 54 submissions.

  • The Dervish House — Ian McDonald
  • Monsters of Men — Patrick Ness
  • Generosity — Richard Powers
  • Declare — Tim Powers
  • Lightborn — Tricia Sullivan

Other winners of the award include China Mieville who won three times, the last being in 2010 for his novel The City & The City, as well as Ian McDonald and Kazuo Ishiguro.

Huge congratulations to Lauren from us – it’s fantastic news and fully deserved! x

April Newsletter

Thursday, April 28th 2011 at 10:29 AM

Of Local Interest

Stones against the Mirror: Friendship in the Time of the South African Struggle by Hugh Lewin

A brave and moving memoir – a family history and a story of friendship and betrayal between people caught up in the wrenching forces of the South African Struggle. The book is presented as a journey between two railway stations – departing from Park station, Johannesburg travelling to the city of York in Great Britain. It is both a real and a symbolic journey in which Lewin describes his progress towards a meeting with Adrian Leftwich, the man who betrayed him to the Security Police in 1964. Park station is the point of departure because it was the site in 1964 of the station bomb planted by John Harris who was associated with the cell in which Lewin operated.  After 40 years, Lewin is determined to meet with his long-term friend Leftwich both to find out what happened at his trial and to deal with the emotions of anger and bitterness that have assailed him ever since. A profound and moving testament to forgiveness and a significant document on the Struggle.

Hugh Lewin began his journalistic career at the Natal Witness before working with Drum magazine and Golden City Post in Johannesburg. After serving the full term of his seven-year sentence for sabotage activities against the apartheid state, he left South Africa on a ‘permanent departure permit’ in December 1971. Ten years in exile in London were followed by ten years in Zimbabwe. He finally returned to South Africa at the end of 1992. He was appointed director of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in Johannesburg and now works as a freelance media trainer. His Struggle memoirs, Bandiet out of Jail, won the 2003 Olive Schreiner Prize.

This is the book that was waiting to be written…Unforgettable, invaluable in facing now the ambiguities of our present, and our future.”        Nadine Gordimer

Sometimes there is a Void: Memoirs of an Outsider by Zakes Mda

Sometimes there is a Void is a remarkable record of the life of award-winning novelist and playwright Zakes Mda. Eminently readable, Mda weaves past and present together to give us an intensely personal story of the writer’s development in life, love and learning. Forced to follow his father, PAC ‘founding spirit’ A P Mda, into exile in Lesotho (then still Basutoland) at the age of fourteen, Mda seeks  freedom from close parental discipline and becomes a frequenter of shebeens and an exponent of fast living at an early age, although he is
eventually drawn back to wanting a good education above all other things. This is a vigorous and colourful story enriched by Mda’s dry humour and his ability to engage with his reader on a very personal level.

Always outspoken, Mda has in the past been critical of what he sees as ‘crony capitalism’ and the ‘patronage system’ in the ‘new’ South Africa – one of the themes of his recent novel Black Diamond – and has been side-lined in many aspects of South African culture where he feels he could make a significant contribution – hence the ‘outsider in the subtitle. Admirers of Mda’s fiction will enjoy getting to know more about the man.

Pocket Guides to South African History  – Shaka, Umkhonto weSizwe and Steve Biko

Jacana Media has produced the first three in a splendid series of primers on key topics in South African history. Aimed at both beginners and those who wish to remind themselves of the salient facts, they are written by experts and come with beautifully designed covers – future titles will include the ANC, the TRC, Olive Schreiner, Marxism in South Africa and a History of the Zulu. The first three in the series are –

Steve Biko

Biko is often seen as a charismatic leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, who played a useful stopgap role in South African politics in the late 1960s and 1970s. This biography of Biko shows, on the contrary, just how fundamental he was to the transformation of South Africa in the second half of the 20th century – and just how relevant he remains today.

Umkhonto weSizwe

Umkhonto weSizwe was arguably the last of the great liberation movements of the 20th century – but it never got to march triumphant into Pretoria. The history of MK is one of paradox and contradiction, of successes and failures. This pocket guide, which draws widely on the personal experiences of MK soldiers offers a new and nuanced account of Umkhonto. It outlines the various stages in MK’s thirty-year history, considers the difficult strategic and moral problems the army faced, and argues that its operations are likely to be remembered as a just war conducted with considerable restraint.

Shaka

We all picture Shaka as a lean, mean, assegai-wielding warrior-king, the military genius who founded the Zulu nation. In fact, we don’t actually know when he was born, or what he looked like, or exactly when he died. Almost every other story you’ve heard is probably either wrong or contested. This biography draws on the last two decades of historical research to reassess the eyewitness accounts and use newly available oral traditions. The picture that emerges is astonishingly different from the popular stereotype.

Killing Kebble: An Underworld Exposed by Mandy Wiener

Killing Kebble by Mandy WienerMandy Wiener reported on the Brett Kebble murder for five years for Eyewitness News. During this time she gained the trust of key players in the sordid story with the result that she had significant access to the likes of murder accused Glenn Agliotti, the alleged shooters – Mikey Shultz, Nigel McGurk and Fiazal Smith, Brett’s father, Roger and others. (For pete’s sake, Wiener even set Agliotti up on twitter, but we’re not convinced that this was an achievement to be noted on her cv). Killing Kebble is of course about the murder trial that hogged newspaper headlines, but it is also about a shadowy part of our society – a very powerful arena in which the players are gangsters, business tycoons, high level politicians and high ranking cops. Ultimately, Wiener’s expose on the dealings in this arena bring into sharp relief the way in which the South African social contract is being undermined by those with no respect for the law. While Killing Kebble may read as easily as a novel by John Le Carre, the tragedy for our country is that it’s not fiction. An important book that demands to be read by all South Africans. Before it’s too late!

Non-Fiction

The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

James Gleick, the author of the bestsellers Chaos and Genius, brings us his crowning work: a revelatory chronicle that shows how information has become the modern era’s defining quality—the blood, the fuel, the vital principle of our world.

The story of information begins in a time profoundly unlike our own, when every thought and utterance vanished as soon as it was born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the long misunderstood ‘talking drums’ of Africa, James Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the very nature of human consciousness. He provides portraits of the key figures contributing to the inexorable development of our modern understanding of information: Charles Babbage, the idiosyncratic inventor of the first great mechanical computer; Ada Byron, the poet’s brilliant and doomed daughter, who became the first true programmer; pivotal figures like Samuel Morse and Alan Turing; and Claude Shannon, the creator of information theory itself.

And then the information age comes upon us. Citizens of this world become experts willy-nilly: aficionados of bits and bytes. And they sometimes feel they are drowning, swept by a deluge of signs and signals, news and images, blogs and tweets. The Information is the story of how we got here and where we are heading.

Periodic Tales: The Curious Lives of the Elements by Hugh Aldersey-Williams

Everything is made of them, from the furthest reaches of the universe to this book that you hold in your hands and even you. Like you, the elements have lives: personalities and attitudes, talents and shortcomings, stories rich with meaning. Welcome to a dazzling tour through history and literature, science and art. Here you’ll meet iron that rains from the heavens and noble gases that light the way to vice. You’ll learn how lead can tell your future while zinc may one day line your coffin. You’ll discover what connects the bones in your body with the Whitehouse in Washington, the glow of a streetlamp with the salt on your dinner table.

From ancient civilisations to contemporary culture, from the oxygen of publicity to the phosphorus in your pee, the elements are near and far and all around us. Unlocking their astonishing secrets and colourful pasts, Periodic Tales will take you on a voyage of wonder and discovery, excitement and novelty, beauty and truth. Along the way, you’ll find that their stories are our stories, and their lives are inextricable from our own.

Science writing at its best…fascinating and beautiful…if only chemistry had been like this at school…to meander through the periodic table with him…is like going round a zoo with Gerald Durrell…a rich compilation of delicious tales, but it offers greater rewards, too.”                  Matt Ridley

Immensely engaging and continually makes one sit up in ­surprise.”          Sunday Times

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes by David Grann

Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of a man could invent” – Sherlock Holmes

The quote by Sherlock Holmes could easily have been used as a blurb on the back cover of David Grann’s latest book, as he sets out with journalistic magnifying glass to prove the great sleuth right. This is not a book about Sherlock Holmes as the title suggests but rather in the style of Holmes, Grann seeks to uncover the truth to twelve of the most fascinating true mysteries I’ve ever had the pleasure to read about. From chasing giant squid with underwater robots to exploring the antiquated maze of tunnels 600 feet below New York, this collection is as fascinating as it is varied, while Graan’s eye for facts and the truth keep it from veering off into mere fantasy or speculation.

As in his last book The Lost City of Z which traced the ultimately doomed lifelong quest of Colonel Percy Fawcett to locate the legendary forgotten city of “Z” in the heart of the Amazon, we are drawn into a world of obsession, lunacy and fact stranger than fiction, which makes for damn good reading!

K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude Starring Nikita Khrushchev, Americas Most Unlikely Tourist  by Peter Carlson

Khrushchev’s 1959 trip across America was one of the strangest exercises in international diplomacy ever conducted – ”a surreal extravaganza,” as historian John Lewis Gaddis called it. Khrushchev told jokes, threw tantrums, sparked a riot in a San Francisco supermarket, wowed the coeds in a home economics class in Iowa, and ogled Shirley MacLaine as she filmed a dance scene in Can-Can. He befriended and offended a cast of characters including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Eleanor Roosevelt, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marilyn Monroe. Published for the fiftieth anniversary of the trip, K Blows Top is a work of history that reads like a Vonnegut novel. This cantankerous communist’s road trip took place against the backdrop of the fifties in capitalist America, with the shadow of the hydrogen bomb hanging over his visit like the Sword of Damocles. As Khrushchev kept reminding people, he was a hot-tempered man who possessed the power to incinerate America.

Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War by Giles Milton

Wolfram by Giles MiltonWhen Giles Milton’s daughter is asked to draw her family tree at school she causes consternation by including a Swastika in the sketch. This forces Giles (novelist and author of Historical Exploration books like Nathaniel’s Nutmeg and Samurai William) to consider his German heritage and he starts talking to his father-in-law about the war and soon realises that he had never considered the war from a German perspective. Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War tells the story of Giles Milton’s father-in-law, a gifted artist who is conscripted into the Wehrmacht and serves with the Third Reich on the Russian front before his unit is diverted as part of Hitler’s plan to try and halt the Allied invasion. It is a telling account of the hardships endured by the German people with scenes of devastating Allied bombing raids and Nazi cruelty to German citizens. Although not ultimately as powerful or harrowing an account as Guy Sajer’s The Forgotten Soldier (arguably the ultimate scribe on the German soldier’s plight in WWII) it is nevertheless a fascinating account of life in Nazi Germany. Milton describes it as a story not “of heroics on the battlefield, nor… one of courageous resistance. It is simply an account of how an idiosyncratic young artist, whose only desire was to sculpt and paint, became trapped in a nightmare not of his own making.

Wilful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret Heffernan

Wilful Blindness by Margaret HeffernanIn the 2006 case of the US Government vs Enron, the presiding judge instructed the jurors to take account of the concept of wilful blindness as they reached their verdict about whether the chief executives of the disgraced energy corporation were guilty. It was not enough for the defendants to say that they did not know what was going on; that they had not seen anything. If they failed to observe the corruption which was unfolding before their very eyes, not knowing was no defence. The guilty verdict sent shivers down the spine of the corporate world. In this book, distinguished business woman and writer, Margaret Heffernan, examines the phenomenon of wilful blindness. Drawing on a wide array of sources from psychological studies and social statistics to interviews with the relevant protagonists she examines what it is about human nature which makes us so prone to wilful blindness. Taught from infancy to obey authority, and absorbing the importance of selective vision as a key social skill, humans exacerbate their tendency to become institutionalised by joining organisations which are run by like-minded people. Wilful Blindness looks at how hard-work and the information overload of the modern workplace add to the problem. And examines why whistleblowers and Cassandras are so very rare. Ranging freely through history and from business to science, government to the family, this engaging and anecdotal book will explain why wilful blindness is so dangerous in the globalised, interconnected world in which we live, before suggesting ways in which institutions and individuals can start to combat it. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Margaret Heffernan’s thought provoking book will force open our eyes.

The Anatomy of a Moment by Javier Cercas

Anatomy of a Moment by Javier CercasIn February 1981, just as Spain was finally leaving Francos’ dictatorship and during the first democratic vote in parliament for a new prime minister – Colonel Tejero and a band of right-wing soldiers burst into the Spanish parliament and began firing shots. Only three members of Congress defied the incursion and did not dive for cover,: Adolfo Suarez the then outgoing prime minister, who had steered the country away from the Franco era, Guttierez Mellado, a conservative general who had loyally served democracy, and Marcelino Camacho, the head of the Communist Party, which had just been legalised. In The Anatomy of a Moment, Cercas examines a key moment in Spanish history, just as he did so successfully in his Spanish Civil War novel, Soldiers of Salamis. This is the only coup ever to have been caught on film as it was happening, which, as Cercas says, ‘guaranteed both its reality and its unreality’. Every February a few seconds of the video are shown again and Spaniards congratulate themselves for standing up for democracy, but Cercas says that things were very quiet that afternoon and evening while all over Spain people stayed inside waiting for the coup to be defeated …or to triumph.

Cercas writes brilliantly, in simple, direct language and beautifully, uncontrivedly modulated sentences. His prose is a pleasure – easy without dumbing down.” Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings

Language Wars by Henry HitchingsThe English language is a battlefield. Since the age of Shakespeare, arguments over correct usage have been acrimonious, and those involved have always really been contesting values – to do with morality, politics and class. The Language Wars examines the present state of the conflict, its history and its future. Above all, it uses the past as a way of illuminating the present. Moving chronologically, the book explores the most persistent issues to do with English and unpacks the history of ‘proper’ usage. Where did these ideas spring from? Which of today’s bugbears and annoyances are actually venerable? Who has been on the front line in the language wars? The Language Wars examines grammar rules, regional accents, swearing, spelling, dictionaries, political correctness, and the role of electronic media in reshaping language. It also takes a look at such niggling concerns as the split infinitive, elocution and text messaging. Peopled with intriguing characters such as Jonathan Swift, H. W. Fowler and George Orwell as well as the more disparate figures of Lewis Carroll, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lenny Bruce, The Language Wars is an essential volume for anyone interested in the state of the English language today or intrigued about its future.

[Hitchings] writes beautiful prose, witty and succinct. His book is full of complex ideas expressed with crystal clarity … The range of his knowledge and curiosity is remarkable … Every paragraph contains a fascinating detail about the English language … I recommend that you rush out to immediately buy it, or to buy it immediately, whichever you prefer.”        Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday

Hitchings’ exemplary researches and disinterested, perceptive and often witty explications, make it clear that one cannot glibly dismiss these struggles over what makes English “proper” … Hitchings has created a fascinating, wholly readable and gratifyingly informative book.”                    Financial Times

Paranormality: Why we see what isn’t there by Professor Richard Wiseman

Paranormality by Richard Wiseman“People are emotionally drawn to the supernatural. They actively want weird, spooky things to be true . . . Wiseman shows us a higher joy as he deftly skewers the paranormal charlatans, blows away the psychic fog and lets in the clear light of reason.” Richard Dawkins

Professor Richard Wiseman is clear about one thing: paranormal phenomena don’t exist. But in the same way that the science of space travel transforms our everyday lives, so research into telepathy, fortune-telling and out-of-body experiences produces remarkable insights into our brains, behaviour and beliefs. Paranormality embarks on a wild ghost chase into this new science of the supernatural and is packed with activities that allow you to experience the impossible. So throw away your crystals, ditch your lucky charms and cancel your subscription to Reincarnation Weekly. It is time to discover the real secrets of the paranormal.

Learn how to control your dreams — and leave your body behind

Convince complete strangers that you know all about them

Unleash the power of your unconscious mind.

“Experiments that investigate the paranormal are bizarre and entertaining, and Wiseman is a witty guide in what is often a mind-boggling read. Ultimately you’ll discover why your brain is far more extraordinary than any of the supernatural claims in this book.”                         New Scientist

Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier by Edward Glaeser

The Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser2010 saw the global population exceed 50% urbanisation for the first time, and it is thus no surprise that there is an explosion in interest, both academically and popularly, in the city and what it means for humanity in all its facets. Of all these recent publications, Edward Glaeser’s book is one of the most interesting. Glaeser is Professor of Economics at Harvard University, but amongst the book’s many strengths is that, while solidly grounded theoretically, it is not an academic treatise; neither is it predominantly concerned with economics. Instead, what is striking is both Glaeser’s insistence that the city is the people who live in it (rather than a physical site), with all the consequences that has for policy and for understanding the city, as well as the broad range of his enquiry. He gives a diverse and multidisciplinary account of the city, from inter alia historical, economic, social and enivronmental angles. The structure he has chosen is of several chapters, each finely subdivided into small readable sections, which enhance not just general readability, but also has the effect of doubling what is a coherent and important main argument with an equally fascinating compendium of individual factoids and anecdotes. An intriguing and entertaining read.

Reality Hunger: A Manifesto and The Thing About Life is that One Day You’ll be Dead, both by David Shields

Reality Hunger by David ShieldsFrom the first moment I started paging through Reality Hunger, it was clear that here was a particularly sensitive finger finely placed on the pulse of the times. Shields’ breathtakingly eclectic and suggestive selection from and production of quotes, aphorisms and other snatches of ideas seemed not only to explain much of what I found exciting in a number of innovative literary projects that work to meld the lines between fact and fiction (think, for example, Dave Eggers’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), but seemed to offer, or at least suggest, innumerable new vista’s for literary exploration. The book itself is very loosely struggled, a cobbling together of thematically related quotes (only very reluctantly attributed) and seemingly disparate thoughts, that are nevertheless so finely constructed that the resultant mosaic really does present a pointillist portrait of a potentially radically renewed literary production. It was thus also with a similar sense of excitement that I opened the memoir The Thing About Life…, concurrently released with the paperback edition of Reality Hunger, to see how Shields would put into operation the ideas hinted at in the latter book. The result is, to say the least, extremely pleasing, and not at all as coldly cerebral as the follow-upThe Thing About Life is that One Day You'll be Dead by David Shields to a self-proclaimed “manifesto” might be expected to come across. In fact, this memoir of an aging man’s relation to his own aging, and that of his 97-year old father is an incredibly warm and affectionate, self-deprecating account – at once scientific and sentimental – of what the process of aging means. Shields walks the tightrope of research, factuality, fabrication and self-examination that he hinted at in Reality Hunger with the complete self-assurance of an experienced acrobat, and the result is an utterly delightful, fascinating and affecting read – if there is such a thing as “reality hunger”, then Shields truly shows himself to be a “hunger artist”, as Kafka might have said…

Fiction

The Fates Will Find Their Way by Hannah Pittard

Fates will find their way by hannah pittardA young 16 year old girl, Nora Lindell, goes missing.  She was the beautiful one, the object of fantasy and lust for the boys in a small, sleepy, unnamed community and the author explores the emotions that are left in the wake of her disappearance. As these boys mature over a thirty year period the subject of her disappearance remains a constant source of speculation. Did she choose to leave (fantasies of this other life abound – an exotic life, an uncompromised life) or was she abducted and left for dead? The stories they tell each other and to themselves reveal more about their own lives than they do about Nora Lindell.  Her disappearance becomes a conduit for their own unarticulated desires, their abandoned hopes, and their hinted at but never fully expressed disappointments in the choices they have made. These boys- turned-men, some of whom are now married with children, looking at their lives almost with bemusement, wondering where time has gone.  The author uses Nora’s absence to deftly explore what it means to grow up.

Hannah Pittard writes with what can only be described as gentleness and empathy toward her characters. Her prose style is unique, haunting, subtle and deceptively simple. As one reviewer aptly puts it ‘ a masterful literary debut that shines a light into the dream filled space between childhood and all that follows The Fates will Find Their Way is a story about the stories we tell ourselves – of who we once were and of who we may someday become.

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

Tiger's Wife by Thea ObrechtHaving sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…‘ A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

“Téa Obreht is the most thrilling literary discovery in years.” Colum McCann

The Tiger’s Wife is a marvel of beauty and imagination. Téa Obreht is a tremendously talented writer.”                                  Ann Patchett

A novel of surpassing beauty, exquisitely wrought and magical. Téa Obreht is a towering new talent.”                                      T.C. Boyle

“This is a distinguished work by almost any standard, and a genuinely exciting debut…Obreht has a vibrant, rangy, full-bodied prose style, which moves expertly between realistic and mythic modes of storytelling, conjuring brilliant images on every page…a delightful work, as enchanting as it is surprising, and Obreht is a compelling new voice.”                         Sunday Times

“…the myth-infused tale of a young doctor in a war-ravaged Balkan country trying to find the truth about her grandfather’s death. Obreht’s novel is that rarity: a debut that arrives fully formed, super smart but wearing its learning lightly. Above all The Tiger’s Wife bristles with confidence.”                                             Financial Times

Beautifully executed, haunting and lyrical, The Tiger’s Wife is an ambitious novel that succeeds on all counts. It’s a book you will want to read again and again.”                                Independent

One of the most extraordinary debut novels of recent memory…A gorgeous farrago of stories in which realism collides with myth, superstition with empirical fact, and allegory with history…Obreht elides the sentimental Chagall villages that other writers have made of Eastern Europe, crafting instead something far more ambitious, and universal: an apotheosis of storytelling as a bulwark against brutality – and a balm for grief.”                                   Vogue

The Summer Without Men by Siri Hustvedt

Summer Without Men by Siri HustvedtOut of the blue, your husband of thirty years asks you for a pause in your marriage to indulge his infatuation with a young Frenchwoman. Do you:

a) assume it’s a passing affair and play along
b) angrily declare the marriage over
c) crack up
d) retreat to a safe haven and regroup?

Mia Fredricksen cracks up first, then decamps for the summer to the prairie town of her childhood, where she rages, fumes, and bemoans her sorry fate as abandoned spouse. But little by little, she is drawn into the lives of those around her: her mother and her circle of feisty widows; her young neighbour, with two small children and a loud, angry husband; and the diabolical pubescent girls in her poetry class. By the end of the summer without men, wiser though definitely not sadder, Mia knows what she wants to fight for and on whose terms.

Provocative, mordant, and fiercely intelligent, The Summer Without Men is a gloriously vivacious tragi-comedy about women and girls, love and marriage, and the age-old war between the sexes – a novel for our times by one of the most acclaimed American writers.

Siri Hustvedt is a novelist of great intelligence. She knows the ways of the world and of the heart…The Summer Without Men is a new departure. Despite its painful subject matter – marital rupture, encroaching death, the tormenting antics of malice-ridden girls – the novel is a mordant comedy.”                                                           Lisa Appignanesi, Observer

“…a rich and intelligent meditation on female identity, written in beguiling lyrical prose . . . heady and intoxicating.”                          Lucy Scholes, Sunday Times

Hustvedt is a writer of luminous perception.” Jane Shilling, Telegraph

Lost Ground by Michiel Heyns

Peter Jacobs returns to the small Karoo town of his upbringing to write an article about the murder of his cousin who apparently died at the hand of her policeman husband. Peter soon discovers that the accepted truth about his cousin’s death may bear little relation to what actually happened and he is unhappily thrown into the role of private investigator. Peter’s investigations will keep you turning the page while marvelling at Heyns’s exquisite (and at times hilarious) depiction of this fictional small town. The author expertly uses the lens of this small community to expose some of the fractures in post apartheid South Africa. The disjuncture between the fine words of our constitution and hardened attitudes across the social spectrum is brought into sharp relief in Lost Ground. An outstanding novel that manages to be gripping and laugh out loud funny while engaging with subject matter that is anything but frivolous. Read it.

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

In 1968, into the beautiful, spare environment of remote coastal Labrador in the far north-east of Canada, a mysterious child is born: a baby who appears to be neither fully boy nor girl, but both at once. Only three people share the secret – the baby’s parents, Jacinta and Treadway, and a trusted neighbour, Thomasina. Together the adults make a difficult decision: to go through surgery and raise the child as a boy named Wayne. But as Wayne grows up within the hyper-male hunting culture of his father, his shadow-self – a girl he thinks of as ‘Annabel’ – is never entirely extinguished, and indeed is secretly nurtured by the women in his life. As Wayne approaches adulthood, and its emotional and physical demands, the woman inside him begins to cry out. The changes that follow are momentous not just for him, but for the three adults that have guarded his secret.

This is a haunting first novel as much concerned with its characters as it is with their predicament, as much about humanity as it is about a rigidly masculine culture that shuns the singular and the unique. Told with elegance and empathy, Annabel is the moving story of one person’s struggle to discover the truth and the strength to change, to find tenderness in a severe and unforgiving land.

Her lyrical voice and her crystalline landscape are enchanting.”               New Yorker

Winter clearly loves all her characters, even the hopelessly misguided men, and she lavishes compassion and metaphor on them.”                Scotsman

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin

Amos, Mississippi, is a quiet town. Silas Jones is its sole law enforcement officer. The last excitement here was nearly twenty years ago, when a teenage girl disappeared on a date with Larry Ott, Silas’s one-time boyhood friend. The law couldn’t prove Larry guilty, but the whole town has shunned him ever since.

Then the town’s peace is shattered when someone tries to kill the reclusive Ott, another young woman goes missing, and the town’s drug dealer is murdered. Woven through the tautly written murder story is the unspoken secret that hangs over the lives of two men – one black, one white.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a tense and brilliantly evocative novel – so much more than a crime story. There is a sense of place and pace reminiscent of Richard Russo, which belies the tension of the events as they unfold. Very enjoyable.

The perfect combination of beautiful prose and plot intrigue.” Esquire

Both Larry and Silas are superbly drawn and fully fleshed characters, their personalities and conflict chthonic to rural Mississippi but luminously relevant, in Franklin’s hands, to any locale on the planet…Factor in a mesmerising evocation of rural Mississippi, language of sinuous and shimmering elegance, and a finely tuned ear for the nuances of dialogue, and you have a novel that is an early contender for one of the great novels of the year.”               Irish Times

Joonie by Rayda Jacobs

Joonie by Rayda JacobsA fifty year old woman, Joonie, tells the story of her younger self and the events that set her life along the path she ends up taking. Rayda Jacobs sketches a young, determined woman, so real that the reader can easily mistake fiction for fact. The story of Joonie is the story of any woman, of wanting to be loved, of wanting to make the right choices for your children and trying to figure out where you fit into this big world.  From the different men in her life, Joonie learns different things about herself, but mostly that she is a fighter, and that she will overcome the rollercoaster life she starts of living between Cape Town and the USA. Rayda Jacobs tells a story of love, family, secrets and ultimately the difficult choice to be true to yourself.

Florence and Giles by John Harding

A sinister Gothic tale in the tradition of The Woman in Black and The Fall of the House of Usher.

1891. In a remote and crumbling New England mansion, 12-year-old orphan Florence is neglected by her guardian uncle and banned from reading. Left to her own devices she devours books in secret and talks to herself in a language of her own. By night, she sleepwalks the corridors like one of the old house’s many ghosts and is troubled by a recurrent dream in which a mysterious woman appears to threaten her younger brother Giles.

After the sudden violent death of the children’s first governess, a second teacher, Miss Taylor, arrives. Florence becomes convinced that the new governess is a vengeful and malevolent spirit who means to do Giles harm. Against this powerful supernatural enemy, and without any adult to whom she can turn for help, Florence must use all her intelligence and ingenuity to both protect her little brother and preserve her private world.

Inspired by and in the tradition of Henry James’ s The Turn of the Screw, Florence & Giles is a gripping gothic page-turner told in a startlingly different and wonderfully captivating narrative voice.

Harding rings enough ingenious changes on James’s study of perversity to produce his own full-blown Gothic horror tale. The climax of their struggle…is genuinely exciting and shocking.”                   Independent

Florence and Giles is an elegant literary exercise worked out with the strictness of a fugue: imagine Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw reworked by Edgar Allan Poe…Nothing prepares you for the chillingly ruthless but inevitable finale.”                   Times

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin

A riotous domestic African novel about rivalry, secrets and jealous wives. To the dismay of her overbearingly ambitious mother, Bolanle marries into a polygamous family, where she is the fourth wife of a rich, rotund patriarch, Baba Segi. She is a graduate and therefore a great prize, but even graduates must produce children and her husband’s persistent bellyache is a sign that things are not as they should be. Bolanle is too educated for the ‘white garment conmen’ Baba Segi would usually go to for fertility advice, so he takes her to hospital to discover the cause of her barrenness. Weaving the voices of Baba Segi and his four competing wives into a portrait of a clamorous household of twelve, Lola Shoneyin evokes an extraordinary Nigerian family in splashes of vibrant colour. Highly recommended.

A funny and moving story told with love and compassion…a jewel of a novel.”                 Petina Gappah

It is a book you’ll want to eat in a sitting – and then start again.”               Diran Adebayo

A rich debut…an engrossing and beautifully written domestic tale of polygamy and rivalry set in her native Nigeria.”                     Harper’s Bazaar

A compelling, unsettling tale… sharply written…and funny, disconcerting and violent all at once. An utterly gripping read.”                       Patricia Duncker

A Rabelaisian picture of polygamous marriage, comically capturing the physical realities of ordinary Nigerian life.”                Giles Foden

The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta

Vienna, 1939. Professor Speckstein’s dog has been brutally killed and he wants to know why. But these are uncharitable times and one must be careful where one probes…When an unexpected house call leads Doctor Beer to Speckstein’s apartment, he finds himself in the bedroom of Zuzka, the professor’s niece. Wide-eyed, flirtatious, and not detectably ill, Zuzka leads the young doctor to her window and opens up a view of their apartment block that Beer has never known. Across the shared courtyard there is nine-year-old Anneliese, the lonely daughter of an alcoholic. Five windows to the left lives a secretive mime who comes home late at night and keeps something – or someone – precious hidden from view. From the garret drifts the mournful sound of an Oriental’s trumpet, and a basement door swings closed behind the building’s inscrutable janitor. Does one of these enigmatic neighbours have blood on their hands? Doctor Beer, who has his own reasons for keeping his private life hidden from public scrutiny, reluctantly becomes embroiled in an enquiry that forces him to face the dark realities of Nazi rule.

“The novel pungently recreates the noxious ethos in which [Nazism] flourished, resembling Hitchcock’s Rear Window rescripted by Dostoevsky and Kafka.”                      Sunday Times

Go Tell the Sun by Wame Molefhe

Wame Molefhe’s collection of short stories, Go Tell the Sun, is a subtle and gentle evocation of life in Botswana. Her stories are simple and have an innocence in their narrative which belies their content. The subject matter of the stories is often harsh and deals with some extremely brutal aspects of daily life in that country. Although the smells and sounds of Botswana come to life through Molefhe’s subtle recreations of the details of the often rural settings, the subject matter is always universal.

Wame Molefhe’s stories have a gentle, unassuming yet intimate and captivating feel to them…Molefhe’s voice is, to some extent, a world-weary voice, weary of all she has seen of society’s failures, but never without the gentleness often absent and much needed that can be found in love and the imagination.”                                  Rustum Kozain

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno: A Love Story by Ellen Bryson

Bartholomew Fortuno, the World’s Thinnest Man, believes that his unusual body is a gift. Hired by none other than P.T. Barnum to work at his spectacular American Museum – a modern marvel of macabre displays and live performances by Barnum’s cast of freaks and oddities – Fortuno has reached the pinnacle of his career. But after a decade of solid performance, he finds his contentment flagging. When a carriage pulls up outside the museum in the dead of night, bearing Barnum and a mysterious veiled woman – rumoured to be a new performer – Fortuno’s curiosity is piqued. And when Barnum asks Fortuno to follow her and report back on her whereabouts, his world is turned upside-down. Why is Barnum so obsessed with this woman? Who is she, really? And why has she taken such a hold of the hearts of those around her? The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno is a novel about human appetites and longings, exploring what it means to be profoundly unique – and demonstrating love’s ability to transcend even the greatest divisions.

Wildly inventive, highly entertaining.”                                 The Times

Poetry

Letter to South Africa: Poets Calling the State to Order

“South Africa, hey, I’m talking to you –
it’s like praying, like mourning, like whimpering too”

“I want to build your strip club of truth, your peep show of reconciliation, shove sweaty R200-notes in the G-string of your history.”

“You have us addicted to your verbal caffeine,
What, Mr President,
Is this how you choose to use your freedom machine?”

This hard-hitting document of the moment is an anthology of South African poems in English, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and Sepedi, all with English translations, addressing the Republic along the lines of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “America” in a nationwide appeal by poets calling the state to order. Poets represented here include Tertius Kapp, Loftus Marais, Danie Marais, Leon de Kock, Bibi Slippers, Willem Anker, Marius Swart, Andries Bezuidenhout, Marlene van Niekerk, Marius Crous, Melt Myburgh, Erns Grundling, Jitsvinger, Gabeba Baderoon, Sindiwe Magona, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Makhosazana Xaba, Malika Ndlovu, Mboneni Ike Muila, Natalia Moelebatsi, Siphiwe Ka Ngwenya and Tumelo Khoza.

Afrikaanse Hoekie…

Gesprekke met Merkwaardige Mense deur Murray La Vita  en Hanlie Retief Gesels Met… deur Hanlie Retief

Hanlie Retief Gesels MetDie onderhoud of profiel blyk ‘n blakend gesonde subgenre van die Afrikaanse joernalistiek te wees, en hierdie twee pasverskene bundels stel hierdie vorm in die beste moontlike lig. Hanlie Retief se ikoniese onderhoude verskyn al ‘n jaar of 20 in Rapport, maar tog bly haar aanslag vars en vindringyk. Haar vernuf en jarelange ervaring straal nie net uit die gemak waarmee sy ‘n verbluffende verskeidenheid mense aan die woord (en somtyds aan die kaak) stel nie, maar ook uit die opregte medemenslikheid waarmee sy hulle toelaat om hulself voor te doen – haar onderwerpe word inderdaad tot subjekte geroep in haar beste werk, hier versamel. Onder die 50 profiele hier tel almal van hardebaard politici (Mamphela Ramphele, Julius Malema en dies meer), sport en vermaaklikheidssterre (Steve Hofmeyr, Valiant Swart, Victor Matfield) tot meer aweregse onderhoude met onder andere die interheld Vernon Koekemoer, en die omstrede onlangse “rasse-onderhoud” met skrywer Annelie Botes.

Murray La Vita se onderhoude in Die Burger het meerendeels te make met ‘n meer omlynde rolbestelling, gekeur uit die room vanGesprekke Met Merkwaardige Mense by Murray La Vita die (Suid-)Afrikaanse kultuurlui, met veral ‘n klem op skrywers, en ‘n sprinkeling van ander lede van die intelligentsia. Hierdie is die sort onderwerpe wat La Vita se fynbesnaarde sofistikasie soos ‘n handskoen pas – sy opregte belangstelling en klaarblyklike waardering én verstand vir die kulturele wêreld waarin hy himself begewe straal keer op keer deur die intelligensie en warmte wat hy uit sy gespreksvennote put. Om La Vita se onderhoude te lees, is nie net om met nuwe waardering die gedagtes van die denkers met wie hy praat te ontdek nie, maar ook om opnuut bewus te raak van die menslikheid wat hy as’t ware van agter die intellekte onthul.

Something Beautiful

In Giacometti’s Studio by Michael Peppiatt

This beautiful and engaging book introduces the reader to the creative chaos of the tiny Parisian studio of one of the greatest sculptors of the twentieth century Alberto Giacometti, from the moment he and his brother, Diego, arrived in 1927, with all their possessions in a wheelbarrow, until Alberto’s death in 1966. Michael Peppiatt relates how the artist first worked there as a member of the Surrealist movement and then how he gradually made his mark on the Parisian artistic, literary, and intellectual worlds. After an enforced wartime exile in Geneva in a miserable hotel, he returned to Paris and to the same broken-down little studio behind Montparnasse which became a magnet for many of the great artists and writers of the time (from Picasso and Braque to Balthus, from Breton and Genet to Beckett). Peppiatt prefaces his story with a poignant, personal narrative of how as a young man he arrived in Paris with an introduction from Francis Bacon to Giacometti; the encounter was forestalled by the artist’s very recent death, but Peppiatt instead got to know the key people in Giacomettis world. He explains how the studio, now dismantled, seems to be both Giacomettis most important artwork, encompassing countless complete or unfinished works, and the archive of years of struggle.

Peppiatt is a lively author who knows how to tell a good, pacy story, full of incident and fruitful speculation.”                           Daily Telegraph

Giacometti, his works and his studio, are documented in numerous beautiful photographs in this elegantly written book.”                          Sunday Telegraph

Kid’s Corner

Lost and Found by Shaun Tan

An illustrator and artist who has mastered the art of expression emotion through his work, young Mister Shaun Tan, definitely is. The winner of the Oscar for Best Short Animated Film this year, he has suddenly become known to a new crowd of fans. To celebrate his new found stardom, a collection of three of his works is now available in one, Lost and Found. It contains, The Lost Thing (the story used in the short film), The Red Tree (which is better than any self-help book ever) and The Rabbits, written by fellow Australian John Marsden (who wrote the brilliant series, Tomorrow when the War Begins by the way). Shaun Tan is a fine observer of life and his books, although on the surface, they look like children’s picture books, are meant to scratch round in your soul and find the bits you might have thought you have lost.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Ten-year-old Jamie Matthews has moved out of the city with his Dad and his teenage sister, Jasmine for an apparent fresh start. Mom stays behind with her new boyfriend. Five years before this, his sister’s twin, Rose, was blown up by a terrorist bomb. The family is torn apart by the grief as each turns to a different vice to numb the pain. The voice of Jamie in the book, takes you with him along his plight to find a place where he matters. He makes friends with Sunya, a charismatic Muslim girl in his class and loves the way she sees the world and makes him feel important. He has to hide their friendship because his father blames all Muslims for the death of his daughter. In a very clever way the author introduces big issues into her story and let the reader discover right from wrong along with her characters. This is such an honest account of how families don’t always cope with despair, and how it is often only once we have lost our last bit of dignity that healing starts to set in.
If you loved reading Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur or The Truth about Leo by David Yellman, you will love this too.

The Emerald Atlas: The Book of Beginnings by John Stephens

A new thrilling fantasy series has started, and after this first book, you too will be hooked and want to know what happens next to Kate, Michael and the feisty Emma. Taken from their beds one winter’s night, the only memory Kate (the oldest) holds dear is her mother giving her a necklace and asking her to look after her brother and sister. Ten years on, Kate, Michael and Emma have grown up in a string of miserable orphanages, and all memories of their parents have faded to a blur. Arriving at their next home, Cambridge Falls, the children quickly realise there is something different about this place, and as they explore the many rooms, they discover an old, empty leather book. The moment they touch it, an ancient magical prophecy is set irrevocably in motion, and the children are thrown into a dangerous alternate reality of dark enchantments and terrifying monsters. Only they can prevent the terrible event that will ruin Cambridge Falls – and stop the world from falling into complete devastation. Kate holds the secret to traveling between worlds and time and keeping her family in tacked (and alive!). Yes, it is a bit like Narnia, Harry Potter or Northern Lights, but it remains a great new book, with its own twists and heroes, and will keep you reading all 400+ pages!

Storytime: Bunny Day

Saturday, April 23rd 2011 at 11:00 AM

Bunny day! What a great way to celebrate the Easter weekend by joining us and some real rabbit for an in-store Easter Egg Hunt and great Bunny Tales!

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Karl Lagerfeldt to create fragrance that smells of books

Saturday, April 23rd 2011 at 9:57 AM

This rather delightful bibliophilic article from the Independent newspaper website:

Karl Lagerfeld to create fragrance that smells of books

German fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld

AFP PHOTO CELINE MIHALACHI The book-aholic has found the cure for everyone who misses the smell of paper in these digital times: a perfume that smells of books, thanks to a “fatty” olfactory mark.

 According to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Lagerfeld – who is known for his love of books and says he stocks more than 300,000 of them in his famous personal library – is already working on the fragrance with his publisher of choice, Steidl, which distributes most of the designer’s photography books.

 FAZ reports that Paper Passion, which will be sold inside a hardcover book with the pages hollowed out to hold the flacon, will be developed with Berlin perfumer Geza Schön, who told the paper that “the fragrance will have a fatty note,” probably along the lines of linoleum, and that he was taking his inspiration from the smell of printed and unprinted paper. 

For those who can’t wait until the perfume comes out, there are several paper-inspired fragrances already on the market, including Demeter’s Paperback, Zadig & Voltaire’s Tome 1, or Hammam Bouquet by Penhaligons.

Launch of Object Relations in Depression by Trevor Lubber

Thursday, April 21st 2011 at 5:30 PM

Launch of Trevor Lubbe's Object Relations in DepressionPsychotherapist Trevor Lubbe will be here to launch his recently-published study of the role of British Object Relations Theory in understanding and treating depression. While theoretically wide-ranging in nature, the theses in the book are illustrated throughout by illuminating case studies. Trevor will be in conversation with Judy Davies.

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Sarah Penny: Lies We Shared

Wednesday, April 20th 2011 at 5:30 PM

2004. London. When Rebecca Falconer’s mother dies she has no idea that this event will be the start of a journey that will lead her all the way back into her parents’ past – to the Kenya of the 1960s. Growing up in Rhodesia and then Zimbabwe, Rebecca’s world was her family and their farm, but how much of this world did she really know? Years later, as she tries to put her mother’s affairs in order (now in England), a disturbing truth comes to light that will lead her to question the very foundations of her family’s history and force her to confront the modern reality of the country that her mother once called home.

As Rebecca Falconer unpicks her conflicted past she is brought face to face with the lies both of her parents have been telling her for her whole life. What can she do with this information? How can she make right the wrongs of the past – wrongs that she never knew of? What is left when all the certainties of her life crumble away? In the end this wise novel teaches us that the past can only ever be what it is – the past – and that the future is ours to embrace if we are brave enough to step outside what we think we know.

A superb story, beautifully and compellingly told.

Sarah will be in Conversation with John Maytham.

Published by Penguin Books.

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Orange Prize Shortlist 2011

Wednesday, April 20th 2011 at 9:37 AM

The 2011 Shortlist for the Orange Prize for Fiction has been announced, and contains some real gems and some Book Lounge Favourites!

The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht

 

Room by Emma Donoghue

 

Annabel by Kathleen Winter

 

The Memory of Love by Amanitta Forna

 

The Great House by Nicole Krauss

 

Grace Williams Says it Loud by Emma Henderson

 

 

The winner will be announced on 8th June

Easter opening Times

Tuesday, April 19th 2011 at 2:15 PM

Friday 22nd April – Closed
Saturday 23rd April – 9.30am – 6pm (Join us for Bunny Storytime at 11am)
Sunday 24th April – 10am – 4pm
Monday 25th April – Closed
Tuesday 26th April – 8.30am – 7.30pm
Wednesday 27th April – 10am – 4pm