Friday, 13 September 2013

Reviews: Autumn 2013 Books

I’ve been pretty slack of late when it comes to blogging. I have no excuses. I’ve just fallen out of the habit of posting. I’ll mark my work in red pen with “Must try harder”.

As it’s starting to feel decidedly autumnal, I feel it’s about time we all snuggled up with the central heating up high and a pile of good books. Maybe the odd leaf kicky, squirrel observing walk would be good too.

Here are my recommendations for the best books that I’ve read recently.

1)    Sea Change by Joanna Rossiter

This is a novel that examines the tricky business of human relations and displacement. In the 1970s Alice has just got married to her boyfriend during a prolonged holiday in India and wakes up the day after her wedding to find that the village she is staying in has been hit by a tsunami and her husband is missing. Her mother, Violet, with whom she has a brittle relationship, is shown back in the 1940s when she has to leave the village, which is the entirety of her world, when the Ministry of Defence take over her home to utilise for army training exercises.

Rossiter handles difficult concepts and the end result is a very astute reflection on emotion and longing that is written in a poetic but very readable style.

2)    Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

In 1962 in a small island village in Italy a frail young actress arrives by boat and makes a remarkable impression on a young man. She is in exile from the set of the Burton/Taylor epic “Cleopatra” and is apparently dying. The book flits between 1960s Italy and present day Hollywood.

This novel is actually wryly amusing as well as being moving, evocative and atmospheric. The book is part satire, part reflection on love and unrequited desire. It’s well worth the effort to read this engrossing book.

3)    Londoners by Craig Taylor

Craig Taylor spent several years interviewing hundreds of people who live in the capital. This book is akin to the war time mass observation tales where a snapshot of people’s lives were recorded for social research purposes. It’s actually a really compelling read and I devoured this in a couple of sittings. Taylor interviews a huge array of characters including a Tower of London beefeater, a dominatrix, city traders, the woman who is the voice of the underground, a bewildered tourist etc. What results is a very revealing and at times hilarious book.

4)    Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris


If you aren’t familiar with impish David Sedaris then you definitely need to get yourself down to the nearest bookshop and get the whole back catalogue. American humourist, Sedaris, is an incredibly funny man. This book of essays is a dangerous book to read on public transport, as people will stare at you as you sit chuckling at inappropriate moments.

5) The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore

Hammer Horror has commissioned a number of famous authors to pen horror/ghost stories. Dunmore has come up with a stunning tale of a woman adrift in post war Britain who is haunted by a dashing airman. It’s a dark and sinister tale that made me feel jumpy and enveloped me in the creepy and mournful scenario. Dunmore is a writer at her peak. It’s a short read (a novella in fact) and one that you’ll probably swallow whole.