The Blackbird

By Claire Allen

A novel about the Liverpool Blitz and how it resonates for an elderly woman, caring for her husband.

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Publication date: 30 June 2020

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Keystone

A handmade, signed limited edition hardback book. Beautifully litho printed in black and yellow. Half-bound in Tex-Libris and Cement paper. Cover foil debossed. Interleaved with fold-out reproductions of drawings by David Henningham

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  • Signed hardback
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Capstone

A handmade, signed limited edition hardback book. Beautifully litho printed in black and yellow. Half-bound in Tex-Libris and Cement paper. Cover foil debossed. Interleaved with fold-out reproductions of drawings by David Henningham, plus an original drawing from the book by David Henningham.

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  • Signed Hardback
  • Original Drawing by David Henningham
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It is 1941. Hope's father, Jenner, builds Liverpool Cathedral while the Luftwaffe's bombs fall. It is 2014, and Hope cares for her husband Robert as Alzheimer's destroys his personality.

Hope's husband Robert is a retired civic sculptor. As Alzheimer's unravels his mind, a secret he has kept for her threatens to emerge, breaking the fragile peace she has made with her parents’ memory: the truth of what happened to her mother during the Liverpool Blitz. 

Hope brings in Louise to be home-carer. A young mother, the last resident of the Blackbird Estate, harassed by her ex-partner. But now they are together, can they find a way the past can't hurt them? 

Allen tells the overlooked story of the Liverpool Blitz, but resists its glorification with the sights, sounds and smells that surround the desperate citizens.

HFP have teamed up with G.F Smith, paper merchant to Virginia Woolf's Hogarth Press, to celebrate small presses. All editions of the book will be covered with Gmund Urban, which uses "genuine pulverized cement" to recreate concrete's subtle texture and sparkle. The Römerturm paper mill has created "tradition and dynamic modernism in one material." Especially apt for a book that is set in a post-war housing estate: The Blackbird. It is a sculptural material, perfect for HFP's hand-bindery.

About the Publisher

Henningham Family Press is a small publisher with enormous reach.

Buy this book and you will also receive a window into our East London studio. The making and launching of the paperback will take place in the spring. Then, in the autumn, the same printed pages will be taken and turned into an artists' book. The whole process will unfold with our subscribers.

We publish literary fiction and poetry in high-quality trade paperbacks and deluxe limited editions. We place exactly the same printed pages in high-street bookshops and prestigious book collections, such as National Galleries Scotland, V&A, Stanford University and Tate.

We bring our books to life with live audiences. We expand our authors’ manuscripts into three dimensions, creating some of the most stunning and inventive literature around.

Since 2006.

'Groundbreaking' – Edinburgh International Book Festival

'Satisfying the biggest appetites' – The Independent


Half-bound 60 Lovers To Make And Do, Sophie Herxheimer, 2019.

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$75  + shipping
8 orders

Keystone

A handmade, signed limited edition hardback book. Beautifully litho printed in black and yellow. Half-bound in Tex-Libris and Cement paper. Cover foil debossed. Interleaved with fold-out reproductions of drawings by David Henningham

PLUS:

  • Signed hardback
  • Includes postage & packing in the UK
Pre-order now
  • Claire Allen grew up in Liverpool and lives in London where she teaches English literature and creative writing at City Lit. Her first two novels, The Mountain of Light (2004) and Protection (2006), were published by Headline Review. Her books have been translated into French and Greek.


    "The ordinary is overlaid with that intangible magic that lies just below the surface of the everyday." Time Out on The Mountain of Light
    "Allen's writing is restrained and delicately beautiful." The Big Issue
    "Poised... A persuasive storyteller."  Independent
    "Driven by... a strong sense of the goodness of the human spirit." Clare Morrall (author, When The Floods Came)
    "A master storyteller."  Guardian

  • Chapter 1 – 1941

    He was scowling, one hand shielding his eyes against the sharp morning light as he squinted up at the steeply-angled shadow on the transept roof, which was all he could see of the opening in the tower wall. Any moment now, the first of the men would emerge. 

    To start with, it hadn’t been certain they would go up at all. Half an hour earlier, they had been standing ready in their overalls, waiting, some huddling together by the chapter house wall rolling thin cigarettes and muttering, the rest picking their way up and down the length of the cluttered yard as they smoked. Every few paces, they had to stop and step around the slabs of red sandstone which were stacked two and three high in every available space, each with its carved mason’s mark and, carefully scratched on in pencil alongside, a series of numbers and letters giving its final position on the tower. So much stonework was ready to be lifted and fixed into place, there was no more room left under cover. Finished pieces were being brought outside and left in the open until their time came to be strapped into the lifting gear at the end of one of the cranes and winched towards the heavens. The stones, too, had been waiting for a decision. 

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