After hundreds had their say, we're delighted to reveal that our Hay Festival Book of the Year 2019 is... The Five by Hallie Rubenhold.
In The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper, historian Hallie Rubenhold offers the devastating narratives of the five women killed by Jack the Ripper in 1888. An important work of historical detection, The Five sees Rubenhold unravel the misogyny that has fed the Ripper myth.
A social historian and authority on women's lives of the past, Rubenhold has worked as a curator for the National Portrait Gallery and as a lecturer. Her books include Lady Worsley's Whim, dramatised by the BBC as The Scandalous Lady W, and Covent Garden Ladies: The Extraordinary Story of Harris's List, which inspired the ITV series Harlots.
"Devastatingly good. The Five will leave you in tears, of pity and of rage" – Lucy Worsley
"Dignity is finally returned to these unfortunate women" – Professor Dame Sue Black
‘Here at the turn of the leaf a horseman is riding
through the space between one world and another...’
The Mabinogi is the Welsh national epic, a collection of prose tales of war and enchantment, adventure and romance, which have long fascinated readers all over the world. Matthew Francis’ retelling of the first four stories (the Four Branches of the Mabinogi) is the first to situate it in poetry and captures the magic and strangeness of this medieval Celtic world: a baby is kidnapped by a monstrous claw, a giant wades across the Irish Sea to do battle, a wizard makes a woman out of flowers, only to find she is less biddable than he had expected. Permeating the whole sequence is a delight in the power of the imagination to transform human experience into works of tragedy, comedy and wonder.
The Mabinogi was shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2018.
"I have waited a life for this book: our ancient British tales re-told, in English, by a poet, as they were in their original Welsh. This is more than translation. It picks up the harp and sings" – Gillian Clarke
Matthew Francis is the author of five Faber books of poetry, most recently The Mabinogi (2017). He has twice been shortlisted for the Forward Prize, and in 2004 was chosen as one of the Next Generation poets. He has also edited WS Graham's New Collected Poems, and published a collection of short stories and two novels, the second of which, The Book of the Needle (Cinnamon Press) came out in 2014. He lives in West Wales and is Professor in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University.Listen again on Hay Player
"The American dream is dead," Donald Trump said when announcing his candidacy for president in 2015. How would he revive it? By putting "America First".
'The American Dream' and 'America First' are two of the most loaded phrases in America today – and also two of the most misunderstood. As divides within America widen, historian Sarah Churchwell looks to the past to reveal what the surprising history of these two phrases can tell us about today.
"Churchwell's thoroughness in delineating America's decade-by-decade bigotry through primary sources from speeches to newspapers to novels is a marvel. But it is more than a history lesson. She's constructing the case for how the US elected Donald Trump, a catastrophe many of us struggle to understand." – Prospect Magazine
Sarah Churchwell is Professor of American Literature and Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, The Invention of The Great Gatsby and The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Her literary journalism has appeared widely in newspapers including the Guardian, New Statesman, Financial Times, Times Literary Supplement and New York Times Book Review, and she comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for television and radio, where appearances include Question Time, Newsnight and The Review Show. She has judged many literary prizes, including the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction, the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and she was a co-winner of the 2015 Eccles British Library Writer's Award.Watch again on Hay Player
Winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019, Celestial Bodies tells Oman’s coming-of-age through the prism of one family’s losses and loves. It is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present.
"Through the different tentacles of people’s lives and loves and losses we come to learn about this society – all its degrees, from the very poorest of the slave families working there to those making money through the advent of a new wealth in Oman and Muscat. It starts in a room and ends in a world," says Bettany Hughes, judge of the Man Booker International Prize 2019.
"We felt we were getting access to ideas and thoughts and experiences you aren’t normally given in English. It avoids every stereotype you might expect in its analysis of gender and race and social distinction and slavery. There are surprises throughout. We fell in love with it."
Jokha Alharthi is the first Omani woman to have a novel translated into English, and Celestial Bodies is the first book translated from Arabic to win the Man Booker International Prize. Alharthi is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, a children’s book, and three novels in Arabic. Fluent in English, she completed a PhD in Classical Arabic Poetry in Edinburgh, and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. She has been shortlisted for the Sahikh Zayed Award for Young Writers and her short stories have been published in English, German, Italian, Korean, and Serbian.
Marilyn Booth has worked in various education institutions, including the University of Edinburgh, where she was the Iraq Professor of Arabic Studies, New York University Abu Dhabi as Senior Humanities Research Fellow and the University of Oxford as an adviser for students of Magdalen College pursuing degrees in Arabic. In addition to her research publications on Arabic literature, gender politics in Egypt, auto/biography and translation studies, she is a prolific translator of contemporary Arabic fiction.Watch again on Hay Player
The formation of England happened against the odds - the division of the country into rival kingdoms, the assaults of the Vikings, the precarious position of the island on the edge of the known world. But King Alfred ensured the survival of Wessex, his son Eadweard expanded it, and his grandson Æthelstan finally united Mercia and Wessex, conquered Northumbria and became Rex totius Britanniae.
Tom Holland recounts this extraordinarily exciting story with relish and drama. We meet the great figures of the age, including Alfred and his daughter Æthelflæd, 'Lady of the Mercians', who brought Æthelstan up at the Mercian court. At the end of the book we understand the often confusing history of the Anglo-Saxon kings better than ever before.
A scribe in Ulster, recording the death of Athelstan, certainly had no doubts as to the stature of the King of the English. He had been, so the chronicler declared, nothing less than “the roof-tree of the dignity of the western world."
Tom Holland is an award-winning historian, biographer and broadcaster. He is the author of Rubicon: The Triumph and the Tragedy of the Roman Republic, which won the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize; Persian Fire, his history of the Graeco-Persian wars, won the Anglo-Hellenic League’s Runciman Award in 2006; Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom, a panoramic account of the two centuries on either side of the apocalyptic year 1000; In the Shadow of the Sword, which covers the collapse of Roman and Persian power in the Near East, and the emergence of Islam; and Dynasty, a portrait of Rome’s first imperial dynasty. Holland is the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Making History. He has written and presented a number of TV documentaries, for the BBC and Channel 4, on subjects ranging from ISIS to dinosaurs.Watch again on Hay Player
In 2009, Simon Armitage released his translation of the Medieval English poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It garnered front-page reviews across two continents and confirmed his reputation as a leading translator.
Pearl followed in 2016, an entrancing allegorical tale of grief and lost love. Believed to be authored by the same poet as Gawain, it sees the narrator led on a Dantean journey through sorrow to redemption by his vanished beloved, Pearl. Retaining all the alliterative music of the original, Armitage brings Pearl to vivid and intricate life.
"There is something about the very strangeness of the poem that magnifies its emotional power. When we look at a Byzantine mosaic, for instance, we may not grasp the precise meaning of its images without scholarly help – but that remoteness lends such artworks the marvellousness of something just beyond our understanding. In his new translation of “Pearl”, Simon Armitage, who is currently the Oxford Professor of Poetry, conveys that feeling of the almost-but-not-quite comprehensible, the feeling that can make medieval art at once eerie and wonderful" – The New Yorker
Simon Armitage was born in West Yorkshire and is Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. A recipient of numerous prizes and awards, he has published twelve collections of poetry, including Seeing Stars (2010), The Unaccompanied (2017), Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic (2019) and his acclaimed translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2007). He writes extensively for television and radio, and is the author of two novels and the non-fiction bestsellers All Points North (1998), Walking Home (2012) and Walking Away (2015). His theatre works include The Last Days of Troy, performed at Shakespeare's Globe in 2014. In 2015 he was appointed Professor of Poetry at Oxford University and in 2018 he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. Simon Armitage is Poet Laureate.Listen again on Hay Player
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third is a smallish Viking with a longish name. Hiccup's father is chief of the Hairy Hooligan tribe which means Hiccup is the Hope and the Heir to the Hairy Hooligan throne – but most of the time Hiccup feels like a very ordinary boy, finding it hard to be a Hero.
In the first How to Train Your Dragon book Hiccup must lead ten novices in their initiation into the Hairy Hooligan Tribe. They have to train their dragons or be banished from the tribe forever! But what if Hiccup's dragon resembles an ickle brown bunny with wings? And has no teeth? The Seadragonus Giganticus Maximus is stirring and wants to devour every Viking on the Isle of Berk... Can Hiccup save the tribe – and become a Hero?
First published in 2003, How to Train Your Dragon has today sold over 8 million books worldwide in 38 languages. It is also an award-winning DreamWorks film series, and a TV series shown on Netflix and CBBC.
Cressida Cowell is author and illustrator of the bestselling How to Train Your Dragon and The Wizards of Once book series, and author of the Emily Brownpicture books, illustrated by Neal Layton. The first book in Cressida’s new series, The Wizards of Once (also signed by DreamWorks), is a number one bestseller. Cressida is an ambassador for the National Literacy Trust and the Reading Agency, a Trustee of World Book Day and a founder patron of the Children’s Media Foundation. She has won numerous prizes, including the Gold Award in the Nestle Children’s Book Prize,the 2017 Ruth Rendell Award for Championing Literacy, Philosophy Now magazine’s 2015 Award for Contributions in the Fight Against Stupidity, and the Hay Festival Medal for Fiction.Watch again on Hay Player
It is 1939. In Nazi Germany, the country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier – and will become busier still.
By her brother's graveside, nine-year-old Liesel's life is changed forever when she picks up a single object, abandoned in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, and this is her first act of book thievery. So begins her love affair with books and words, and soon she is stealing from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, and wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times, and when Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, nothing will ever be the same again.
Narrated by Death, it is a superbly crafted novel that burns with intensity. Rubbing the minutiae of everyday life in Nazi Germany against the terrible events of the time Zusak uses his fiction to cast a new light on history. In doing so, he has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.
First published in 2005, The Book Thief has sold over 1 million copies in the UK to date and spent 375 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
"Unsettling, life-affirming, triumphant and tragic. This is a novel of breathtaking scope, masterfully told." – Guardian
Markus Zusak is the bestselling author of six novels, including The Book Thief and his latest, Bridge of Clay. His books have been translated into more than forty languages, to both popular and critical acclaim. He lives in Sydney with his wife and two children. Find him over on his blog www.zusakbooks.com, Facebook /markuszusak and Instagram @markuszusak.Listen again on Hay Player
In 1876 Sophia Duleep Singh was born into royalty. Her father, Maharajah Duleep Singh, was heir to the Kingdom of the Sikhs, a realm that stretched from the lush Kashmir Valley to the craggy foothills of the Khyber Pass and included the mighty cities of Lahore and Peshawar. It was a territory irresistible to the British, who plundered everything, including the fabled Koh-I-Noor diamond.
Exiled to England, the dispossessed Maharajah transformed his estate at Elveden in Suffolk into a Moghul palace, its grounds stocked with leopards, monkeys and exotic birds. Sophia, god-daughter of Queen Victoria, was raised a genteel aristocratic Englishwoman: presented at court, afforded grace-and-favour lodgings at Hampton Court Palace and photographed wearing the latest fashions for the society pages. But when, in secret defiance of the British government, she travelled to India, she returned a revolutionary.
Sophia transcended her heritage to devote herself to battling injustice and inequality,a far cry from the life to which she was born. Her causes were the struggle for Indian independence, the fate of the Lascars, the welfare of Indian soldiers in the First World War – and, above all, the fight for female suffrage. She was bold and fearless, attacking politicians, putting herself in the front line and swapping her silks for a nurse's uniform to tend wounded soldiers evacuated from the battlefields. Meticulously researched and passionately written, this enthralling story of the rise of women and the fall of empire introduces an extraordinary individual and her part in the defining moments of recent British and Indian history.
“Sophia is the sort of remarkable, almost unbelievable untold true story that every writer dreams of chancing upon. A wonderful debut, written with real spirit and gusto. Anita Anand has produced a winner.” – William Dalrymple
Anita Anand is a political journalist who has presented television and radio programmes on the BBC for twenty years. She currently presents Any Answers on Radio 4. She is the author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary and, with William Dalrymple, Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World's Most Infamous Diamond. She lives with her husband and two children in London. Her new book, The Patient Assassin, is out now.Listen again on Hay Player
In 1985 Jeanette Winterson's first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published. It was Jeanette's version of the story of a terraced house in Accrington, an adopted child, and the thwarted giantess Mrs Winterson. It was a cover story, a painful past written over and repainted. It was a story of survival.
This book is that story's silent twin. It is full of hurt and humour and a fierce love of life. It is about the pursuit of happiness, about lessons in love, the search for a mother and a journey into madness and out again. It is generous, honest and true.
"Jeanette Winterson's memoir is written sparsely and hurriedly; it is sometimes so terse it's almost in note form. The impression this gives is not of sloppiness, but a desperate urgency to make the reader understand. This is certainly the most moving book of Winterson's I have ever read" – Zoe Williams, The Guardian
Jeanette Winterson CBE was born in Manchester. Adopted by Pentecostal parents, she was raised to be a missionary. This did and didn’t work out. Discovering early the power of books she left home at 16 to live in a Mini and get on with her education. After graduating from Oxford University she worked for a while in the theatre and published her first novel at 25. Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is based on her own upbringing but using herself as a fictional character. She scripted the novel into a BAFTA-winning BBC drama. Twenty-seven years later she revisited that material in the bestselling memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? She has written 10 novels for adults, as well as children’s books, non-fiction and screenplays. She is Professor of New Writing at the University of Manchester. She lives in the Cotswolds in a wood and in Spitalfields, London. She believes that art is for everyone and it is her mission to prove it.
Listen again on Hay Player
A meditation on walking and writing, The Old Ways is a genre-defining journey.
Robert Macfarlane blends natural history with travel writing, tracing ancient paths, evoking the beauty of an underappreciated landscape. Following the tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast ancient network of routes criss-crossing the British Isles and beyond, he discovers a lost world.
"This book could not have been written by sitting still. The relationship between paths, walking and the imagination is its subject, and much of its thinking was therefore done – was only possible – while on foot. Although it is the third book in a loose trilogy about landscape and the human heart, it need not be read after or in the company of its predecessors. It tells the story of walking a thousand miles or more along old ways in search of a route to the past, only to find myself delivered again and again to the contemporary. It is an exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt ancient paths, of the tales that tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and trespass, of song- lines and their singers and of the strange continents that exist within countries. Above all, this is a book about people and place: about walking as a reconnoitre inwards, and the subtle ways in which we are shaped by the landscapes through which we move” – Robert Macfarlane
First published in 2012, The Old Ways puts aside the notion that walking and writing are solitary acts. Companions, messengers, ghosts stalk the pages. Essential reading for a time when our connection to the land beneath our feet feels frayed.
Robert Macfarlane is the author of Mountains of the Mind, The Wild Places, The Old Ways, Landmarks, and The Lost Words, co-created with Jackie Morris. Mountains of the Mind won the Guardian First Book Award and the Somerset Maugham Award and The Wild Places won the Boardman-Tasker Award. Both books have been adapted for television by the BBC. The Lost Words won the Books Are My Bag Beautiful Book Award and the Hay Festival Book of the Year. He is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and writes on environmentalism, literature and travel for publications including the Guardian, the Sunday Times and the New York Times.
On a spring evening in Istanbul, Peri is on her way to a dinner party – a night of luxury a far cry from her upbringing. But when her handbag is stolen her world shifts violently. She starts to doubt how she got here: a traumatic Istanbul childhood, student years in Oxford, the rebellious professor who led her and best friends Shirin and Mona to question everything – Islam, love, life, even God – and the scandal that tore them all apart. Over one desperate night she tries to make sense of a past she has tried to forget – but can we ever escape who we once were?
Confirming Shafak's status as one of the world’s greatest novelists, Three Daughters of Eve is a sweeping tale of faith and friendship, tradition and modernity, love and an unexpected betrayal.
Elif Shafak is an award-winning novelist and the most widely read female writer in Turkey. She is known as a women's rights, minority rights and LGBT rights advocate. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published 16 books, 10 of which are novels. Her books have been published in 48 languages. Shafak is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy in Davos and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). She was awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2010 by the French government.
Through the years she has appeared at multiple Hay Festival editions around the world. Explore highlights over on Hay Player now.
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Beautiful, self-assured Ifemelu heads for America, where despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Quiet, thoughtful Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London. Fifteen years later, they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, and reignite their passion – for each other and for their homeland.
A powerful, tender story of race and identity by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah has been published in 29 languages. The novel won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction 2013, was listed among the New York Times Book Review’s “Ten Best Books of 2013”, and won The Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction 2013 and the “One Book, One New York” campaign 2017.
"There are some novels that tell a great story and others that make you change the way you look at the world. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah is a book that manages to do both" – Elizabeth Day, The Guardian.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie grew up in Nigeria. Her work has been translated into over thirty languages and has appeared in various publications, including The New Yorker, Granta, The O. Henry Prize Stories, the Financial Times, and Zoetrope. She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus, which won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Half of a Yellow Sun, which won the Orange Prize and was a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist and a New York Times Notable Book; and Americanah. She is also the author of the story collection The Thing Around Your Neck. Her 2012 talk 'We Should All Be Feminists' was published as a book in 2014. And her most recent book, Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, was published in March 2017.Listen again on Hay Player
Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we love and think holds particular resonance today. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old.
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