Nutshell by Ian McEwan

Nutshell Ian McEwanAlthough Ian McEwan has tackled a vast range of subject matters in his literary fiction, many of his books fall into specific categories or share distinct themes. There are the early macabre works like ‘The Cement Garden’, the espionage stories such as ‘The Innocent’ or Sweet Tooth, the state-of-the-nation novels like ‘Saturday’ or The Children Act and then there are the books like ‘Nutshell’ which somehow fall into all of these categories. Nutshell’ is a unique interpretation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ from the point of view of an unnamed foetus who overhears a murder plot hatched by his mother Trudy and her lover Claude to kill John, who is Trudy’s husband and Claude’s brother, and cash in on the value of their marital home.
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The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood Margaret AtwoodI really enjoyed Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood a couple of years ago and have finally got round to reading the second book in her acclaimed MaddAddam trilogy ‘The Year of the Flood’. Set in the same universe as ‘Oryx and Crake’, ‘The Year of the Flood’ follows a lower class eco-religious cult known as the God’s Gardeners and their alternative perspective of the same apocalypse. Only two women from the community, Toby and Ren, survive the catastrophe which was predicted years earlier by the Gardeners who coined it the Waterless Flood. Continue reading

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Autumn by Ali Smith

Autumn Ali Smith‘Autumn’ is the first of four books in a planned series of novels by Ali Smith named after the seasons and which focus on how we experience time. Set during the fallout of the Brexit referendum result in 2016, it follows the friendship between Elisabeth Demand, a thirty-two-year-old history of art lecturer and her eccentric 101-year-old former next-door neighbour Daniel Gluck who is spending his dying days in an assisted care facility. Continue reading

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Swing Time by Zadie Smith

swing-time-zadie-smith-2016‘Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith tells the story of two mixed-race girls, an unnamed narrator and her friendship with Tracey who grow up together on neighbouring council estates in north-west London in the 1980s. From Fred Astaire to Michael Jackson, music and dance dominate their lives but it is only Tracey who has the real talent to pursue a career as a dancer. The narrator goes to university and works as a personal assistant for mononymous international pop star Aimee who decides to set up a school for girls in west Africa. The story alternates between the past and present and even though the girls spend a considerable time apart in later years, Tracey’s influence can always be felt.  Continue reading

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The Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2016

Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction 2016

Formerly known as the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction has a new sponsor this year and a longlist of ten books, whittled down last month to a shortlist of just four. Open to authors of any nationality, it covers all areas of non-fiction including current affairs, politics, history, science, sport, travel, biography and autobiography. This year’s shortlisted books are:

  • Second-Hand Time: The Last of the Soviets by Svetlana Alexievich (translated from the Russian by Bela Shayevich)
  • Negroland by Margo Jefferson
  • The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar
  • East West Street: On the Origins of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity by Philippe Sands

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder Emma Donoghue‘The Wonder’ by Emma Donoghue tells the story of Lib Wright, a widowed English nurse who trained under Florence Nightingale during the Crimean war. She is sent to a rural village in Ireland to independently observe Anna O’Donnell, an eleven-year-old girl whose parents claim has not eaten any solid food for four months, subsisting purely on “manna from heaven” and a few teaspoons of water a day. While the community accepts this claim without questioning it and visitors travel from afar to witness the miracle, Lib is immediately sceptical and expects the medical surveillance to be over in a couple of days once the fraud has been exposed. She alternates her shifts with a local nun Sister Michael and considers every possible way food could have been secretly smuggled to Anna. However, as more time passes, Lib starts to doubt her own beliefs and realises that there is more to Anna’s case than meets the eye.
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The Winterlings by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade

The Winterlings Cristina Sanchez-Andrade‘The Winterlings’ by Cristina Sánchez-Andrade was one of my Women in Translation Month reads in August and my rather belated review is finally here. Translated from the Spanish by Samuel Rutter, it tells the story of two sisters, Saladina and Dolores, from the small rural village of Tierra de Chá in Galicia in north-west Spain. After living in England for several years during and after the Spanish Civil War, the Winterlings, as they are known, eventually return to their grandfather’s cottage as adults in the 1950s. However, the sisters have secrets about why they have decided to come back while the villagers are equally evasive about what happened to their grandfather during the war. Continue reading

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