*Next book to be read
*A Month in the Country (J.L. Carr) & Small Things Like These (Claire Keegan)
Diary of a Country Priest (Georges Bernanos)
Diary of a Country Priest (Georges Bernanos) [April 2023] First published (in French) 1936
Written as the diary of a French curé, the book describes the young country priest’s development as he learns to appreciate and understand his provincial parish and as he discovers spiritual humility. The book was awarded the Grand Prix for Literature by the Académie Francaise.
A Month in the Country (J.L. Carr) [Jan 2023] First published 1980
In this deeply charged poetic novel, Tom Birkin, a veteran of the Great War and a broken marriage, arrives in the remote Yorkshire village of Oxgodby where he is to restore a recently discovered medieval mural in the local church. Living in the bell tower, surrounded by the resplendent countryside of high summer, and working each day to uncover an anonymous painter’s depiction of the apocalypse, Birkin finds that he himself has been restored to a new, and hopeful, attachment to life. But summer ends, and with the work done, Birkin must leave. Now, long afterwards, as he reflects on the passage of time and the power of art, he finds in his memories some consolation for all that has been lost. [TO BE READ WITH THE KEEGAN NOVEL (below)]
Small Things Like These (Claire Keegan) [July 2023] Published 2021
Set in a small rural community, this novella confronts the truth of the infamous Magdalene laundries. In 2022 the book was shortlisted for the Booker prize; the judges said that it ‘explores the silent, self-interested complicity of a whole community’. [TO BE READ WITH THE CARR NOVEL (above)]
Mrs Bridge (Evan S. Connell) [Sept 2022] First published 1959
An overlooked classic of American literature, this is a novel about mid-20th-century domestic life – suburbia, family and alienation. The reader gradually feels more and more empathy for its vaguely absurd main character. The introduction to the book describes how ‘No book so relentlessly reminds us of the relentlessness of time’ (Joshua Ferris).
Love (Roddy Doyle) [Oct 2023] First published 2020
The action takes place in Dublin, mostly in a pub, where two friends, Joe and Davy, have reconnected for a night of drinking.
The Candy House (Jennifer Egan) [May 2023] Published 2022
Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for her 2011 novel A Visit from the Goon Squad. The Candy House is described as a ‘deeply moving novel about the quest for authenticity, privacy and meaning in a world where our memories are no longer our own.
Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons) [Sep 2023] Published 1932
Flora Poste, orphaned at 19 when her parents are both carried off by the 1919 Spanish flu epidemic, is penniless. Her only option is to throw herself on the charity of her remote Sussex relatives, the Starkadders – Judith, her preacher husband Amos, their sons Seth and Reuben, several other cousins (Harkaway, Urk, Ezra, and Caraway) including the dominant matriarchal figure of aunt Ada Doom – all living, or partly living, in Cold Comfort Farm, Howling, Sussex.
Trust (Diaz Hernán) [Sept 2022] Published 2022
Diaz’s second novel is a collection of four manuscripts at various stages of completion which tell different versions of the story of a Wall Street businessman and his wife in the years leading up to the Great Depression.
The Stranger’s Child (Alan Hollinghurst) [Oct 2023] First published 2011
A minor poet, Cecil Valance, visits a Cambridge friend in 1913, in Stanmore, Middlesex. There, he writes a poem that goes on to become famous. The novel charts the progress of the poem’s reputation over the decades and also follows the lives of those who were present at that visit and their ancestors.
Demon Copperhead (Barbara Kingsolver) [Oct 2023] Published 2022
This was inspired by Dickens’ novel David Copperfield. Damon Fields is born to a teenage mother in a trailer home. He is raised in the Appalachian Mountains and nicknamed Demon Copperhead for the colour of his hair and his attitude. Demon must use his charms and wit to survive poverty in the American South.
The Land of Spices (Kate O’Brien) [Oct 2023] First published 1941
Behind the high walls of a convent, the lives of its inhabitants are marked by the daily rituals of spiritual life. Watching over Anna, her sensitive and poetic young charge, the Mother Superior revisits her childhood relationship with her father.
Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow (Gabrielle Zevin) [Oct 2023] Published 2022
Taking place over 30 years, this novel examines the nature of identity, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play and our need to connect and to be loved.