Paperbacks to Look Out for in February 2018: Part Two

Cover imageI’ve yet to get around to reading George Saunders’ Man Booker Prize winning Lincoln in the Bardo. which examines the effects of the death of the President’s eleven-year-old son on his father. Lincoln was rumoured to have frequently visited his son’s grave despite the ravaging of his country by the American Civil War. ‘From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying’ according to the publisher. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that but it’s the novel’s central question – ‘how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?’ – together with Saunders’ reputation that makes this one attractive for me rather than its Man Booker prize.

My second choice was shortlisted for the Sunday Times/Peters, Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award whose judges handed the prize to Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. The shadow panel begged to differ, loving Julianne Pachico’s The Lucky Ones so much they picked it as their winner. Pachico’s short story collection is set in Colombia and New York, bringing together ‘the fates of guerrilla soldiers, rich kids, rabbits, hostages, bourgeois expats, and drug dealers. Exploring what makes a victim and what makes a perpetrator, these stories show lives fatefully entwined, despite deep cultural divides’ which sounds fascinating enough as it is but Annabel, Elle and Rebecca’s reviews are even more persuasive.

I’m particularly fond of the idea of an apartment block portrayed as a microcosm of a city – Alaa Cover imageAl Aswany did it beautifully in The Yacoubian Building as did Manil Suri in The Death of Vishnu but my favourite has to be Georges Perec’s Life, a User’s Manual. Fran Cooper’s debut, These Dividing Walls, is also set in a Parisian building whose inhabitants live their separate lives, barely aware of their neighbours’ existence. Enter Edward who seems to be about to change all that. ‘As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37…’ say the publishers somewhat melodramatically. Maybe I’ve set the bar too high having Perec in mind but it sounds worth investigating.

Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley comes billed by Ann Patchett as ‘one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade’. Samuel has spent years on the run but has moved to his late wife’s hometown with his teenage daughter who is increasingly curious about what happened to her mother not to mention the twelve scars on Samuel’s body, each from a bullet. ‘Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love most’ say the publishers whose synopsis suggests the makings of a rollicking good bit of storytelling

Rick Gekoski’s Darke  looks like it picks up the existential angst theme with which this post began. It sees the eponymous character consumed by his ‘coming of old age’ journal, seeking consolation in books but finding little until his grandchildren distract him. ‘With scalding prose, ruthless intelligence and an unforgettably vivid protagonist, Darke confronts some of humanity’s greatest and most uncomfortable questions about how we choose to live, and to die’ promise the publishers. You may wonder why I’ve plumped for such a gloomy sounding subject in the middle of winter but I’ve enjoyed Gekoski’s memoirs of life as a rare book dealer very much.

Cover imageThanks are due to Heavenali for reminding me last week that the paperback edition of Rachel Malik’s Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is due in February. Based on the author’s family history, it’s about two women who meet when Rene is a Land Girl and Elsie is running the family farm alone. These two become inseparable, facing adversity together until a dramatic event forces them apart. I’ll be posting a review of Malik’s tender, engrossing novel sometime in the next few weeks after being tempted to read it by Ali’s post.

That’s it for February’s paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you be interested, and if you’d like to catch up with the first part of the preview it’s here. New titles are here and here.

33 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in February 2018: Part Two”

    1. Glad you think so! The Lucky Ones was already on my list thanks to you, Annabel and Elle. I have a copy of the Saunders but I’m more put off by the Booker than anything else – it seems I rarely agree with the judges whoever they are. I’m sure I’ll get around to it.

  1. I’ve read These Dividing Walls (like you, I enjoy the microcosm idea) but unfortunately it did nothing for me – loved some of the characters but a few too many plot twists for one tiny apartment building!

  2. I have Lincoln in the Bardo on my Kindle waiting to be read at some point. I loved These Dividing Walls and Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves was one of my favourite books of 2017. So many great books coming out in paperback…thanks for the reminder.

  3. Love all the choices here. The only one I’ve read is The Lucky Ones which is excellent. (I’ll add the caveat that Julianne is my PhD supervisor but I wouldn’t mention it at all if I didn’t think it was worth reading.)

  4. I have heard wonderful things about Lincoln the Bardo, but somehow the book hasn’t made it to my (already terrifying) TBR pile. And now that I see Naomi’s comment, I am VERY curious to take a look to The Lucky Ones.

  5. This is a really good mix of recommendations. I want to read Lincoln in the Bardo, mostly because I love books with a supernatural twist, although the Booker win is making it harder to get hold of in the library! Also really intrigued by The Twelve Lives… and Miss Boston… neither of which I’d heard about, so thanks for the tips!

  6. I love the lives-in-a-building or lives-on-a-street motif as well. And Life has just made its way to me via the library (after a rather long wait on a hold list, surprisingly enough, given its age). I was inspired to read it by Kaggsy, but now I can add your enthusiasm to my motivation. (I’ve had A Void on the stack for almost ten years, untouched: intimidating. Life is supposed to be my entrance ticket.)

  7. I’m intrigued too about Lincoln in the Bardo, its uniqueness, I quite like a twist of the supernatural, I’m reading Sing, Unburied, Sing and the protagonists dead brother keeps turning up when she does something that may harm her, I find it quite believable, especially when we know the character is using some kind of substance.

    1. Oddly enough, I’ve just come across a bit of narrative from the afterlife in Elizabeth Brudage’s All Things Cease to Appear. It was The Lovely Bones that put me right off the idea. I’ve heard very good things about Sing, Unburied, Sing, though

  8. Echoing the many comments here, Lincoln in the Bardo is the book that most intrigues me; I haven’t read Saunders but heard many good things about him, and the style and the idea of it is fascinating. Interesting selection of books, as always.

  9. Lincoln In the Bardo is great, I do hope you enjoy it. and thanks for your kind words re. our reviews of The Lucky Ones; it was a real standout on the Young Writer of the Year shortlist!

  10. I keep recommending Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves to people, I made my sister read it and she loved it too.
    I don’t know why but Lincoln in the Bardot just doesn’t appeal to me, I’m sure I must be wrong, I saw so much enthusiasm for it last year.

    1. Always a good sign when you’re thrusting a book into as many hands as you can! I know what you mean about the Saunders but I do have a copy so feel I really should give it a go.

  11. I have the hardbacks of Conversations with Friends, Miss Boston & Miss Hargreaves, These Dividing Walls and Lincoln in the Bardo on my TBR. Must read those soon, not least because I keep buying the hardbacks of books I’m desperate to read and then fail to read them by the time the paperback comes out. I think my inner book magpie just covets the shiny.

    Of the others, I really enjoyed The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley and The Lucky Ones and cannot recommend both enough. They’re well worth a read.

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