Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

Alias Grace Margaret Atwood‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Atwood is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a servant convicted of the notorious double murder of her employer Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper and mistress Nancy Montgomery alongside stable hand James McDermott in Toronto in 1843 when she was just sixteen years old. After they were caught attempting to escape from Canada to the United States, McDermott was hanged for the crime while Grace was sentenced to life imprisonment at Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario after her death sentence was commuted at the last minute. Despite confessing to the crime at the time, Grace still claims to have no memory of the murders fifteen years later. Her sanity is being investigated by American psychiatrist Dr. Simon Jordan at the invitation of a liberal minister who believes she is innocent.
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Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Sapiens A Brief History of Humankind Yuval Noah HarariI was half way through reading ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari on the tube the other week when a fellow commuter asked me what the book is about. Even though I have been writing reviews regularly for over five years, I still don’t enjoy being put on the spot about books I am still reading and mulling over, particularly at 8:15am on a crowded train. My initial response was to say that it’s about, well, pretty much everything. Even though that statement is fairly accurate, the expression on his face suggested that it was also quite unhelpful, so I added that it’s about how and why the human race has developed in the way that it has. This appeared to be a more satisfactory answer, which is just as well because I still can’t think of a better way to summarise its content.

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The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau by Graeme Macrae Burnet

The Disappearance of Adele Bedeau Graeme Macrae BurnetI really enjoyed reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet after discovering it through the Man Booker Prize shortlist last year. His 2014 debut novel ‘The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau’ which was also published by Contraband tells the story of Manfred Baumann, a loner who lives in the nondescript French town of Saint-Louis in Alsace and frequently dines at a bistro where waitress Adèle Bedeau works. When Adèle suddenly disappears one evening after finishing her shift, Manfred quickly comes under suspicion. However, after giving a false statement to Inspector Georges Gorski in which he fails to admit that he was the last person to see her alive, his life begins to spiral out of control.  Continue reading

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Man Booker International Prize Reviews: Part 5 (and the shadow panel shortlist)

MBIP 2017The Man Booker International Prize shadow panel’s scores are in and we can now announce our own shortlist of six books. They are:

There is a fair amount of overlap between our shortlist and the official shortlist with just ‘Bricks and Mortar’ and ‘Fish Have No Feet’ being favoured over ‘Mirror, Shoulder, Signal’ and ‘A Horse Walks Into A Bar’. My personal preferences lean towards the books by Jacobsen, Stefánsson and Schweblin while other shadow panel members have made strong cases in favour of the more avant-garde titles. We will be deliberating our choices this month and announcing our winner in June.
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Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo George SaundersTold through a chorus of over 160 different voices, ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ by George Saunders follows the aftermath of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son Willie in 1862 from typhoid fever during the American Civil War. Willie finds himself trapped between death and rebirth with other spirits in the cemetery who believe he should proceed to the next stage of the afterlife. However, Willie is resistant as he wants to spend more time with his distraught father who regularly visits the crypt to mourn his loss. Continue reading

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Man Booker International Reviews: Part 4 (and the official shortlist)

Man Booker International Prize Shortlist 2017

The official Man Booker International Prize shortlist of six books was announced on Thursday:

I think this is an interesting selection with some very strong contrasts in genre and style. The shadow panel shortlist will be revealed at a later date as we have decided to allow ourselves a bit more time to finish reading the longlist and deliberate our views. You will have to wait until 9am UK time on Thursday 4th May to find out how many of our collective choices match those of the official judges… Continue reading

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How to Survive a Plague by David France

How to Survive a Plague David FranceI am very pleased to be taking part in the official Wellcome Book Prize blog tour this week to champion ‘How to Survive a Plague’ by David France which is one of six titles shortlisted for this year’s prize awarded to a book on the subject of healthcare or medicine. It follows France’s 2012 Oscar-nominated documentary film of the same name and is a remarkable account of the activists and scientists who campaigned for awareness and funding towards fighting the AIDS epidemic in the United States.
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