Chasing the past, a stolen child, and shadows in Sherwood Forest - the BBC Radio Oxford Afternoon Bookclub

My three picks for today's BBC Oxford Afternoon Bookclub were three books with strong local connections (authors or publishers), all by significant publishers, all with strong, bold or innovative covers.

This is the whole jacket laid out -
front and back mirror the different points of view.
 'Mother Island' by Bethan Roberts (Vintage, HB, £14.99) has two storylines and two voices - but one child. Controlling, career-minded new mother Nula employs her contrasting cousin, Maggie, to look after her baby. When their childcare approaches clash too much, Maggie decides to take the child. But has she misread how much Nula will care? A dissection of motherhood and how the lasting subliminal effects of your own parents can have on your approach to your own children.

Bethan - born and raised in Abingdon, now living in Brighton - is sublime in subtly showing how love can bring out the worst in people. But she also shows how it can act as a force for reconciliation and healing. We loved Bethan's previous book as well - 'My Policeman' - inspired in part by the personal life of EM Forster, and the lives of two people - one male, pne female - fighting over the same man.

'After I Left You' by Abingdon author Alison Mercer (Transworld, PB, £6.99) is another absorbing and powerful novel of love, friendship and secrets, following her critically acclaimed debut 'Stop The Clock'.

The story follows Anna, who has not been back to Oxford since her last summer at university, seventeen years ago. She tries not to think about her time there, or the tightly knit group of friends she once thought would be hers forever. She has almost forgotten the fierce sting of betrayal, and the secret she carries around with her, the last night she spent with them all. A chance meeting on a rainy day in London means Anna is forced to remember the events of that summer and the people she left behind.

(You can listen to Bethan Roberts at Mostly Books, at an event on July 31 - and Alison Mercer will be launching the paperback of 'After I Left You' at the shop on Thursday Aug 7.)

Finally, in 'The Shadow of the Wolf' by Tim Hall (David Fickling Books, HB, £10.99) you'll be forgiven for thinking you know nothing about Robin Hood, in this dark and dramatic re-imagining of a legend. This is an exciting debut by the newly-independent David Fickling Books, and reflects their aim to publish ambitious children’s books that have a strong appeal to adults as well.

Robin Loxley’s parents disappear when he is seven years old. Learning to fend for himself, and living on the outskirts of his village, he strikes up a deep and intense relationship with the Maid Marion – and then events wrench her from his life. Following an ever darker path in Sherwood Forest, his experiences there transform him, and the legend of Robin Hood emerges…

Nigel's choices included YA book 'Replica' by Jack Heath, Emma Chapman's 'How To Be A Good Wife' and a brilliant new voice from the wonderful Serpent's Tail 'After Me Comes the Flood' by Sarah Perry.

Click on the link, and fast-forward 1 hour 7 and a half minutes to listen to the show.

(If you start four minutes earlier, you'll hear Gerry Rafferty's 'Baker Street'. Coincidentally, this was a song inspired by a book: 'The Outsider' by Colin Wilson)

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