Paperbacks to Look Out for in January 2018: Part Two

Cover image This second selection of January paperbacks begins with a title I’m not entirely sure about. In Alison Jean Lester’s Yuki Means Happiness a young woman leaves America for Japan, keen for adventure. She takes a job as a nanny to a two-year-old, immersing herself in the routine of the household and becoming increasingly attached to her charge until she comes to understand that the Yoshimura family isn’t quite what it seems. It sounds very different from the worldly Lillian on Life which is what led me to this one hence my doubts about it but Anne over at Annethology rates it highly as you can see from this review.

Books about and by children brought up in communes have a fascination for me. The best one I’ve read is Tim Guest’s A Life in Orange about his upbringing in an ashram. In Curly Oswald’s The Ballad of Curly Oswald, a man raised by an extended family of hippies looks back on his childhood from his hospital bed. It’s billed by its indie publishers as ‘an extraordinary chronicle of a lifestyle both alternative yet strangely viable, a microcosm of eccentricity, comedy and grotesque tragedy, told with the unflinching eye of a child and the sympathy of a narrator who sees the underlying humour of life in all its deranged glory.’ It’s not entirely clear whether the book is a novel or a memoir but presumably if it’s fiction it’s closely related to the author’s experience.

Moving on to the ‘80s, David Keenan’s This is Memorial Device is about two guys looking back on their fanboy days immersed in Airdrie’s post-punk scene. ’Featuring a cast of misfits, artists, drop-outs, small-town visionaries and musicians, This Is Memorial Device is a dark, witty novel depicting a moment where art and the demands it makes are as serious as life itself’ according to the blurb. Given that Keenan is both a musician and a critic, odds-on this one’s also a tad autobiographical and may be all the better for it.

Known as Bandi, the author of Cover image The Accusation risked his life to get this collection of short stories smuggled out of his native North Korea. Beginning in 1989, these are stories which highlight the grim plight of Bandi’s fellow citizens, throwing a much-needed light on this secretive country and its draconian regime. ‘The Accusation is a heartbreaking portrayal of the realities of life in North Korea. It is also a reminder that humanity can sustain hope even in the most desperate of circumstances – and that the courage of free thought has a power far beyond those seek to suppress it’ say the publishers. I feel duty bound to the author to read this one.

That’s it for January paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that have taken your fancy, and if you’d like to catch up with the first batch it’s here. January’s new titles are here and here.


17 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in January 2018: Part Two”

  1. It looks like the Bandi is a popular choice, something I’ve been eyeing up since it came out in hardback last year. I’m a bit torn on it to be honest. I am quite intrigued to read stories written by North Korean writers, but I wonder if, given the nature of it, it will be just one type of story rather than a representative spread incorporating a range of views and perspectives. Still it interests me and I might still pick it up at some point. Interesting selection, as always.

    1. I think they’re all be the same writer rather than an anthology. The note in the back of the book gives the collection some context. I hope he manages to maintain his anonymity. i imagine there would be dire consequences if he were unmasked

  2. If you’re a fan of childhood commune memoirs, can I recommend All the Fishes Come Home to Roost, by Rachel Manija Brown? Her (deeply unreliable) parents brought her up on an Indian ashram run by an enigmatic Baba, and she’s great at both evoking the sights and sounds and smells of her eccentric childhood, and not romanticising it—you see that her parents were well-intentioned but that her upbringing basically terrified her. Worth a read.

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