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Welcome to the present, here we have some fabulous reads set in the modern era. From provocative to beautiful, open your heart and mind and discover strong, believable stories that hammer at your awareness and cause thoughts to hesitate, develop, and flow.
So beautifully written, the chills prowl with unexpected menace to climb inside your thoughts, to lurk and provoke. Richard and Juliette’s son Ewan died at the age of 5, Juliette, convinced that her son is still in the house turns to a group of occultists, while Richard searches for the remains of a hangman’s oak tree opposite their home Starve Acre. Andrew Michael Hurley doesn’t waste a single word, each forms a web to create a picture as he captures the essence of a thought or thing. As the story grows, as the oak planted itself in my minds eye, the unsettling force of grief came to settle over everything. I sank into this tale and couldn’t leave, reading from the deep, dark and incredibly soulful first page through to the startling last in one heady afternoon. Folklore gathers in the background, grief preys on the unsuspecting, and a compelling story unfolds. Highly recommended, I have chosen Starve Acre as one of my picks of the month, and a LoveReading Star Book.
Set in 1980s Atlanta, Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow is a rich tour de force that sparkles with wit, warmth and candid lyricism. Exploring the weight of secrets and the complexities of love and family life through the compelling coming of age stories of sisters estranged by their father’s bigamy, this novel lingers long in the soul. “The truth is a strange thing. Like pornography, you know when you see it.” This potent proclamation cuts to the novel’s core, for Dana and her mother Gwen are the other wife, the other daughter, of bigamist James, and they know this truth while his first wife and daughter remain oblivious. Upset when James tells her that being his second daughter “You are the one that’s a secret,” Gwen poignantly informs Dana that rather than being secret, she’s simply “unknown. That little girl there doesn’t know she has a sister. You know everything.” Knowledge that she possesses the truth offers Dana consolation, of sorts. While James’s other family is financially better off, both wives have a distinct lack of agency. Indeed, the novel is sharp on showing how women often have to make their lives from what men decide, such as when Gwen remarks that when you’re four weeks late, “All you can do is give him the news and let him decide if he is going to leave or if he is going to stay.” The novel is also powerful on elemental love and the nature of memory, such as Dana’s response to being gifted a fur coat her father won in a card game: “To this day and for the rest of my life I will always have a soft spot for a man with rum on his breath.” In time, during her own tempestuous teenage years, Dana orchestrates encounters with her sister and they become friends, with tension rising as the secret threatens to detonate. With finely drawn, flawed characters that pull readers’ loyalties in different directions, this commanding, compassionate novel confirms the author’s exceptional gifts. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
A fascinating, and uniquely spellbinding tale that examines life and death, choices and decisions, and encourages thoughts to both reflect and soar. Dawn survives a plane crash and is offered a ticket to wherever she needs to go, that choice sparks two possible futures. I obviously adored this book as it joins my Liz Picks of the month, if you go in unprepared though you may have mixed feelings. Before you start, please note that if you enter just expecting a relationship tale, then you should be prepared to discover, and learn, much much more. This gorgeous read comes with a healthy helping of Egyptology, you’ll learn about hieroglyphs, spells, and translations, all of which I gobbled up. This information does almost dissect the main two stories, occasionally creating a jagged edge, but I found it allowed me time to slow down, to think, to really examine the thoughts that this story was sparking in me. This is a tale that looks at death, and speaks of death in a connected way that perhaps we don’t allow ourselves to do. The Book of Two Ways is both provocative and reflective, joyous and sad, and it’s one that I certainly won’t forget in a hurry.
Sittenfeld's wryly hilarious and insightful new collection, HELP YOURSELF, illuminates human experience and gracefully upends our assumptions about class and race, envy and disappointment, gender dynamics and celebrity. Suburban friends fall out after a racist encounter at a birthday party is caught on video and posted on Facebook; an illustrious Manhattan film crew are victims of their own snobbery when they underestimate a pre-school teacher from the Mid-West; and a group of young writers fight about love and narrative style as they compete for a prestigious bursary. Connecting each of these three stories is Sittenfeld's truthful yet merciless eye, as her characters stagger from awkwardness, to humiliation and, if they're lucky, to reconciliation. Full of tenderness and compassion, this dazzling collection celebrates our humanity in all its pettiness and glory.
Published to coincide with the 124th anniversary of F. Scott Fitzgerald's birth Enigmatic, intriguing and fabulously wealthy, Jay Gatsby throws lavish parties at his West Egg mansion to impress Daisy Buchanan, the object of his obsession, now married to bullish Tom Buchanan. Over a Long Island summer, his neighbour Nick Carraway, a writer and a cousin to Daisy, looks on as Gatsby and Daisy’s affair deepens. Tragedy looms in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece, frequently named among the best novels of the twentieth century. This new edition includes a foreword by critically acclaimed novelist Michael Farris Smith, as well as an exclusive extract of his forthcoming novel, NICK, which imagines narrator Nick Carraway’s life before The Great Gatsby.
Friends forever is a difficult promise to keep... Meet Lana, Judith and Catrin. Best friends since primary school when they swore an oath on a Curly Wurly wrapper that they would always be there for each other, come what may. After the trip of a lifetime, the three girls are closer than ever. But an unexpected turn of events shakes the foundation of their friendship to its core, leaving their future in doubt - there's simply too much to forgive, let alone forget. An innocent childhood promise they once made now seems impossible to keep.... Packed with all the heart and empathy that made Ruth's name as a screenwriter and now author, Us Three is a funny, moving and uplifting novel about life's complications, the power of friendship and how it defines us all. Prepare to meet characters you'll feel you've known all your life - prepare to meet Us Three.
Missing a Beat and Other Stories is a varied collection of short stories. There are 11 different short stories, spanning a variety of genres although contain a similar thread. Each of the main characters seemed a little bit broken in their own way, with additional obstacles and challenges to face. I like the variety within this different collection of short stories, this is a book that you could return to, dipping in and out to find a story to suit your mood. Each short story is well-developed and the characters within them are nuanced and well written. Each story draws you in with fresh questions about what has happened and what will happen. I paused between each story to ponder the events. My favourite story was ‘Out of Sync’, the setting, description and atmosphere really brought this story leaping off the page for me, and I especially like the added touch of the bobble head, it added both whimsy and foreboding and was a good example of small detail bringing everything vibrantly to a life. A great short story collection that I would recommend and return to in the future.
Winner of the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2013. The new novel from the author of The Finkler Question, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2010. Zoo Time is a novel about love - love of women, love of literature and love of laughter.
The new novel from the author of The Finkler Question, winner of the Man Booker Prize 2010. Zoo Time is a novel about love - love of women, love of literature and love of laughter.
A major new novel about a gypsy woman exiled for betraying her people, from the prize-winning author of DANCER
We were first introduced to the young Calvin Becker on holiday in Italy in Portofino where lust and longing clashed with his religious upbringing in one of the most delightful novels Iâd read for a long time. Iâve had to wait eight years for the boy to reappear only a couple of years older and on holiday again. His family seem more zealously religious than ever and Calvin, bless him, more lusty, but still innocent at 14. Donât read this if you are a little pious as the church does come in for a bit of a bashing but do read it if you want a perfect gem of a rites-of-passage comedy. I truly loved it.Comparison: John Harding, Nick Hornby, David Nicholls.Similar this month: Matt Beaumont, Jim Keeble.
This is Helen Dunmore’s first novel and although some of her later novels have been more widely read and more obvious commercial bestsellers, this one is an outstanding piece of writing that will truly stand the test of time. During World War I, D.H. Lawrence and his wife moved to Cornwall where they became the subject of intense suspicion from the locals and this forms the inspiration for the novel centering on Clare, a young girl who comes under the influence of the Lawrences. Dunmore is superb at evoking characters from the past and yet making you feel relaxed in their company and the situations these characters are found in are captured perfectly as well.
A blistering, satirical novel about life under a global media corporation that knows exactly what we think, what we want, and what we do - before we do. Self-anointed guru of the Digital Age, Guy Matthias, has become one of the world's most powerful and influential figures. Untaxed and ungoverned, his company 'Beetle' essentially operates beyond the control of Governments or the law. But trouble is never far away, and for Guy a perfect storm is brewing: his wife wants to leave him; malfunctioning Beetle software has led to some unfortunate deaths which are proving hard to cover up and a mystery hacker, Gogol, is on his trail. With the clock ticking- Guy, his aide Douglas Varley, conflicted national security agent Eloise Jayne, depressed journalist David Strachey, and Gogol, whoever that may be - the question is becoming ever more pressing, how do you live in reality when nobody knows anything, and all knowledge, all certainty, is partly or entirely fake?
Ghost. Ape. Living dead. Young and albino, Chipo has been called many things, but to her mother - Zimbabwe's most loyal Manchester United supporter - she had always been a gift. On the eve of the World Cup, Chipo and her brother flee to Cape Town, hoping for a better life and to share in the excitement of the greatest sporting event ever to take place in Africa. But the Mother City's infamous Long Street is a dangerous place for an illegal immigrant and an albino. Soon Chipo is caught up in a get-rich-quick scheme organised by her brother and the terrifying Dr Ongani. Exploiting gamblers' superstitions about albinism, they plan to make money and get out of the city before rumours of looming xenophobic attacks become a reality. But their scheming has devastating consequences. Set in the underbelly of a pulsating Cape Town, Meg Vandermerwe's Zebra Crossing is an arresting debut and a bold, lyrical imagining of what it's like to live in another person's skin.
August 2010 Guest Editor Veronica Henry on Zazie in the Metro... As a teenager I went through a horribly pretentious phase of reading existential literature. A lot of it was heavy going but not this, by Dadaist Raymond Queaneau. The story of a little girl who goes to say with her flamboyant uncle in Paris, the wordplay, even in translation, is phenomenal.
The novelisation of Youth (La Giovinezza) - an original film by Paolo Sorrentino, starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Rachel Weisz. In a luxury spa hotel in the Swiss Alps, octogenarian friends Fred Ballinger and Mick Boyle look back on their eventful and successful lives as composer and film director, surrounded by a host of colourful and eccentric fellow guests, ranging from a South American football legend to a famous Californian actor and a reigning Miss Universe. Ballinger is there simply to enjoy his retirement, while Boyle is working with five scriptwriters on his last film, which he hopes will be his masterpiece... Click below to view the trailer for the film adaptation of this book which opens in the UK on January 29 2016.
Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award 2010. Set in a Finnish sanatorium where women retreat with problems real and imaginary this debut is dark, claustrophobic, tense and menacing. A dramatic and brilliantly told story but not one to try if you are looking for a light hearted read.
As the summer ends the autumn mist begins to roll off the water towards Simone’s home, a chilling metaphor for the turn of events which are about to engulf her life. This is a story about relationships and blackmail, past and present lives, intertwined in a haunting, intense thriller. Do not expect the fast pace of a “whodunit” though, this is a novel which slowly and eerily unravels almost as if we are watching in slow motion as each moment effects the next.
Winner of the 2014 Guardian First Book Award. Winner of the 2014 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. This magnificent collection takes us to Glanbeigh, a small town in rural Ireland - a town in which the youth have the run of the place. Colin Barrett's debut does not take us to Glanbeigh alone; there are other towns, and older characters. But each story is defined by a youth lived in a crucible of menace and desire - and each crackles with the uniform energy and force that distinguish this terrific collection.