Here’s one to set off a fiery debate around the dinner table. Now that the first storm around #MeToo has settled, This is Pleasure by Mary Gaitskill takes a step back and looks at the fallout. Quin, a successful, charming publisher, has been a huge flirt his entire adult life. While never explicitly abusing his power, Quin has always operated at the very edge of acceptable behaviour (sometimes overstepping it). It has now come back to haunt him. Many of us have had a Quin in our lives. What do we think of this one?
Bookstoker Young Readers
To say that Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, last year’s Nobel Prize winner (awarded this year) is a murder mystery would be misleading, but there’s definitely murder – several, in fact, – of both people and animals. Our charming, eccentric, (slightly mad?) heroine Janina Duszejko is caught up in the middle. I adored the warm humanity of this novel and the Nobel Prize worthy writing – there’s a quotable sentence on every page. Expect no hair-raising thriller, but a tender book that will stay with you for a long time.
Do you need to impress someone with a thoughtful gift that looks like you’ve spent ages choosing? There’s still time for a last minute dash to the bookshop to pick out a gorgeously bound book by an underestimated female author. Persephone Books is located in London’s Bloomsbury, and publishes titles mainly by women writers from the 20th century, many of whom are less known or entirely forgotten. Visit their incredibly stylish, cosy bookshop and talk to the staff who are very happy to recommend an excellent read.
A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell is a 12-volume sequence of novels that has been lauded as one of the greatest works of 20th century English literature. The books start in the late 1920s and take us up to the 1960s, feature a huge cast of characters and offer a remarkable vision of changing social history, a deftly sustained narrative, some wonderfully memorable characters and a stark vision of the impact that time wreaks on our lives.
I can’t think of a better year to turn to plastic-free, (relatively) low carbon footprint Christmas gifts like books. They generate hours and hours of pleasure, can be enjoyed over and over again, can be given away and are recyclable. We have thought long and hard about which books we think will make good gifts and here is our selection for Christmas 2019. Spread the love!
Lucy Ellmann is the most recent winner of the Goldsmith’s Prize, which rewards ‘fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form’. One of this year’s judges, New Statesman culture editor Anna Leszkiewicz, was in conversation with Ellmann at the 2019 Winter Cambridge Literary Festival.
It is always strange when a foreign book published more than 20 years ago is suddenly picked up by an English-language publisher and goes on to receive rave reviews. This recently happened with the book Love by Hanne Ørstavik, an author who, with numerous novels, essays and short stories under her belt, has long been one of Norway’s most respected writers. Her 1997 breakthrough novel Kjærlighet was translated as Love by Martin Aitken last year and published in America, where it was shortlisted for the National Book Award. Now, Ørstavik’s strongest work has finally been published in the UK by And Other Stories.
Lily just graduated with an MA in Modern Languages and is our first American reviewer. She has a soft spot for meditative and nature writing and her reviews Things That Are by Amy Leach and Tessa Hadley’s latest novel The Past are brilliant examples. Reading David Wallace-Wells’ The Uninhabitable Earth changed her outlook on the climate crisis as her passionate review shows. You can read more about Lily (and the rest of us) in our About section (scroll to the bottom).