I’ve not been reading as much as I would like (i.e. a LOT) since the advent of my little boy’s arrival and the ensuing lack of free (any time) and theft of sleep (actually, he’s been remarkably good – don’t shoot me – but we have now hit teething). The other evening I went to bed early, determined that I will conquer Wolf Hall (I love Hilary Mantel and think the woman is a god, but this title has thus far eluded me. No longer – had tiredness not insisted, I would have kept reading til the small hours).
But when I finish with Hilary, here’s what’s on my reading list. (I’m not straying too far into the year as I have no desire to wish the time away and I also find it rather irritating to be told about a book I simply ‘must’ read, only to find that it’s not published for nine months. (Of course, we’ve already previewed three of this year’s hottest books.)
A Spool of Blue Thread – Anne Tyler (Chatto & Windus, February)
A friend of mine does not ‘get’ Anne Tyler. She is too sentimental; too sweet. I disagree (respectfully). Tyler is quite simply one of the finest observers of human relationships there is. She is tender, warm and wise. The Pulitzer-prize-winning author has promised “a sprawling family saga” for this, her final novel (say it isn’t so, Anne). Abby and Red Whitshank chronicle the history of their tight-knit family against the backdrop of their beloved house in Baltimore. I, for one, cannot wait. My friend can just read something else, perhaps she might like…
The Girl on The Train – Paula Hawkins (Doubleday/Random House, January)
I am utterly gripped by the premise of this novel, which has shades of both Rear Window and 4.50 From Paddington): Rachel commutes by train every day. Every day she stares out the window at the same houses. Until one day – when she witnesses something so shocking it turns her from observer to part of the (very dangerous) action. Send all calls to voicemail; let the children bathe themselves (or go dirty); eat crackers for tea – for this sounds exactly like one of those books which compels your attention. (It comes lauded by SJ Before I Go to Sleep Parrish. I. Cannot. Wait.
A Place Called Winter – Patrick Gale (Tinder Press, March)
I always think of Patrick Gale as a writer with real heart, whose novels are deceptively easy to read (who didn’t effortlessly float their way through his delicious Notes from an Exhibition?) Deceptive because an awful lot of skill goes into making his characters so engaging, so feasible, so real. This is rather grander in scale than Notes… Steady, conventional, shy, Harry Cane is the type of man – and son – who does as he is told. Until, suddenly, he is not. The discovery of an illicit affair (this is 1900s England) compels him to abandon his old life for the harsh realities of the newly colonised Canadian prairies. More than a little heart-breaking, truly a novel to love.
The Girl in the Photograph – Kate Riordan (Penguin, January)
In the sultry summer of 1933, Alice is sent away from her family home in disgrace (she is pregnant with a married man’s child – not at all the done thing) to Fiercombe Manor, home to her mother’s friend Mrs Jelphs – and an abundance of buried secrets. Not least what happened to the lady of nearby Stanton Hall, Elizabeth. What happened to Elizabeth gradually becomes an obsession – for us and for Alice. For Elizabeth is also pregnant and miserable – praying for a son to please her heir-obsessed husband. Poignant, moving (not least as a study of mental health and the unsympathetic treatment meted out to women in the 1890) and entirely captivating – I galloped through it greedily. (Please note that mothers of small babies will find themselves dissolving into tears.)
The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguron (Faber & Faber, March)
A new book from Ishiguro is always an event. So put out the flags. And – just because he’s Ishiguro and he can therefore write almost anything – it’s a total departure from anything he’s done before. There be dragons here (honestly). And ogres. And a character called Sir Gawain. And two leading characters to fall in love with – Axl and Beatrice. The thrill of it.
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