Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 2

Cover imageAnother very tasty batch of paperback treats to keep  the dreary British winter at bay, kicking off with a writer who seems very underrated to me. Christine Dwyer Hickey’s The Lives of Women tells the story of Elaine who has come back to Ireland where her widowed father is wheelchair-bound after surgery. She’s lived in New York since she was sixteen but this is only her second visit home. Hickey slowly unfolds the tale of what lies behind Elaine’s long absence as she looks back to the 1970s and the tragedy that overshadowed her last Irish summer. Dwyer’s writing is quite beautiful – spare yet lyrical. If you haven’t yet read anything by her I hope you’ll give this one a try.

Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days tells the story of another woman looking back to a summer in the ‘70s but is entirely different. Peggy is the daughter of a German concert pianist and an English man. Ute is about to go on tour for the first time in many years while James and his North London Retreater friends play at being survivalists. After a murderous row with one of them, James tells Peggy that they are off on holiday to ‘die Hütte’ where Ute will meet them later. After a summer of repairing the derelict hut James delivers some devastating news: the rest of the world has been destroyed. It’s a wonderfully inventive, very powerful novel. I gather that Fuller has a new one in the works, to be published late 2016/early 2017. A treat to look forward to.Cover image

Judith Claire Mitchell’s A Reunion of Ghosts is another tale of a supremely dysfunctional family written in the form of a memoir which is to be the suicide note of the remaining Alters. Lady, Vee and Delph have grown up imbued with the knowledge of the family curse. Their great-grandfather Lenz first synthesised chlorine gas, used in the First World War. Both he and his wife Iris committed suicide, as did their son Richard unable to live with the misery of guilt by association. The third generation continued the family tradition. Now it’s the turn of the fourth then something entirely unexpected happens. Not to everyone’s taste, I suspect, but I thoroughly enjoyed this funny, irreverent novel.

I’m looking forward to Andrew O’Hagan’s The Illuminations set several years on from 2001. Anne, once a documentary photographer, meets her beloved grandson, a captain with the Royal Western Fusiliers and fresh from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Both have secrets which begin to emerge, taking them on a journey back to the old Blackpool guesthouse where Anne once had a room. I haven’t read an O’Hagan for some time but this one sounds interesting.

Cover imageI’m not at all sure about this last choice: T. Geronimo Johnson’s Welcome to Braggsville. The Washington Post called it ‘The most dazzling, most unsettling, most oh-my-God-listen-up novel you’ll read this year’ but it’s a book which I suspect will resonate much more with American readers than with British. When D’aron Davenport inadvertently reveals that his small Southern town plays host to a Civil War Reenactment every year, his liberal fellow students see red and descend on Braggsville to stage a dramatic protest. ‘A literary coming-of-age novel for a new generation, written with keen wit, tremendous social insight and a unique, generous heart, Welcome to Braggsville reminds us of the promise and perils of youthful exuberance, while painting an indelible portrait of contemporary America.’ say the publishers. Certainly worth investigating.

Quite an embarrassment of riches for January, in all. As ever, if you’d like more detail a click on the first three will take you to my review and to Waterstones website for the second two. If you’d like to catch up with the first batch of paperbacks they’re here, and  the hardbacks are here and here.

That’s it from me for a week or so. A very happy Christmas to you all. I hope it will bring you a least something that you’d like, be it a book, time with family and friends or perhaps a little to yourself.

19 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in January 2016: Part 2

  1. naomifrisby

    Ah, this is one of those spot the hardbacks on my shelves I haven’t read yet posts! Of the others, Welcome to Braggsville sounds interesting.

    Hope you have a lovely break x

    Reply
  2. BookerTalk

    The only one of these I’m familiar with is The Illuminations. The sections set in Afghanistan are the most memorable. The blurb on my version made it sound there was a big secret to be unveiled but that is a fairly minor aspect of the book I thought.

    Reply
  3. JacquiWine

    I haven’t read anything by Christine Dwyer Hickey, but I do recall seeing some praise for her work (possibly in a literary article or one of the blogs I follow). It might have been in connection with one of her other novels, Tatty – have you read that one? She does sound rather underrated, though.

    Have a good Christmas, Susan – wishing you all the best for the festive season.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I have read Tatty but thought that both The Cold Eye of Heaven and The Lives of Women were better. I do hope you’ll give her a try, Jacqui.

      A very happy Christmas to you, too. I hope you’ll find time for a spot of reading!

      Reply
  4. Alex

    I seem to be collecting fiction set in Ireland at the moment so ‘The Lives of Women’ will definitely have to go on the list. And, I am a great O’Hagan fan and have been waiting for ‘The Illuminations’ to make it into paperback so that will be added as well. Do have a good Christmas break.

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      I have a very soft spot for Irish writing, Alex. I do hope you enjoy the Hickey, and have a lovely Christmas break, yourself.

      Reply
  5. Elena

    Don’t judge a book by its cover, but I love both the cover and your description of A Reunion of Ghosts. I’m rushing off to the cannot-be-named Internet bookshop* to check on it. Thank you!!!

    *the cons of living in a country where reading in English is not normal…

    Reply
  6. litlove

    As you know, the Christine Dwyer Hickey is high on my list, and I must, must get around to the Claire Fuller too. You’ve had some great lists for January, Susan. It’s obviously going to be a good fictional start to the year!

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Sample Saturday – suburban women, Henry James’s sister, and short stories | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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