Books to Look Out For in April 2016: Part 1

Cover image With luck those of us who’ve been struggling with a grey, damp – or worse – winter will be able to see a bit of light glimmering on the horizon by now. Far too early with that observation according to H but I’m forever the weather optimist and if I’m proved wrong there are a few books to take refuge in the first of which I have very high hopes for: Georgina Harding’s The Gun Room. She’s one of those authors who takes her time but whose novels are always worth the wait. This one follows a war photographer whose shot of a burning Vietnamese village makes his career but who remains haunted by what he’s seen. Hardly original, I know. Many novels have dealt with this theme, from Catherine Hall’s The Repercussions to William Boyd’s Sweet Caress, but Harding’s writing is always so beautifully crafted that I suspect this will be well worth reading.

I’d expect to be feeling the same pleasurable anticipation for a new Curtis Sittenfeld novel – Sisterland and American Wife were both excellent – but Eligible is a tribute novel, the kind of thing that makes my heart sink. It’s a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with the Bennett sisters transported to 1930s America, both successful career women summoned home from New York to Cincinnati to nurse their father where they meet Chip Bingley and his haughty friend, Fitzwilliam Darcy. I’m going to have to grit my teeth in order to start this one but Sittenfeld’s such a good writer it’s got to be done. Cover image

I may have to do the same with Nicola Barker’s wacky looking The Cauliflower. You may feel that she’s a Marmite author but I’ve loved some of her novels and failed miserably to get on with others. Whatever you think of her she’s rarely anything but original. This one follows a nineteenth-century guru who must, at all costs, be protected from that most bland of vegetables, the cauliflower. ‘Rather than puzzling the shards of history and legend together, Barker shatters the mirror again and rearranges the pieces. The result is a biographical novel viewed through a kaleidoscope. Dazzlingly inventive and brilliantly comic’ says the publisher. We’ll see – brilliant jacket, though.

Rick Moody is another author whose books I’ve read and enjoyed. You may remember his name from The Ice Storm which tells of the accidental death of a young boy and was made into a devastating film directed by Ang Lee. Hotels of North America is set in lighter territory. Motivational speaker Reginald Edward Morse has a talent for the witty anecdote, exercising his skills at the RateYourLodging website but perhaps giving away more than he thinks. ‘Always funny, unexpectedly tragic, this is a book of lonely rooms, long lists, of strong opinion and quiet confession, by one of America’s greatest novelists’ say the publishers. Well worth a look by the sound of it.

Cover image Finishing off this first batch of books to look out for is a debut but by a name you may well know already. Award-winning poet and rapper Kate Tempest has turned her hand to fiction with The Bricks that Built the Houses. Set in London, it spans several generations telling the story of Becky, Harry and Leon who turn their backs on the city in an old Ford Cortina with a suitcase stuffed with money leaving behind Becky’s boyfriend at his own party. ‘Moving back in time – and into the heart of London – The Bricks that Built the Houses explores a cross-section of contemporary urban life with a powerful moral microscope, giving us intimate stories of hidden lives, and showing us that good intentions don’t always lead to the right decisions’ say the publishers which certainly whets my appetite.

That’s it for April’s first selection. Quite a mixed bunch as is the second, all by authors new to me. As ever, a click on the title will take you to a more detailed synopsis.

18 thoughts on “Books to Look Out For in April 2016: Part 1”

  1. I quite enjoyed Eligible: it’s fluffy, but does a pretty good job of transplanting P&P to modern-day Cincinnati. (For once Sittenfeld writes in the third person, though, and first-person narration is really her strength.)

    The Cauliflower is bizarre but very readable. It’s probably my favourite of the 3 Barker novels I’ve read.

    I also look forward to trying Moody and Tempest — thanks for the ideas!

    1. You’re welcome, Rebecca, and thanks for the feedback on Eligible and The Cauliflower. I think I’m more likely to try the latter – the premise is so off the wall!

  2. I’ve never read any Georgina Harding although I think I have her Orange Prize nominated one in the house.

    Eligible’s sitting on a pile and, like you, I’m not sure. The fact it’s Sittenfeld is what’s making me want to read it. The P&P element, not so much.

    I thought The Cauliflower was great and the title’s a bit misleading really. It’s probably the wackiest of hers I’ve read but there’s much more to it than the blurb allows for.

    So looking forward to the Tempest; really hoping it’s everything I want it to be.

    1. My impression from the blurb was that they’d had a great deal of trouble summing the whole thing up! You’re the second person to comment on it positively, though, so I think I’ll give it a go. I’m a great fan of Harding’s work, as you probably gathered. She’s well worth your time.

      1. Yes, I’d agree with that! Sign of a good book, I think!

        Noted. I’ll have a look for the one I think I own and put it somewhere where there’s a hope of it being read!

  3. I’m always a little wary of retellings but have to think that I’ll be in good hands with Sittenfeld.

    Very much looking forward to Hotels of North America.

  4. All these authors and books are new to me, except for Eligible, which I have seen around. But I feel the same way as you about re-tellings of classics. I’ll let others read it first, and let me know if it’s worth a read!
    The Cauliflower has piqued my interest…

    1. I also think that poor old Pride and Prejudice has been done over enough since the BBC adaptation back in the ’90s.

  5. I love these posts and I hate these posts because there are always so many awesome books coming out and so little time (and funding) to experience them. Very excited to see a new book coming out by Nicola Barker, which I will probably have to read. Only read a couple by her and I absolutely loved both of them (Darkmans and Behindlings) but would not be surprised to find she was something of an acquired taste. Anyway, thanks for the head-up. I’ll be looking out for that one.

    1. I know, several readers have pointed out that they’re a blessing and a curse! I hope The Cauliflower lives up to expectations for you.

  6. I’ve got ‘The Cauliflower’ on my Kindle, waiting to be read … I’m also interested in the Tempest novel, though I think I’m going to see what the reviews are like before I add it to my tottering To-Be-Read pile

    1. Looking back at the comments for this post it seems the The Cauliflower wins hands down in terms of anticipation. I like the premise of the Tempest and already have a copy so I’ll be reading that one.

  7. Pingback: Paperbacks to Look Out For in April 2016 | A life in books

  8. Pingback: Books to Look Out For in April 2016: Part 2 | A Life In Books

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