Ottessa Moshfegh’s Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Eileen generated a very mixed reaction among readers last year. However, I was one of those who really enjoyed (if that’s the right word) her debut novel and I was intrigued by her new book ‘Homesick for Another World’, a collection of fourteen short stories which will be published this week in the UK. The tales in this collection range from ‘The Beach Boy’ about a middle-aged couple on an unnamed tropical island to ‘Bettering Myself’ from the perspective of an alcoholic maths teacher in a Catholic school to ‘Nothing Ever Happens Here’ in which an aspiring actor in Hollywood falls for his landlady. Continue reading
A new year means new books are coming! Here is a selection of books I will be looking out for which are due to be published in the United Kingdom in 2017:
The early months of the year tend to be when lots of debut novels are plugged heavily by publishers. The Nix by Nathan Hill has been a big success in the United States drawing comparisons with everyone from Jeffrey Eugenides to David Foster Wallace and is out this month in the UK. See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt is another high-profile debut due in May billed as a historical murder mystery while Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is the long-awaited first novel from the prolific short story writer and is a fictional re-imagining of events following the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie. Continue reading
I have read some excellent books in 2016 both new and not-quite-so-new. Here is a selection of my favourite reads of 2016:
My reading has been dominated by female authors more than ever this year. This isn’t something I deliberately set out to achieve but it is fantastic to see so many brilliant books written by women getting widespread attention. I highly recommend The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss and The Wonder by Emma Donoghue which could be possible contenders for next year’s Wellcome Book Prize awarded to a fiction or non-fiction book about health or medicine.
I really enjoyed The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry which is one of the most original historical novels I have read in a long time while other recent favourites with a more modern setting include Swing Time by Zadie Smith, the Brexit-themed Autumn by Ali Smith and This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell. Continue reading
Although Ian McEwan has tackled a vast range of subject matters in his literary fiction, many of his books fall into specific categories or share distinct themes. There are the early macabre works like ‘The Cement Garden’, the espionage stories such as ‘The Innocent’ or Sweet Tooth, the state-of-the-nation novels like ‘Saturday’ or The Children Act and then there are the books like ‘Nutshell’ which somehow fall into all of these categories. Nutshell’ is a unique interpretation of William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ from the point of view of an unnamed foetus who overhears a murder plot hatched by his mother Trudy and her lover Claude to kill John, who is Trudy’s husband and Claude’s brother, and cash in on the value of their marital home.
‘Autumn’ is the first of four books in a planned series of novels by Ali Smith named after the seasons and which focus on how we experience time. Set during the fallout of the Brexit referendum result in 2016, it follows the friendship between Elisabeth Demand, a thirty-two-year-old history of art lecturer and her eccentric 101-year-old former next-door neighbour Daniel Gluck who is spending his dying days in an assisted care facility. Continue reading
‘Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith tells the story of two mixed-race girls, an unnamed narrator and her friendship with Tracey who grow up together on neighbouring council estates in north-west London in the 1980s. From Fred Astaire to Michael Jackson, music and dance dominate their lives but it is only Tracey who has the real talent to pursue a career as a dancer. The narrator goes to university and works as a personal assistant for mononymous international pop star Aimee who decides to set up a school for girls in west Africa. The story alternates between the past and present and even though the girls spend a considerable time apart in later years, Tracey’s influence can always be felt. Continue reading
‘The Tidal Zone’ by Sarah Moss tells the story of Adam Goldschmidt, a stay-at-home dad and part-time academic, married to overworked GP Emma. Their eldest daughter fifteen-year-old Miriam suddenly collapses on a school playing field and nearly dies after going into anaphylactic cardiac arrest. In the aftermath of the incident, the family must find a way to move on and return to some form of normality whilst coming to terms with the possibility that Miriam’s condition could be genetic and may happen again at any time. Continue reading