Perhaps it is because we are at war that the conflicts of the past continue to exert such a grip on the imaginations of contemporary novelists. Nigel Farndale’s debut novel is dedicated to his grandfather, 'Private Alfred Farndale, who died in the mud of Passchendaele, and again seventy years later in his bed’, and interweaves the story of a solder of the First World War, Private Andrew Kennedy, with that of his great-grandson Daniel, a zoologist, and the first man for four generations of his family not to serve as a soldier.
Read the Telegraph review here.
As the narrator of Colum McCann's new novel sees it, Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center towers in 1974 triggered a quietude generally unknown to New Yorkers. "Those who saw him hushed," McCann writes. "It was a silence that heard itself, awful and beautiful." In "Let the Great World Spin," Petit's stunt acts as a centerline on which McCann hangs the stories of a dozen spiritually disheveled characters, each searching for an alcove of silence in a clamorous city. Read Mike Peed's Washington Post Review here.
It isn't a brand new novel, but seeing as this just won the Man Booker prize it should be noted as this week's Book of the Week. British author Hilary Mantel won the prestigious £50,000 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, beating the likes of Australian JM Coetzee and AS Byatt.
Mantel's Wolf Hall, is a historical novel about English king Henry VIII's advisor Thomas Cromwell. The Booker judges described Mantel’s latest work as a “thoroughly modern novel set in the 16th century.” Dispised in his lifetime and the villain of such works as A Man for All Seasons, Cromwell makes for an unlikely hero. Read the Guardian review here.
In Tom Gilling’s new novel, “Seven Mile Beach,” the protagonist, Nick Carmody — an impoverished Sydney journalist who’s recently been both dumped and demoted — obligingly makes a Really Bad Decision: he agrees to say it was he and not an old school friend who had possession of the friend’s car on a night it was photographed speeding. Apparently this will save the friend, who’s on some kind of traffic probation, from jail time, and will cause the friend’s real estate developer father to give Nick $100,000, or “roughly 95,000 more than he’d managed to save after a decade of full-time employment. Read the NYT review here.
Spanish pulp novelist David Martin accepts a lucrative commission from a mysterious editor from Paris, whom he suspects might just be the devil. His journey from writing about evil to committing evil is the plot of "The Angel's Game" by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.
As Terrence Rafferty explains in the New York Time the pleasures of “The Angel’s Game” are guilty ones. As he did in “The Shadow of the Wind,” Ruiz Zafón provides, along with sex and death, a nice slide show of old Barcelona, a handful of affectionate riffs on favorite books and a pervasive sense of the childish joy of credulity — of surrendering to a story and letting it take you where it will, whatever the consequences. Read more here.
A pick for Salon's Summer Reading list 'Ravens' by George Dawes Green, is a rivetting thriller. The Boatwright family of Brunswick, Ga. -- churchgoing Mitch, his boozy wife, Patsy, their striving, community college student daughter, Tara, and her kid brother, Jase -- are no sooner blessed by a $318 million lottery jackpot than they draw the attention of two losers passing through town. One, Shaw, is a charismatic sociopath and the other, Romeo, is Shaw's devoted, if intermittently ambivalent, Igor. In no time, the Boatwrights' phenomenal good fortune morphs into calamity., Shaw worms his way into the Boatwrights' home and alternately cows and seduces them into presenting him as a co-owner of the winning ticket. Romeo plays enforcer, prowling the streets and poised to slaughter their friends and relatives if they rebel. Then, carried away at a press conference, Shaw suddenly proclaims his intention to give his share to charity
. Read more here.
The first German book to make Amazon's worldwide bestseller list, "Wetlands" is a savage, darkly humorous attempt to depict the contours of female anatomy and desire that has appalled as many as it has delighted with its graphic details. But "Wetlands" is more than just a complaint against the sexual double standards of contemporary life. It points to an odd paradox: For all the hedonism of an apparently liberated culture in which women can drink and screw with the best of them (think "Sex and the City"), the language we use to describe this behavior and these unleashed desires is profoundly outdated or, more often, simply absent. Read more here
One day shortly after the end of the second world war, a stranger arrives in Brodeck's village on the Franco-German border. It is a place traumatised by the memory of conflict, its inhabitants want to forget. But three months later the Anderer (the "other"), with his "enormous trunks, his embroidered clothes, his mystery, his bay horse and his donkey", is dead, savagely attacked by persons unknown. Or, more properly, by everyone and no one. Himself an incomer, Brodeck is commissioned by the other villagers to write a report on the incident. "
Read Giles Foden's review of Brodeck's Report by French author Phillip Claudel in The Guardian here.
In this week's Guardian, Carrie O'Grady looks at Miriam Toews' (pronounced Taves) novel The Flying Troutmans. The novel "follows in the grand tradition of the Big Road Trip Story, and also in the somewhat less grand but equally valid tradition of Canadians Making a Big Road Trip Across America, in which the States are seen from an outsider's point of view. Hattie, Logan and Thebes, the 11-year-old sister, however, are anything but scientific observers. Logan is a sulky teen whose main interests are shooting hoops, watching girls, kicking things and carving random thoughts into the dashboard of the Aerostar. Thebes is an excitable motormouth who has purple hair, talks like a Baltimore gangsta and is obsessed with making giant novelty cheques for a million dollars, which she gives to anyone who'll take them.
Hattie, supposedly in the parental role, is as much of a kid as either of them. "
Read the review here.
In “Water Dogs” it’s early March 1997 in midcoast Maine, and a 26-year-old college dropout named Bennie Littlefield is playing paintball in the woods. It’s cold, a blizzard is blowing in from the White Mountains, and Bennie, his brother and a friend hope to “blast hard and fast and to kill indiscriminately.” But when Bennie sprints off a quarry ledge and knocks himself out on the ice below he becomes involved in the investigation of another paintballer named Ray LaBrecque who has gone missing. Robinson's second novel shares some of the excellent aspects of his first. Read the review here.
A battered mother of two returns to the family chateau that she left a dozen years years earlier. Olivia arrives injured as the result of a battering with her two interesting children. Yet the return is upstaged by the arrival of Olivia's brother with his wife and the wrapped body of his lifeless newborn. Australian Julia Leigh's new novel Disquiet is not for the squeamish. Mining the depths of family conflict, rage and dispair, Leigh's second novel is reviewed here.