I reread the His Dark Materials trilogy in July in anticipation of the release last month of the first volume of the new Book of Dust trilogy by Philip Pullman which he describes as an “equel” to stand alongside ‘His Dark Materials’ as neither a prequel or a sequel. This particular volume is set before the events in ‘His Dark Materials’ in Lyra’s universe when she is a baby and features 11-year-old Malcolm Polstead, son of a local pub landlord, who ends up supplying information to a resistance group attempting to subvert the Magisterium, a powerful church authority. With the help of Alice, an older girl who works at the pub with him, and his trusty canoe named La Belle Sauvage, they seek to protect baby Lyra from the church, and specifically from the clutches of Gerard Bonneville and Lyra’s mother, Mrs Coulter. Continue reading
‘The Evenings’ by Gerard Reve has been hailed as a “postwar masterpiece” and “the best Dutch novel of all time” but has only recently been translated by Sam Garrett and published in the UK for the first time by Pushkin Press late last year, nearly seven decades after it was first printed in the Netherlands. It tells the story of Frits van Egters, a 23-year-old clerk living with his parents in Amsterdam who struggles to fill his non-working hours with anything meaningful, spending his evenings walking past the canals, seeking out conversation with his small group of friends including his brother Joop.
The PFD Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award shortlist for 2017 has been announced today. This year, the official judges have selected five books rather than four and they are:
Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman by Minoo Dinshaw (biography)
The End of the Day by Claire North (novel)
The Lucky Ones by Julianne Pachico (short stories)
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney (novel)
The Lauras by Sara Taylor (novel) Continue reading
I am very pleased to be on the official shadow panel for this year’s Young Writer of the Year Award (sponsored by the Sunday Times, Peters Fraser + Dunlop in association with Warwick University), along with four brilliant book bloggers: Rebecca at Bookish Beck, Annabel at annabookbel, Dane at Social Bookshelves and Eleanor at Elle Thinks.
The £5,000 prize is open to UK and Irish writers aged 35 or under for a work of fiction, poetry or non-fiction of outstanding literary merit. It was relaunched in 2015 following a hiatus since 2009 and past winners include Zadie Smith, Sarah Waters, Naomi Alderman and Francis Spufford. Continue reading
‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson is widely regarded as one of the best horror stories of the 20th century and makes for timely reading ahead of Halloween at the end of the month. It tells the story of Dr. John Montague, an eminent anthropologist and occult scholar seeking evidence that Hill House is haunted. He rents the property over the summer and invites people with experience of the supernatural to stay there with him – his outgoing assistant Theodora, shy and retiring Eleanor Vance, and the heir to the house Luke Sanderson – so they can investigate the puzzling mysteries which await inside together. Continue reading
‘Fresh Complaint’ is a collection of 10 short stories by Jeffrey Eugenides. The first and last stories in the collection, ‘Complainers’ and ‘Fresh Complaint’, are new and have never been published before while the rest have appeared in the New Yorker and other magazines over the past three decades or so.
Eugenides’ three novels to date have all been completely different from the dreamy tone of ‘The Virgin Suicides’ to a Greek family saga in 20th century Detroit in ‘Middlesex’ to a love triangle between three recent graduates of a liberal arts college in ‘The Marriage Plot’. In contrast, money, debt and nostalgia appear to be loosely recurring themes in ‘Fresh Complaint’ across a similarly diverse set of scenarios which often focus on characters in some sort of personal crisis. In ‘Early Money’ a musician attempts to hide from the debt collectors tracking him down after he borrowed $27,000 to spend on a clavichord while the title story sees an Indian-American teenage girl plan her escape from the prospect of an arranged marriage which has serious consequences for a visiting British professor she encounters. Continue reading
As part of my continuing efforts to read more books from the back catalogues of my favourite authors, I have recently read ‘The Innocent’ by Ian McEwan which tells the story of Leonard Marnham, a twenty-five-year-old British Post Office engineer who has been recruited to work in Berlin in the mid-1950s as part of Operation Gold, a joint Anglo-American top secret project which involved building a tunnel under the Russian sector of Berlin in order to tap communication lines. When Leonard falls in love with an older German divorcee, Maria Eckdorf, their relationship soon becomes entangled with the operation with far-reaching consequences. Continue reading