In Laird Hunt’s gripping novel Neverhome we meet Constance, aka Ash Thompson, who joins the American civil war disguised as a man. ‘I was strong and he was not, so it was me went to war to defend the Republic’, Ash says matter-of-factly referring to her mild mannered husband Bartholomew. And no, it’s not my spelling mistake in this opening sentence, it’s Ash’s. Ash is a simple farmwoman who dreams of finding the first lilac in spring. She’s also happens to be a take-no-prisoners sharp shooter. Ash joins the war out of a sense of duty, at least that’s what she tells us. Soon we see the contours of a troubled past in this very human portrayal of a tormented woman in a man’s world.
The second of Ferrante’s four addictive books about close friends Lenu and Lila in 1950s Naples continues where she left off in My Brilliant Friend, with Lila’s disastrous marriage to Stefano Carracci at the tender age of sixteen.
SPOILER ALERT – if you think you might like to read these books, make sure you start with the review of the first, My Brilliant Friend, elsewhere on this blog.
There’s an avalanche of new exciting books coming our way over the next few months, many by authors we haven’t heard from in a while and one from an author we haven’t heard from in half a decade!
It’s hard to recommend classics to your teenage children without running the risk of turning them off forever (just the fact that it’s coming from you might be enough…). The Guardian has a clever answer: a list based on the ‘If you liked…’ principle. Well worth a look.
I cannot recommend this Spanish classic highly enough. The House of Ulloa is funny, clever, progressive and colourful, written by the feisty and daring Emilia Prado Bazán in 1886 and, luckily, reissued in English recently. We meet the gentle, devout chaplain Julián who’s been asked by Don Manuel, a prominent noble, to clean up the sinful House of Ulloa, the country estate of his unruly nephew, Don Pedro. This hilarious meeting of polar opposites takes place amidst magnificently described Galician landscapes and decrepit aristocratic homes.
I’m not sure how I’m going to convince you to read this book. Most of you will, understandably, want to look the other way. There are details about dying in Being Mortal that will make you shudder and stories about elderly people’s lives that will make you want to cry. But, for me, this book was an eye-opener and surprisingly reassuring, despite it’s grim subject matter.
The Guardian has made a very good list of children’s books that promote tolerance. Authors range from Malala and Amnesty International’s collection of short stories to Michael Morpurgo and Benjamin Zephaniah and there is something for every age range.