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Hokusai – by Gian Carlo Calza and various contributors.

Katsushika Hokusai (1760 -1849) was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period and is regarded as one of Japan’s greatest and most influential artists. This beautiful book and informative book coincides with The British Museum exhibition “Beyond the Ocean Wave” of Hokusai’s work.

The book opens with an introductory essay by Gian Carlo Calza which presents an overview of the changing world into which Hokusai was born and through which he lived. This retrospective of Hokusai’s work includes the best-preserved original prints that reveal Hokusai’s mastery of line and colour and show the depth and extent of his work, as well as informative essays by leading Japanese and Western scholars. Each chapter of the book provides a succinct account of a phase in Hokusai’s life, followed by a series of the finest and most representative works of that period.

The artist’s imagination is given full rein in the portrayal of supernatural creatures such ghosts and dieties as well as exquisite and detailed depictions of the natural world, giving insights into Hokusai’s personal beliefs and artistic quest, and giving you the opportunity to discover one of Japan’s greatest artists. This is definitely a book to spend time with and treasure for a long time.

Providence Act 1 by Alan Moore and Art by Jacen Burrows

It is for a very good reason that Alan Moore is such an icon and regarded as the best proponent of comics in the UK if not worldwide, and Providence is Moore at his best. The protagonist is Robert Black, a reporter who quits his job in preparation for the writing of his first novel ‘Marblehead: An American Undertow’. He takes a cross-country trip trying to track down a copy of ‘Hali’s Booke of Wisdom’, an ancient tome said to drive men mad. This brings him into contact with various members of the secretive occult group the ‘Stella Sapiente’, many of whom will doubtless be familiar to fans of Lovecraft.

Moore’s great skill is in bringing those unnamable horrors out of the shadows, commenting on the man, his work and his times. The dichotomy of HPL being the quintessential outsider yet being horribly intolerant of anything he considered to be “other” – whether race, religion, gender or sexuality – is something Moore is confronting here with bracing conviction, nuance and thoughtfulness. This limited print hardback collects issues 1-4 of the series.

The Facts of Life by Paula Knight – Paperback

In 1970s Northeast England, best friends Polly and April are sitting up a tree, whispering about periods and swapping their hazy knowledge of the facts of life. They both expect to have families one day – it’s the normal script to follow, isn’t it? But, as they grow up, education and career become important, too, and they believe that they can have it all.

When, some years later, Polly settles with Jack, her career has taken off and she feels torn over whether or not to try for a baby. Has she left it too late? Did she have any control over that choice? They go ahead, but after repeated miscarriage and chronic illness take their toll, Polly must confront what family means in a society where ‘family’ usually means ‘children’.

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