Toussaint Louverture is a name that should echo through the annals of history. Born into slavery, he led a revolutionary army to liberate enslaved men, women, and children across Saint-Domingue (modern-day Haiti). ot only that, but he became governor of Saint-Domingue, negotiating fiercely with France, Britain, and the USA. Toussaint sought peace and prosperity for his nation, determined to secure long-term freedom for Black and mixed-race citizens. In Black Spartacus, Sudhir Hazareesingh vividly brings to life this powerful, dedicated, yet controversial leader.
In a modest Stratford house, in the late sixteenth century, a boy is searching for help. His twin sister, Judith, has fallen ill, and he has no idea what to do. His mother will come, carrying kind words, herbal remedies, and fear in her heart. The plague should not be here - the playhouses in London may close, but here in Stratford, far away, they are supposed to be safe. Heedlessly, the sickness has arrived from another world, crept into their home, and waits with insatiable power to shatter a family beyond recognition.
Rating: 4.5 stars Genre: Literary, Historical Fiction Summary: When Ada fails to conceive a child with her new husband, she becomes increasingly desperate. Barren women in her village are often hanged as witches. Fearing that she is cursed, neighbours start refusing to let her attend their births, meaning she can no longer put her expertise as a midwife to use. Frustrated and afraid, Ada runs away to find refuge with a band of outlaws and their charismatic leader known only as the Kid. In this makeshift and marginalised family, women like Ada are finding power beyond the status of their wombs - and taking revenge on the society that has rejected them.
Rating: 4 stars Genre: Non-fiction Summary: Feeling a debt of gratitude to his queer community's elders, and determined not to let their stories be lost to history, Mason Funk established Outwords, a charity dedicated to travelling the length and breadth of America to interview LGBT+ elders. From swanky offices to rural snowstorms, the Outwords team seek queer stories wherever they can find them, determined to record as many of the movement's perspectives as possible. The result is The Book of Pride, a collection of interviews with LGBT+ pioneers, including John S. James (HIV treatment campaigner), Diana Rivers (author and women's rights activist) and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy (trans community leader).
Rating: 3 stars
Category: Classics, Historical Fiction
Synopsis: Hester Prynne's husband is missing, presumed dead. Most believe he drowned on the voyage from Amsterdam to join her in New England. Yet getting pregnant out of wedlock is still enough to earn Hester a lifelong punishment - wearing the scarlet letter 'A' embroidered on her clothing so her shame can never be forgotten.
Cast to the margins of her Puritan village community, Hester lives in solitude and tries to raise her daughter Pearl away from prying eyes. When a newcomer to the village brings old secrets, she is forced to choose between a life of piety and redemption, or following her perilously taboo passions.
Rating: 3.5 stars
Category: Short stories, literary fiction
Synopsis: Christopher Isherwood, an English tutor and novelist, is rootless. Yet it is this quality of rootlessness that allows him to seamlessly drift between the high and low of Berlin society, from decadent lakeside houses to cramped attic rooms shared by entire families.
Goodbye to Berlin is a semi-autobiographical collection of episodes that portray life in 1930s Berlin. Poverty, suffering and the rise of Nazism is beginning to give a threatening edge to all of the rich possibilities of the city.
Rating: 3 stars
When John Durbeyfield learns that he is descended from a grand ancient lineage known as the d'Urbervilles, he sends his daughter Tess to their nearest relations in the hope of claiming kin and improving his family's prospects. As the family sinks ever-further into poverty, she is only too aware of the keen urgency of her mission.
However, Tess knows nothing of the world outside her village, or the attention she draws by nature of her youth and beauty. Her experiences at the d'Urberville house will leave her torn between preserving secrecy - and her reputation - or risking honesty with the people she loves most.
If you're looking for some listening material to keep your brain in gear while stuck in lockdown, here is a list of my favourite non-fiction audiobooks!
I've included a varied selection of genres, from true crime to self-help, so whatever your tastes you should be able to find something that intrigues you...
Rating: 4 stars
Category: Historical fiction, crime, literary fiction
Alias Grace is based on the actual historical figure Grace Marks, who was convicted of murdering her employer and his housekeeper in 1843, alongside James McDermott. In this fictionalised account, it is uncertain whether she was acting under duress, out of fear for her own life, or if she was McDermott's lover and co-conspirator.
The ambitious psychologist Dr Jordan is sent to the penitentiary to draw out the truth. However, with Grace claiming to have no memory of the incident, it will be difficult to separate the innocent, exploited young girl from the woman capable of unspeakable violence.