Last Christmas by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson

Last Christmas by Greg Wise and Emma Thompson

‘The perfect gift for anyone who loves all things Christmas …
it’s a festive gem’ Woman & Home

The perfect gift book, featuring the writing of Meryl Streep, Bill Bailey, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Colman, Caitlin Moran, Richard Ayoade, Emily Watson and others, to coincide with the upcoming movie Last Christmas, starring Emma Thompson, Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding.

When you think back to Christmases past, what (if anything) made it magical? Looking towards the future, what would your perfect Christmas be? What would you change? What should we all change?

This is a beautiful, funny and soulful collection of personal essays about the meaning of Christmas, written by a unique plethora of voices from the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden.

Away from the John Lewis advert, the high street decorations and the candied orange in Heston Blumenthal’s Christmas pudding, this gem of a book introduced and curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise celebrates the importance of kindness and generosity, acceptance and tolerance – and shows us that these values are not just for Christmas.

25p from the sale of each copy of the book will be paid to Crisis and the Refugee Council.

Last Christmas is available to buy now.

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

Blackberry and Wild Rose by Sonia Velton

For fans of Jessie Burton and Tracy Chevalier, a rich historical debut set among the Huguenot silk weavers of Spitalfields
in the late 18th century

WHEN ESTHER THOREL, the wife of a Huguenot silk-weaver, rescues Sara Kemp from a brothel she thinks she is doing God’s will. Sara is not convinced being a maid is better than being a whore, but the chance to escape her grasping ‘madam’ is too good to refuse.

INSIDE THE THORELS’ tall house in Spitalfields, where the strange cadence of the looms fills the attic, the two women forge an uneasy relationship. The physical intimacies of washing and dressing belie the reality: Sara despises her mistress’s blindness to the hypocrisy of her household, while Esther is too wrapped up in her own secrets to see Sara as anything more than another charitable cause.

IT IS SILK that has Esther so distracted. For years she has painted her own designs, dreaming that one day her husband will weave them into reality. When he laughs at her ambition, she unwittingly sets in motion events that will change the fate of the whole Thorel household and set the scene for a devastating day of reckoning between her and Sara.

THE PRICE OF a piece of silk may prove more than either is able to pay.

‘Sumptuous and moving. Velton weaves her tale with the threads of betrayal, thwarted dreams and good intentions gone awry’ Laura Purcell

‘A richly imagined and brilliantly twisty tale’ Anna Mazzola

‘A plot as finely detailed as Spitalfields silk’ Stacey Halls

Blackberry and Wild Rose is available to buy now.

Friends of Bookends review Last Christmas

Halloween is officially over so we’ve got one thing on our minds – CHRISTMAS! Cue us mulling all drinks in a 3 mile radius, bedecking everything in sight with tinsel and fairy lights and spending every weekend practicing true winter cosiness with hot chocolate in hand and book on lap.

To accompany this dose of festive cheer, we’ve given our Friends of Bookends copies of the wonderful Last Christmas – a beautiful, soulful collection of writing on Christmases past and hopes for future ones – curated by Emma Thompson and Greg Wise. With contributions spanning the boulevards of Hollywood to the soup kitchens of Covent Garden, it’s a real gem of a book and the perfect festive gift! Including entries from Emilia Clarke, Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci, Deborah Frances-White, Caitlin Moran, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and many more.

25p from each book goes to Crisis and The Refugee Council, so make your gifting this Christmas count!

See what our Friends of Bookends made of Last Christmas below…

Jen R:

I really enjoyed this Christmas compilation! The collection of reminiscences of Christmases past by a variety of different people is just the book to read in November. You can then motivate yourself to create your own or your family’s momentously memorable Christmas.

There are contributions from celebrities from the world of showbusiness and the theatre; people who have been down on their luck; people from different cultures with differing experiences and those who help others and improve their festive period as a result.

It is an entertaining easy read and a small contribution is made from the sale of the book to a worthwhile charity.

Make it part of this Christmas and your future Christmases.

There are only two things which will further improve your reading… a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie, or two. Enjoy!

Angela N:

I should begin this review by honestly stating that I am not a fan of non-fiction as a general rule. If I do read it then progress is often slow, punctuated by side-eyed glances to the fiction books winking coquettishly at me from the bookcase. Therefore I approached Last Christmas with a touch of weary skepticism. A mere 48 hours later, I can also honestly state that this is a rare thing: A non-fiction book I enjoyed reading and looked forward to returning to.

In Last Christmas people from different backgrounds give brief stories of Christmases past and will appeal to anyone who is a little bit nosy, giving a glimpse as it does through the windows of other people’s Christmases. 25p from each sale will go to Crisis and The Refugee Council and therefore voices of the homeless, refugees and volunteers are numerous. However, there are also stories from a vicar, celebrities, the elderly and many more.

At turns sentimental, haunting and raw; this book made me smile, choke up, and definitely made me appreciate my own fortune much more.

Besides being for a good cause, this would be a great gift for non-readers as the stories are short enough to read quickly and put down until the next time .

Tim S:

This is the perfect book to read on a winters Sunday afternoon in an armchair near the fire with a glass in your hand.

Sad and annoying, frustrating and poignant in equal measures the books greatest achievement was to take me back to many a family Christmas of my own, some good some not so good.

For a book celebrating a religious festival it has the happy knack of often eschewing religion and prompting love and kindness to a world too often sadly lacking in both.

“It highlights and celebrates the work of the charities Crisis and The Refugee Council and I finished the book knowing a lot more about their work and realising its importance.

Back to the armchair.

Zarina:

Everyone knows the iconic Wham! festive classic song and this year a movie inspired by the music will grace the silver screen. Co-written by husband and wife duo Greg Wise and Emma Thompson, the two famous Brits have also curated a book of essays about the festive season.

The book does not only feature stories from those tied to the movie and other celebrities reminiscing about Christmases of days gone past, but also a host of other people who have thought-provoking stories to tell.

“Some heart-breaking, others hilarious – and everything in between.”

Part of the proceeds for the book are going to Crisis and The Refugee Council and there are many essays in the book from people who’ve been homeless or refugees, and the selfless charity workers who have given up so much of their time to help others in need.

The majority of stories are truly inspiring. They will not only get you in the festive spirit but will also make you appreciate how fortunate you are in life when you have happy and carefree memories attached to this time of year, as not everyone is quite so lucky.

A truly wonderful book to read and gift this Christmas.”

BOOKENDS HALLOWEEN – Alison Littlewood

BOOKENDS HALLOWEEN – Alison Littlewood

Happy Halloween everyone! To celebrate Halloween, we’ve been asking some of our authors some ghoulish questions! This week, we’re talking to Alison Littlewood, author of the atmospheric ghost story, Mistletoe.

What are your favourite spooky reads?

So many books! It’s hard to name just a few, but some recent favourites include The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley, Little Eve by Catriona Ward and historical gothic The Corset by Laura Purcell. I just rattled through The Fisherman by John Langan and that became an instant favourite. I love a good ghost story and Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box certainly fits that bill. Sarah Lotz’s novella Body in the Woods is brilliant. I also enjoy short stories: Nathan Ballingrud’s North American Lake Monsters is an amazing collection, as is Priya Sharma’s All the Fabulous Beasts.

What book-to-film adaptations do you watch to get yourself in the Halloween mood?

I’m hoping that La Influencia, the Netflix movie based on a Ramsey Campbell novel, will be out in time for this Halloween. It certainly looks appropriate! And it’s been far too long since I watched Misery, based on the Stephen King novel, though I might just reprise The Shining too. Just don’t make me go in that room (shudders). Some newer movies I might revisit this year include The Silence, based on Tim Lebbon’s book – I couldn’t put it down – and The Ritual, developed from Adam Nevill’s incredibly haunting novel.

Of the characters in your book, who would you choose to trick, and who deserves a treat?

My poor main character in Mistletoe, Leah, has probably been through enough, so she would get the treat. At the outset she’s lost her husband and son and is trying to start anew by renovating a farmhouse in one of the more dismal corners of Yorkshire. She deserves to be jetted off somewhere fancy, though she’d probably settle for a good hot bath. As for the trick . . . ah, there is certainly a character who deserves it, though that might be telling! They’re pretty wily, though. When I was writing the ending they seemed to take over somewhat, upping the stakes from my original plan, so I’d be worried they might turn the tables on me!

What would the main character in your book dress up as for Halloween?

Well, Leah has run off to her farmhouse to make a new life for herself, but she’s also running away from all the festivities of Christmas, so she might well do the same for Halloween. I’m afraid she’d probably be unprepared. A dustsheet over the head might be the best she could manage, though when she begins to uncover her family’s history she is drawn into past events, so who knows, she might find a beautiful Victorian mourning gown all ready for her. 

What will you be reading on 31st October?

I rather enjoy books that remind me of childhood around Halloween. It’s such an evocative time of year. So I might re-read Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, about a young boy, Nobody Owens, who is raised by the ghosts in a graveyard after his family is murdered. I’ve always loved fairy tales too, so for a short fiction fix I’ll read the Fearie Tales anthology, edited by Stephen Jones. It has retellings of some childhood favourites, though it’s aimed at an adult readership and has a scary twist. There are some fabulous writers in there, including Neil Gaiman (again), John Ajvide Lindqvist, Angela Slatter, Robert Shearman and Tanith Lee, and there’s a delightfully impactful tale by Joanne Harris.

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood is out now.

Fair Play: is your to-do list endless?

Fair Play: is your to-do list endless?

In Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, she urges women to evaluate the distribution of responsibilities in their families and relationships. Chosen as a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, Fair Play seeks to show you that there is a way to share the mental load, rebalance your relationship and transform your life. In this extract from the book, Eve explores the dilemma of never ending to-do lists.

WHY CAN’T WE EVER SEEM TO GET AHEAD OF OUR TO-DO LISTS?

The more I talked with my girlfriends who’d entered motherhood, I realized we were all having trouble getting it all done— and what’s more, we were all having trouble identifying exactly what it was we were doing. Why were we all so busy?

   It turns out this phenomenon has a name—many names, actually. One of the most popular is “invisible work”: invisible because it may be unseen and unrecognized by our partners, and also because those of us who do it may not count or even acknowledge it as work . . . despite the fact that it costs us real time and significant mental and physical effort with no sick days or benefits. No doubt you, too, have read articles describing this “mental load,” “second shift,” and the “emotional labor” that falls disproportionately on women, along with the toll this domestic work takes on our lives more broadly.

   But what are we really talking about here? Sociologists Arlene Kaplan Daniels and Arlie Hochschild started giving us the language to talk about these deeply felt (but largely unarticulated) inequities in the 1980s, and since then, plenty of intelligent women have advanced the conversation and the popular vernacular.

Mental Load: The never-ending mental to-do list you keep for all your family tasks. Though not as heavy as a bag of rocks, the constant details banging around in your mind nonetheless weigh you down. Mental “overload” creates stress, fatigue, and often forgetfulness. Where did I put the damn car keys?

Second Shift: This is the domestic work you do long before you go to work and often even longer after you get home from the office. It’s an unpaid shift that starts early and goes late, and you can’t afford to lose it. Every day’s a double shift when you have two kids’ lunches to prep!

Emotional Labor: This term has evolved organically in pop culture to include the “maintaining relationships” and “managing emotions” work like calling your inlaws, sending thank-you notes, buying teacher gifts, and soothing meltdowns in Target. This work of caring can be some of the most exhausting labor (akin to the day your child was born), but providing middle-of-the-night comfort is what makes you a wonderful and dependable parent. It’s OK, Mama’s here.

Invisible Work: This is the behind-the-scenes stuff that keeps a home and family running smoothly, although it’s hardly noticed and is rarely valued. The toothpaste never runs out. You’re welcome.   In an effort to “physicalize” this heavy burden carried by women yesterday and today, I began collecting every article I could find on the subject of domestic inequality. After amassing 250 articles (and counting) from newspapers, magazines, and online sources, it was disturbing to recognize that, since women began writing about this in the 1940s, we haven’t made enough progress in sharing the burden with our partners or finding an answer to this problem that men could buy into. Same sh*t, different decade.

   According to the most contemporary research, women still do the bulk of childcare and domestic work, even in two-earner families in which both parents work full-time and sometimes even when the mother earns more than her partner. As if reflecting a mirror onto my life, I stumbled upon another study revealing that men who stood up for their fair share of housework prior to having kids significantly cut back their contributions after kids—by up to five hours a week.

   Wow, even the good guys?

   As I considered the vast research and literature, past and present, bravely naming and articulating this problem, I thought: OK, we know there’s an imbalance. But where is the manual with a practical and sustainable solution? Sure, it’s helpful to understand the breadth of the condition and its historic underpinnings, and it felt gratifying to know that I was not alone in this predicament and that plenty of women had been fed up and writing about it for decades. But what can we do to change it? I became determined to find out.

Fair Play is available to buy now.

Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

Fair Play by Eve Rodsky

A Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.

“A hands-on, real talk guide for navigating the hot-button issues that so many families struggle with” – Reese Witherspoon

Do you find yourself taking on the lion’s share of all the thankless, invisible but time-consuming work in the home? FAIR PLAY is the first book that shows you that there can be a different way: a way to get more done, with less fuss, in a way that feels more balanced.

Eve Rodsky was tired of always being the one who has to remember to buy loo roll, or to book the family’s dentist appointments, or to send the thank you cards – all while working full time. So Eve decided to do what she does every day as an organisational management consultant: Organise. She conducted original research with more than 500 couples to figure out WHAT the invisible work in a family actually is and HOW to get it done effectively and all in a way that makes relationships even stronger. FAIR PLAY identifies the 100 main tasks in any relationship, and then divides those tasks fairly (not necessarily equally) so that both parties contribute their fair share.

If we don’t learn to rebalance our home life and reclaim some time to develop the skills and passions that keep us unique, then we risk losing our right to be interesting, not just to our partner, but to ourselves. Getting this right isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity for a happy, lasting partnership. Part how-to guide for couples, part modern relationship manifesto, FAIR PLAY offers an innovative system with a completely original lexicon to discuss how relationships actually work … and how we can make them work better.

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

‘For anyone who enjoyed Hillbilly Elegy or EducatedUnfollow is an essential text’ – Louis Theroux

It was an upbringing in many ways normal. A loving home, shared with squabbling siblings, overseen by devoted parents. Yet in other ways it was the precise opposite: a revolving door of TV camera crews and documentary makers, a world of extreme discipline, of siblings vanishing in the night.

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church’s invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God’s truth. She was, in her words, ‘all in’.

In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.

Unfollow is a story about the rarest thing of all: a person changing their mind. It is a fascinating insight into a closed world of extreme belief, a biography of a complex family, and a hope-inspiring memoir of a young woman finding the courage to find compassion for others, as well as herself.

As featured on the BBC documentaries, ‘The Most Hated Family in America’ and ‘Surviving America’s Most Hated Family.’

3 facts you didn’t know about your dog!

3 facts you didn’t know about your dog!

Everyone loves dogs and any dog owner knows that the bond with their dog is unique. But have you ever been curious to understand what makes dogs truly special? Why does our relationship with these lovable animals feel so much more deep and intense than with other animals?

In Dog is Love, using ground-breaking scientific experiments and eye-opening historical evidence, canine behavioural psychologist Dr Clive Wynne unlocks the secret to our unique bond with dogs: their capacity to love, an unprecedented attribute in the animal kingdom.

We’ve chosen some of our favourite dog facts from his delightful and heart-warming book to share with you!

1. The heartbeats of dogs and their owners fall in sync when they’re together

In 2016 researched Craig Duncan and Mia Cobb wired up three people and their dogs with heart-rate monitors. For this study, they chose people who had particularly strong interdependence with their dogs, and they asked them to simply sit on a sofa. Once their heartrate had settled down (some of them were nervous about the filming part of the study), the researchers let the dog join them and monitored their heartrates; and the results were pretty extraordinary! See for yourself and watch here:

2. If your dog looks happy, that’s because they are!

Now, this might seem quite basic but nevertheless it’s deeply reassuring. In Dog Is Love, Clive explains how two US researchers carried out an experiment to understand just how well people can identify expressions of emotion on a dog’s face. They hired a professional photographer to take photos of Mal, a five-year-old Belgian Malinois police dog, while he obediently (like the good boy he is) held positions under conditions that most dogs would struggle with. For example, to elicit a facial expression of disgust, they offered him a gross snack. To get a sad photo, they said ‘Fooey’, an instruction used during training to convey to Mal that he had done something wrong. For a fearful response, they showed Mal his toenail clippers. For the happy image, Mal’s handler told him to sit and stay, and then she said, ‘Good boy. We are going to play soon.’

Mal’s different emotions

Bloom and Friedman then showed these twenty-one photographs to twenty-five people with considerable experience in training dogs, and another group of twenty-five people who had never owned a dog. Each person was asked to rate each photograph for the presence of the six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, disgust, surprise, fear and anger. For almost all the pictures, human respondents chose the correct emotion. The most successfully identified emotion? Happiness!

3. Dogs have an unparalleled capacity to love

Sorry to break it to you, but Clive explains to us that while your dog does love you… your dog could love almost anyone, animal or human. Clive attributes this to dogs’ unparalleled capacity to love, for example one of the beneficiaries of dog love is penguins!

On an island about two hours’ drive from Melbourne, there is a community of little penguins; and not any old little penguins: they are a distinct species of penguin, Eudyptula minor, native only to Australia and New Zealand. And they are only 1-foot tall.

Eudyptula minor penguins are only 1-foot tall

AND THEN, a nearby chicken farmer (called Swampy Marsh. Really.) came up with the genius idea of deploying dogs to protect the penguins. Swampy had a Maremma dog to guard his chickens, and was blown away by his prowess at frightening away foxes. Maremmas are an ancient breed of dog from a part of southern Tuscany and are the guys to call if you’ve got a fox problem.

The council permitted Swampy’s dog, Oddball, to stay on the island to keep an eye on things, but he got homesick and ran back to Swampy. Missy, the second dog they tried, stayed a bit longer, but she missed home too much as well. Although they didn’t stick around for very long, Oddball and Missy had done enough: the first breeding season after the dogs left the island, not a single little penguin was snatched by foxes. And today, the little penguins of Middle Island are guarded by two dogs, Eudy and Tula, who have known the penguins since they were pups – so they don’t get too homesick.

Maremma puppies training to be the adorable heroes that they are

For more dog-shaped facts, check out Dog is Love by Dr Clive Wynne. Available now!

What to bake (and read) before next week’s episode of Bake Off!

What to bake (and read) before next week’s episode of Bake Off!

It’s September and that means one thing: BAKE OFF IS BACK! That’s right, everybody’s favourite, guilt-free reality TV show is back, full of flaky pastry and biscuits that snap… To celebrate here’s our edit of what to be baking (and, more importantly, reading) every week while you wait for that next episode to air!

First thing’s first, it is absolutely not allowed to sit down and watch Bake Off without baked goodies. Prep for the next episode by whipping up a batch of cookies over the weekend. We LOVE this recipe for Carrot Cake Cookies from Bake Off’s own Liam Charles:

Or, if you’re missing that Mary Berry magic, turn to her trusty Fast Cakes recipe book for a quick sweet treat – perfect if you find yourself in desperate need of sugar just before showtime on Tuesday:

Ever wondered what Prue gets up to during down-time on Bake Off? If you’re dying for a bit more gossip to get you through to next Tuesday, here’s Prue Leith dishing some behind-the-scenes info…

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox

Our Child of the Stars by Stephen Cox

In this magical, bewitching debut, Molly and Gene Myers’ marriage is on the brink of collapse. Then a child arrives, with a remarkable appearance. Will he bring them together, or tear their whole world apart?

Molly and Gene Myers were happy, until tragedy blighted their hopes of children. During the years of darkness and despair, they each put their marriage in jeopardy, but now they are starting to rebuild their fragile bond.

Then the Meteor crashes into Amber Grove, devastating the small New England town – and changing their lives for ever. Molly, a nurse, caught up in the thick of the disaster, is given care of a desperately ill patient rescued from the wreckage: a sick boy with a remarkable appearance, an orphan who needs a mother.

And soon the whole world will be looking for him.

Cory’s arrival has changed everything. And the Myers will do anything to keep him safe.

‘Strong and generous’ Daily Mail


‘Big-hearted’ Financial Times