‘A gold mine of gossip with a cast of thousands’ GUARDIAN
The unexpurgated diaries of one of the greatest, most talented, and wittily flamboyant characters of the 20th century – with a new introduction by Stephen Fry
‘Compulsive reading’ SUNDAY TIMES
’19th February 1956. A A Milne has died. Lord Beaverbrook has not … Larry is going to make a movie of The Sleeping Prince with Marilyn Monroe, which might conceivably drive him round the bend’
’28th February 1960 Princess Margaret has announced her engagement to Tony Armstrong-Jones … He looks quite pretty, but whether or not the marriage is entirely suitable remains to be seen.’
Noel Coward was a renowned actor, dramatist, director – and star. His incredible zest, versatility and unrivalled wit are revealed in these diaries, with a cast of characters ranging from The Beatles to the Queen, Churchill to Marilyn Monroe.
Touching, funny and revealing, THE NOEL COWARD DIARIES is a superb account of one of the greatest entertainers of all time.
‘As in a good novel, the people, their feelings and reactions are instantly recognisable and as fresh and immediate today as they were then’ GUARDIAN
‘She writes vividly and movingly’ DAILY TELEGRAPH
26th September 1939. I am beginning to wonder whether the point of a place like this may be that it will keep alive certain ideas of freedom which might easily be destroyed in the course of this totalitarian war…
Born in Edinburgh, Naomi Mitchison spent most of the Second World War in the fishing village of Carradale on Kintyre, her home until her death aged 101. Her life was crowded with incident, and her attitudes to events predictably forceful, original and honest.
Throughout the war she kept a diary at the request of the research organisation Mass Observation, in which she recorded both the momentous events of the time, and also how one (albeit extraordinary) family and their friends lived, what they hoped for and what actually happened. Her diaries developed far beyond the confines of a social document.
Written with the passion of a poet combined with the intellectual curiosity of a radial thinker, they provide a unique and valuable document of the period.
HOW A BOOKSELLER INSPIRED A NATION
The diary of a publicist-turned bookseller who left Florence to open a tiny bookshop on a Tuscan hill.
‘A work of significant beauty… Inspiring about the
continuing life of books, and about the ways in which our lives can
change and our dreams can come true, if only we insist on believing in
changes and dreams’
Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
‘Romano, I’d like to open a bookshop where I live.’
‘Right. How many people are we talking about?’
‘A hundred and eighty.’
‘Right, so if a hundred and eighty thousand people live there, then . . .’
‘No, not hundred and eighty thousand, Romano. Just a hundred and eighty.’
‘Alba . . . Have you lost your mind?’
Conversation between Alba Donati and Romano Montroni, founder of Italy’s largest bookselling chain
Alba used to live a hectic life, working as a book publicist in Florence – a life that made her happy and led her to meet prominent international authors. And yet, she always felt like she was a woman on the run.
And so one day she decides to stop running and go back to Lucignana, the small village on the Tuscan hills where she was born, to open a tiny bookshop.
With a total of only 180 residents, Alba’s enterprise in Lucignana seems doomed from day one but it surprisingly sparks the enthusiasm of many across Tuscany – and beyond. After surviving a fire and the restrictions imposed by the pandemic, the ‘Bookshop on the Hill’ soon becomes a refuge and beacon for an ever-growing community of people: readers who come to visit from afar, safe in the knowledge that Alba will be able to find the perfect book for them.
A tale of resilience and entrepreneurship and a celebration of booksellers everywhere: the real (and often unsung) heroes of the publishing world.
In 2021, the world of cooking lost a legendary figure. Albert Roux, together with his brother Michel, transformed the way we eat, cook and appreciate food in this country. It is no exaggeration to say that most of what makes our current culinary landscape so vibrant began with these two brothers and their ground-breaking restaurant, Le Gavroche.
Albert first arrived in England in the fifties, at a time of grey and brown food, with a nation still reeling from the effects of war and rationing. Cooking in the grand private houses of the aristocracy, he was to fall in love with the country and, after his military service, which he spent fighting in the Algerian Civil War, he would eventually make it his home for life. He and his brother set up Le Gavroche in 1967. It was to become the first restaurant in the UK to gain first one, and eventually three, Michelin stars. Together with their other restaurants, including the renowned Waterside Inn in Bray, it would go on to revolutionise the industry. The Roux restaurants set on their course an entire generation of award-winning chefs: his protégés include Gordon Ramsay, Marcus Wareing, Rowley Leigh and Monica Galetti, to name just a tiny fraction. He won every plaudit possible in the world of food, and was granted an OBE, a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and a papal knighthood.
Albert’s memoir takes us from his childhood in wartime France, where the ever-looming presence of the German troops made it a challenge for his mother to keep the family fed, right up to the almost instant success of Le Gavroche, which welcomed everybody from royalty – the Queen Mother and Princess Diana were both regulars – to Hollywood legends including Charlie Chaplin. He talks frankly about his famed relationship with his brother, and about the encounter which derailed his first boyhood ambition to join the priesthood. His drive, humour and joie de vivre leap off every page, and the insight into what it took to break new ground in the restaurant industry is unmatched.
These are the last words from a pioneer, a hero who inspired entire generations of chefs. They tell the story not only of a titan of a man, but of an era that shaped the way we cook and eat today.
Harold Wilson is the only post-war leader of any party to serve as Britain’s Prime Minister on two separate occasions. In total he won four General Elections, spending nearly eight years in Downing Street. Half a century later, he is still unbeaten, Labour’s greatest ever election winner. How did he do it – and at what cost?
Critics then and now have painted him as an opportunistic political calculator, even as a Soviet secret agent. In this powerful new portrait, drawing on previously unavailable sources and first-hand parliamentary insight, acclaimed biographer Nick Thomas-Symonds reveals a more complex figure. Wilson was a new kind of politician but, in his own way, this media-savvy harbinger of modernity was also a deeply traditional man, whose actions often suggest nothing less than a spiritual mission.
In an intriguing paradox, Wilson, influenced by the distinctively democratic faith of his Yorkshire boyhood, united a fractured Labour Party, ushering in the cultural and social changes of the ‘swinging sixties’. His was the government to decriminalise homosexuality, legalise abortion and abolish capital punishment. With a brilliant mind, sure-footed political moves and a feel for public opinion, he was a survivor who over and over again emerged from desperate crises – even, perhaps, conspiracies – to lead his party to victory. It is time at last to learn his secrets.
‘Describing narrow squeaks and terrible deprivations, Harris’s unflowery account of fortitude and resilience in Spain still bristles with a freshness and an invigorating spikiness’ SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY
‘A most vivid record of the war in Spain and Portugal against Napoleon’ MAIL ON SUNDAY
Benjamin Harris was a young shepherd from Dorset who joined the army in 1802 and later joined the dashing 95th Rifles. His battalion was ordered to Portugal, where he marched under the burning sun, weighed down by his kit and great-coat, plus all the tools and leather he had to carry as the battalion’s cobbler – ‘the lapstone I took the liberty of flinging to the Devil’.
Rifleman Harris was a natural story-teller with a remarkable tale to unfold, and his Recollections have become one of the most popular military books of all time.
‘Alluring, shocking, welcome and wonderful’
Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women
‘The most delicious memoir that kept me in bed all day . . . I think she might be a genius’
Sophie Heawood, author of The Hungover Games
‘I’ve really never read about sex and been so sharply reminded about how much it is tied up with the fundamentals of being a woman’
From the author of Your Voice in My Head and Royals comes a beautiful, breath-taking, unputdownable memoir about love and heartbreak, sex and celibacy, growing up and starting again.
What happens when your story doesn’t end the way you thought it would?
When the dream life you have been working towards becomes something you must walk away from?
When you swap a Hollywood marriage and a LA mansion with waterside views, for a little attic flat shared only with your daughter, beneath the star-filled sky of deepest North London?
When you find yourself not lonely, but elated – elated to be alone with yourself, who you genuinely thought you might never get to see again?
When, after a life guided by romantic obsession, you decide to turn your back not only on marriage, but all romantic and sexual attachments?
In Lives Between the Lines, Michael Vatikiotis traces the journey of his Greek and Italian forebears from Tuscany, Crete, Hydra and Rhodes, as they made their way to Egypt and the coast of Palestine in search of opportunity. In the process, he reveals a period where the Middle East was a place of ethnic and cultural harmony – where Arabs and Jews rubbed shoulders in bazaars and teashops, intermarried and shared family history.
While lines were eventually drawn and people, including Vatikiotis’s family, found themselves caught between clashing faiths, contested identities and violent conflict, this intimate and sweeping memoir is a paean to tolerance, offering a nuanced understanding of the lost Levant.
Elegant and sophisticated biography of Princess Margaret, the controversial sister of Queen Elizabeth II, the Princess Diana of her day
‘A fascinating insight into the life of the party girl who became an icon in postwar Britain’ DAILY EXPRESS
‘She was a witty, intelligent, stimulating companion – happily Tim Heald captures all these qualities in his admirably well-balanced biography’ LITERARY REVIEW
The almost universal conception is that the life of Princess Margaret (1930-2002) was a tragic failure, a history of unfulfilment.
Tim Heald’s vivid and elegant biography portrays a woman who was beautiful and sexually alluring – even more so than Princess Diana, years later – and whose reputation for naughtiness co-existed with the glamour. The mythology is that Margaret’s life was ‘ruined’ by her not being allowed to marry the one true love of her life – Group Captain Peter Townsend – and that therefore her marriage to Lord Snowdon and her well-attested relationships with Roddy Llewellyn and others were mere consolation prizes. Margaret’s often exotic personal life in places like Mustique is a key part of her story.
The author has had extraordinary help from those closest to Princess Margaret, including her family (Lord Snowdon and her son, Lord Linley), as well as three of her private secretaries and many of her ladies in waiting. These individuals have not talked to any previous biographer. He has also had the Queen’s permission to use the royal archives.
Heald asks why one of the most famous and loved little girls in the world, who became a juvenile wartime sweetheart, ended her life a sad wheelchair-bound figure, publicly reviled and ignored. This is a story of a life in which the private and the public seemed permanently in conflict. The biography is packed with good stories. Princess Margaret was never ignored; what she said and did has been remembered and recounted to Tim Heald.
‘In a later age he would have become a successful war correspondent … We have no more human account of the Peninsular War from a participant in all its battles. Vivid images – of people, landscapes, events – flows from his pen … One of military history’s great originals’ John Keegan, DAILY TELEGRAPH
These letters, in the form of a frank and amusing diary, were written by a private in Wellington’s army who fought throughout the Napoleonic Wars. Private Wheeler’s record covers the Peninsular Campaign, keeping order during the coronation of Louis XVIII (whom he called ‘an old bloated poltroon’) and his later posting to Corfu.
Most of all, Wheeler’s account of the historic Battle of Waterloo – written before the muskets of battle had cooled – reveals him to be a master of lively anecdote and mischievous characterisation.
‘I loved The Ballast Seed. I couldn’t put it down. Beautiful and sad and hopeful all at once – luminous and lush, full of dirt, darkness, sun light and soft new growth. It’s a story of vulnerability, persistence and the will to live. This is a memoir that will make you weep, then roll up your sleeves and plant the seeds of a new life.’ Cal Flyn author of Islands of Abandonment
The surprise of a second pregnancy, so soon after the birth of her first son, plunged Rosie into a despair that spiralled into deep depression. Terrified at the prospect of adding another child into her already precariously balanced life, Rosie was compelled to find a new way of living. She found herself instinctively drawn to the local parks and scraps of communal green spaces in her local south east London neighbourhood, and to therapy via tending a hidden garden deep within the city. Interlaced with her responses to the travel journals of an eccentric 19th century female botanist and adventurer, Rosie elegantly describes how these pockets of nature amidst the urban sprawl provided just enough to mend her broken spirit.
‘This is my earliest memory. I am three years old and I sit in the bottom of my great-uncle’s pot boat and take off the bands from the lobsters’ claws. The deepest of blues, they creak over the bilges with robotic limbs towards my father’s bare feet as he rows. Over the scent of the herring bait I can smell the fresh, sweet smell of wrack on the shore. This book has come out of over twenty years of studying the sea and trying to protect it, and a lifetime of loving our other world beneath waves.’
In Spring Tides, marine biologist Fiona Gell tells the story of a pioneering project to create the very first marine nature reserve on the Isle of Man. Growing up in a traditional fishing family on the island, Fiona spent her time on her grandfather’s boat, listening to stories from the local fishermen and combing the beach for mermaid’s purses and whelks’ eggs. She developed a lifelong love of the sea and Manx culture, and on her return to the island after twelve years away studying marine life, she led a three-year-long struggle to protect an area called Ramsey Bay and the precious emerald green eelgrass forests which grew there. With scientific insight and spellbinding prose she perfectly captures the wonder of island life, from the intricate beauty of bright pink maerl, to the enormity of giant basking sharks spotted off the cliffs of the bay. This beautiful story from a small island reveals the transformative power of the sea, and the importance of protecting it for future generations.