In a row of cabins along a Scottish loch, families are trying to enjoy their summer holiday. It’s been bucketing down for several days and claustrophobia is setting in. Siblings are bickering, parents’ tempers flare. (Been there?) Bored, they observe each other through the ‘French doors’ of their cheaply built wooden cabins. Some venture out and some are sent out, mostly to relive the tension building inside. Summerwater by Sarah Moss, is a quietly unsettling little book that deals with family life, secrets and conflict, set in an ominous world, which I consumed in one sitting.
Feline Philosophy – Cats and the Meaning of Life by John Gray might sound like a whimsical self-help book but is actually a subtle, engrossing and revealing read about what it is to be human. People suggest that that there is no instruction manual to life, and you would be better served discovering Meaning (with a capital M) in the great works of literature. John Gray thinks there is no such thing as Meaning. An eminent author, he has spent his career trying to rubbish the idea that there is any “meaning” to life.
Finally! The wonderful French 1960s classic, The Life Before Us by Émile Ajar, is getting the attention it deserves. Italian screen goddess Sophia Loren is starring in The Life Ahead, a film based on the book, which is now available on Netflix (film review). It’s the story of an immigrant boy who lives in a Paris orphanage run by ex-prostitute Madame Rosa. This book will make you laugh and cry and is not only one of my all time favourite books, it’s also the most visited post on Bookstoker. You can find our review here. Hello, publishers out there, can you please re-publish this amazing book!
Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson is a near impossible sell. With its dreadful cover (really??) and odd sounding storyline (twins who catch fire when they get agitated) my go-to-bookseller struggled to convince me. Luckily, I succumbed because this is an utterly surprising, funny and moving novel. It’s the story of the Lillian, an aimless loner, who’s hired by her glamorous friend Madison as nanny for her twin stepchildren. There’s a catch: the twins combust when they’re upset. If you find this plot implausible, you won’t be alone, but somehow Wilson succeeds in making it credible and what seems like a shallow novel turns into something much weightier.
The public has chosen Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of A Yellow Sun the best winner of 25 years of Women’s Prize for Fiction. This book is a magnificent read, a beautiful love story against the backdrop of the Biafran war, a terrible conflict I vividly remember from my childhood as totally incomprehensible…until I read this book. A truly amazing novel.
Read our review of Americanah, also by Adichie.
As hope returns, some of our favourite American novels
Bookstoker Young Readers
Just in time for the second UK lockdown comes a local bookshop saviour. Bookshop.org, an American online bookseller has launched in the UK as bookshops have to close again. Here’s how it works: find the local bookshops in your area (or anywhere else, for that matter) by entering your postcode, choose a store from the list of member bookshops and you will be directed to their website, order to your heart’s content and support your local high street and the lovely people who work there. Bye, bye Jeff!
For those who don’t think the world is scary enough as it is, here’s a selection of our favourite spine-chilling ghost stories. If you want to freak out your children too, we have some for them as well…Enjoy!
The artist Marina Abramovic’s endorsement of Life for Sale by Yukio Mishima in the FT last week piqued my curiosity and, sure enough, this book really is something else. A fast-moving, surreal noir novel originally published in 1968, Life for Sale is about a man who offers his life up for sale. What he expects to be a carefree, albeit lethal, experiment, turns out to be a whole lot more complicated involving gangsters, vampires, hallucinogenic beetle powder and poisoned carrots. Darkly comic and totally twisted, this book will appeal to all fans of surreal fiction and Japanese literature.