Saturday, 6 April 2013

The to-read pile lives again

Through no fault of my own (except a visit to the library, numerous orders of free proof copies via Amazon Vine, and the stack of books I received at Christmas, but, well) I once again have a reasonably large to-read pile [pictured]. As already scheduled, I will be reviewing some of these books throughout April, but if there's one you'd particularly like my thoughts on, do let me know!

Why They Are In the Pile

The Translation of the Bones by Francesca Kay: I very much enjoyed Kay's elegant and understated debut, An Equal Stillness, and I hope this novel lives up to its predecessor. The blurb promises to explore the lives of unhappily married Stella, her ten-year-old son, Felix, and Mary-Margaret, who believes she has witnessed a miracle that will have dangerous consequences for Stella. I wouldn't find this enticing if I wasn't already assured of the power of Kay's writing, but her sympathetic and nuanced portrayal of her previous heroine, artist Jennet, makes me believe she can pull this off.

How Many Miles to Babylon? by Jennifer Johnston: A friend recommended this to me and I fortunately came across a copy in the library. I'm uncomfortably aware that I tend to write off numerous female writers as middlebrow women's fiction (and to be fair, some males, as well, such as Patrick Gale) and yet hypocritically enjoy many novels which fall into this invented 'category', such as Maggie O'Farrell's work, so I'm keen to give this a go. It deals with the experiences of two men in the trenches during WWI.

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively: I'm definitely reading this because Penelope Lively was recommended by the same friend, and definitely not because it has the word 'Tiger' in the title. I would never read a book for such spurious reasons as to fill up my quota of blog posts. (Aspiring authors: put a tiger in the title or on the front cover and you have one guaranteed sale!)

Vinland by George Mackay Brown and Independent People by Halldor Laxness: These were both recommended warmly by Victoria at Eve's Alexandria, and I've heard people raving about the latter in numerous places. With one set in Iceland and the other in Orkney, they will also contribute to my Far North and Far South reading, and I like the sense they both seem to have of modern-day sagas.

Waterlog by Roger Deakin: I've enjoyed a lot of Robert Macfarlane's nature writing and he frequently references Deakin; I'm also interested in doing more wild swimming and escaping from the confines of Cambridge's soulless Parkside Pools, so this seemed the perfect place to begin.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera: Very famous. Given to me by a friend years ago. Still unread. What else to say?

River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh: Another present from a friend. I heard Ghosh speak in Cambridge a while back and was fascinated by what he had to say about writing novels, so I hope his practice lives up to his theory - I haven't read anything by him before.

The Fatal Englishman by Sebastian Faulks: One of the few works by Faulks that I haven't read (I think the other is The Fool's Alphabet, plus his James Bond pastiche, but that doesn't really count) this promises short biographies of promising Englishmen whose lives were cut short. I'm a fan of short biographies, and I'm also intrigued by his statement in the introduction that he wanted to explore the lives of men who might have been famous, or, conversely, might have entirely wasted their potential.

The Hired Man by Aminatta Forna: I had some serious qualms about the message of Forma's second novel, The Memory of Love, but she's clearly a talented novelist who can write well. This new offering is set in Croatia and deals with an Englishwoman called Laura who has recently moved to the area and begins to unwittingly uncover local conflicts. I'm looking forward to it.

The Fields by Kevin Maher: This debut about child abuse in 1980s Ireland has received some positive critical attention, although I'm always wary when reviewers claim that a child narrator has an 'original voice' or a 'unique take on life'.

Time to get reading...

NB My scheduled review of 'Wolf Hall' and 'Bring Up The Bodies' will be posted tomorrow.

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