‘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: Novels
The official winner of the Man Booker International Prize was announced last night with A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen taking the £50,000 prize split equally between author and translator. The novel about a stand-up comedian going into meltdown on stage has been praised by the judges as “an extraordinary story that soars in the hands of a master storyteller” and “a mesmerising meditation on the opposite forces shaping our lives: humour and sorrow, loss and hope, cruelty and compassion, and how even in the darkest hours we find the courage to carry on.” Continue reading
‘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
After a break from Man Booker International Prize shadowing duties last month, I have returned to reading translated fiction with ‘Based on a True Story’ by Delphine de Vigan translated from the French by George Miller. It is about a middle-aged Parisian author, Delphine, who is befriended by a woman known throughout only as “L.” who claims to be a professional ghostwriter. L.’s presence gradually takes over every aspect of Delphine’s life to the point where their close friendship turns into something far more sinister.
‘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.
I really enjoyed reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet after discovering it through the Man Booker Prize shortlist last year. His 2014 debut novel ‘The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau’ which was also published by Contraband tells the story of Manfred Baumann, a loner who lives in the nondescript French town of Saint-Louis in Alsace and frequently dines at a bistro where waitress Adèle Bedeau works. When Adèle suddenly disappears one evening after finishing her shift, Manfred quickly comes under suspicion. However, after giving a false statement to Inspector Georges Gorski in which he fails to admit that he was the last person to see her alive, his life begins to spiral out of control. Continue reading