We are endlessly fascinated by the French. We are fascinated by their way of life, their creativity, sophistication and self-assurance, and even their insistence that they are exceptional. But how did France become the country it is today, and what really sets it apart?
Journalist and historian Peter Watson sets out to answer these questions in The French Mind, a dazzling history of France that takes us from the seventeenth century to the present day through the nation’s most influential thinkers. He opens the doors to the Renaissance salons that were a breeding ground for poets, philosophers and scientists, and tells the forgotten stories of the extraordinary succession of women who ran these institutions, fostering a culture of stylish intellectualism unmatched anywhere else in the world.
It’s a story that takes us into Bohemian cafes and cabarets, into chic Parisian high culture via French philosophies of food, fashion and sex, while growing unrest hastens the bloody birth of a republic. From the 1789 revolution to the country’s occupation by Nazi Germany, Watson argues that a unique series of devastating military defeats helped shape the resilient, proud, innovative character of the French.
This is a history of breathtaking ambition, propelled by the characters Watson brings to vivid life: the writers, revolutionaries and painters who loved, inspired and rivalled one another over four hundred years. It documents the shaping of a nation whose global influence, in art, culture and politics, cannot be overstated.
Between December 1943 and August 1944, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill ignited the Cold War, a superpower rivalry that would dominate the world over half a century, by building an atomic bomb and excluding their Russian allies. Peter Watson tells the pulse-pounding story of how two atomic physicists tried to counter this in two very different ways. While Niels Bohr sought to convince President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill to share their nuclear knowledge with Joseph Stalin, nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs, a German Communist emigre to Britain, was leaking atomic secrets to the Soviets in a rival attempt to ensure parity between the superpowers. Neither succeeded in preventing the World War II allies from unleashing the atom bomb on the world.
Fallout proves that the atomic bomb was not needed, and was made as a result of a series of flawed decisions. The Americans did not tell the UK that the atomic research was compromised by Soviet spies; the British did not tell the Americans that in 1943 they knew for sure that Germany did not have a nuclear bomb program. Neither country admitted to the scientists developing the bomb that it would never be used to counter the (non-existent) German nuclear threat. Had the scientists known, many of them would have refused to complete work on the bomb.
This story shows how politicians fatally failed to understand the nature of atomic science and, in so doing, exposed the world needlessly to great danger, a danger that is still very much with us.
Convergence is a history of modern science with an original and significant twist. Various scientific disciplines, despite their very different beginnings, and disparate areas of interest have been coming together over the past 150 years, converging and coalescing, to identify one extraordinary master narrative, one overwhelming interlocking coherent story: the history of the universe.
Intimate connections between physics and chemistry have been revealed as have the links between quantum chemistry and molecular biology. Astronomy has been augmented by particle physics, psychology has been increasingly aligned with physics, with chemistry and even with economics. Genetics has been harmonised with linguistics, botany with archaeology, climatology with myth. This is a simple insight but one with profound consequences. Convergence is, as Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg has put it, ‘The deepest thing about the universe.’
This book does not, however, tell the story by beginning at the beginning and ending at the end. It is much more revealing, more convincing, and altogether more thrilling to tell the story as it emerged, as it began to fall into place, piece by piece, converging tentatively at first, but then with increasing speed, vigour and confidence. The overlaps and interdependence of the sciences, the emerging order that they are gradually uncovering, is without question the most enthralling aspect of twenty-first-century science.
Matthew Hammond is a British military officer posted to the European theater during World War II. He sustained a serious injury on the front lines, so bad, in fact, that it cost him a lung. Now he is back in England, unable to fight, but he continues to serve his country by training new resistance fighters.
One of the recruits under his tutelage is Madeleine, a spellbinding, impassioned French-Canadian with eyes of “burnished whiskey.” Despite protocols discouraging romance, they are deeply in love, and Matthew is torn about putting Madeleine’s life in danger. He already has one tragic affair with a Resistance fighter under his belt—his former lover, Celestine, was killed because her assassination of a German doctor went awry.
But the Allies are mustering all their resources for crucial beach landings in Normandy, and Matthew knows his unit will need to play a role. It will be a very dangerous mission: parachuting in behind the Nazi line. As Madeleine progresses through the training with her fellow recruits, Matthew can only hope that luck will guide her through when the drop finally arrives.
The Age of Nothing
Published as ‘The Age of Atheists’ in the USA
From one of England’s most distinguished intellectual historians comes “an exhilarating ride…that will stand the test of time as a masterful account of” (The Boston Globe) one of the West’s most important intellectual movements: Atheism.
In 1882, Friedrich Nietzche declared that “God is dead” and ever since tens of thousands of brilliant, courageous, thoughtful individuals have devoted their creative energies to devising ways to live without God with self-reliance, invention, hope, wit, and enthusiasm. Now, for the first time, their story is revealed.
A captivating story of contest, failure, and success, The Age of Atheists sweeps up William James and the pragmatists; Sigmund Freud and psychoanalysis; Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, and Albert Camus; the poets of World War One and the novelists of World War Two; scientists, from Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking; and the rise of the new Atheists—Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. This is a story of courage, of the thousands of individuals who, sometimes at great risk, devoted tremendous creative energies to devising ways to fill a godless world with self-reliance, invention, hope, wit, and enthusiasm. Watson explains how atheism has evolved and reveals that the greatest works of art and literature, of science and philosophy of the last century can be traced to the rise of secularism.
From Nietzsche to Daniel Dennett, Watson’s stirring intellectual history manages to take the revolutionary ideas and big questions of these great minds and movements and explain them, making the connections and concepts simple without being simplistic.
Queen’s Witness is a tense political thriller set on the edges of London’s criminal underworld that overlaps with Fleet Street and Westminster. After it appears that the government’s Witness Protection Programme has been broken, investigative journalist, Matthew Kent, is lured into making a dangerous error of judgment, when the ensuing spiral of violence and mystery threatens not only his life but also those of both his lovers.
Flowers in Winter
Why isn’t there more revenge in the world? The courts are constantly failing victims of crime, just as they failed Antonina Downing. So much so that she determined to set out on a course of action that would put right the wrongs that had been done to her. Except that her plan spiralled out of control and led in a direction she least expected, towards a second catastrophe.
The Clouds Beneath the Sun
Kenya, 1961. As a small plane carrying Nathalie Nelson lands at a remote airstrip in the Serengeti, Nathalie knows she’s run just about as far as she can from home. Trained as an archaeologist, she has fought hard to be included in a team excavating ruins in Kenya, her first opportunity to escape England and the painful memories of her past. But before she can find her bearings, the dig is surrounded by controversy – and murder. In a country on the brink of crisis, nowhere and no one is safe. As a growing attraction to Jack Deacon, famed explorer, becomes a passionate, reckless affair, Nathalie is faced with a decision that will shape her life for ever…
The Kissing Gates
When English soldier Hal strikes up a conversation with German Lieutenant Wilhelm during the ceasefire in no-man’s-land on Christmas Day 1914, he has no idea the impact this chance meeting will have. Wilhelm is in love with an English woman, Sam, and presses a photograph into Hal’s hand – if he makes it home, Hal must promise to find Sam and give her this token of affection. Hal does make it home, though the war rages on – but the moment he sees Sam he is in trouble. With Wilhelm’s shadow looming over their relationship, and his photograph never revealed, Hal begins to live a life that was meant for someone else …
Sicily, 1879: After successfully smuggling a severed human ear past the police, Silvio Randazzo completes his dangerous first rite of passage–from peasant boy to Mafia soldier. The ear is a chilling ransom demand from Antonino Greco, Italy’s most famous and feared Mafioso. But it is not until Silvio makes his first vendetta killing that he truly “makes his bones” as a worthy member of the society that values honor above all . . . and rewards betrayal with death.
New Orleans, 1880: By exterminating the rivals of Angelo Priola, the most powerful gangster in America’s most decadent city, the newly arrived Silvio makes his mark in the fledgling underworld of his new homeland. As the forces of the law close in on the notorious Greco, and dangerous new players vie for Priola’s territory, the cunning, ruthless, and ever more ambitious Silvio watches the path made clear for his ascension to the throne of Capo–boss of bosses. . . .
Based on fact, here is a stunning novel of the criminal empire that brought the mob to America, and the man who oversaw its bloody birth. . . .