The blurb of ‘You Think It, I’ll Say It’ describes the unifying themes of Curtis Sittenfeld’s first collection of short stories as “how even the cleverest people tend to misread others, and how much we all deceive ourselves”. Specifically, the passing of time tends to distort the memories of the protagonists who are often flawed and naive, yet with just enough self-awareness to recognise these traits in themselves. This allows Sittenfeld’s natural gifts for convincing character portraits and satire (especially where class snobbery is concerned) to shine through in this contemporary collection. Continue reading
I haven’t read many of the early winners of the Booker Prize but ‘Hotel du Lac’ by Anita Brookner is one I have been meaning to read ahead of the Golden Man Booker Prize celebrations later this year. It tells the story of Edith Hope, a novelist of romantic fiction who is staying at a hotel near Lake Geneva in Switzerland by herself. A keen people-watcher, she has some unusual encounters with various eccentric guests including a rich widow Mrs Pusey and her daughter Jennifer, as well as Monica and her dog Kiki. However, it is Philip Neville, a divorced man also staying at the hotel who makes the most significant impression on the other guests. Continue reading
Winner of the prestigious Prix Goncourt and recently translated from the French by Sam Taylor, ‘Lullaby’ by Leïla Slimani has been one of the most talked-about novels so far this year, partly inspired by a real-life case of a nanny who killed two children in New York in 2012. Paul and Myriam live in a fashionable area of north-west Paris with their two young children, Mila and Adam. Paul works in the music business and Myriam is a criminal lawyer of North African descent who hires a nanny, Louise, to look after the children when she decides to resume her career. Initially, Louise appears to be perfect and indispensable to the family, but her behaviour becomes increasingly concerning. Continue reading
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize last year, ‘4 3 2 1’ by Paul Auster consists of four different versions of the life of Archibald Issac Ferguson, born in Newark, New Jersey in 1947 (the same year as Auster). Descended from Russian-Jewish immigrants, Archie is the only child of Rose and Stanley Ferguson and during his early childhood, random events change the path of his life splitting into four different trajectories – in one version his parents divorce, in another they stay together, in another Stanley dies, and so on. The parallel structure means that each of the seven parts is rewound three times before moving on to the next stage in Archie’s life covering his early childhood through to his coming-of-age in the late 1960s. Continue reading
Today I’m very pleased to host a Q&A with Richard Lloyd Parry who has been shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize for his brilliant book Ghosts of the Tsunami – one of the best books I read in 2017. It is a narrative non-fiction account about the aftermath of the tsunami which devastated the east coast of Japan on 11th March 2011 and how it impacted a small community where many people lost their lives. I’m very pleased that this riveting book has recently been shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize – a relatively new literary award in which 60 fiction and non-fiction books are nominated by members of the Folio Academy and then whittled down to a shortlist of eight. This year’s list also includes two novels I have read and enjoyed very much: Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney and Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor.
Q&A with Richard Lloyd Parry
1. At what age did you know you wanted to become a writer?
Eighteen. I thought that wanted to direct plays, but brief experience at university made me realise how dependent theatre is on the temperamental peculiarities of other people. I prefer to work alone, or in a small team. Continue reading
My final Wellcome Book Prize shortlist post is also part of the final day of the blog tour showcasing each book before the winner is announced tomorrow. ‘The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine’ by Lindsey Fitzharris is one of the titles I was particularly interested in reading when the longlist was announced in February. Although Lister is the main biographical subject of the book, ‘The Butchering Art’ also works as a more general narrative non-fiction account of the history of surgery in the mid 19th century. Continue reading
I haven’t yet finished shadowing this year’s Wellcome Book Prize shortlist but I have already come across a novel which has very strong potential to be on next year’s longlist of books which engage in some aspect of health, illness or medicine. I enjoyed reading Jessie Greengrass’s collection of short stories An Account of the Decline of the Great Auk, According to One Who Saw It and her debut novel tells the story of an unnamed narrator who is expecting her second child with her partner, Johannes. During her pregnancy, she reflects on her relationships with her mother who she cared for during her terminal illness and her psychoanalyst grandmother known as “Doctor K”. Continue reading