‘The Valentine House’ by Emma Henderson is set in the French Alps at Arete, a large chalet built by Sir Anthony Valentine in the late nineteenth century and used as a summer house by the family across several generations. In 1914, Mathilde, a local girl from the valley, is selected by Sir Anthony’s wife Lady Charlotte to work as a servant at Arete on account of her being one of the ‘uglies’ and therefore less likely to catch Sir Anthony’s wandering eye. Mathilde gradually becomes acquainted with the quirks of this strange English family until she is betrayed by Sir Anthony’s granddaughter Daisy. Decades later in 1976, Sir Anthony’s great-great-grandson George is visiting Arete with his cousins, continuing many of the Valentine traditions such as the outdoor physical challenges known as ‘paideia’. With Mathilde’s help, they finally uncover the mystery surrounding the fate of Sir Anthony’s daughter Margaret. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Literary Fiction
‘Conversations with Friends’ by Sally Rooney tells the story of twenty-one-year-old student and aspiring poet Frances and her friend and ex-girlfriend Bobbi who live in Dublin and perform spoken word pieces together. They meet Melissa, a journalist and photographer in her thirties who wants to write a profile of their work, and her husband Nick who is an actor. Frances soon begins an affair with Nick which profoundly changes the dynamic of her friendship with Bobbi and becomes very messy very quickly to say the least. Continue reading
I have been reading two of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction shortlisted books ahead of the announcement of the winner this Wednesday. I won a copy of ‘Stay With Me’ by Ayobami Adebayo via a competition on Twitter (thanks, Canongate!) and I recently bought a copy of ‘The Dark Circle’ by Linda Grant.
Set in Nigeria during a period of political turmoil in the 1980s, ‘Stay With Me’ tells the story of Yejide who is married to Akin and has struggled to get pregnant after four years of marriage. Akin’s family decide that he must marry a second wife, Funmi, to bear the children that Yejide is apparently unable to carry. After a long phantom pregnancy, she eventually does conceive but the spectre of sickle-cell disease looms over the family. Years later, Yejide is due to attend Akin’s father’s funeral where she must face further consequences of past events. Continue reading
‘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.
Told 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
Here is our shadow panel response to the Man Booker International Prize longlist announced earlier this week (thanks to Tony for collating our initial thoughts):
The Shadow Panel for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize would like to extend its congratulations and thanks to the official judges for their hard work in whittling down the 126 entries to the thirteen titles making up the longlist. In some ways, it is a somewhat unexpected selection, with several surprising inclusions, albeit more in terms of the lack of fanfare the works have had than of their quality. However, it is another example of the depth of quality in fiction in translation, and it is heartening to see that there is such a wealth of wonderful books making it into our language which even devoted followers of world literature haven’t yet sampled. Of course, at this point we must also thank the fourteen translators who have made this all possible, and we will endeavour to highlight their work over the course of our journey.
The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist for 2017 was announced today. The 16 books are:Stay With Me by Ayòbámi Adébáyò The Power by Naomi Alderman Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood Little Deaths by Emma Flint The Mare by Mary Gaitskill The Dark Circle by Linda Grant The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride Midwinter by Fiona Melrose The Sport of Kings by CE Morgan The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry Barkskins by Annie Proulx First Love by Gwendoline Riley Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain Continue reading