Category Sara Gruen


As we announced yesterday, Sara Gruen‘s WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is one of World Book Night‘s 2015 titles.

And now we can finally reveal that Two Roads will be publishing her new novel, AT THE WATER’S EDGE, in June next year.

Here’s the beautiful cover, and you can find out more here on our website.

At the water's edge


Atkinson-Price, travelling editor, Water for Elephants, Sue and Chris

Sue & Chris, mavens of Atkinson-Pryce

Every time I go to Scotland I love it more. The weather was gorgeous and everything looked like a calendar of Beautiful Scotland. Dramatic lighting, artfully placed animals on perfect rolling hillsides, fluffy clouds occasionally emptying on head, villages like a film set, liveable cities and lots of spectacular coastline.

Atkinson-Pryce, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants

Street frontage: Atkinson-Pryce Books, High Street Biggar

I was chugging through all of this, dreaming of real-estate, on the local bus from Edinburgh to Biggar (on the Scottish Borders) driven by local legend Nancy. Destination: book group night at the Atkinson-Pryce Bookshop.

In another perfect location, Biggar is the local hub and the bookshop much loved by locals. It’s a beautiful shop, lovingly stocked and inviting. Like the best bookshops, you want to stay a while and make discoveries. Sue and Chris, manager and owner, made me feel very welcome, and then sent me up a ladder to hang bunting as part of the themed evening for Water for Elephants.

Atkinson-Pryce, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants, bunting

always happy to lend a hand, though my bunting-hanging skills a bit rubbish

Two book groups came together and, as ever, it was a stimulating and fun time. Some interesting questions and discussion about the book and publishing in general.

Atkinson-Pryce, Travelling Editor, Water for Elephants

warm & cosy - just as a bookshop should be

Champagne and enthusiasm were the order of the evening. Thanks to all who organised and attended (and for those who came a long way) I had a great time.

ps Thanks too to Danielle and Robert to coming up to the Edinburgh Festival from Biggar the next night to hear John Vaillant talk about The Tiger. Great you could make it.

Atkinson-Pryce Bookshop, travelling editor, Water for Elephants
Brendon Books in Taunton, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Brendon Books & Maps

Lionel Ward at Brendon Books in Somerset was kind enough to invite me for the next stop on the travelling editor roadshow. I’d never been to Taunton before but it looked both charming and pretty and not at all in Devon as I’d first thought.

Taunton Castle, travelling editor, Water for ElephantsTaunton Castle, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Taunton Castle - haunt of Judge Jeffreys

Time for a quick recce before the book group began so off I went down old narrow windy streets, (not) past a sweetie shop, (not) past a clothes shop (damage done in last two) and the Castle. The Castle was famous/infamous for the Bloody Assizes in 1685 with ‘Hanging’ Judge Jeffreys presiding and dispatching in a 17th century version of Britain’s Got Traitors. I was famous/infamous in my history class for finding him the most attractive man in the National Portrait Gallery – look, I was ten, what did I know?

Brendon Books is in a pretty location in an historic narrow street called Bath Place. The book group met over the shop and pizza. Perhaps Water For Elephants wasn’t a choice the group would have made had I not been visiting but they graciously went at it with a will, had all read it and gave it solid ratings.

Astute and original questions followed about why start Two Roads, the business of the business and how publishing works, the latter being something most of us in it find hard to explain. The group’s next choice was voted on most democratically – a South American novel (thought Tristram Shandy would ace it myself). This group was less concerned with new releases and the book club ‘hotlist’ than exploring already-published titles. I’m constantly surprised or reminded (can’t decide which) by how different people’s tastes are and how dangerous it is to say ‘oh this is a book group book’ or ‘reading groups will love this’… it’s like saying ‘people who like meat/have brown hair /are 25 will like this…’ Interesting evening.

Taunton, travelling editor, Water for Elephants

Taunton streets - excellent baskets

Lionel’s wife, Jo, runs their lovely B&B at the Old Rectory, where I stayed that night. We sat up till late over wine and cheese discussing publishing, literary festivals, the education system, rubbish TV, local tourism and cosy crime (the last two are not connected). Slept like a log.

Like many good independent booksellers, Brendon Books is an important part of the local community is looking for ways to keep the business growing. The inaugural Taunton Literary Festival – slogan ’40 events over 11 days ‘ takes place from 15-25 September, they have really good writers coming and clearly a lot of work has

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gone into it – I wish them luck and hope it does well, it’d be good if it became a regular event.

Next stop the Atkinson-Pryce bookshop in Biggar and the Edinburgh Festival.

Guest blogger: Sara Gruen

Panbanisha drinking tea

photo of Panbanisha at the tea party with Sara Gruen, courtesy of the Great Ape Trust

Part of the immersive research for Ape House, Sara’s novel about a family of bonobos, was a visit to the Great Ape Trust in Des Moines to get to know some bonobos at first hand…

On an unusually hot spring day, Panbanisha and I sat on a blanket on the grass near a wooded area. In front of us were plates of cookies she’d selected and pots of tea she’d brewed (although she prefers caramel macchiatos, she’d made clear this was a tea party). We hadn’t seen each other in a while, so both of us had gone to some effort—we were both wearing lipstick and had paid special attention to our hair. She asked me if I’d like milk in my tea, and I said yes, please. She passed me the bottle.

bonobo ape Panbanisha plays with her Potato Head (a gift from Sara Gruen, author of Ape House) at the Great Ape Trust

photo of Panbanisha playing with her Potato Head (a gift from Sara Gruen) courtesy of the Great Ape Trust

After I used some, I passed it back. She tipped the bottle to her lips and drained it, wiped her mouth with a

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napkin, and set it delicately beside her. She then suggested I try some cookies, telling me which ones tasted better dipped in tea. She watched me eat a few, and then asked if I was finished. I said that yes, I thought I was, and passed the plate over. She raised it to her lips and dumped the remaining cookies into her mouth. Perhaps feeling bad about my cookie-less state, she disappeared into the forest and came back with a branch of leaves she’d selected specially for me. I ate a few out of politeness, although they would have been much improved by some olive oil. We discussed my upcoming book, and I showed her the manuscript, but it was windy and the pages kept blowing away, so we gave up. Panbanisha asked if I’d eaten eggs that morning, and I replied that I had not, but I had eaten some the day before. She told me that a bunny had recently hidden eggs in the forest. She looked pensive for a moment and added that she wished the bunny would come back.

In the background, a man said something into a walkie-talkie. Within five minutes, the Easter Bunny appeared with a basket of eggs, showed them to us, and then hid them in the forest. Panbanisha kindly allowed me to find the first egg, and then gratefully—and gracefully—peeled and ate it when I pled fullness and gave it to her. This was a Tuesday, and Panbanisha was keeping a strict diet on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but one must make exceptions for special occasions.
Panbanisha is no dummy. She is also not human. continue reading »

Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen, Reese Witherspoon, Robert PattinsonGuest Blogger: Ian Williamson, our Hodder man in the Midlands

I can’t remember why I started to read Water for Elephants. I think I just liked the sound of it. It’s not the sort of thing I usually read. The story of an elderly man recalling the time he spent working on a circus train in mid-1930’s America wouldn’t have been the first thing I’d jump to read. But I did read it and as I read it and realised I didn’t just like it, I loved it, I knew that I’d have to tell everyone I knew to read it.

I went into bookshops

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and talked to the booksellers and told them about this amazing book I’d read. I gave them copies of it and said, just give it a go. See what you think. I went away with no expectations. Maybe a few people will like it. When I went back and started getting feedback from people, it was obvious that Water for Elephants was going to be something very special and really important.

I’m not going to tell you about the plot or the characters. What I’m going to tell you about is what I saw happen after my initial visits to the bookshops.

It started gradually. The people I had given copies to read it and told me how much they loved it. Then booksellers who I had never met came up to me and told me they were reading it and they loved it too. I haven’t found one person who has read Water for Elephants who hasn’t found it to be one of the best books they’ve read.

Then they started recommending it to customers. The book started to appear on Bookseller Recommends bays. The small card, fixed to the shelf underneath containing phrases like, ‘An incredibly poignant novel’, ‘an exquisite cast of characters’, ‘powerful and affecting’, ‘a novel that truly captures the strength of the human spirit in times of adversity’. Many books stay in the recommends section for a short time, then are replaced by other, newer titles. Not this one. Once it was there it refused to move, because customers were drawn in by the passion that booksellers had for it.

Water for Elephants quickly became a word-of-mouth success across the Cotswolds and the Midlands. It showed in the sales. Two of the shops I visit have sold over a hundred copies each. One has now sold over a hundred and seventy.

Now, almost three years after I first read it, people are still discovering it, loving it and telling other people about it. It might not look like your sort of thing, it’s not mine. But try it, or better still, go find someone who has read it and ask them about it. Listen to them talking about how much they enjoyed it, what they discovered from it and how it made them feel at the end. I bet you’ll want to experience what they felt. Then you’ll be out there telling people who haven’t read it how great it is. But hurry up, because the number of people who haven’t read it is getting smaller and when the film comes out it’ll be smaller still. So hurry up.

Water for Elephants is now available on DVD.

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