Archive for July 23rd, 2011

July 23, 2011

Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha: Roddy Doyle

by Nicola

Roddy Doyle essentially writes funny books about ordinary lives and this, a classic example of his earlier work, is by far the finest of them.  The fast paced interior monologue of the ten year old protagonist is pitch perfect – fractious, unruly, excitable and entirely the product of the infantile logic of a child.  A wonderful if bittersweet novel – emphasis on the sweet in the beginning and bitter at the end (you will cry, unless you’re hard, like me).

July 23, 2011

Morvern Callar: Alan Warner

by Nicola

Alan Warner’s debut novel is the unusual, stylised tale of the titular Morvern Callar, whose drab life descends into inadvertent amorality.  The stream-of-consciousness first person narrative is both forthright and a little awry – in keeping with the character herself – but unfailingly atmospheric and cool.

July 23, 2011

The Talented Mr Ripley: Patricia Highsmith

by Suzanne

A brilliant psychological thriller and one of the best crime novels of the 20th Century. Highsmith is a masterful storyteller and has written an insanely readable book. A supremely stylish page turner with one of the most wonderfully amoral protagonists of all time. 

July 23, 2011

In-flight Entertainment: Helen Simpson

by Stuart

London’s Helen Simpson is one of our best living writers of short stories and this, her fifth collection, is another tour de force that you’ll end up pressing on everyone you know. Underpinned by a burning anxiety about the looming threat of climate change, the stories in In-Flight Entertainment do more in a few pages than most novels do in hundreds. Flick to ‘Diary of an Interesting Year’ (page 116) and you’ll start to get the picture. Set in a cholera-and-typhoid-ravaged apocalyptic England in 2040, it’s like The Road in twelve pages, only better. Utterly unlike anything Simpson has tried before, it’s well worth the price of the whole book on its own.

July 23, 2011

South of the Border, West of the Sun: Haruki Murakami

by Nicola

Hajime meets and falls in love with a girl in elementary school but loses touch with her when his family moves away. He drifts through high school, college and into his 20s before marrying and settling into a career as a successful bar owner. Then his childhood sweetheart returns  weighed down with secrets. This is a rich, mysterious and moving meditation on the nature of love and in my opinion is Murakami at his best.

July 23, 2011

So Long See You Tomorrow: William Maxwell

by Suzanne

Born in Illinois in 1908 and Fiction Editor at the New Yorker for almost 40 years William Maxwell was one of the true greats of American literature.  This is not a happy story by any stretch of the imagination but this is a heartbreaking book of great beauty and subtlety. A meditation on memory, grief, loss, guilt and regret, all human emotion is here (just not the happy ones!).  At a mere 153 pages this is a small, flawless gem of a novel.

July 23, 2011

The Bluest Eye: Toni Morrison

by Stuart

Toni Morrison is a Nobel Prize-winning titan of contemporary literature, and her masterful debut novel is an American classic. Short, sharply-observed, shocking and painfully moving, The Bluest Eye is a gorgeously lyrical page-turner that explores a legacy of race and abuse. It’s a really accessible quick read that’s as riveting as it is tear-jerking, and it out high-brows Kathryn Stockett’s The Help any day.

July 23, 2011

Elizabeth the Queen: Alison Weir

by Andy

Without doubt the definitive biography of the era-defining monarch.  Weir’s patient (but never torpid) detail is ideal in reconstructing the life and Court of a woman about whom [too] much is assumed, exaggerated and scandalised.  A wonderful read that leaves you with an indelible portrait.

July 23, 2011

The Time of our Singing: Richard Powers

by Suzanne

A richly layered multi-generational tale talking about race in America, this is a big book talking about big themes. Despite its size and scope Powers has written an intensely beautiful and intimate story, heartbreaking too. If Jonathan Franzen deserves the accolades here in the UK then Richard Powers most certainly does. He is in my opinion one of the very best writers in America today and deserves a wider audience here.