Paperbacks to Look Out For in July 2016

Cover imageI’ll start July’s paperback selection with my favourite of the three I’ve already read. Set in Morocco, Vendela Vida’s The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty takes us on a nail-biting journey wondering what our resourceful protagonist will come up with next. Exhausted after her long sleepless flight and preoccupied by problems at home, she finds herself in a Kafkaesque nightmare with no ID, credit cards cancelled and no cash after her backpack is snatched. When, after a fretful night, the chief of police hands her a black backpack she accepts it knowing that it’s not hers, nor is the passport or the credit cards she finds in it, but seeing a way out of her predicament. What follows is a somewhat improbable but thoroughly entertaining sequence of events as our nameless protagonist slides deeper and deeper into a quagmire of lies.

Vida’s writing was new to me but I’ve been reading Andrew Miller’s novels since the publication of his excellent debut, Ingenious Pain. He’s never quite matched that for me but it hasn’t stopped me looking forward to whatever he comes up with next. The Crossing opens with a young man and woman repairing a boat, both members of their university sailing club. They’re not a couple but Tim has it in the back of his mind that he’ll sleep with Maud before too long. Suddenly, Maud flips off the boat and lands on her head – for one long moment it seems she’s dead – then she gets up and walks away. Tim somehow feels responsible following her home and later conceiving a passion for her. Written in short, crisp sentences from which the occasional startlingly sharp image leaps out, The Crossing feels very different from any of Miller’s previous novels. It had me gripped throughout but left me puzzled.Cover image

Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies, is also about a marriage but not just any old run-of-the-mill, everyday sort of marriage: Lotto and Mathilde are a shiny beacon of the perfect relationship but as we all know that can’t be true. The novel’s two-part structure – first the Fates then the Furies – sets us up for dramatic revelations, presenting an apparently idyllic relationship seen through both parties’ very different eyes. It’s stuffed full of little side stories, some of which go nowhere, some of which are picked up again and sewn neatly in. Groff’s baggy, extravagant, almost baroque writing is the antithesis of the spare elegance I so admire in the likes of Colm Tóibín, Kent Haruf and John McGahern yet there’s something about it that sucks me in. Not an unalloyed joy – it’s far too long – but it’s an absorbing, intriguing novel.

Jonathan Galassi’s Muse looks irresistible: its setting, subject and jacket tick all the boxes for me. Paul Dukach is in line to take over one of the last independent publishing houses in New York and is being shown the ropes, from navigating the choppy waters of the Frankfurt book fair to the wooing of authors renowned for their delicate egos. Paul has become obsessed with Ida Perkins, a star of literary New York, whose lover and longtime publisher is Paul’s boss’s biggest rival. ‘Enriched by juicy details only a quintessential insider could know, written with both satiric sharpness and sensitivity, Muse is a love letter to the people who write, sell – and, above all, read – the books that shape our lives’ says the publisher. See what I mean by irresistible…

Cover imageEnding on a very different note, Walter Kempowski’s All for Nothing takes us to rural East Prussia in January 1945 where the wealthy von Globigs have hidden themselves away from the horrors taking place on their doorstep. When they take in a stranger it seems that they will finally have to face the consequences of the war. ‘Profoundly evocative of the period, sympathetic yet painfully honest about the motivations of its characters, All for Nothing is a devastating portrait of the complicities and denials of the German people as the Third Reich comes to an end’ says the publisher. The novel is translated by Anthea Bell which makes it well worth a look for me.

That’s it for July. As ever, if you’d like to know more a click on a title will take you to my review for the novels I’ve read and to a more detailed synopsis for the ones I haven’t. if you’d like to catch up with the hardback selections they’re here and here.

12 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For in July 2016”

  1. I like your comment about Fates and Furies ‘not an unalloyed joy – it’s far too long’. I felt like that too (and a bit churlish with it, as so many people loved it) but it had its good parts, I agree.

    1. Some of those byways she took us down were fascinating but could have been the basis for a novel in themselves. It won’t stop me reading her next one, though.

    1. I have that to read. I don’t think I’ve read anything translated by Anthea Bell that I haven’t enjoyed.

  2. All For Nothing sounds so good. It’s the first I’ve heard of it.
    I always find it interesting to see the covers for the paperbacks compared to the hardcovers. Fates and furies is so pretty.

    1. Yes, I’m looking forward to that one very much. I think they’ve got the Fates and Furies jacket right, although sometimes I wonder what on earth has influenced the decision to take a perfectly fine hardback cover and replace it with a totally inappropriate paperback one. Covers are a bit of a bugbear with me – it’s the old bookseller in me!

    1. Nicely eye-catching, isn’t it? I had a few reservations, as you probably gathered, but she’s still on my ‘must read’ list.

  3. Ftaes and Furies started off with intrigue, but didn’t live up to expectations for me, that said, I still want to read some of her earlier work, which I’d been aware of and wanting to read for soem time.

    I have Walter Kempowski’s All for Nothing and I am looking forward to reading it over the summer.

    I’ve read the novella The Lovers by Vendela Vida from the small selection of English titles in the library, a melancholic read.

    1. I enjoyed both Arcadia and The Monsters Templeton – also a little baggy – but I’m with you on Fates and Furies, Claire. Interesting re the Vida. This one’s my first and a little antidote to melancholia, I’d say. Looking forward to seeing what you think of the Kempowski.

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