Fiction Book of the Month: Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons

A subversive, powerful untelling of Shakespeare’s best-known tale, narrated by a fierce, forgotten voice: this is Rosaline’s story. A fierce, feminist, intensely gripping novel; captivating and chillingly relevant, ‘Fair Rosaline’ takes everything you thought you knew about Romeo and Juliet and turns it on its head.

The first time Romeo Montague sees young Rosaline Capulet he falls instantly in love. Rosaline, headstrong and independent, is unsure of Romeo’s attentions but with her father determined that she join a convent, this handsome and charming stranger offers her the chance of a different life. Soon though, Rosaline begins to doubt all that Romeo has told her. 

She breaks off the match, only for Romeo’s gaze to turn towards her cousin, thirteen-year-old Juliet. Gradually Rosaline realises that it is not only Juliet’s reputation at stake, but her life. With only hours remaining before she will be banished behind the nunnery walls, will Rosaline save Juliet from her Romeo? Or can this story only ever end one way? 

Forget everything you’ve been told. This is not a love story. Sumptuous and hypnotic, subversive and thought-provoking, Fair Rosaline unmakes the ‘romantic tragedy’ of Romeo and Juliet, which we are familar with. 

Told from the perspective of Rosaline, the young woman he cast aside, this gives is a different perspective on Romeo’s honeyed words and motivations. Re-imagining one of the few of Shakespeare’s plays to mention a character’s age, it upturns Juliet’s love story into something murky and uneasy; a story about family honour, virtue, naivety and abuse of power. 

Gritty, atmospheric and lushly told, this is an unforgettable and brilliant read. – Ruth, Bookshop Manager 

 Irresistible. An excellent spin on a timeless classic’ – Jennifer Saint 

  • A brilliant and beguiling re-imagining of the Romeo and Juliet story. A terrific novel – very clever and alluring’ – William Boyd 

  • Thought-provoking . . . a rich and atmospheric work that, despite its historical setting, feels intensely relatable thanks to Solomons’ resilient heroine‘ – Katherine J. Chen 

Non-Fiction Book of the Month: High Caucasus by Tom Parfitt 

A breath-taking memoir of Tom Parfitt’s remarkable 1,000 mile walk through Russia’s Caucasus region in search of solace and understanding after witnessing the Beslan school siege.  

On 1 September 2004, Chechen and Ingush militants took more than a thousand people captive at a school in the Caucasus region of southern Russia. Working as a correspondent, Tom Parfitt witnessed the bloody climax in which 314 hostages died, more than half of them children. The experience left Tom emotionally shredded, struggling to find a way to return to his life in Moscow and put to rest the ghosts of the Beslan siege. 

Having long been fascinated by the mountainous North Caucasus, Tom turned to his love of walking as a source of both recuperation and discovery. In High Caucasus, he shares his remarkable thousand-mile quest in search of personal peace – and a greater understanding of the roots of violence in a region whose fate has tragic parallels with the Ukraine of today. 

Starting his journey in Sochi on the Black Sea and walking the mountain ranges to Derbent, the ancient fortress city on the Caspian, Tom traverses the political, religious and ethnic fault-lines of seven Russian republics, including Chechnya and Dagestan. Through bear-haunted forests, across high altitude pastures and over the shoulders of Elbrus, Europe’s highest mountain, he finds companionship and respite in the homes of proud, little-known peoples. Walking exerts a restorative power; it also provides a unique, ground-level view of a troubled yet exquisite corner of the world. 

 High Caucasus is a stunning memoir of confronting trauma through connection with history, people and place. 

‘This is a travel book for our time, one that seeks fragments of hope among shards of war. Thoughtful, uplifting and hugely enjoyable’ – Sara Wheeler, author of Terra Incognita 

  • Ruth