Celebrating 100 Years of Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat Muriel Spark2018 marks the centenary of Muriel Spark’s birth and I have recently read her autobiography ‘Curriculum Vitae’ and one of her most famous novels ‘The Driver’s Seat’ which was first published in 1970. The main protagonist, Lise, is in her mid-thirties and is unhappy with her dead-end job. She hops on a plane to an unnamed southern European city looking for adventure and has a series of odd interactions with even odder people she meets along the way. Spark ingeniously drops a massive spoiler at the beginning of the third chapter in which it is casually stated that Lise “will be found tomorrow morning dead from multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the grounds of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is travelling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14.” The narrative then continues as if this information had never been mentioned and the mystery of who the perpetrator is and how and why the murder occurs isn’t revealed until the final paragraphs. Continue reading

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The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart’s Invisible Furies John Boyne‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ by John Boyne is a 700 page epic novel about the life of a gay man, Cyril Avery, which also encompasses the social history of Ireland in the second half of the 20th century. The story is told in seven-year increments, starting with the circumstances leading up to Cyril’s birth in Dublin in August 1945 to an unmarried teenage mother, Catherine Goggin, right up until the year when Ireland legalised same-sex marriage by public vote in 2015. Cyril is adopted as a baby by novelist Maude Avery and her banker husband Charles who uses every opportunity to remind Cyril that he is “not a real Avery” with the couple depriving him of any real affection. During adolesence and beyond, Cyril has an unrequited crush on his best friend, Julian Woodbead, and this experience shapes the rest of his life as he struggles to be honest with other people and with himself.  Continue reading

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The Man Booker Prize 2018 Longlist

Man Booker Prize 2018 Longlist

The Man Booker Prize longlist for 2018 has been announced today (officially this time – it seems it was accidentally leaked by the Guardian yesterday afternoon). The 13 books are:

Snap by Belinda Bauer

Milkman by Anna Burns

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje

The Overstory by Richard Powers

The Long Take by Robin Robertson

Normal People by Sally Rooney

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan Continue reading

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The Man Booker Prize 2018 Longlist: Predictions, Possibilities and Preferences

The Man Booker Prize 2018The Man Booker Prize longlist will be announced on Tuesday 24th July and the annual guessing game of “posh bingo” commences once again. When considering which books could make the cut, I have been thinking about predictions in terms of likely possibilities and my personal preferences – some I have already read, and some I haven’t. I doubt I will better my predictions last year in which I correctly guessed six out of the 13 “Man Booker dozen” longlisted titles including the eventual winner Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. As ever, I have no knowledge of which books have actually been submitted for consideration so my predictions could just as easily be entirely wrong this time.

I would be surprised if the longlist was as dominated by established authors as it was last year. However, Winter by Ali Smith remains a stand-out preference for me, even if the judges decide to plump for something different following Autumn being shortlisted just last year. Another possibility is The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst about a sex scandal involving students at Oxford University during the Blitz and the consequences this has for their families years down the line.  Continue reading

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How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza

How to be Human Paula Cocozza

Shortlisted for this year’s Desmond Elliott Prize awarded to debut novels published in the UK, ‘How to Be Human’ by Paula Cocozza tells the story of Mary Green, a woman in her thirties who has recently separated from her partner Mark. Now living alone after buying him out of their home in Hackney in east London, she becomes captivated by an urban fox who regularly visits her garden. Meanwhile, her next door neighbours, Michelle and Eric, regard her new visitor as a pest while Mark makes an unwelcome return into her life. Continue reading

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The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken

The Secret Barrister Stories of the Law and How It’s BrokenMedical memoirs such as This Is Going To Hurt by Adam Kay have vividly illustrated the highs and lows of working in the National Health Service and the importance of funding it properly. The Secret Barrister, an anonymous junior barrister practicing in London, now lifts the lid on the realities of the English and Welsh criminal justice system in ‘Stories of the Law and How It’s Broken’. Continue reading

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MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood

MaddAddam Margaret AtwoodThe final part of Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy brings together the bioengineered Crakers from Oryx and Crake and the eco-religious cult known as God’s Gardeners from The Year of the Flood. Picking up from where both of these books end after the human race has been almost entirely wiped out by a man-made plague, Toby takes centre stage once again, leading the small community of survivors along with Zeb, a mysterious minor character from ‘The Year of the Flood’. Continue reading

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