In My Hands Today…

Katherine Howard – Joanna Denny

1145657A riveting new biography of a much neglected Queen – the doomed child-bride of Henry VIII. Joanna Denny, author of Anne Boleyn, reveals another sensational episode in Tudor history – illuminating the true character of Katherine Howard, the young girl caught up in a maelstrom of ambition and conspiracy which led to her execution for high treason while still only seventeen years old.

Who was Katherine, the beautiful young aristocrat who became a bait to catch a king? Was she simply nave and innocent, a victim of her grasping family’s scheming? Or was she brazen and abandoned, recklessly indulging in dissolute games with lovers in contempt of her royal position? Joanna Denny’s enthralling new book once again plunges the reader into the heart of the ruthless intrigues of the Tudor court – and gives a sympathetic and poignant portrait of a girl tragically trapped and betrayed by her own family.

In My Hands Today…

The Last Gift: A Novel – Abdulrazak Gurnah

17978170One day, long before the troubles, he slipped away without saying a word to anyone and never went back. And then another day, forty-three years later, he collapsed just inside the front door of his house in a small English town. It was late in the day when it happened, on his way home after work, but it was also late in the day altogether. He had left things for too long and there was no one to blame for it but himself.

Abbas has never told anyone about his past—before he was a sailor on the high seas, before he met his wife Maryam outside a drugstore in Exeter, before they settled into a quiet life with their children, Jamal and Hanna. Now, at the age of sixty-three, he suffers a collapse that renders him unable to speak about things he thought he would one day have to.

Jamal and Hanna have grown up and gone out into the world. They were both born in England but cannot shake a sense of apartness. Hanna calls herself Anna now, and has just moved to a new city to be near her boyfriend. She feels the relationship is headed somewhere serious, but the words have not yet been spoken out loud. Jamal, the listener of the family, moves into a student house and is captivated by a young woman with dark blue eyes and her own complex story to tell. Abbas’s illness forces both children home, to the dark silences of their father and the fretful capability of their mother, Maryam, who has never thought to find herself—until now.

In My Hands Today…

Leela’s Book – Alice Albinia

Leela—alluring, taciturn, haunted—is moving from New York back to Delhi, where her return will unsettle precariously balanced lives. Twenty-five years earlier, her sister was seduced by the egotistical Vyasa. Now an eminent Sanskrit scholar, Vyasa is preparing for his son’s marriage. But when Leela arrives, she disrupts the careful choreography of the wedding, with its myriad attendees and their conflicting desires.

Gleefully presiding over the drama is Ganesh—divine, ­elephant-headed scribe of the Mahabharata, India’s great epic. The family may think they have arranged the wedding for their own selfish ends, but according to Ganesh, it is he who is directing events—in a bid to save Leela, his beloved heroine, from Vyasa.

In My Hands Today…

The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages – Sophie Hardach

9800115Swimming for his life towards traffickers on the Italian shore, Selim enters a world where Kurdish refugees disguise themselves as tomatoes, dates of birth are a matter of opinion, and a residency permit is a ticket to paradise. When he ends up in a small town in Germany, Selim believes he is finally safe, until the law catches up with him and the clock starts ticking.

Selim realises there is only one way to avoid deportation if he dare try …Fifteen years later, in a town hall in Paris, a Registrar receives an unsettling book in the post. The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages only fuels her suspicions surrounding an impending Kurdish wedding. Unsure how to intervene, she embarks on an investigation that brings her uncomfortably close to an old acquaintance: Selim.

In My Hands Today…

Kaleidoscope City: A Year in Varanasi – Piers Moore Ede

22529226Situated on the left bank of the Ganges, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, Varanasi is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. For Hindus there is nowhere more sacred; for Buddhists, it is revered as a place where the Buddha preached his first sermon; for Jains, it is the birthplace of their two patriarchs. Over the last four thousand years, perhaps no city in the world has stood witness to such a flux of history, from the development of Aryan culture along the Ganges, to invasions that would leave the city in Muslim hands for three centuries, to an independent Brahmin kingdom, British colonial rule, and ultimately independence.

But what is the city like today? Home to 2.5 million people, it is visited by twice that number every year. Polluted, overpopulated, religiously divided, but utterly sublime, Varanasi is a living expression of Indian life like no other. Each day 60,000 people bathe in the Ganges. Elderly people come to die here. Widows pushed out by their families arrive to find livelihood. In the city center, the silk trade remains the most important industry, along with textiles and the processing of betel leaf. Behind this facade lurk more sinister industries. Varanasi is a major player in the international drug scene. There’s a thriving flesh trade, and a corrupt police force that turns a blind eye.

Piers Moore Ede tells the city’s story by allowing inhabitants to relate their own tales. Whether portraying a Dom Raja whose role it is to cremate bodies by the Ganghes or a khoa maker, who carefullyGangests cow’s milk into the ricotta like substance that forms the base of most sweets, Ede explores the city’s most important themes through its people, creating a vibrant portrait of modern, multicultural India.

In My Hands Today…

The Collaborator – Mirza Waheed

9555685It is Kashmir in the early 1990s and war has finally reached the isolated village of Nowgam close to the Pakistan border. Indian soldiers appear as if from nowhere to hunt for militants on the run. Four teenage boys, who used to spend their afternoons playing cricket, or singing Bollywood ballads down by the river, have disappeared one by one, to cross into Pakistan and join the movement against the Indian army. Only one of their friends, the son of the headman, is left behind.

The families in the village begin to think it’s time to flee, to search for a place of greater safety. But the headman will not allow his family to leave. And, whilst the headman watches his dreams give way beneath the growing violence, his son, under the brutal, drunken gaze of the Indian army captain, is seemingly forced to collaborate and go into the valley to count the corpses, fearing, each day, that he will discover one of his friends lying amongst the dead.