Paperbacks to Look Out For in February 2016: Part 2

Cover image The first batch of February paperbacks kicked off with one of my books of 2015 as does the second: Sara Taylor’s The Shore which I was delighted to see on both the Baileys Prize longlist and the newly resurrected Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award shortlist last year. The novel is made up of a set of interconnecting stories that span a century and a half in the lives of the inhabitants of three small islands off the coast of Virginia. The Shore is the name given to the islands, all within a stone’s throw of each other, and Taylor’s novel focuses on the two families who dominate them – one impoverished the other prosperous – both intertwined through marriage. You need to keep your wits about you – characters pop up then disappear only to reappear again – but Taylor’s careful to tie in every loose end meticulously. I miss that gorgeous hardback jacket, though.

Oneworld is a small publisher who had a very good year last year. They’re the publishers of Marlon James’ Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings. They also publish my second choice, Julia Pierpont’s Among the Ten Thousand Things which sounds entirely different from James’ novel. An anonymously sent box of printed explicit emails, meant for artist Jack Shanley’s wife, is opened by their children, precipitating a crisis. In an attempt to repair their marriage, Jack and Deb decide to move away from New York, thrusting fifteen-year-old Simon and eleven-year-old Kay into different worlds. The synopsis reminds me a little of Jane Hamilton’s Disobedience published back in the days when email was still a bit of a novelty rather than the time-consuming annoyance it’s come to be for so many. Cover image

The next title was also shortlisted for the Man Booker, and appeared alongside Sara Taylor’s The Shore on the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award shortlist. Sunjeev Sahota’s The Year of the Runaways is the story of thirteen young Indian men sharing a house in Sheffield, each with their own story and all in search of a better life. The publishers bravely compare Sahota’s novel with Rohinton Mistry’s superb A Fine Balance which makes the sceptic in me raise her eybrows but Kamila Shamsie rates it highly, apparently. Nothing would please me more than to be able to include a new novel by Mistry in one of these previews. It’s been such a long time that I wonder if he’ll ever publish one again.

The Power of the Dog This last title is here almost as an act of faith. Thomas Savage’s The Power of the Dog is published by the same imprint that brought us the wonderful Stoner and they claim that it’s in the same league thereby setting the bar extraordinarily high. Phil and George are brothers, owners of a large Montana ranch. They’re the antithesis of each other but have shared the same room for forty years since they were boys. When George marries a widow, overturning this lifelong arrangement, Phil sets out to destroy her. We’re promised a ‘devastating twist at the end’. Annie Proulx rates it enough to have written an afterword so I’m thrusting my cynicism aside.

That’s it for February paperbacks. If you’d like to know more, a click on the title will take you to my review for The Shore and to Waterstones for the last three. If you’d like to catch up with the rest of February’s new novels the first batch of paperbacks are here and the hardbacks are here and here.

18 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in February 2016: Part 2”

  1. Hurrah! For once it’s not one of your round-ups where I despair at HBs on the shelf unread! I enjoyed The Shore but like you preferred the HB jacket. I haven’t read any Rohinton Mistry but The Year of the Runaways is absolutely fantastic (and utterly heartbreaking too). The one on my shelf is Among the Ten Thousand Things which I will pick up now (couldn’t read it last summer).

    1. Phew! Glad to hear that, and I’ll be interested to know how you get on with Among the Ten Thousand Things. I’m looking forward to the Year of the Runaways very much. Can’t recommend A Fine Balance too highly!

      1. It’s on my shelf! I bought it after a former colleague told me it was her favourite book. (I’ll not mention how many years it’s been sitting on the shelf. Perhaps I should make it a #ReadDiverse2016 read.)

  2. I’ve just finished reading The Power of the Dog – and it is strong stuff. Once you get past the first page which is a graphically described steer castration scene, it quietly builds up its picture of a pair of brothers running a ranch, and the disruption that happens when one of them marries – brilliant climax, but took its time getting there. I’ve not yet read Stoner, obviously they’re totally different stories so I can’t compare.

    1. I like that sound of that, Annabel. I’ve just started it this morning – I think I’ll remember that opening scene for some time! I was warned by the publicist but had just finished The Son so felt well prepared.

  3. Agree about the HB jacket of The Shore–so beautiful, though this PB jacket hints more at the highly traumatic nature of the book’s contents, with its weird neon/heat-seeking aesthetic. The Power of the Dog looks phenomenal and unsettling; I’ve never heard of it. I missed The Year of the Runaways when it was Booker-shortlisted, too, partly because I rather suspected Marlon James was going to come up with the goods (as indeed he did) and prioritised his novel instead! Perhaps now is the time to check out Sahota’s work.

    1. Yes, I see what you mean about The Shore’s paperback jacket echoing the book’s central message. I’ve just started The Power of the Dog so will be reporting back. I’m impressed so far. Fully intending to pick up a copy of the Sahota as soon as I spot one in a bookshop.

  4. Still excited to read The Shore (but haven’t yet). The others are new to me. The Year of the Runaways sounds good, but it is The Power of the Dog that intrigues me. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it.
    A Fine Balance was so good, but whenever I think of it now, a dark, bleak feeling comes over me. Considering that it’s been years since I read it, I guess it must have a been a powerful read!

    1. Oh, you’ve a treat in store with The Shore, Naomi! I’m now 100 pages into The Power of the Dog and enjoying it. I’d love to hear news of a new Mistry but I wonder if that’s likely to happen now given that it’s getting on for 14 years since Family Matters. Can but hope!

  5. Well, I am a tremendous Mistry fan (and like you bemoan the lack of anything new) and also have a greta respect for Shamsie, so I had better add ‘The Year of the Runaways’ to the list of books I really will get round to at some point this year. I also very much like Jane Hamilton, so perhaps I had better have a look at ‘Among the The Thousand Things’ as well.

    1. Having looked up how long it’s been since Family Matters – fourteen or so years – I think we may be disappointed, Alex.

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