2014 was a fantastic year for new books by some of my favourite authors including ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage‘ by Haruki Murakami, ‘The Paying Guests‘ by Sarah Waters, ‘Us‘ by David Nicholls and ‘The Book of Strange New Things‘ by Michel Faber. 2015 is also shaping up to be a bumper year for long-awaited new novels from both established authors and debut novelists alike. Here are the ones to watch in 2015:
Following the Man Booker Prize-winning ‘Wolf Hall‘ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies‘, the final part of Mantel’s acclaimed trilogy about the life of Thomas Cromwell, ‘The Mirror and the Light’ isn’t due to be published until the end of next year at the very earliest. Presumably brought out to keep Mantel’s fans satisfied in the meantime, ‘The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher’ is a collection of ten short stories, her second collection after ‘Learning to Talk’ was published in 2003. Having read three of Mantel’s novels and her memoir, I was keen to see how her shorter works of fiction compared.
One of of my reading resolutions this year has been to get through more of the books I already have on my shelves and Kindle. I have been making some slow and steady progress recently but, as always, I still have my eye on the latest books. Here are a few I am particularly looking forward to which have not yet been published:
Generally, I avoid picking up books which I don’t think I will enjoy. However, that doesn’t mean I always have super high expectations for everything I read. Here is my list of books I initially thought I would struggle with but actually liked a lot.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
I wasn’t sure if I would like a book as ‘philosophical’ as this one but I did. It’s still a pretty weird book and might be viewed as pretentious, but as I said in my review, it’s a very readable sort of pretentiousness. Continue reading
‘Giving Up the Ghost’ is Hilary Mantel’s memoir first published in 2003, six years before she won the Booker Prize in 2009 for ‘Wolf Hall‘. The ghosts in question are the ghost of her step-father, the ghost she saw in the garden at the age of seven and the ghost of the child she could never have. Continue reading
I have just watched the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 live stream broadcast on the Huffington Post website. In the build-up towards the big announcement when Miranda Richardson said that the judges were looking for originality, accessibility and excellence, I thought: “It’s got to be ‘Flight Behaviour’! Or ‘Bring Up the Bodies’! Or ‘Life After Life’! One of those three will definitely win it!”
Last night, I went to the Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Readings event at the Southbank Centre in London and it was every bit as awesome as I hoped it would be.
Over the last couple of months, I have read five out of the six books on this year’s shortlist. In summary, ‘May We Be Forgiven’ by A.M. Homes was the most dysfunctional (i.e. my least favourite), ‘Flight Behaviour’ by Barbara Kingsolver was beautifully written, ‘Life After Life’ by Kate Atkinson had an intriguing concept which was handled very well, ‘NW’ by Zadie Smith had excellent dialogue and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ by Hilary Mantel was an impressive interpretation of historical events. Sadly, I haven’t had a chance to read ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple yet but I will try and seek out a copy in the future.
Anyway, this is my ticket for which I paid the princely sum of £6 (gotta love student discounts). I also took my copies of ‘NW’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ with me.
I read ‘Wolf Hall‘ nearly a year ago and to be honest, I can’t remember a great deal about the actual content of the story and had to force myself to finish it. Although the book was undoubtedly a quality piece of historical fiction, my main gripe about it was that there were too many characters and unless you have studied early sixteenth century British history in considerable depth then it is very hard to keep track of exactly who is who. However, although ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ also has a large cast of characters, this instalment of the trilogy is set over a much narrower time period (one year rather than three decades) and the story of Anne Boleyn’s downfall is likely to be much more familiar to readers than Thomas Cromwell’s early years (at least it was to me anyway). The fact that it’s over 200 pages shorter than ‘Wolf Hall’ also helps a lot. Continue reading
The shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2013 was announced today at the London Book Fair. The six nominees are…
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes
Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple
NW by Zadie Smith
Here is my list of Books I Will Probably Never Read But Might Try One Day If I Break My Leg Or Something. Mostly these are books which look either too long or too scary or too difficult to tackle (or in some cases all three). I can’t say I feel particularly guilty about not having read any of these books – I’m just painfully aware of their presence…
Another day sees another literary award announced…this time, it’s the launch of the Folio Prize, a new £40,000 literary award sponsored by the Folio Society for the best work of fiction published in the English language. This particular prize was created after several literary bigwigs complained about the supposed dumbing down of the Booker Prize in 2011, a year when books were chosen for their ‘readability’. Heaven forbid that somebody who wasn’t on the judging panel might actually understand or even enjoy something on the shortlist…
So Hilary Mantel has done it again. ‘Bring Up The Bodies’ has been crowned the Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2012. Mantel won the Booker Prize for ‘Wolf Hall’ in 2009, the first part of her trilogy on the life of Thomas Cromwell, so this makes her the first woman and the first British person to win it twice. I’m sure I’m not alone in passing on many congratulations to Mantel for this huge and much deserved achievement. Continue reading
NOTE TO SELF: Do not start reading giant, complex historical novels on the day your final university exam results are due to be released. Absorbing the content of such novels in the hours before such crucial, life-altering events will prove extremely difficult if not impossible. Moreover, the shocking discovery that you did indeed achieve a First Class Honours degree against all the odds (such as developing an extreme blogging addiction in the final weeks of the course instead of diligently revising French verbs for inevitably soul-destroying translation exams) will result in the aforementioned giant, complex historical novel being abandoned for longer than you anticipated and therefore will be quite hard to get back into once you have recovered from the realisation that maybe, just maybe, you will one day get a Proper Job like a Real Person and that some may even consider you to be a semi-valuable member of society once your good-for-nothing-student days are behind you.
This has been my experience of reading ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hilary Mantel this week. Continue reading