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The Testament of Mary

Here is a challenge to the generally accepted view of Mary the mother of Jesus. Some will find it shocking, others refreshing. Though not what her minders want to hear, Mary tells her own story and that of her son in a short powerful narrative, intense and compelling. I was deeply moved, even more so as the mother of a son. I was also prompted to think about truth - is my truth your fiction?

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We Need New Names

Initially I didn't think I was going to like this book, with its strangely-named characters: Bastard, Godknows, Bornfree .... The first half is set in Zimbabwe (unnamed), but when the narrator, Darling, moves to America to live with her aunt, the writing seems to gain a fresh intensity. In Detroit, Darling struggles with her feelings for her native land as she adapts to life in the USA. This latter part of the book is very moving indeed.

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The Luminaries

Set in New Zealand during the 1866 Gold Rush, this is an intricately plotted and intensely atmospheric novel with a huge cast, who each tell their own stories. A perfect format with a writing style which accurately reflects the period. Built round an astrological calendar, expect a murder mystery, an adventure story and a romance to keep you intrigued to the end when all is revealed. Winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize.

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The Man Who Rained

Poetic, heart-breaking and life-affirming, this timeless fairy tale asks what makes us who we are. Is love possible when a storm lives within you? What does your life mean when you betray your roots? And can you ever put down roots if you always yearn for new skies?

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The Death of Bees

Despite being a heartbreaking story of abuse and neglect you will smile at the dark humour and the wicked, razor sharp observations and find yourself emotionally involved as this compelling story unfolds. There is no sentimentality in the writing as the characters' voices grab and immerse you in the horrors of their lives. A gritty, sad tale of abandonment that somehow still leaves you filled with laughter and hope.

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