CONTACTS by Mark Watson (HarperCollins £8.99, 384 pp)
by Mark Watson (HarperCollins £8.99, 384 pp)
At midnight on March 9, 2019, James Chiltern sends a text to all his contacts, then switches his phone to airplane mode.
Aboard the night train from London to Edinburgh, he looks back over his life and the events that led to this moment. Five years ago he had a job, a girlfriend, a best friend and a close relationship with his elder sister. One by one he has lost those things, and, in the understated words of his text, he has ‘decided to end my life’.
Across the world, the people who receive his message unite in a frantic effort to find James before it is too late.
Mark Watson’s moving and perceptive novel was written before the pandemic, but its theme of how technology connects us in even the worst circumstances is timely and hopeful.
V2 by Robert Harris (Arrow £8.99, 400 pp)
by Robert Harris (Arrow £8.99, 400 pp)
On a bitterly cold Saturday morning in November 1944, Dr Rudi Graf is supervising the launch of the German army’s devastating new rocket — the V2.
Since childhood, Rudi has been passionate about rocket science; now he is forced to use his passion in the service of the Nazis. The rocket is aimed at London’s Charing Cross.
Four minutes later, 24-year-old WAAF, Kay, is emerging from bed after a tryst with her married lover, Air Commodore Mike Templeton, when the V2 strikes its target, throwing her to the ground and trapping Mike in the rubble.
Robert Harris’s compelling account of the desperate duel between the men who invented the V2 rockets, and the young women photographic analysts who worked tirelessly to locate and destroy their deadly invention, was inspired by the memoirs of former WAAF Eileen Younghusband.
ELIZABETHANS by Andrew Marr (Collins £9.99, 512 pp)
by Andrew Marr (Collins £9.99, 512 pp)
Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, as Britain was recovering from World War II.
Almost 70 years later, as Britain was emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Queen addressed the nation: ‘Those who come after us will say, the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.’
Andrew Marr’s history of the second Elizabethan age explores how our ideas of what it means to be British have changed. He begins with James Morris, who broke the news of Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Everest in 1953 and later underwent a pioneering sex-change operation, becoming the author Jan Morris.
Marr combines character studies of individuals as disparate as Margaret Thatcher and Diana Dors to construct a portrait of a nation whose rapidly changing values are underpinned by a timeless sense of how our island’s history shapes its future.
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