The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

Set in the deep American South between the wars, THE COLOR PURPLE is the classic tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls 'father', she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker - a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.

Rabbit Stew and a Penny or Two by Maggie Smith-Bendell

Born on a Somerset pea-field in 1941, the second of eight children in a Romani family, Maggie Smith-Bendell has lived through the years of greatest change in the travelling community's long history. As a child, Maggie rode and slept in a horse-drawn wagon, picked hops and flowers, and sat beside her father's campfire on ancient verges, poor but free to roam. As the twentieth century progressed, common land was fenced off and the traditional ways disappeared. Eventually Maggie married a house-dweller and tried to settle for bricks and mortar, but she never lost the restless spirit, the deep love of the land and the gift for storytelling that were her Romani inheritance. Maggie's story is one of hardship and prejudice, but also, unforgettably, it recalls the glories of the travelling life, in the absolute safety of a loyal and loving family.

Aprons and Silver Spoons by Mollie Moran

When young Mollie became a 'skivvy' in a stately London townhouse aged just 14, she quickly learned that a large amount of elbow grease and a sense of humour would be tantamount to surviving there. Through Mollie's eyes we are offered a fascinating glimpse into London's invisible 'downstairs', a world that has long-since vanished: cooking huge roast dinners, polishing doorknobs, scrubbing steps - and covering up her employers' scandals. Going to dances with her fellow servants and flirting with Harrods' errand boys, she had no idea that the oncoming war in 1939 would change her world, and that of those she served, forever... Discover the real hardships and rewards for a pre-war domestic servant in Mollie Moran's charming memoir Aprons and Silver Spoons.