Close
Enter your search into one or more of the boxes below:
You can refine your search by selecting from any of the options below:
Search
Your Shopping Basket
A Year of Books
Account Services

Blogs

Find Blog:

July 2019

1
0
Viviane Schwarz talks to us about her picture book, How to Be on the Moon
20th July 2019

Viviane Schwarz talks to us about her picture book, How to Be on the Moon 

How to Be on the Moon

How to Be on the Moon is Viviane Schwarz' lastest exciting picture book, about a fantastical journey to the moon. The author and illustrator of How to Find Gold, There Are No Cats in this Book and Is There a Dog in This Book? talks to us about her love of the moon and the influences and proceeses used in creating this out of this world book.

 


Q&A

What made you decide to make a book about the moon?

I was asked to create a second adventure with Anna and Crocodile after How to Find Gold. I knew it would have to be an iconic ambition, and what is more iconic than going to the moon?

 

I have always been fascinated with the moon, nad really enjoyed using the research I had already done about it as well as the opportunity of interviewing scientists and going to museums...

 

 

If you were heading to the moon, what essentials would you take?

Apart from enough sandwiches to get me there and back?

Apparently, one thing you really need is a table. I learned that while researching (from Packing for Mars by Mary Roach) - On early space missions, the astronauts found it completely unbearable while they were in zero gravity if they did not agree which was was up. It gets really hard to talk with one another - you can try looking at photos of facial expressions and see how much more difficult it is to recognise them upside down. The one big thing that seems entirely pointless in zero gravity but that all astronauts agreed they needed was a table that they could gather around, even though technically nothing would stay on it and you can’t really sit down. So, a table, that definitely goes on the list, and then I would read up on what else people have taken before me.

 

 

Can you tell us a little about the process of making this book?

It took quite a long time to research and write! I knew it would not be completely realistic, but I also wanted to make sure that the story included things to be actually excited about. So I spoke to some scientists - engineers and astronomers - to find out what they would have been annoyed or excited about in a book like this as children, because after all they ended up loving the moon. I asked myself as well. That’s why I ended up making sure that the phases of the moon and earth and the angle of the Milky Way made some sense, that’s why there are moon caves and you can find some important mathematical formulas if you look closely. I also learned about how a rocket changes course, so even if the text presents it very simply, the pictures show some complicated maneuvering and calculating.

 

Like in the first book, I incorporated bits and pieces of my own life to anchor the feeling of the everyday a bit. For example, the moon surface is made from photographs of some concrete outside the Home Office in Croydon, which is both a huge, impressive building that was inspired by the Apollo missions and a place that I had to deal with myself at the time as I was applying for citizenship.

 

The painting technique is directly inspired by some workshops I did with families in Foyles Birmingham, and then in some schools, and I used the same art materials to create the space rocket.

 

 

Do you have any favourite books about the moon?

I loved Around the Moon by Jules Verne when I was a child, especially the amazing illustrations by ˊEmile-Antoine Bayard, and Moon Man by Tomi Ungerer. Right now I am very excited about This Rock That Rock by Dom Conlon, a poetry collection about the moon that I am illustrating…

 


Viviane Schwarz is the author-illustrator of the highly acclaimed picture books There Are Cats in this Book and There Are No Cats in this Book, both of which were shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal (2009, 2012), Is There a Dog in This Book?, Counting with Tiny Cat, Animals with Tiny Cat and How to Find Gold. The Adventures of a Nose was shortlisted for the V&A illustration Award and her debut graphic novel The Sleepwalkers was nominated for the British Comics Awards. She lives in London.

 

Crime author Kristen Lepionka shares some of her recent favourite LGBT novels
18th July 2019

Crime author Kristen Lepionka shares some of her recent favourite LGBT novels

The Stories You Tell by Kristen Lepionka

Kristen Lepionka introduced private investigator Roxane Weary to the world in her debut thriller The Last Place You Look in 2017. With a wry yet hard-boiled narrative voice, the novel earned plenty of praise including glowing endorsements from both Martina Cole and Sophie Hannah. Her second novel What You Want to See followed soon after. Edgy, nosy and impatient, Roxane (very definitely with just one n) is a welcome entrant into the ranks of tough-yet-relatable private investigators, and in the third book in the series, The Stories You Tell, Roxane is faced with a case, which this time runs a little too close to home. With strong characters being central to her own work, in our exclusive blog, Kristen shares some of her recent favourite novels and the LGBT characters within them, and why she enjoyed them so much

 


It’s human nature to try to identify with the characters in a book you’re reading. Good writers make that easy, of course, but there is a special thrill that comes with reading about a character that you have a lot in common with. As a queer person, I’m always on the hunt for a great novel that features LGBTQ characters, especially complex, nuanced, modern portraits of an individual rather than just a coming-out story or something that uses a character’s queerness as a plot device. Here are some that have satisfied that need - and then some - for me lately.

 

The Cosmopolitans by Sarah Schulman

As a crime writer, I love a good mystery and recently came to Schulman’s work through the brilliant novel Maggie Terry (which you should also read, by the way). The Cosmopolitans is a literary novel set in 1950s Manhattan and focuses on the long-term platonic relationship between two neighbors and also manages to riff on James Baldwin and Balzac while somehow staying utterly contemporary.

 

The Best Bad Things by Katrina Carrasco

My favorite read of last year! Carrasco weaves a suspenseful tale of organized crime and smuggling on the docks of a late nineteenth-century Washington State port city. It’s violent and sexy—and super queer, owing to the fascinating protagonist, a female Pinkertons detective who goes undercover as a man.

 

How to Survive a Summer by Nick White

A man who spent a painful summer at a now-defunct gay conversion camp is forced to come to terms with his experience when he learns that a movie is being made about the facility. Starkly funny but also deeply moving, this novel is a queer, welcome update to the Southern Gothic genre.

 


Kirsten Lepionka author photograph, picture credit Coley and Co

Kristen Lepionka is the author of The Last Place You Look, winner of the Shamus Award for Best First P. I. Novel, and What You Want to See. She grew up mostly in a public library and could often be found in the adult mystery section well before she was out of middle school. Her writing has been selected for Shotgun Honey, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Grift, and Black Elephant. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her partner and two cats. 

 

 

Becoming Dinah: introducing Bellatrix, a new feminist collection for young adult and teen readers
11th July 2019 - Kit de Waal

Becoming Dinah: introducing Bellatrix, a new feminist collection for young adult and teen readers

Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal

This year sees Hachette Children’s Books launch a remarkable new teen and YA collection called Bellatrix. Written by new and leading female authors, these works are bringing fresh perspective and life to stories that have overlooked the strength, resilience and determination of girls and women.

Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal is the first book in this diverse new venture, a response to Moby Dick, which tells the story of Dinah and her courageous journey of self-discovery. With two novels recently published to huge critical and commercial success, de Waal is the perfect launch author for Bellatrix. Here you can read why she picked Moby Dick and how she found her way to a whole new story.

 


I read Moby Dick when I was twenty-five when I was discovering the classics.  The prospect didn’t fill me with joy; a very fat book about a very angry man chasing a very big whale on a very long journey. I had seen the film when I was young so could imagine Captain Ahab and his false leg made of whalebone standing on the brow of The Piquod whipping the men into a frenzy in pursuit of the whale that disabled him. I couldn’t remember much else. 

 

Of course, there’s much more to the book than that. There are so many interesting themes in the book that I wanted to explore when reimaging this novel for a contemporary feminist YA audience. One of the most fascinating was the relationship between the book’s narrator Ishmael, a Christian and Queepeg, described as South Sea Islander and cannibal. It would have been easy for Melville to make Queepeg a savage, especially in view of the prevailing attitudes towards race at the time. Yet, Queepeg is portrayed as easy-going, quiet, talented and generous. Ishmael spends a night with him in the same bed and comes to know him intimately, Melville describing them as ‘wedded’ and as ‘inseparable’.  There are hints at more than friendship here and it was this relationship that I wanted to make central in Becoming Dinah

 

In making Queepeg into Dinah’s best friend, Queenie, I allowed Dinah to explore her sexual identity. Queenie is everything Dinah is not: popular, confident, easy going.  She stands up for Dinah, just as Queepeg does for Ishmael and it’s Dinah’s misreading of her intentions that ultimately sends Dinah on her road trip, running away from the biggest mistake of her life.

 

I also wanted to really understand Captain Ahab and where his anger came from.  Yes, the whale took his leg but his pursuit of it really was his attempts to recover his manhood; when he lost his leg he lost his sense of being whole (literally as well as figuratively), of being strong, lost his status in his own eyes and he imagines in the eyes of the world. It was wonderful to imagine the story that led this new Ahab, the mechanic who pursues the white Campervan (as opposed to a whale) across the country and get to know him, just as Dinah does, and devils that drive him.   

 

Herman Melville spent no time developing the two very minor female characters mentioned in Moby Dick. To be able to take this story and give it to a strong, young woman like Dinah has been a great challenge and a joy.   

 

You don’t need to know the book to fall in love with her. She’s her own person from the first page to the last.

 


Kit de Waal author photograph

Kit de Waal was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother, who was a childminder and foster carer and a Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels. She used to advise Social Services on the care of foster children, and has written training manuals on adoption, foster care and judgecraft for members of the judiciary. Her writing has received numerous awards including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014 and 2015 and the SI Leeds Literary Reader's Choice Prize 2014 and the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. My Name is Leon, her first novel was published in 2016 and shortlisted for the Costa Book Award. Becoming Dinah is her first novel for young adults. She has two children and lives in the West Midlands. 

 

 

Female desire, sex and power: Lisa Taddeo's non-fiction debut, Three Women
9th July 2019 - Lisa Taddeo

Female desire, sex and power: Lisa Taddeo's non-fiction debut, Three Women

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

"An immersive, revelatory study of the sex lives of three women, told in fascinating but never salacious detail, shot through with longing, loneliness, pleasure and shame... As compelling as true crime and as heartbreaking as anything I've read, this book will be talked about for years to come."

Heather, Campaigns Team

 

Three Women is the year's landmark new non-fiction book from journalist Lisa Taddeo. Taddeo has spent countless hours over the last eight years becoming part of the lives of three American women to create a masterwork of true-life storytelling that chronicles the sexual lives of her subjects. Told with a sense of clarity and with great empathy, Three Women examines the deeper truths of female desire and the interplay between gender and power.

Below, Taddeo talks exclusively to Foyles about how and why she wrote Three Women, and we have an extract from Lina’s story.

 


Q&A

 

  • Can you tell us a little about Three Women and what motivated you to write it?

 

The genesis was to take the pulse of sexuality and desire in America today. A sort of updating of Gay Talese’s Thy Neighbor’s Wife, but from a female perspective. Desire is at once all we think about and talk about, and at the same time our most slippery secret. I wanted to explore the nuance of that intersection.

 

I began by talking to both men and women, but the men’s stories, though intriguing, began to bleed together. The throttle of their desire often ended once a conquest was achieved, whereas for the women, it was utterly the opposite. Of course, this is not to generalize. But the three individuals who ended up sticking out to me, who were the most willing to tell their stories in ways that revealed their desire, happened to be three women. These specific three women. There were several subjects who dropped out, the most notable one about seven months into my research, when she began to fear her new relationship would suffer if her past were found out.

 

  • How did you research and gather the material for your book?

 

Reporting the book was intensely and maddeningly different day to day, hour to hour. There was no formula, no set of questions or group of people. It was somewhat haunting in that I thought of it every second. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t feel like I was failing.

 

I would make lists of tenuous things to do: in the morning, post signs on coffee shop and supermarket bulletin boards. On the windows of cars2go. On slot machines in casinos. On the fence outside the Prada Marfa art installation. In the afternoon, write whatever I’d observed the day before, or transcribe tape, or write out pages of notes. In the early evening, either go to dive bars and nice restaurants and libraries and mechanics and talk to people and ask around, trying to isolate a town or a human being that would make me feel like I’d found it. Or hang out with whichever person or group of people I’d found the day or week before. In the late evening, eat dinner while posting things on the internet. Read and write. Panic.

 

In sum the actual process was like trying to attack a kernel in the fog with hundreds of different swords. But when I found Lina it felt right. The idea of “Finding Lina” a second or third time was the same haunting process all over again. By then, though, I’d gotten a little better at cataloguing the potential risks for a subject while also not frightening them away. Giving them the full scope of what I wanted to do while also taking it easy. I’d gotten better at knowing which people wouldn’t be likely to get spooked and drop out. It was also an important factor that the motivation for someone being open to letting me into their lives in such an intimate manner wouldn’t be for any purpose other than expunging and hoping their stories would help others.

 

It was hard for me to look for people, to speak for months to subjects who would end up dropping out. It was hard for me to place myself in an invasive position in other people’s lives. It was hard to have so many instances of pure aimlessness and fear. I have a lot of anxiety and I had a lot of panic attacks throughout the course of this research (which continue today.) Being embedded in people’s lives was extraordinarily uncomfortable. Especially when it felt like I was an imposition. I spent a long time with people because I wanted to do everything slowly and carefully. I knew that if I pushed too much, too soon, it would be off-putting. More than wanting to “get the story,” I wanted all the subjects of this book to feel heard and not used.

 

The instances I most loved came when I was observing people from a distance, quietly writing, taking notes, taking in the environment while not being a part of the action. For example, after Lina was intimate with Aidan in their sacred spot, I would travel there right after, to take in the smells and sounds and sights of the river at dusk. So I could best describe the milieu, so I could best layer onto what Lina had just told me.

 

  • Did the women’s stories throw up unexpected elements or were they more familiar in their depiction of contemporary female experience?

 

There were some but not many. I was often more surprised that I wasn't surprised; that so many of the people I spoke to mirrored one another within the core of desire, even if the window dressing changed from subject to subject. That said, I was thrilled about finding Sloane's story because she was the epitome of that which I'd been looking for at various points—a "swinger" who did not participate in the cliched swinger lifestyle. A woman in possession of a great deal of elegance and the ideal meshing of power and subjugation—an identity with which she was both at peace, but also questioning. So finding Sloane was very gratifying—that this type of person, about whom I wondered existed at all—did, in fact, exist, and in such a complex and nearly aspirational manner.

 

***

 

Extract

 

For some women, preparing to meet a lover is nearly as hallowed a time as the actual meeting. In some cases, it’s better, because at length the lover leaves, or someone loses interest, but the tender moments of anticipation remain. Like the way Lina can more easily remember the beauty of snow falling than the gray slush that lingers.

 

Lina stands naked and pale behind a yolk-colored curtain in a recessed rectangular shower stall, holding her mouth open to the stream, pushing her wet hair back the way that girls in movies do—one thumb over each ear and both palms at the top of the head, then smoothing the wet hair back. She shaves her legs and her pubic area, leaving what she’d heard some older girls call a landing strip. She soaps herself with Camay, taking care to deeply clean the areas his mouth might kiss, scrubbing these areas harder, perhaps, than she should.

 

She times it perfectly so that her sister would be heading for the bathroom just as Lina is on her way back to their shared room, so she could be alone. Naked on her bed, on top of her towel, she caresses pink lotion into her skin, not missing a single spot. Then she applies makeup but not too much because he had once made a comment about overly made-up girls, how they were trying to look older but they succeeded only in looking whorish.

 

She blows her hair out in large sections so that it will lie straight but full of body, so that it might bounce across her back and shoulders as she walks.

 

She applies perfume behind her ears, at the backs of the knees, and on the insides of her wrists. It’s a lemony floral scent evocative of beach house afternoons, of iced tea with mint leaves, and clean breezes.

 

The perfume is the final thing to go on, so that it lasts. Lina will be silently pissed if she passes a smoker along the way. Aidan is a smoker and yet she wants to come to him clean, not smelling of cigarettes, even though the chances he’ll be smoking when she approaches him are high.

 

There is a nervous, weightless feeling in her bowels, as if she hasn’t eaten in days. She has, in fact, been eating less, because that is what love does, Lina has begun to see. It feeds and eviscerates you at once, so that you’re full but you are also empty. You don’t want food or the company of others. You want only the one you love, and your thoughts of him. Everything else is a waste of energy, money, breath.

 

The secret place is a river, but it is more than a river. Even now, nearly two decades later, Lina thinks of the word river when she thinks of the secret place but it doesn’t fit. The problem is, there’s no better word for it. Like even the most perfect things in life, it is what it is.

 

It wasn’t that either of them had ever called it the secret place. Never aloud. It was just what Lina called it in her head. In fact, it had a much simpler name, simpler even than river.

 

There.

 

I’ll meet you there.

 

See you there at ten.

 

Get off the bus, and there it was, only a quarter mile away, into the woods not too deep, off the two-lane highway that ran through the flatland.

 

There was a sort of path into the woods, not a real path but demarcated enough, a narrow clearing where the twigs and leaves were crushed by Keds and Timberlands.

 

Lina in her white sneakers wondered how much of the path she’d created, and about all the people before her who’d made the first dents.

 

There it was. There in a clearing where the wheatgrasses overgrew, a thin, snaking river in the half mist. The greatest part was seeing his pickup, old and beat-up and so gray as to be invisible, which made Lina’s heart thump like a bounced ball.

 

It was fall when they started meeting there but winter would come soon, so he said they should invest in blankets because it would be too expensive to keep the car running. That he had said this in September, when winter was so many weeks away, made Lina’s eyes water, that he foresaw his future with her in it. For a very long time, that was enough, that the object of her love even considered her a beating heart, a living thing, in his orbit.

 

Seeing his car already there, hearing the birds in the branches and the crunch of twigs underfoot. Smelling the wet earth and the exhaust and getting lost in a hologram of mist. Tucking her hair behind her ears the way she had practiced in front of the mirror, the precise way she looked the prettiest. All these sounds, smells, routines. It was her foreplay.

 

And there, in his car, staring straight ahead into the trees and ringed by a halo of his own smoke was this mythological man who was going to be hers, who was right at this moment waiting for her, so that the very entirety of her being was validated. He was the whole point of her existence, her mother and her sisters and the posterior side of her father be damned. There he was.

 


Lisa Taddeo author photograph

Lisa Taddeo has contributed to New York magazine, Esquire, Elle, Glamour and many other publications. Her short stories have won two Pushcart Prizes. She lives with her husband and daughter in Connecticut.

 

 

Experiment and Obsession during the Enlightenment in The Warlow Experiment
4th July 2019

Experiment and Obsession during the Enlightenment in The Warlow Experiment

The Warlow Experiment by Alex Nathan

The Warlow Experiment is a dark, sinister and seductive historical novel that will have you under its spell within the first few pages. Inspired by a snippet found in a late eighteenth-century chronicle, Alix Nathan has woven a tale of obsession set within the milieu of Enlightenment-era natural philosophy—a world of experiment, observation, and fascinating new discoveries. You can read more about how the book got started and an extract from this captivating novel, below.

 


I have volumes of the Annual Register from 1789 to 1814 and found this in the ‘Chronicle’ of the volume for 1797:

Some time ago, a Mr Powyfs, of Moreham, near Prefton, offered by public advertifement, a reward of fifty pounds for life, to any man who would undertake to live for feven years under ground, without feeing a human face; and to let his toe and finger nails grow during the whole of his confinement, together with his beard. Commodious apartments were provided under ground, with a cold bath, a chamber-organ, as many books as the occupier fhould defire, and provifions were to be ferved from Mr P’s table; on ringing a bell the reclufe was alfo to be provided with every convenience defired. It appears that an occupier offered himfelf for this fingular refidence, who is now in the fourth year of his probation, a labouring man, who has a large family, all of whom are maintained by Mr P.

I was fascinated by this account, though unable to find out anything more, especially how it ended. I wrote a short story in an attempt to understand Mr P., another from the point of view of the man underground, then realised that both deserved fuller consideration. The novel is entirely my reimagining of the episode.

 

***

 

Chapter 1

 

A Reward of £50 a year for life is offered to any man who will undertake to live for 7 years underground without seeing a human face: to let his toe and fingernails grow during the whole of his confinement, together with his beard. Com­modious apartments are provided with cold bath, chamber organ, as many books as the occupier shall desire. Provisions will be served from Mr Powyss’s table. Every convenience desired will be provided.

– Herbert Powyss, Moreham House, Herefordshire

January, 1793

 

DOWN AND DOWN. He sniffs dank air, listens to the man. Powyss.

 

‘i’m providing plenty of fuel and kindling, Warlow. You’ll have four baskets of wood a day and a scuttle of sea coal. They’ll come down in the morning. There’s a tinderbox, oil lamps, boxes of candles in that cupboard over there. The jar of lamp oil will be refilled each week, but that’ll depend on your use of it. Send a note if you need more.

 

‘i’ve tried out everything myself and it all works perfectly. Samuel, get a fire going for Warlow.’

 

‘i makes my own fire!’

 

‘Yes, of course, of course. But let’s warm the place while i’m showing you round.’

 

White cloth. Fork, spoon. Them’s silver. Wine glass! Chair legs like bent knees; never sat on one of them. Look at it! Candlesticks all shone up. Brass. Pictures.

 

Who’s that in the mirror? Me is it? Him?

 

‘Three meals a day, as i said. When Jenkins carves at table he’ll dole out a serving for you and send it down by lift. i’m rather pleased with this. Over here. Look: you open it up and inside are two shelves. It’s just a dumb waiter table but without legs and fixed to a pulley. Like hauling sacks up into the barn.

 

‘Don’t look dumbfounded, Warlow! It’s quite big enough for trays, strong enough for the fuel box. Has to come a long way down but with covers the food should remain hot. Pull the cord to send back empty dishes. Ring the bell first to alert them in the kitchen.’

 

Powyss moves to the other side of the room. He follows, doglike.

 

‘Here’s the organ.’

 

Organ?

 

Powyss opens the doors of a cupboard.

 

Not a cupboard. Metal pipes stand in order. Big ones, little ones.

 

Powyss lifts the lid on the keys. His fingers are thin, very clean.

 

What’s him want me to do now?

 

‘The case of this chamber organ is walnut. Beautifully made. I hope it will amuse you, Warlow. It’s a good one; I tried several and this was certainly the best. While you play you pump with your feet to keep the air going through the pipes. Not too heavily. You don’t want to crack the underboard.’

 

He sits. Feet up and down, treading. It wheezes like an old woman.

 

‘See?’ He plays a tune, humming with it. ‘The conquering hero! That’ll keep you in the right mood.’

 

‘Couldn’t never do that.’

 

‘Mm. Well, you can sing, can’t you? You could pick out the notes of a tune with one finger.’ I sings in the Dog. The others’d laugh at this! Looks away, sheepish.

 

‘Of course I didn’t know who would take up the offer.

 

There’s a whole folder of music: more Handel, hymns, J.C. Bach. But no matter.

 

‘Now, come this way. This little room’s the bathroom. Water comes into the bath from the cistern. Turn the tap.’ ‘Bath? Sir?’

 

‘i know there’ll be no one to see you, but you’ll want to wash yourself. Even without grime from fields and horses and so on. Your beard and hair will grow long. Remember? No cutting. There are no scissors, no knives. You couldn’t cut your own hair anyway, could you?’ Gabble, gabble. Him’s gabblin like a goose can’t stop. Not drunk though. Don’t get drunk not him.

 

Powyss looks him up and down. ‘Hmm. You may find the bathtub a tight fit, Warlow. But look, here’s the soap, Military Cake, nothing too perfumed. Toothbrush, powder. When you need replenishments you must ask. Do that by writing a note, then ring the bell and send it up. The water’s cold of course. At one time that was thought to be very good for the health, but the bath’s not so far from the fire. The cistern’s over there to one side. Keep an eye on it, please.’

 

They wander back. Fire’s blazing merrily.

 

‘Send up your dirty linen. Send up your pot from the close-stool.’

 

Pot! Close-stool! He looks down. Sees his feet, his great clogs. Powyss’s leather shoes. Small for a man.

 

‘What work’ll i do, sir?’

 

‘Living here will be your work. Living here for seven years. For the sake of knowledge, of science: to see how you fare without human society. Your name will become known, Warlow! You’ll become famous.

 

‘Think of hermits who choose to live on their own for the rest of their lives, let alone seven years. Still, hermits spend their days in prayer and i’m not employing you to do that.’ He breaks off.

 

‘Do you believe in God, Warlow?’

 

‘i goes to church Christmastide.’

 

‘Well, never mind, i’m not quizzing you. Rarely go myself.

 

I’ve put a Bible here among the books, though. That could occupy you for seven years at least!’ He laughs, uneasy-like. Wish him’d go, let me get on with it.

 

‘Keep the place tidy and swept, won’t you. There are brooms, everything you need of that nature. Wind the clock every eighth day and note the date or you’ll lose track of time. This is the date hand. See, it shows which day of the month it is. If the chimes get on your nerves stop winding that side.’ Can’t remember all that.

 

‘Read the books and ask for any others you fancy. I’ve chosen them carefully. But I have a large library; you can ask for anything you like.’

 

‘Never read a book.’

 

Blessed is he that readeth! And now you’ll have the time to do it. You can read, can’t you? You said you could. And write? Of course you can, you signed the contract. There are pens, ink, paper and a journal. See, here’s the first, 1793. Please keep the journal. I’ll send a new one each year. Keeping it will help you and be crucial for me when I write everything up to send to the Royal Society.’

 

‘Journal, what is that, Mr Powyss, sir?’

 

‘You write in it what you do each day. First you write the date, then what has happened that day or you write what you’re thinking. Nothing very difficult. It’s a good thing you had some schooling.’

 

‘It were long years afore.’

 

‘It’ll all come back to you, I’m sure.’

 

Powyss shakes his hand. Him’s had enough too.

 

‘Good luck, Warlow! Don’t forget, your wife and children are taken care of. You’ll do it! We meet again in 1800.’

 

He smiles. Goes off in his fine black velvet breeches and coat. Locks the door. Instructs the footman Samuel on the other side.

 

Planks nailed across. Four of them. Hammering. The sound of metal sinking into the frame.

 


Alex Nathan author photograph, credit Jan Klos

Alix Nathan lives in the Welsh Marches where she owns some ancient woodland with her husband. Her short stories have been published in AmbitThe London MagazineNew Welsh Review and read on BBC Radio 4. Her last two novels were published by Parthian Press.

 

 

Read an Extract from Liquid
3rd July 2019

Read an Extract from Liquid

Liquid Mark Miodownik

From the bestselling author of Stuff Matters comes a fascinating tour of the world of these surprising and sometimes sinister liquids - the droplets, heartbeats and ocean waves we encounter day-to-day. Structured around a plane journey that sees encounters with water, wine and oil, among others, Miodownik shows that liquids can be agents of death and destruction as well as substances of wonder and fascination. Read below an exclusive extract from Liquid.

 


Explosives

 

As soon as the aircraft doors closed, and we pushed back from the gate at Heathrow Airport, a voice announced the beginning of the pre-flight safety briefing.

 

‘Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to this British Airways flight to San Francisco. Before our departure, may we have your attention while the cabin crew point out the safety features aboard this aeroplane.’

 

I always find this a disconcerting way to start a flight. I am convinced that it’s a fake: that the safety briefing isn’t really about safety at all. For a start, they fail to mention the tens of thousands of litres of aviation fuel on board. It is the enormous amount of energy contained in this liquid that allows us to fly at all; its fiery nature is what powers the jet engines so that they’re capable of taking, in our case, 400 passengers in a 250-ton aircraft from a standing start on the runway to a cruising speed of 500 mph, and to a height of 40,000 feet, in a matter of minutes. The sheer awesome power of this liquid fuels our wildest dreams. It allows us to soar above the clouds and travel anywhere in the world in a matter of hours. It’s the same stuff that took the first astronaut, Yuri Gagarin, into space in his rocket, and that fuels the latest generation of SpaceX rockets, which fire satellites into the atmosphere. It is called kerosene.

 

Kerosene is a transparent, colourless fluid that, confusingly, looks exactly like water. So where is all that hidden energy stored, all that hidden power? Why doesn’t the storage of all that raw energy inside the liquid make it appear, well, more syrupy and dangerous? And why is it not mentioned in the pre-flight safety briefing?

 

If you were to zoom in and have a look at kerosene on the atomic scale, you would see that its structure is like spaghetti. The backbone of each strand is made of carbon atoms, with each one bonded to the next. Every carbon is attached to two hydrogen atoms, except at the ends of the molecule, which have three hydrogen atoms. At this scale you can easily tell the difference between kerosene and water. In water there isn’t a spaghetti structure, but rather a chaotic jumble of small V- shaped molecules (one oxygen atom attached to two hydrogen atoms, H2 O). No, at this scale kerosene more closely resembles olive oil, which is also comprised of carbon-based molecules all jumbled up together. But where the strands in kerosene are more like spaghetti, in olive oil they’re branched and twirled. Because the molecules in olive oil are a more complex shape than the ones in kerosene, it’s harder for them to wiggle past each other, and so the liquid flows less easily – in other words, olive oil is more viscous than kerosene. They’re both oils, and on an atomic level they look relatively similar, but, because of their structural differences, olive oil is gloopy while kerosene pours more like water. This difference doesn’t just determine how viscous these oils are, but also how flammable.

 


A Financial Times Master of Science and chosen by The Times as one of the 100 most influential scientists in the UK, Mark Miodownik is Professor of Materials and Society at University College London, where he is also Director of the Institute of Making. He is the author of the book Stuff Matters, a New York Times bestseller which won the Royal Society Winton Prize. Mark has also received the Michael Faraday Prize for his expertise in science communication. He presents BBC TV and Radio programmes on science and engineering such as Everyday Miracles, How It Works, Chefs vs Science, Secrets of the Super Elements and recently made a three-part BBC Radio 4 documentary called Plastic Fantastic.

 

 

© W&G Foyle Ltd
Foyles uses cookies to help ensure your experience on our site is the best possible. Click here if you’d like to find out more about the types of cookies we use.
Accept and Close