Category End of Your Life Book Club

The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)

After a few months spent on hiatus, the book club gathered once more to discuss the E. M. Forster classic novel Howards End. The meeting was timed with the release of the paperback edition of Will’s The End of Your Life Book Club and although he couldn’t be with us in the Two Roads headquarters, he managed to join in from New York, talking about the book with Lisa, who is in the Big Apple herself: a true transatlantic book club experience!


The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)

Will reading HOWARDS END in New York

Surprisingly perhaps, not many people had read Howards End before or even seen the film. The book is about three families in England at the beginning of the 20th century: the Wilcoxes, rich capitalists with a fortune made in the Colonies; the half-German Schlegel siblings Margaret, Tibby, and Helen; and the Basts, a struggling couple in the lower-middle class. It explores the underlying class warfare involving these three distinct groups and the source of their conflict – Howards End, a house in the countryside which ultimately becomes a symbol of conflict within British society.

For such an apparently heavy subject, the novel is incredibly engaging (and obviously beautifully written). We found ourselves drawn to some of the most obvious themes (the now famous line ‘Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. was the focus of much discussion) and we were particularly intrigued by the relationship between the highly idealistic Margaret and Henry, the pragmatic defender of social conventions. How could such different characters end up becoming husband and wife?

But most of our conversation revolved around the timeliness of the novel. When it was first published in 1910, E. M. Forster’s book dealt with some of the most profound issues of British society: the relationship between ownership and power, and the huge gap between different social statuses. Most people in the club agreed that Howards End still feels incredibly ‘of the time’ today – class still being a subject worth writing about in these troubled times – but also wondered if Forster would pick a different subject matter (race perhaps?) were he alive today.

The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)

Zadie’s Smith ON BEAUTY

The discussion turned towards more recent books when someone brought up Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, the Orange Prize-winning novel which is an homage to Forster’s classic. We started talking about the modern ‘reinterpretations’ of the classics, not only in literature but also in films (we spent quite a bit of time analysing how cult film Clueless relates to Emma, the Jane Austen book it is loosely based on): do they introduce the classics to new audiences and ensure their survival? Or is it just a way to exploit some of the greatest works of the past?

In the end we went back to Howards End and we agreed

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to a good 3 out of 4 score. And then we rewarded ourselves with some well deserved cake (check out more pics on Facebook):

The End of Your Life Book Club book club read E. M. Forster's Howards End (Will Schwalbe)









Will Schwalbe

Have you ever wondered why publishers play around with book covers so much?

What’s the point of changing the cover of a successful book when it comes out in paperback? Won’t that confuse readers when they browse in bookshops and online?

Actually the move from hardcover to paperback gives the publisher the opportunity to bring the book to a new market (and to those who were waiting for it to come out in paperback!).

Take the case of Will Schwalbe’s book, The End of Your Life Book Club publishing in paperback this June.

The hardback jacket design, with its bright green background and golden leaves, was a big in-house favourite and a hit with booksellers and readers alike, which is why we didn’t want to change it too much. Using the same design, the new bright cream background, gives a fresh (summery) life to the cover, while making sure that the reader knows it’s already a big success (cue the “New York Times bestseller” sticker).

In the end, making sure that the book looks new but maintains the established and easily recognisable feel of its previous edition is always hard, but we believe our art department did a fantastic job with Will’s memoir. But

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The End of Your Life book Club (hardcover)

The End of Your Life book Club (paperback)













Good morning and happy Monday to you faithful followers of all things Two Roads!

Are you feeling down? Did you have a wet, miserable weekend? Did you look like this while crossing the road today?

Well then it’s definitely time for a healthy dose of Two Roads Monday Blues Remedy!


The Stockholm Octavo (out in paperback on February 14th)

Here’s the updated cover for the paperback edition of Karen’s novel.

New look.

Same fantastic feel.

We are also launching a tumblr. blog devoted to the art of creating the perfect Octavo. Do check it out and follow the slow unveiling of this mysterious art of cartomancy on Twitter and Facebook as well.



Doodlemum (out on February 28th)

Angie is hard at work on a secret Two Roads project (more juicy details to follow!). But in the meantime go ahead and enjoy her daily dose of Doodlemum on her website (and remember to like her Facebook page!) Stay tuned for a great update from our publicity department coming next week…


After Cleo Came Jonah (out in paperback on February 28th)

If you haven’t already go visit Helen’s Facebook page and read Jonah’s Blog. Last post: THE ENEMY.

Beware of that cat…




Until I Say Good-Bye (out on March 14th)

As you know a wonderful video has been uploaded on Susan’s page and on the Two Roads website. It’s a powerful message and although it’s Susan’s husband speaking, you can feel her energy coming through. It’s very moving. Watch & share and keep checking Susan’s Facebook page for touching (and quite funny) updates like this.

Island Wife (out March 28th)

Finally the advance praise is in and it includes quotes from fellow writers, poets and rock stars (yup: you got that right!). Here’s a quick selection:

  • ‘Brave, funny, poignant, beautifully written.’Elisabeth Luard, food-writer, journalist, and broadcaster
  •  ‘The day to day details of a family who have followed the man’s ambitions to the remote island of Mull are  hilarious and very touching. A beautifully told story’Mike Rutherford, founding member of Genesis
  • ‘Humour and honesty prevail throughout and always there is the poetic backdrop of the wild landscape of the island and the wild emotions that come and go with its tides.’Mairi Hedderwick, author of the Katie Morag series
  • ‘Warm but never sentimental… It balances wry humour and lyrical delight, practical toughness and vulnerability in equal measure… A joy to read.’Philip Gross, novelist and poet
  • ‘Island Wife is a breezy (in every sense), frequently funny and often dreadfully sad tale of a madcap adventure with an intrepid farmer husband and five children on a romantic Hebridean island, which often turns out to be not quite as romantic as the wide-eyed author had imagined.’ Christopher Matthew, author and journalist

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (out April 11th)

Great news coming from the US. Z is part of Publishers’ Marketplace BUZZ BOOKS 2013 (spring/summer edition).

You can download the digital booklet here or read the extract on USA Today’s website.





The Still Point of the Turning World (out April 11th)

Will Schwalbe, author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Your Life Book Club, loved Emily’s book. Here’s what he had to say:

  • ‘It’s hard to find words that do justice to Emily Rapp’s The Still Point of the Turning World. It’s one of those rare books that you want to press into people’s hands and simply say, “You must read this. You will thank me.” At every turn, Rapp avoids the maudlin and the expected to get at very deep truths, sometimes painful and sometimes liberating and sometimes both. She looks for wisdom and comfort to a wide range of sources ranging from C.S. Lewis to Marilynne Robinson to Buddhist teaching. And she looks to her son. This is one family’s story of living while facing death, but also an astonishingly generous work about recognizing the pain and grace that exist all around us.’



You can now find Fede on instagram as well: just look for Due_Strade_London. Lots of pics of London, Italy & Italian food (and wine), and of course books, books, and even more books.


Public service announcement!!!

In case you intend to visit Leicester in the future with a dead monarch in the boot of your car…






Until next week..


Mary Anne Schwalbe

The End of Your Life Book Club is launched tonight at an event hosted by The International Rescue Committee UK.  As well as launching Will’s book about his mother and their shared love of books, the event celebrates the life and work of Mary Anne Schwalbe, founder of the IRC-UK, who died in 2009.


Marina Vaizey wrote a moving obituary in the Guardian.

Mary Anne Schwalbe, who has died aged 75, was one of my closest friends for more than 50 years. We met when she was the head girl at school – and a subtly effective leader at that early age. Mary Anne was an outstanding listener and teacher, which even encompassed passing on grandparenting practice.

Her first love had been theatre. She attended Radcliffe college, Massachusetts, and directed American auditions for Lamda, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. As a senior educational administrator, she worked at Radcliffe and subsequently at Harvard University. Returning to New York City, she continued her career in education, but in her last two decades she worked directly with refugeesworldwide.

She spent six months in Thai refugee camps, seeing the plight of the dispossessed. This led to her involvement with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the founding of the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. Her British connections inspired her to persuade the IRC to set up a UK office. She recently raised funding for a library in Kabul and travelling libraries for Afghanistan. Hers was an art of persuasion, delicately and effectively employed.

This dynamo of energy was contained in a small, quiet, smiling, elegantly dressed woman, who could appear as conventional as a lady who lunched, but travelled the world often in desperately trying circumstances: she was an electoral observer in the Balkans, and was shot at in Afghanistan. Mary Anne saw the worst and believed the best.

She is survived by her husband, Douglas, sons Will and Doug, daughter Nina and five grandchildren.




Guest blogger: Valerie Appleby, Assistant Editor Two Roads

I’m not much of a mystery reader, but something about Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar intrigued me. Perhaps it was the horse on the front cover, or perhaps the title that I just couldn’t place (I admit, I thought it was a Gaelic phrase before discovering it was actually just the name of the protagonist), but when I first discovered this book in the manuscript pages of Will Schwalbe’s The End of Your Life Book Club, I was tempted to read it right away.Brat Farrar, Josephine Tey

As it happened, I wasn’t alone. After selecting Brat Farrar for the eighth Two Roads book club, I was inundated by requests to join from my colleagues in Hodder towers. Several of my peers mentioned it was one of their favourite books, others proclaimed they’d been dying to read. I’m pleased to announce that this book lived up to all its hype.

Brat Farrar is a mystery of sorts (we’ll get to that) about the Ashbys, a family of seven on a large estate in southern England. When Mr and Mrs Ashby die in a plane crash, the value of their estate is frozen until their eldest child (who is also a twin) turns twenty-one and legally inherits the property. But

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shortly after his parents’ death, he mysteriously vanishes, assumed to have committed suicide. continue reading »

Guest blogger: Richard Pike, Rights Manager

Suite Francaise Irene NemirovskySuite Française is a book that had been on my reading list for several years.  I’d heard it being talked about so often, that I suppose I understood its importance without ever really knowing what it’s about.  When I saw it would be the subject of discussion at the seventh Two Roads Book Club, I thought it time to discover what makes this novel such an enduring topic of conversation.

Irène Némirovsky was already a successful author when, in 1941, she started to plan an ambitious new project – a 1,000 page novel in five parts, a symphonic story of the lives of the French under occupation.  Tragically the novel would remain unfinished.  Némirovsky, of Russian and Jewish descent, was taken under arrest to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942.  She died, at the age of 39, in August that same year.

The manuscript for the first movements of Suite Française, as well as notes for the final three parts (including, poignantly, ‘Peace’) were undiscovered until the late nineties, when Némirovsky’s daughter began typing up her mother’s writing in order to preserve it.  You can guess what happened next.  An incredible story appeared once more on the page, and in 2004 Suite Française was published for the first time. As Will had mentioned in his letter, the book’s very existence was a remarkable story in its own right.

The uncompleted novel is divided in to two parts.  The first, ‘Storm in June’, set in 1940, follows several characters as they flee Paris and make their way in the chaos that ensues. The second, ‘Dolce’, tells the story of the residents of Bussy, a small town coming to terms with life under German occupation for the third time.

As Will had guessed, we found it impossible to discuss Suite Française without referring to the context in which it was written.  Némirovsky describes events so recent in her memory, that it’s hard not to see the novel as a semi-historical document of France at that time.  For many of us it invited us to reconsider what we thought we knew about the Second World War, and we found a greater appreciation of how different people’s experiences of war could be.

Despite their terrible situation, we collectively felt little sympathy for many of the characters in the book, especially those from the higher levels of society, whose true nature is exposed when their behaviour is contrasted with the simply described suffering of the lower classes. It’s an interesting study of human character under duress, with events such as the Péricands forgetting to bring an elderly family member with them as they flee, or the wealthy Charles Langelet stealing fuel from unsuspecting refugees, helping to create a quite damning conclusion.

We also questioned how we ourselves would react under occupation. It may seem easy to pass judgment on the villagers of Bussy and others for their acceptance of the occupation, but when we were each put on the spot, several of us admitted that we would have acted similarly.  When so much of our identity is defined by our relationships, our homes, our career, is it really so simple to give up everything for something as uncertain as resistance?

We also touched upon how different life would have been in a world without twenty-four hour news and Twitter.  The fear and uncertainty that those fleeing Paris would have been multiplied by their not knowing what was really happening in the rest of France.

This is a book of many themes, too many for us to discuss in the space of one hour, but the beauty of Némirovsky’s writing is that the author’s own opinions or agenda are never overbearing or explicit.  Her narrative, in the style of the very best documentaries, prompts and provokes, but leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions.

And so this meeting of the Two Roads Book Club drew to a close.  As with all unfinished works of art, it’s easy to wonder ‘what might have been’. We were certainly left with the feeling that there was more to come after the slower pace of ‘Dolce’.  However, I think we did all appreciate the merits of what does exist.

The group was split when considering whether we would read more of the author’s work, but we all agreed that Suite Française challenged us to think again about a period that we had thought we understood well, and that the book’s very existence was a quite remarkable and important story in itself.

Guest blogger: Lucy Zilberkweit, Press Officer,

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Hodder & Stoughton

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid, Two Roads Book Club, Will SchwalbeOn the sixth meeting of our Two Roads Book Club, not only did we have a book that had been on many of our ‘to read’ piles for years, but we FINALLY had the inspiration behind our book club, Will Schwalbe, in the room with us. After months of emails back and forth about our reading list, we were able to celebrate in style with the man himself. We met in the Library at the Hospital Club and settled down to discuss The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

For those who haven’t read this, it’s a novel set in the years following 9/11, and tackles, through the engaging, articulate words of its narrator Changez, what it is to be a Pakistani living in the suspicious, terrorism-altered Western world. The novel is brief, and the narration takes place during the course of one long evening in a Lahore café. The reader, addressed as ‘you’, takes on the persona of an American businessman or CIA agent – the exact occupation and reason for his presence in Lahore is never made clear – and is approached by a bearded young gentleman, who invites himself to join ‘you’ at ‘your’ table. Over the course of cups of tea, snacks and a delicious evening meal, the stranger, who introduces himself as Changez, describes his life during the years he lived in America, interspersed with snapshots of Lahore life. continue reading »

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan DidionGuest blogger: Jason Bartholomew, Rights Director

The Two Roads Book Club met last week to discuss Joan Didion’s THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. The tea was brewed, the pastries were glistening, and the conversation was flowing. Overall, the general feeling was each of us felt a strong connection to Didion’s book. Whether the book conjured up memories of funerals attended in Mexico, time spent working as a grief counsellor where this book was suggested reading for those in mourning, or perhaps that it simply served as a reminder of our own mortality — we all agreed Didion’s book was a moving account but not an easy read.

Personally, I very much enjoyed the book. Didion has written a phenomenal memoir of death, grief, and how life can change in an instant. There is such a sadness to the story, but the richness of the writing is transportive. The book opens with Didion’s husband dying suddenly of cardiac arrest. Didion had been preparing dinner in their apartment in Manhattan, and one moment her husband was alive — sitting in his favorite chair and reading — and the next moment he was dead.

continue reading »

Guest blogger: Carine McGinnity, Contracts Executive
Spoiler alert, proceed with caution!

Brooklyn, Colm Toibin, Two Roads book club

Sitting down to a lovely picnic in the park and sipping Pimms, the Two Roads Book Club discussed Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.

We were all interested to read Brooklyn due to the fact that it has received an abundance of praise: it won the Costa award in 2009 and most reviews rave about the book and pin Toibin as one of the best Irish writers today.

Brooklyn is set across Ireland

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and New York in the 1950s. It tells the story of Eilis, a young woman living in the small Irish town of Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford (where Toibin was born), who finds herself on a path to New York in search of work. The book, brimming with explicit detail, follows her life in Ireland, her journey on the ship to New York, her work in a department store there, her life in a boarding house, and eventually, a ‘dilemma’.

continue reading »

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