*Next book to be read
*Coming Up for Air (George Orwell)
This is Happiness (Niall Williams)
Gentlemen of the Road (Michael Chabon) [Aug 2022] First published 2007
This is a swashbuckling adventure story set in southwest Russia in the kaganate of Khazaria in AD950. Two Jewish bandits become embroiled in a plot to restore a displaced Khazar prince to the throne.
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).
The New Wilderness (Diane Cook) [Sept 2021] First published 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 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).
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.
Sorrow and Bliss (Meg Mason) [Aug 2022] First published 2020
Martha Friel is a brilliant writer who suddenly finds herself alone and friendless. Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional parents, she has a last chance to discover if a life is ever too broken to fix.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.