The News

Is America still in denial about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful – a sweeping new novel of East and West, love and war – explores the truths and denials that exist within us all. Released March 28, 2013.


“A genuine tour-de-force, a beautifully written love story... calls to mind the best of William Boyd and Sebastian Faulks.” Lesley McDowell


An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful, the new book by J. David Simons, introduces us to Sir Edward Strathairn, an eminent British writer who has returned to the resort hotel in the Japanese mountains where he once spent a beautiful, snowed-in winter. It was there he fell in love and wrote his best-selling novel, which accused America of being in denial about the horrific aftermath of the Tokyo firebombings and the nuclear destruction at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As we learn more about his earlier life, however – as a student in Bloomsbury, involved with a famous American painter – we realise that he too is in denial, trying to escape past events that are now rapidly catching up with him.

Author J. David Simons says that the underlying theme of his new book is denial: "From the novel’s political point of view, it is the accusation that America is still in denial over the use of the atomic bomb on Japan. On the personal level, it is the protagonist’s struggle with the secrets of his past. However, the book is also about so much more – it contains several love stories, it deals with a Japan trying to reinvent itself after the Second World War, it is about Britain in the 1950s, it is about the life of a famous novelist.

"The main reason I wrote this book was the sense of injustice I have always felt about America destroying two cities and killing 200,000 civilians in just two days, not to mention the further loss of 100,000 lives caused by the firebombing of Tokyo five months earlier. I don’t think there is anything that justifies such mass destruction of innocent lives. I don’t think it is an act of war that would be acceptable today.

"I hope this book will make people think again what it really means to drop an atomic bomb on a nation. I also hope that the novel introduces readers to aspects of Japan they might not previously have known about. I loved living in Japan: it added another dimension to my way of thinking, which I hope has made me a wiser human being."

You can pre-order An Exqusisite Sense of What Is Beautiful at your local independent bookshop or at Amazon UK.

Praise for An Exquisite Sense of What Is Beautiful:

“In the tradition of Graham Greene or William Boyd, taking in great sweeps of history without ever losing sight of the personal, the telling detail. It is accomplished and compelling." – Chris Dolan, poet, author and playwright.

“Exquisite and beautiful... A great read. A piece of art.” – Helen Fitzgerald, fiction writer for both teens and adults.

“A beautifully sensitive book portraying the inevitably damning inequalities that can arise within all human relationships, be they political, cultural, sexual or emotional. Insightful and thought-provoking.” Sara Allerton, author of the award-winning Making Shore.



‘PANDA-MONIUM’: Fab new smartphone app has the complete lowdown on the world's cutest bear

Our new ‘Pandacademy’ app features gorgeous panda photos, fun quizzes, amazing facts and even teaches you how to speak some Mandarin!

While our very own bears are under the spotlight at Edinburgh Zoo, and we’re hoping to celebrate a new arrival soon, what better time to learn more about this iconic species and mascot of wildlife conservation? Pandacademy, available on iTunes, provides a rare glimpse into its magical world.

The app (developed by Saraband with Spot Specific) is filled with stunning photographs from the book Panda: Back from the Brink. Photographer Zhou Mengqi has dedicated more than 20 years to photographing the bears in their natural habitat in China. The results are simply spectacular.

You can also test your knowledge of all things panda with quizzes – see if you can graduate from Pandacademy with distinction! You’ll find out about the panda’s homeland, China, and you can even start to speak the language with the app’s simple Mandarin lessons, prepared with the help of two native speakers from the Confucius Institute in Glasgow.

Publisher Sara Hunt, of Saraband, said: “Pandacademy features all sorts of fun and interesting ways to learn about pandas, conservation and China. The photos – especially of cubs! – are irresistible, there’s something for all ages, and if you or someone in your family is considering learning Mandarin, this will help to get you started.”

The Pandacademy app is out now on iTunes, and can be downloaded for just 69p. Just click here.


Heart of the Hero launched in Dundee and Edinburgh

Kari Herbert came to Scotland this week to launch Heart of the Hero at Discovery Point in Dundee, on board the RRS Discovery – the ship that carried Scott, Shackleton and the rest of the crew on the British National Antarctic Expedition in 1901. It was this voyage that transformed both men into glamorous, world-famous polar-exploration heroes – and, in both cases, led to their marriages.

Heart of the Hero reveals the fascinating lives of seven remarkable women whose husbands became world-famous for their polar expeditions. Kari donated the very first signed copy to the polar expedition reference library at Discovery Point, where Gill Poulter hosted the day. The book includes extracts from previously unpublished journals and letters, and focuses the spotlight on the accomplished, strong women who until now have been reduced to historical footnotes. In the process, she unveils a new aspect of polar history that is simply too important to be ignored.

During the visit, Kari stayed at Channings Hotel, which was previously the townhouse home Ernest Shackleton moved into in 1904 with his bride, Emily Dorman. They lived there until 1910, while Ernest was Secretary of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society.

The on-board launch festivities were followed by a highly entertaining and well-received talk, and a book signing, at The Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield, where a great time was had by all.

BBC reporter Huw Williams was at the launch and his interview was aired on BBC Radio Scotland the following morning; Kari was also interviewed on the World Service Newshour and a story covering one of Kathleen Scott's remarkable letters – found in Scott's breast pocket – appeared in the Times, the Dundee Courier, the Herald, the Western Morning News and more.

For more information and links to stories, photos etc, visit Heart of the Hero's page on Facebook.

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