This week, I am very excited to be at the Hay Festival in Wales attending various events, browsing lots of bookshops and maybe purchasing one or two books…
The first event I attended on Sunday evening was the Man Booker International Prize winner László Krasznahorkai in conversation with Dame Marina Warner, the Chair of the Prize’s panel, on the Oxfam Moot stage. Since its launch in 2005, the Man Booker International Prize has been awarded every two years to any living author writing fiction in English or whose work is widely translated into English. Unlike its sister prize the Man Booker Prize, it is awarded in recognition of the author’s whole body of work rather than a particular novel.
Widely touted as “Sliding Doors meets One Day”, ‘The Versions of Us’ by Laura Barnett tells the story of Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor who meet as undergraduates at Cambridge University in the late 1950s. Eva is injured in a cycling accident after swerving to avoid a dog and from this point onwards, there are three versions of their story. In one version, Eva and Jim start a relationship. In another version, Eva barely acknowledges Jim and marries her current boyfriend, David. In another version, Eva discovers she has fallen pregnant and cuts Jim out of her life to marry David. Continue reading
One of the most anticipated debut novels of the year, ‘The Girl in the Red Coat’ by Kate Hamer tells the story of Carmel Wakeford, an eight-year-old girl who goes missing after becoming separated from her mother, Beth, at a local storytelling festival in Norfolk. She is abducted by a man who says he is her estranged grandfather and believes Carmel has a special gift. He tells her that her mother is dead and he takes her to start a new life in the United States as a faith healer travelling to various evangelical churches. Meanwhile, Beth is struggling to come to terms with her disappearance and is doing everything she can to find her daughter. Continue reading
Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, ‘The End of Days’ by Jenny Erpenbeck and translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky tells the story of the various possible lives of one woman during the twentieth century. The book is split into five stories. In the first part, we learn that a baby has suffocated in a cot in a small Galician town. In the second part, we learn what might have happened had the baby lived as a teenager in Vienna shortly after the First World War. The third part sees her as a communist in Moscow, the fourth part follows her as a celebrated writer in Berlin and finally, as an elderly lady aged in her nineties living in a care home.
‘Zone’ by Mathias Énard and translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell tells the story of Francis Mirkovic, a Franco-Croat intelligence officer who is travelling by train from Milan to Rome after missing his plane. He will be delivering a briefcase containing a dossier about war crimes across various parts of the “zone” where he worked – the region around the Mediterranean Sea spanning across Spain, Lebanon, Cairo and Croatia – which he plans to sell to the highest bidder thus ending his career as an agent. During the journey, Francis reflects on his twenty-year career, his future, his family, his relationships with Marianne, Stéphanie and Sashka, his fellow passengers on the train and much more. Continue reading
As noted by The Millions, “There are things that are famous for being famous, such as the Kardashians, and then there are things that are famous for not being famous, such as John Williams’s Stoner”. This week marks the fiftieth anniversary since ‘Stoner’ was first published but the almost forgotten novel has only become well-known in the last couple of years some two decades after the author’s death and ten years after being reissued. Somewhat ironically, it is revealed in the first paragraph that the main character, William Stoner, is also quickly forgotten by his students and colleagues after his death in 1956. Originally a student of agriculture entering the University of Missouri as a freshman in 1910, he later switches to literature and becomes an academic and professor. Continue reading
Thousands of volunteers and institutions will be getting involved with World Book Night tomorrow and giving away around 250,000 special editions of 20 different books to people in their communities. While World Book Day celebrates reading specifically for children, World Book Night was established in 2011 as an alternative celebration for adults. 35% of the population in the UK never read for pleasure and World Book Night is about reaching as many people as possible who don’t regularly read, particularly in prisons, hospitals, care homes and homeless shelters. As well as improving literacy and employability, reading has profound positive effects including social interaction through participating in book groups, as well as general well-being and happiness.