The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

A fiery evangelist takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959, carrying all they need from home, but find it is calamitously transformed on African soil. The tale recounts the family’s tragic undoing and reconstruction..

Black Roses, The Winter Garden and A War of Flowers all by Jane Thynne
Berlin, 1933. Clara Vine, an attractive young Anglo-German actress, arrives in Berlin to find work at the famous Ufa studios. Through a chance meeting, she is drawn into a circle of Nazi wives, among them Magda Goebbels, Anneliese von Ribbentrop and Goering’s girlfriend Emmy Sonnemann. As part of his plan to create a new pure German race, Hitler wants to make sweeping changes to the lives of women. Then she meets Leo Quinn who is working for British intelligence and who sees Clara as the perfect recruit to spy on her new elite friends.


The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

London 1893. When Cora Seaborne’s controlling husband dies, she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Retreating to the countryside with her son, she encounters rumours of the ‘Essex Serpent‘, a creature of folklore said to have returned to roam the marshes. Cora is enthralled, believing it may be an undiscovered species. Setting out on its trail, she collides with local minister William Ransome, who thinks the cure for hysteria lies in faith, while Cora is convinced that science offers the answers. Despite disagreeing on everything, he and Cora find themselves drawn together, changing each other’s lives in unexpected ways.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore
The Cold War is at its height, and a spy may be a friend or neighbour, colleague or lover. At the end of a suburban garden, in the pouring rain, a woman buries a briefcase deep in the earth. She believes that she is protecting her family. What she will learn is that no one is immune from betrayal or the devastating consequences of exposure.


A Humble Companion by Laurie Graham
From the first rumblings of revolution in France to the exciting, modern times of gas light and steam trains, Nellie Welche – companion to royalty and keeper of secrets – is the sharp-penned narrator of a changing world and the unchanging, cloistered lives of Princess Sophia and her sisters.

The book that inspired Park Chan-wook’s astonishing film The Handmaiden. Shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Booker Prize. Set in London in the 1860s, Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, grows up among petty thieves – fingersmiths – under the rough but loving care of Mrs Sucksby and her ‘family’. But from the moment she draws breath, Sue’s fate is linked to that of another orphan growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away.

The Pillars of the Earth and World without End by Ken Follett (looking forward to reading A Column of Fire in 2018)

I also read aloud to my children The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff – and it’s as good as I remember it was when I was their age!
– Alice