The good wife of Bath: our selection of new fiction titles

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Written in the late middle ages, ‘The Wife of Bath’s Tale’ by Geoffrey Chaucer is definitely one of the best known of The Canterbury Tales. The tale gives a rare, if skewed, insight into the role of women at that time and illuminates the changing social structure in a society that was very heavily male dominated. At a time when women were defined only by their relations with men, the tale depicted a person who was unashamed of her sexuality, was more than capable of holding her own amongst bickering pilgrims and was living a very unconventional life for the time, though Chaucer’s tone was often mocking. Some critics have speculated that Chaucer may have written the tale in part to ease a guilty conscience and as a partial critique of misogyny in the literature of the time, though the tale still contains elements of that misogyny.

Karen Brooks’ reimagining of the tale takes a very different tack – in The good wife of Bath: a (mostly) true story she puts the narrative very firmly in the lead protagonist’s voice, and in doing so highlights the caustic results of leaving male power to run unchecked on both society and individuals. The resulting book is often ribaldry, funny and picaresque and examines issues that are just as pertinent to the present day as they were to Chaucer’s time. As well as The Good Wife of Bath we have a wide selection of newly acquired fiction titles including two fabulous Aotearoa titles

The good wife of Bath : a (mostly) true story / Brooks, Karen
“In the middle ages, a poet told a story that mocked a strong woman. It became a literary classic. But what if the woman in question had a chance to tell her own version? Who would you believe? England, The Year of Our Lord, 1364. When married off aged 12 to an elderly farmer, Eleanor Cornfed, who’s constantly told to seek redemption for her many sins, quickly realises it won’t matter what she says or does, God is not on her side – or any poor woman’s for that matter. But Eleanor was born under the joint signs of Venus and Mars. Both a lover and a fighter, she will not bow meekly to fate. A recasting of a literary classic that gives a maligned character her own voice, and allows her to tell her own (mostly) true story.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Crazy love / Allan, Rosetta
“It has been 28 years since Vicki last sent a letter to Robert Muldoon. Last time she wrote, he was Prime Minister, while she was living with her loser-boyfriend and wanting to know why people like her had to exist in such dire straits. Back then, Muldoon sent her a dollar, but it was the irrepressible Billy who turned up and transformed her life. This time Muldoon is dead and it is Billy who has made her so desperate she doesn’t know where to turn. Since running away with Billy, Vicki has barely looked back. Together they have become a family and prospered. They have survived so much, but can they survive Billy’s increasingly erratic behaviour, especially when he seems so set on pulling them apart?” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The last guests / Pomare, J. P.
“What do you do when you think no one is watching? Lina and Cain are doing their best to stay afloat. Money has been tight since Cain returned from active duty, and starting a family is proving harder than they thought. Putting Lina’s inherited lakehouse on Airbnb seems like the solution to at least one of their problems. The secluded house is more of a burden than a retreat, anyway, and fixing up the old place makes Cain feel useful for once. But letting strangers stay in their house might not be the best idea. Someone is watching – their most mundane tasks, their most intimate moments – and what they see will change everything.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sistersong / Holland, Lucy
“535 AD. King Cador’s children inherit a land abandoned by the Romans, torn by warring tribes. Riva can cure others, but can’t heal her own scars. Keyne battles to be seen as the king’s son, although born a daughter. And Sinne dreams of love, longing for adventure. All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold, their people’s last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. However, change comes on the day ash falls from the sky – bringing Myrdhin, meddler and magician. The siblings discover the power that lies within them and the land. But fate also brings Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear them apart. ” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Sisters of the resistance : a novel of Catherine Dior’s Paris spy network / Wells, Christine
“Gabby Foucher hates the Nazis who occupy Paris. As the concierge of ten rue Royale, she makes it a point to avoid trouble, unlike her sister Yvette. Both women are recruited into the Resistance by Catherine Dior, sister of fashion designer Christian Dior. Gabby discovers an elderly tenant is hiding a wounded British fugitive, and Yvette becomes a messenger for the Resistance. As Gabby begins to fall in love with her patient and Yvette’s impulsiveness lead her into intrigue at an ever-higher level, both women will discover that their hearts– and their lives– hang in the balance. ” (Adapted from Catalogue) Also Available as an Audiobook.

Painting time / Kerangal, Maylis de
“An aesthetic and existential coming-of-age novel exploring the apprenticeship of a young female painter, Paula Karst, who is enrolled at the famous Institut de Peinture in Brussels. With the attention of a documentary filmmaker, de Kerangal follows Paula’s apprenticeship, punctuated by brushstrokes, hard work, sleepless nights, sore muscles, and long, festive evenings. After completing her studies at the Institute, Paula continues to practice her art in Paris, in Moscow, then in Italy on the sets of great films, all as if rehearsing for a grand finale: at a job working on Lascaux IV, a facsimile reproduction of the world’s most famous paleolithic cave art and the apotheosis of human cultural expression.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The inheritance of Orquídea Divina : a novel / Córdova, Zoraida
“The Montoyas know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers, even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. When Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers. Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways …….” (Adapted from Catalogue)

A slow fire burning / Hawkins, Paula
“Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous. Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

The Best and Bitey-ist Vampire Novels Ever!

Anno Dracula book cover

Over 120 years after the release of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the author’s great-grandnephew has written a prequel to the Victorian vampire classic! Dacre Stoker’s novel, Dracul, is based on the original typescript of Dracula as well as associated notes and journals, and “speculates on what Bram Stoker’s early life might have been like had the creatures he later created been real.”

But Dacre Stoker isn’t the first to build upon Dracula’s story: below you’ll find a list of nine unnerving titles that have been influenced by the Transylvanian Count, from Nordic noir to alternative history to a sci-fi classic (as well as one work that pre-dates Dracula by 26 years!).

The historian: a novel / Kostova, Elizabeth
“Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters. The letters are all addressed to “My dear and unfortunate successor,” and they plunge her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an inconceivable evil hidden in the depths of history.” (Catalogue)

Let the right one in / Ajvide Lindqvist, John
“John Ajvide Lindqvist’s novel, a huge bestseller in his native Sweden, is a unique and brilliant fusion of social novel and vampire legend, as well as a deeply moving fable about rejection, friendship and loyalty.” (Catalogue)

Interview with the vampire / Rice, Anne
“Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force–a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses. It is a novel only Anne Rice could write.” (Catalogue)

The passage / Cronin, Justin
“A security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment that only six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte can stop.” (Catalogue)

Anno Dracula / Newman, Kim
“It is 1888 and Dracula has married Queen Victoria and turned a large percentage of the English population into the undead. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction (Dr Jekyll, Oscar Wilde, Swinburne, John Jago), the novel tells the story of vampire Genevieve Dieudonne and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders.” (Catalogue)

Dracula: the un-dead / Stoker, Dacre
“The official sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula, written by his direct descendant and endorsed by the Stoker family, Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew joins with Dracula documentarian Holt to create a sequel based on notes the author left behind. A quarter-century has passed, and Bram Stoker is directing a play about Dracula–who seems to be making a comeback…” (Catalogue)

Dracula’s guest [electronic resource] / Stoker, Bram
“Published in 1914, several years after Bram Stoker’s death by his widow, Dracula”s Guest is one of several stories that Stoker had wished to publish as a supplement to his most famous novel. Join him as he drags the reader out into the hills beyond Munich on one of the most terrifying nights of the year–Walpurgisnacht, or The Witches Night.” (Catalogue)

I am legend / Matheson, Richard
“Robert Neville is the last living man on Earth… but he is not alone. Every other man, woman and child on Earth has become a vampire, and they are all hungry for Neville’s blood. By day, he is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn. How long can one man survive?” (Catalogue)

Carmilla / Le Fanu, Joseph Sheridan
“Predating Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Carmilla is the ultimate Gothic vampire tale. When a mysterious carriage crashes outside their castle home in Styria, Laura and her father agree to take in its injured passenger, a young woman named Carmilla. It’s not until Laura’s father, increasingly concerned for his daughter’s well-being, sets out on a trip to discover more about the mysterious Carmilla that the terrifying truth reveals itself.” (Catalogue)

Golden Age of Crime

A Different Kind of Evil cover

In 1930’s Britain an eclectic group of authors banded together to form The Detection Club. Some of the participants included Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, G K Chesterton and A A Milne. The members were all known for their literary excellence and were not shy of mining the darker side of human conduct. They wrote tales of mystery that have enthralled their audience from publication to current times. Their club oath defines what would become the style of the ‘Golden Age of Crime’:

To do and detect all crimes by fair and reasonable means; to conceal no vital clues from the reader; to honour the King’s English… and to observe the oath of secrecy in all matters communicated to me within the brotherhood of the club”

The gentle tropes perfected by the Golden Age writers has been reprised and honoured by modern authors using both style and characters. Referencing Agatha Christie’s mysterious disappearance in 1926, Andrew Wilson presents the ‘Dame of crime’ with mysteries of her own. Private detective Hercule Poirot is revived through the work of Sophie Hannah. Below are some classic titles and some new works that reference the style of the era:

Murder on the Orient Express / Christie, Agatha
“Agatha Christie’s most famous murder mystery, reissued with a striking new cover designed to appeal to the latest generation of Agatha Christie fans and book lovers. Just after midnight, a snowdrift stops the Orient Express in its tracks. The luxurious train is surprisingly full for the time of the year, but by the morning it is one passenger fewer. An American tycoon lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside.” (Catalogue)

 

The complete Father Brown stories / Chesterton, G. K.
“Father Brown, one of the most quirkily genial and lovable characters to emerge from English detective fiction, first made his appearance in The Innocence of Father Brown in 1911. That first collection of stories established G.K. Chesterton’s kindly cleric in the front rank of eccentric sleuths. This complete collection contains all the favourite Father Brown stories, showing a quiet wit and compassion that has endeared him to many, whilst solving his mysteries by a mixture of imagination and a sympathetic worldliness in a totally believable manner.” (Catalogue)

Party girls die in pearls / Sykes, Plum
“Not rich and not glamorous, Oxford outsider Ursula Flowerbutton wants only to be left to her studies. But when she finds a classmate with her throat slashed, she’s quick to investigate. Determined to unravel the case and bag her first scoop for the famous student newspaper Cherwell Ursula enlists the help of her fellow Fresher, the glamorous American Nancy Feingold. While navigating a whirl of black-tie parties and secret dining societies, the girls discover a surfeit of suspects. From broken-hearted boyfriends to snobby Sloanes, lovelorn librarians to dishy dons, none can be presumed innocent.” (adapted from Catalogue)

A different kind of evil / Wilson, Andrew
“In January 1927 Agatha Christie sets sail on an ocean liner bound for the Canary Islands. She has been sent there by the British Secret Intelligence Service to investigate the death of one of its agents, whose partly mummified body has been found in a cave. Early one morning, on the passage to Tenerife, Agatha witnesses a woman throw herself from the ship into the sea. At first, nobody connects the murder of the young man on Tenerife with the suicide of a mentally unstable heiress. Yet, soon after she checks into the glamorous Taoro Hotel situated in the lush Orotava Valley, Agatha uncovers a series of dark secret” (Catalogue)

The mystery of three quarters : the new Hercule Poirot mystery / Hannah, Sophie
“The world’s most beloved detective, Hercule Poirot – the legendary star of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and most recently The Monogram Murders and Closed Casket-returns in a stylish, diabolically clever mystery set in 1930’s London. Returning home after lunch one day, Hercule Poirot finds an angry woman waiting outside his front door. She demands to know why Poirot has sent her a letter accusing her of the murder of Barnabas Pandy, a man she has neither heard of nor ever met.” (Catalogue)

An act of villainy / Weaver, Ashley
“A gem filled with style, banter, and twists that traditional mystery fans will positively relish. With husband Milo, Amory Ames glides through 1930s London to the dress rehearsal of a new play directed by friend Gerard Holloway. Unfortunately, Gerard has cast his mistress, Flora Bell, in the lead (Amory is friends with his wife), and he wants her to figure out who’s sending threatening letters to Flora. Curtains up for another charmer from Louisiana librarian Weaver.” (Catalogue)

Four funerals and maybe a wedding / Bowen, Rhys
“Star amateur sleuth of the 1930s-set Royal Spyness Mystery series, Lady Georgiana Rannoch is getting ready to walk down the aisle and is offered her godfather’s fully staffed country estate as a home. But the staff don’t seem very trustworthy, and the gas leak in her bedroom doesn’t seem like an accident.” (Catalogue)

 

Fiction showcase: The origins of the Ripping Yarn novel

Ripping Yarns map graphic

Our featured fiction showcase of books for September is called Ripping Yarns in which we have selected novels that share the common thread of being rip-roaring, adrenaline pumping tales of action and adventure, and are usually tales of daring and heroism. Today we have interpreted the term to cover a wide selection of authors, genres and writing styles.

The genre originated in the Victorian times with authors like Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle and was subsequently continued by writers like H. G. Wells, Jack London, Edgar Rice Burroughs and John Buchan. Now the term is so wide it covers everything from science fiction to crime and general fiction and a whole host of sub-genres. The only linking factor is the author’s commitment to tell a rattling good adventure story. So with all that in mind, we thought we would feature a selection of the classic authors in this selection. These selections can also be found on Overdrive and in the physical library collections in the fiction section.

Syndetics book coverThe mysterious island / Jules Verne ; with an introduction by R.G.A. Dolby.
Jules Verne (1828-1905) is internationally famous as the author of a distinctive series of adventure stories describing new travel technologies which opened up the world and provided means to escape from it. The collective enthusiasm of generations of readers of his ‘extraordinary voyages’ was a key factor in the rise of modern science fiction.
“In The Mysterious Island a group of men escape imprisonment during the American Civil War by stealing a balloon. Blown across the world, they are air-wrecked on a remote desert island. In a manner reminiscent of Robinson Crusoe, the men apply their scientific knowledge and technical skill to exploit the island’s bountiful resources, eventually constructing a sophisticated society in miniature. The book is also an intriguing mystery story, for the island has a secret.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe bottle imp : in English and Samoan / Robert Louis Stevenson ; introduced by Roger G. Swearingen ; edited by Robert Hoskins.
“Robert Louis Stevenson considered his supernatural short story ‘The Bottle Imp’ one of his best. A Faustian folktale transplanted to the Pacific, ‘The Bottle Imp’ was the only one of Stevenson’s works to be translated into a Polynesian language in his lifetime, as the Samoan O le Fagu Aitu. Featuring an extensive introduction by Stevenson scholar Roger G Swearingen, and accompanied by the original illustrations, this edition is the first to publish the English and Samoan versions together.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe return of Sherlock Holmes ; & His last bow / Arthur Conan Doyle ; with an afterword by David Stuart Davies.
“Three years after his supposed death at the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes returns to 221B Baker Street, to the astonishment of Dr Watson and the delight of readers worldwide. From kidnapped heirs to murder by harpoon, Holmes and Watson have their work cut out for them in these brilliant later tales. This collection also includes His Last Bow, a series of recollections from an older Sherlock Holmes of further adventures from his life. (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe thirty-nine steps / John Buchan ; with and introduction and notes by Sir John Keegan.
“Richard Hannay has just returned to England after years in South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his life in London. But then a murder is committed in his flat, just days after a chance encounter with an American who had told him about an assassination plot which could have dire international consequences. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay goes on the run in his native Scotland where he will need all his courage and ingenuity to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverTarzan of the apes / Edgar Rice Burroughs ; edited with an introduction and notes by Jason Haslam.
“Tarzan first came swinging through the jungle in the pages of a pulp-fiction magazine in 1912, and subsequently in the novel that went on to spawn numerous film and other adaptations. In its pages we find Tarzan’s origins: how he is orphaned after his parents are marooned and killed on the coast of West Africa, and is adopted by an ape-mother. He grows up to become a model of physical strength and natural prowess, and eventually leader of his tribe.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Syndetics book coverThe time machine / H.G. Wells.
“Late in the nineteenth century, a Victorian scientist shows his disbelieving dinner guests a device he claims is a Time Machine. Respectable London scarcely has the imagination to cope with him. A week later they reconvene to find him ragged, exhausted and garrolous. The tale he tells is of the year 802,701 – of life as it is lived in exactly the same spot in what once had been London. He has visited the future of the human race and encountered beings that are elfin, beautiful, vegetarian, and leading a life of splendid idleness. But this is not the only lifeform that exists in Eden – in the tunnels beneath paradise lurks man’s darker side.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Ripping Yarns promo iamge

Literature as inspiration for graphic novels

There are many great original characters and stories and worlds built in the medium of graphic novels, and there are also some great adaptions that give literary explorers another dimension to classic works.  Inspired by the recent graphic novel Sabrina being longlisted for the Man Booker, we have a list of some ‘literary’ titles for you.

Beginning with The Graphic Canon 1 and 2:

The graphic canon. Volume 1, From the epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous liaisons 

The graphic canon. Volume 2, From “Kubla Khan” to the Brontë Sisters to The picture of Dorian Gray

These volumes have a wealth of content and contributors.  From folk tales to classic novels; contemporary artists to historical visionaries. Volume 2 includes William Blake with his own images and words. Such an incredible overview!

Don Quixote. Volume1 / Davis, Rob
“A mixture of reality and illusion, this is the story of the besotted Don Quixote and his down-to-earth companion, the faithful Sancho Panza, who set out to right the world’s wrongs in knightly combat. The narrative moves from philosophical speculation to broad comedy.” (Catalogue)

Herman Melville’s Moby Dick / Chabouté
“In striking black-and-white illustrations, Chaboute retells the story of the Great American Novel. Captain Ahab strikes out on a voyage, obsessively seeking revenge on the great white whale that took his leg.” (Catalogue)

The rime of the modern mariner / Hayes, Nick
“This graphic novel recasts the shimmering horror of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous story into a contemporary context. A mariner appears on a park bench and begins his tale. Cursed by an albatross he slew whilst hunting whales, the mariner and his crew find themselves stranded within the North Pacific Garbage Patch: a vast, hypoxic, slow-whirling maelstrom of plastic waste; a hidden repository for the world’s litter. Along the way, he meets various characters of our current environmental tragedy: a lady made of oil, a deserted ghost-ship drilling barge, a 2-inch salp (the human race’s oceanic ancestor), a blue whale and a hermit. (Catalogue)

The Canterbury tales / Chwast, Seymour
“Accompany a band of merry medieval pilgrims as they make their way-on motorcycles, of course-to Canterbury. Meeting at the Tabard Inn, the travelers, including a battle-worn knight, a sweetly pretentious prioress, the bawdy Wife of Bath, and an emaciated scholar-clerk, come up with a plan to pass time on the journey to Thomas a Becket’s shrine by telling stories.  Chwast’s illustrations relate tales of trust and treachery, of piety and bawdiness, in an engaging style that will appeal to those who have enjoyed The Canterbury Tales for years, and those for whom this is a first, delectable introduction.” (Catalogue)

The life and opinions of Tristram Shandy, gentleman / Rowson, Martin
“A novel about writing a novel is the subject of this complex classic which has been described as the greatest shaggy dog story in the English language.” (Catalogue)

Howl : a graphic novel / Ginsberg, Allen
The original by Allen Ginsberg caused such a ruckus, there were arrests, an obscenity trial, censorship trials and seizure of material.  Now you can decide for yourself, in colour!

Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and loathing in Las Vegas : a savage journey to the heart of the American dream / Little, Troy
“Records the experiences of a free-lance writer who embarked on a zany journey into the drug culture.” (Catalogue)

…and we finish up with an author from Aotearoa New Zealand: Sarah Laing’s memoir Mansfield and Me looks at the way literature can affect and influence our lives

Mansfield and me : a graphic memoir / Laing, Sarah
“Katherine Mansfield is a literary giant in New Zealand-but she had to leave the country to become one… She was as famous for her letters and diaries as for her short stories. Sarah Laing wanted to be a real writer, too. A writer as famous as Katherine Mansfield, but not as tortured. Mansfield and Me charts her journey towards publication and parenthood against Mansfield’s dramatic story, set in London, Paris, New York and New Zealand. Part memoir, part biography, part fantasy, it examines how our lives connect to those of our personal heroes. Sarah Laing’s gorgeous, playful drawings and self-deprecating humour lightly mask a complex meditation on writing, celebrity and the conscious construction of self. A very New Zealand coming-of-age story.” (adapted from catalogue)