Paperbacks to Look Out for in April 2017: Part Two

Cover imageBack from sunny Antwerp, safe and sound, more of which later in the week but in the meantime here’s the second batch of April’s paperbacks beginning with Marie Ndiaye’s 2016 Man Booker Prize longlisted Ladivine. Unable to admit her mother’s lowly origins to her husband and daughter, Clarisse Riviere pretends to be an orphan, visiting her mother in secret. Inevitably, her lies catch up with her. Although she’s more open with the new man who enters her life, tragedy eventually ensues. ‘Centred around three generations of women, whose seemingly cursed lineage is defined by the weight of origins, the pain of alienation and the legacy of shame, Ladivine is a beguiling story of secrets, lies, guilt and forgiveness by one of Europe’s most unique literary voices’ according to the publisher. I like the sound of this one.

David Szalay’s All That Man Is sat alongside Ladivine, on last year’s Man Booker longlist, then made it on to the shortlist. It follows nine men, all of whom are away from home, each at different stages in their lives. Set in a variety of locations, from the suburbs of Prague to a Cypriot hotel, it’s ‘a portrait of contemporary manhood, contemporary Europe and contemporary life from a British writer of supreme gifts – the master of a new kind of realism’ say the publishers. The structure is a very appealing one although the predominantly male set of voices may become a bit wearing.

‘Postmodern’, a word that crops up in the blurb for the next novel, tends to run up a warning flag for me but the synopsis for Álvaro Enrigue’s Sudden Death is hard to resist. It begins with a brutal tennis match in which Caravaggio takes on the Spanish poet Quevedo before an audience which includes Galileo and Mary Magdelene. According to the publisher ‘there are assassinations and executions, hallucinogenic mushrooms, bawdy criminals, carnal liaisons and papal dramas, artistic and religious revolutions, love and war. A blazingly original voice and a postmodern visionary, Álvaro Enrigue tells the grand adventure of the dawn of the modern era, breaking down traditions and upending expectations, in this bold, powerful punch of a novel.’ There’s every chance, of course, that it’s the kind of book that’s just too tricksy for its own good although H, who bought it at my suggestion, says it’s good and he’s as sceptical of that postmodern tag as I am, if not more so.

I’m ending April’s paperbacks with a short story collection from Kevin Barry whose Beatlebone Cover imagewas much admired and whose writing I was very struck by in the anthology A Kind of Compass a little while back. In There Are Little Kingdoms ‘a pair of fast girls court trouble as they cool their heels on a slow night in a small town. Lonesome hillwalkers take to the high reaches in pursuit of a saving embrace. A bewildered man steps off a country bus in search of his identity – and a stiff drink. These stories, filled with a grand sense of life’s absurdity, form a remarkably surefooted collection that reads like a modern-day Dubliners’ claim the publishers somewhat ambitiously.

That’s it for April. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take your fancy. If you’d like to catch up with the first paperback preview, it’s here. New titles are here and here.

14 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in April 2017: Part Two”

  1. I loved Ladivine, thought it was moving and cleverly structured. Definitely worth reading.

    I’ve heard mixed takes on the Szalay – no surprise, considering the content, that they’re pretty much divided on gender lines.

    I’m intrigued by the Barry – who’s publishing? I have a copy of that (with a very different cover) from when Stinging Fly published it in 2007.

    1. That’s encouraging – I have a copy of Ladivine on the shelves but have never got around to reading it for some reason. It’s Canongate for the Barry. Which cover do you prefer? This one seems tailored to match Beatlebone.

      1. I think I replied to this comment in my head but seem to have forgotten to type it here! I like the new one but the original’s nicely low key. On balance? Original.

  2. Of this batch ‘m most inclined to the Marie Ndiaye – how can you keep such a thing secret???
    I read the David Szalay last year and was not impressed. It didnt feel like a novel – or even a collection of short stories – more like a collection of character studies connected only by virtue they were all about men

    1. Indeed. As a compulsive truth teller, I can’t imagine it. Thanks for the Szalay tip, Karen. I had wondered about that. I think I’ll take it off my list.

  3. I still have the Szalay waiting to be read, but not sure I’ll get to it this year now. I guess we’ll see. I heard lots of good things about Ladivine. Great selection as always.

    1. Thanks, Belinda. I have Ladivine, gradually working its way up my pile, but I’m beginning to have second thoughts about the Szalay.

    1. I’m not sure about it, Resh. I like the sound of the structure but I’m a bit put off by an entirely male set of voices.

      1. That is a matter of concern. I read a book recently named The Men’s Club by Leonard Michaels. It was dark, sarcastic and funny. But in the end I was disappointed that all the men in the book, kind of have the same way of thinking and the book categorises men in the stereotypical ‘cannot stay commited to a single girl’ philosophy

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