*Next book to be read
*The Promise (Damon Galgut)
The Island of Missing Trees (Elif Shafak)
The New Wilderness (Diane Cook) [Sept 2021] First published in 2020
Kirkus Review says Cook’s debut novel is ‘about desperate people in a world of ever shrinking livable space and increasingly questionable resources…but also about the resilience of children who adapt, even enjoying circumstances that overwhelm the adults around them. Cook also raises uncomfortable questions: How far will a person go to survive, and what sacrifices will she or won’t she make for those she loves? This ecological horror story (particularly horrifying now) explores painful regions of the human heart.’
Girl, Woman, Other (Bernadine Evaristo) [Dec 2020] First published in 2019
This follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters, mostly women, black and British, who tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Evaristo was the first black woman to win the Booker Prize (in 2019).
Good Behaviour (Molly Keane) [Nov 2021] First published 1981
Hilary Mantel says: ‘I really wish I had written this book. It’s a tragi-comedy set in Ireland after the First World War. A real work of craftsmanship, where the heroine is also the narrator, yet has no idea what is going on. You read it with mounting horror and hilarity as you begin to grasp her delusion.’
The Magician (Colm Toibin) [Oct 2021]
As in The Master (which we read), Toibin recreates, in The Magician, a fictionalised life, in this case of Thomas Mann, the exiled German author of classic novels such as Buddenbrooks and The Magic Mountain.
The Island of Missing Trees (Elif Shafak) [Mar 2022]
Elif Shafak’s focus, in another powerful novel, is on Cyprus, which flared into an awful conflict during the 1970s. A rich magical novel on belonging and identity, love and trauma, nature and renewal. Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home.
Staying On (Paul Scott) First published in 1977
The novel, which won the Booker Prize in 1977, is a sequel to the Raj Quartet. Colonel Tusker and Lucy Smalley (who feature as minor characters in the Quartet) remain living in the hills of Pankot after Indian independence deprives them of their colonial status. Finally fed up with accommodating her husband, Lucy claims a degree of independence herself. Eloquent and hilarious, she and Tusker act out class tensions among the British of the Raj and give voice to the loneliness, rage and stubborn affection in their marriage.
This is Happiness (Niall Williams). First published in 2019 [May 2022]
The story, set in 1958 and told by Noe Crowe, a 17-year-old former seminary student, is about the sleepy village of Faha. It is about the coming of electricity and the changes that are wrought by this. It’s a love letter to this community of men, women and children living, until the electricity kicks in, the same even-paced, natural-rhythmed existence that generations of their ancestors had lived.
Coming Up for Air (George Orwell). First published in 1939 [May 2022]
The story follows George Bowling, a 45-year-old husband, father, and insurance salesman, who foresees World War Two and attempts to recapture idyllic childhood innocence and escape his dreary life by returning to Lower Binfield, his birthplace. The novel is comical and pessimistic, with its views that (a) speculative builders, commercialism, and capitalism are killing the best of rural England, and (b) his country is facing the sinister appearance of new, external national threats.