The First of July (published in the UK as At Break of Day)Open or Close
It is a novel of the tragedies of war, as lives cross, dreams are shattered, and futures altered as the hours pass during the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
On July 1st, 1913, four very different men are leading four very different lives.
Exactly three years later, it is just after seven in the morning, and there are a few seconds of peace as the guns on the Somme fall silent and larks soar across the battlefield, singing as they fly over the trenches. What follows is a day of catastrophe in which Allied casualties number almost one hundred thousand. A horror that would have been unimaginable in pre-war Europe and England becomes a day of reckoning, where their lives will change forever, for Frank, Benedict, Jean-Batiste, and Harry.
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The Return of Captain John EmmettOpen or CloseIt was chosen as the Richard & Judy Summer Pick, the Orange New Writers Book of the Month and short-listed for the Waverton Good Reads Award. (You can watch the Richard & Judy interview here.)
London, 1920. In the aftermath of the Great War and a devastating family tragedy, Laurence Bartram has turned his back on the world. But with a well-timed letter, an old flame manages to draw him back in. Mary Emmett’s brother John—like Laurence, an officer during the war—has apparently killed himself while in the care of a remote veterans’ hospital, and Mary needs to know why.
Aided by his friend Charles—a dauntless gentleman with detective skills cadged from mystery novels—Laurence begins asking difficult questions. What connects a group of war poets, a bitter feud within Emmett’s regiment, and a hidden love affair? Was Emmett’s death really a suicide, or the missing piece in a puzzling series of murders? As veterans tied to Emmett continue to turn up dead, and Laurence is forced to face the darkest corners of his war experiences, his own survival may depend on uncovering the truth...
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The Strange Fate of Kitty EastonOpen or Close
When former infantry officer Laurence Bartram is called to the small village of Easton Deadall, he is struck by the beauty of the place: a crumbling stately home; a centuries-old church; and a recently planted maze, a memorial to the men of the village, almost all of whom died in one heroic battle in 1916.
But it soon becomes clear to Laurence that while rest of the country is alight with hope for the first time since the end of the War, as the first Labour government takes power, the Wiltshire village is haunted by its tragic past. In 1911, five-year-old Kitty Easton disappeared from her bed and has not been seen since: only her fragile mother believes still she is alive. When a family trip to the Empire Exhibition in London ends in disaster and things take an increasingly sinister turn, Laurence struggles to find out what has happened as it seems that the fate of the house, the men and of Kitty herself may be part of a much longer, darker story of love, betrayal - and violence.
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The Sunlight on the GardenOpen or Close
In 1880, Ada Curtis bore Gerald Howard the first of several illegitimate children. Ada was a housemaid, the daughter of a Lincolnshire butcher. Gerald was her employer and the son of a once-grand family now obsessed with its own threadbare nobility. They thereby sent their descendants tumbling chaotically into the twentieth century — the century, and the family, which I was born into.
The stories, re-inventions and half-truths in my family's past —I am Gerald and Ada's great-granddaughter — inspired me to set out to trace the criss-crossing lines of history. As one who had recovered, fully and joyfully, from what was once called a "mental breakdown" and is now better-known, and better-understood, as depressive psychosis, I began to wonder if that history offered any explanation of what had happened in my own life.
My search brought to life the passions and hopes of four generations, amid tales of wealth inherited and lost, eccentricity, sexual indiscretion and madness. This book will, I hope, strike a chord, not as a "misery memoir" — it's anything but — but rather as a sequence of interwoven family portraits, of mothers and daughters most of all.
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Following HadrianOpen or Close
As a classicist at Cambridge, and later teaching at other universities, I found Hadrian, of all the great emperors, to be in a way the most accessible to our modern sensibilities. Yet it was in a way a trick of the light, an optical illusion seen through the glass of time. At one moment he seems a modern man, much like us; then, suddenly, he is utterly strange and incomprehensible.
Hadrian was a traveller, intellectual and patron of the arts. But he was also melancholy, volatile and involved with at least one sinister death — that of his young lover, Antinous, in mysterious circumstances on the Nile — which affected his personality and ability to rule.
The story of one who was the most powerful man on earth is set against a background of his travels and intrigues, and the landscape and architecture of the time, much of which remains visible to today’s travellers.
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