Paperbacks to Look Out for in October 2018

Cover image Back from the blustery North Norfolk coast – more of which in a few days – with a look ahead at a few October paperbacks that have caught my eye, two of which I’ve yet to read beginning with Ali Smith’s Winter. I still haven’t got around to Autumn although it’s on my horizon, sitting patiently on a shelf waiting to be read. The second in Smith’s quartet casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter. It’s the season that teaches us survival’ according to the publishers. I’m sure we could all do with something ‘merry’ to help us along in the so-called ‘post-truth’ era.

The second unread title in this batch is a new edition of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s final collection of short stories, Kingdoms of Elfin, which has its feet firmly planted in the fantastical. ‘Warner explores the morals, domestic practices, politics and passions of the Kingdoms of Elfin by following their affairs with mortals, and their daring flights across the North Sea’ say the publishers. I’ve enjoyed Warner’s novels in the distant past but I’m not entirely sure this is for me.

That said, those were my initial thoughts about Michael Andreasen’s collection, The Sea Beast Takes a Lover, comprising twelve surreal stories beginning with a loving son remembering the many happy times they have shared before his father is crated up in his wheelchair and dropped into the sea. In the eponymous story a crew look on helplessly, quarrelling amongst themselves, fretting about their cannibalistic admiral and being propositioned by mermaids as a many tentacled sea monster tightens her grip on what she hopes is her new lover. What makes these somewhat bonkers stories work is Andreasen’s often darkly bizarre humour and his arresting writing. You’ll either hate it or love it – I loved it.

No such doubts about Joseph Cassara’s debut. Set in the ‘80s and ‘90s, The House of Impossible Beauties focusses on four characters: Angel, Venus, Juanito and Daniel. Angel and Venus are transsexual while Juanito and Daniel are not. All of them are runaways, looking for a home. Together these four make up the House of Xtravaganza, the first Latino house on the drag ball circuit and a place of sanctuary from a harsh world with Angel at its centre. AIDs is the grim backdrop to this novel, loss and sadness always in the background together with the straight world’s prejudice and ignorance, but there’s a bright thread of humour running through it, lightening its tone. Cover image

Loss and grief also run through Benedict Wells’ The End of Loneliness which opens with forty-one-year-old Jules in hospital, recovering from a motorbike accident. When their parents were killed in a car crash in 1984, he and his siblings dealt with their grief in very different ways. Wells tells their story in Jules’ voice through his memories and dreams, from the years before his parents died to his recovery from his own accident. Written with empathy and compassion, the novel is expertly translated by Charlotte Collins whose name I’ve learned to look out for.

That’s it for October’s paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for the first two and to my review for the last three. If you’d like to catch up with October’s new titles, they’re here.

22 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in October 2018”

  1. Usually I have an existential crisis at the paperback posts where I haven’t read all of the hardbacks I’ve accumulated – only Winter in this instance – but this month I’m excited; I’ve been waiting for The House of Impossible Beauties paperback. I so want to read it and the HB cover was gorgeous but the book itself was massive and the PB has my favourite building on the cover. Yay!

  2. Having read Autumn and realising that it was going to need at least a second if not a third reading to really understand I made the decision to wait until the quartet is complete before attempting any of them. I suspect that in order to get the most out of the novels I will need to read them all while each one is fresh in my mind.

  3. Ooh I loved Winter so much, more than Autumn which I also liked a lot. I have read several of the Sylvia Townsend Warner stories in another anthology and they would be perfect for someone looking for something different and whimsical to read in time for Halloween.

  4. Ali Smith is such a clever and creative writer. She seems to have the ability to incorporate some very meaningful themes in her work without them feeling forced or preachy. I’ve seen quite a lot of praise for Winter since its publication in h/b, so it’ll be interesting to read your take on it too.

  5. Your first paragraph made me smile: I read Autumn while staying near the North Norfolk coast in, er, Spring. (it was April, but the last two days of thick fog meant that I read rather a lot!)

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