News archive for September 2014

Elspeth Sandys' searing and amusing memoir, WHAT LIES BENEATH was number eight in the New Zealand charts this weekend, having just been published by Otago University Press.

Elspeth was born during the Second World War, the result of a brief encounter between two people who would never meet again. The first nine months of her life were spent in the Truby King Karitane Hospital in Dunedin, where she was known by her birth name, Frances Hilton James. This would change with her adoption into the Somerville family. A new birth certificate was issued and Frances James became Elspeth Sandilands Somerville.

Tom and Alice Somerville, Elspeth’s new parents, lived with their son John in Dunedin’s Andersons Bay. While Elspeth was happy among the ebullient and welcoming Somerville clan, she had a difficult relationship with her adoptive mother, who was frequently hospitalised with mental health problems.

Elspeth’s search for her birth parents did not begin until much later in her adult life. What she discovered after an exhaustive search provided answers that were both disturbing and, ultimately, rewarding.

THE DRESS THIEF, Natalie Meg Evans' charming and evocative tale set in 1930s Paris, has just won the Festival of Romance's 'Best Historical novel' award.

Alix Gower has a dream: to join the ranks of Coco Chanel to become a designer in the high-stakes world of Parisian haute couture. But Alix also has a secret: she supports her family by stealing designs to create bootlegs for the foreign market. A hidden sketchbook and two minutes inside Hermès is all she needs to create a perfect replica, to be whisked off to production in New York.

Then Alix is given her big break - a chance to finally realize her dream in one of the most prominent Parisian fashion houses - but at the price of copying the breakthrough Spring Collection.

Knowing this could be her only opportunity, Alix accepts the arrangement. But when a mystery from her past resurfaces and a chance meeting has her falling into the arms of a handsome English war reporter, Alix learns that the slightest misstep - or misplaced trust - could be all it takes for her life to begin falling apart at the seams.

Before 1893 no woman anywhere in the world had the vote in a national election. A hundred years later almost all countries had enfranchised women, and it was a sign of backwardness not to have done so.

Jad Adam's authorative book WOMEN AND THE VOTE, published today by OUP, is the story of how this momentous change came about. It's the first genuinely global history of the subject, and takes the story of women in politics from the earliest times to the present day, revealing startling new connections across time and national boundaries - from Europe and North America to Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Muslim world post-9/11.

A story of individuals as well as of wider movements, it includes the often dramatic life-stories of women's suffrage pioneers from across the world, painting vivid biographical portraits of everyone from Susan B. Anthony and the Pankhursts to hitherto lesser-known activists in China, Latin America, and Africa.

Controversially, Jad Adams rejects the widely accepted idea that success was primarily a result of the pressure group politics of the suffragists and their supporters. Ultimately, he argues, it was nationalism, not feminism, that was the most important factor in winning women the vote.

RED LEAVES, Sita Brahmachari's new book, is published today by Macmillan. You can read an extract of it on her blog: http://www.sitabrahmachari.com/

Aisha is a thirteen-year-old refugee living in London. Happy for the first time since leaving her war-torn home, she is devastated when her foster mother announces that a new family has been found for her and she will be moving on. Feeling rejected and abandoned, Aisha packs her bags and runs away, seeking shelter in the nearby woods.

Meanwhile, a few doors down, twelve-year-old Zak is trying to cope with his parents' divorce. Living in a near-building site while the new house is being refurbished, he feels unsettled and alone. Discovering a piece of rubble with the original builder's signature set into it, he starts researching the history behind his home - and in doing so finds a connection with a young soldier from the past, which leads him to an old air-raid shelter in the same woods.

Both children, previously unknown to each other, meet in the heart of the ancient city woodland as they come into the orbit of Elder, a strange homeless woman who lives amongst the trees - and, as helicopters hover overhead and newspapers fill with pictures of the two lost children, unexpected bonds are formed and lives changed forever . . .