*Next book to be read
*Learwife (J.R. Thorp)
There, There (Tommy Orange)
Learwife (J.R. Thorp) [Oct 2021]
King Lear is dead – driven mad and betrayed – his three daughters, too. However, someone has survived: Lear’s queen. Exiled to a nunnery years ago, written out of history, her name forgotten, this book tells her story.
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.
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).
Go, Went, Gone (Jenny Erpenbeck) [Jan 2023] Published 2017
This novel, by German author and opera director Jenny Erpenbeck, resonates with an unexpected simplicity that is profound, unsettling and subtle. The prose is astutely translated by Susan Bernofsky. The narrative, calm and at times wry, follows Richard, a self-contained widower and newly retired academic, as he discovers empathy through delving into the individual ordeals of a group of African asylum seekers in Berlin whom he gradually befriends and tries to help.
Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi) [Jan 2023] Published 2016
Starting with two sisters in Africa, one sold into slavery, the other a slave trader’s wife, the consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow them. It traces generations over three hundred years in Ghana and America. ‘Extraordinary for its exquisite language, its implacable sorrow, its soaring beauty, and for its monumental portrait of the forces that shape families and nations, Homegoing heralds the arrival of a major new voice in contemporary fiction.’
The Transit of Venus (Shirley Hazzard) [Jan 2023] Published 1980
Two orphaned Australian sisters arrive in England in the 1950s; one marries a wealthy bureaucrat, the other falls in love with a married man. A deeply psychological novel about misplaced human confidence and how we have only partial knowledge of the motivations of those around us.
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.
In Babylon (Marcel Möring) [Jan 2023] Published 1995
Comes highly recommended by a Dutch friend. The novel focuses on sixty-year-old Nathan Hollander during the four days he spends with his niece in the family’s old hunting lodge in a forest outside Rotterdam, cut off from the world by a raging blizzard. Nathan tells Nina the story of their family, tracing it back four hundred years to his great-great-grand-uncle Chaim Levi and up to the recent death of their uncle Herman.
There There (Tommy Orange) [Jan 2023] Published 2018
A finalist for the 2019 Pulitzer Prize and recipient of the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award, the novel follows 12 characters from Native American communities as they travel to the Big Oakland Powwow, all connected to one another in ways they may not yet realise. Together, this chorus of voices tells of the plight of the urban Native-American grappling with a complex and painful history, with an inheritance of beauty and spirituality, with communion and sacrifice and heroism.
The Last Days of Terranova (Manuel Rivas) [Jan 2023] Published 2022
The novel tells the story of Vicenzo Fontana, the elderly owner of the long-standing Terranova Bookstore, on the day it’s set to close. Jumping from the present to various points in the past, the novel ferries us back to Vicenzo’s childhood, when his father opened the shop in 1935, to the years that it was run by his Uncle Eliseo, and to the years in the lead-up to the transition to democracy in Spain.
Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck) [Jan 2023] Published 1937
The novel is justifiably considered a classic of American literature: a short, direct meditation on friendship, loneliness and unfulfilled dreams in trying times. Its plot and prose are straightforward and unadorned.
The Ice Palace (Tarjei Vesaas) [Jan 2023] Published 1963
Doris Lessing, in her review of The Ice Palace, writes: ‘How simple this novel is. How subtle. How strong. How unlike any other. It is unique. It is unforgettable. It is extraordinary.’ The Ice Palace is set in Vesaas’ homeland of rural northern Norway. Eleven-year-old Unn has just moved in with her aunt. She ‘strikes up an unlikely friendship at school with a boisterous classmate, Siss, and an unusual bond develops between them’.