For many of us, the summer of 2021 will be remembered through the words of a song from forty years ago. ‘Should I stay or should I go?’ was the theme of days in which we packed and unpacked our bags, anxiously scanning the headlines. Whether in the end you decided on a staycation or ventured further afield, we hope you were refreshed by a change of scene.
As for us, we’re finally back in the office and delighted to be able to see one another again. And we’re looking forward to a very busy autumn!
This month we’re reissuing the last two books in Rosemary Sutcliff’s magnificent sequence of Roman and post-Roman novels (see p.39). In Sword Song the action moves to the north-west coast and the Hebrides as we sail in a longship with a young Norwegian who has a lot to learn. Two hundred years later, in The Shield Ring, we meet his descendant in the Lakeland hills where the Vikings are still holding out against Norman invaders. These two books are just as compelling as Sutcliff’s earlier titles which, if you haven’t already discovered them, are still available.
Our new Slightly Foxed Edition is George Clare’s Last Waltz in Vienna (see p.13). Born Georg Klaar, Clare grew up in what was once the cosmopolitan capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a city in which his own loving family of Jewish doctors and bankers had long thrived. But the First World War had reduced it greatly, breeding fear and resentment, and in 1938 the Anschluss marked the absorption of Austria into Germany. Within five years 65,000 Viennese Jews had been deported to the camps, among them Clare’s own parents. This vigorous, compassionate memoir offers stark lessons for our own uneasily shared world.
Closer to home are two delightful new books, neither of which could be more English. We know many of you have enjoyed Adrian Bell’s rural trilogy Corduroy, Silver Ley and The Cherry Tree, published as Slightly Foxed Editions. Now, in what we hope will be a series of Bell’s seasonal essays, we’re offering A Countryman’s Winter Notebook, a selection of his much-loved columns published between 1950 and 1980 in the Eastern Daily Press. Filled with wisdom and humour, these are beautifully paced observations of country life with all the power of poetry – ‘dark sodden fields and bright flying leaves’ – but rooted in cherished everyday objects and incidents. Introduced by Richard Hawking, with a preface by Adrian’s son Martin Bell, our edition is decorated with illustrations by Suffolk artist Beth Knight and would make a perfect Christmas present. It’s published on 12 October.
On 9 November we’re publishing another irresistible book, Letters to Michael. Between 1945 and 1947 Charles Phillipson wrote 150 illustrated letters to his young son. In them he captures the delight to be found in the detail of everyday life, seen through the lens of his own quirky imagination: passengers on the morning train hidden behind newspapers; the fun to be had on a revolving office chair; the different ways in which men carry their umbrellas; a walk on a very windy day; the sun rising over chimneypots; the postman on his bicycle. Jotted on rough office paper, each letter was embellished with a hand-drawn stamp which made young Michael feel as if he was receiving ‘real’ letters. And real letters they are – love-letters, even – for through their affectionate words, mischievous drawings and gentle encouragement, a father’s love for his son shines out.
You’ll find more about both books in Slightly Foxed Readers’ Catalogue Autumn 2021 slipped into this issue. Meantime, we thank you, dear readers, from the bottom of our hearts for all the loyalty you’ve shown us in these difficult times.