Paperbacks to Look Out for in November 2014

Cover image Unlike October, the November paperback schedules appear to be packed with far too much temptation, at least for me. I’ve only read one of the titles that snagged my attention so I’ll start with that. I’m a great fan of Alice McDermott’s fiction. She’s in the quiet understated school that if you’re a regular reader of this blog you may have noticed is my favourite kind of writing. Her first novel in seven years, Someone is about Marie whose unremarkable story is told in such light brushstrokes and with such empathy that the moments of drama stand out vividly. A lovely novel and one which I hope will introduce McDermott to more British readers.

David Leavitt is another fine novelist whose work I’ve long read and enjoyed. The Two Hotel Francforts is set in neutral Portugal in 1940 when Lisbon is seething with refugees hoping to escape the war through its port. When two American couples strike up a friendship – the conventional Winters, fleeing Paris, and the bohemian Frelengs – a passionate affair ensues with tragic consequences. This one will be at the top of my to buy list – I’ve a weakness for Lisbon and it’s an unusual setting for a wartime novel.

Anna Quindlen’s Still Life with Bread Crumbs is described as ‘a wry and knowing portrait’, and is, apparently, both moving and funny. A once-famous photographer’s career is on the slide along with her bank balance. She turns her back on the city, moves to the country and finds that there’s more to life than work. Doesn’t sound as if it will set the world on fire, I know, but Quindlen’s one of those writers I’d rank alongside Sue Miller in my reliably good, emotionally intelligent fiction pigeonhole.

Marie-Helene Bertino’s debut is irresistible for its title alone. 2 A. M. at the Cat’s Pyjamas, sees three lost souls Cover image meet on a snowy Christmas Eve in Philadelphia: nine-year-old aspiring jazz-singer Madeleine Altimari, her teacher apprehensively contemplating a dinner party with her teenage crush and the owner of the legendary Cat’s Pyjamas club, on the brink of closure. These three ‘will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night’ – a tad worried about the magical bit but it sounds like a cheering November read.

I’ve picked the next book more on the recommendation of another blogger than the appeal of the publisher’s blurb which is a little off-putting but it is Tinder Press, an imprint I like, and I trust Elena over at Reviews and Words so here we go. It’s Morgan McCarthy’s Strange Girls and Ordinary Women, a ‘lyrical and utterly enthralling story of warped perceptions, female intuition and ‘the other woman’ – see what I mean about the blurb? Alice is convinced her husband is having an affair, Vic is worried about her dear friend Michael’s attraction to Estella. Into the midst of this comes Kaya who is determined to find a way out of her miserable world. We’ll see.

Cover image My last choice is Kerrigan in Copenhagen, the first in Thomas E. Kennedy’s Copenhagen quartet, presumably reissued to tie in with the final volume, Beneath the Neon Egg, which is also published this month. I’ve been meaning to catch up with these for some time and now seems a good opportunity. American writer Terence Kerrigan is drowning his sorrows after a lost love, writing a guide to the fifteen hundred pubs and bars of Copenhagen (good luck with that – a wincingly expensive occupation). A great deal of boozing then, but accompanied by lots of literary allusions and jokes, apparently, and like The Two Hotel Francforts it’s set in one of my favourite cities.

That’s it for November, although I do have a bit of a hankering for Claire Cameron’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlisted The Bear but it’s narrated by a five-year-old which has put me off a little. A click on a title will take you to Waterstones website for more information and if you’d like to know what I have my eye on in October you can click on paperbacks or hardbacks.

13 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in November 2014”

    1. Charming Billy is my favourite McDermott, Claire. Beautifully written with a lovely melancholy about it. I wonder what it will be like in French!

  1. OK, so McDermott is another to add to the list of writers I must get round to reading. Fortunately, Quindlen is already there, so I would have been on the lookout for this anyway. And I like the sound of the Leavitt. You’re right, it is an unusual setting for a wartime novel and I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t realised the Portugal was neutral during the last war.

    1. I only know courtesy of the Rough Guide, Alex. Very good context notes at the back of the Portuguese one. Delighted to make a McDermott convert!

  2. lonesomereadereric

    The Bear has some suspenseful and emotional moments, but I have to say I didn’t find it very successful – exactly because it’s stuck in that child narrator voice and a part of the book drags when it should all be full of tension.

    1. It’s the idea of a five-year-old’s voice that put me off, Eric. Thanks for the tip – best avoided for me, I think.

  3. I just finished The Two Hotel Francforts and I must admit that i didn’t love it, but i also think that i was expecting something very different from the story. I loved Indian Clerk, like loooved it. Francfort doesn’t come close to meeting it, in my opinion. I’ll be posting my review of it soon.

  4. I adored that Alice McDermott novel, and you remind me I must read Anna Quindlen. I’m also interested in the David Leavitt and will definitely be giving it a whirl!

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed Someone – it seemed to get hardly any attention at all when published in hardback. Should you every spot a copy of Charming Billy (now out of print), snap it up. Gorgeous melancholic writing.

  5. Pingback: Books to Look Out for in December 2014 | A life in books

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