Books to Look Out for in January 2019: Part Two

Cover imagePart two of January’s preview kicks off with a debut from a former Waterstones bookseller: When All is Said by Anne Griffin. Over the course of a single evening, eighty-four-year-old Maurice Hannigan raises five toasts to five different people all of whom have changed his life in different ways, all of whom are now gone. ‘Exquisitely written and powerfully felt, When All is Said promises to be the next great Irish novel’ say the publishers and it seems that both Donal Ryan and John Boyne agree. It sounds like a very appealing way of telling a story to me, and I have a weakness for both debuts and Irish writing.

Rebecca Kaufman’s The Gunners follows six childhood friends who become like family to each other, playing together and finding their way from childhood into adult life. Then one of them stops speaking to the others and won’t say why. Years later, her suicide forces them back together for her funeral where the truth about what happened between them is finally faced. ‘This is a generous and poignant novel about the difficulty – and the joy – of being a true friend’ according to the publishers. I do like a novel that revisits childhood friendships; lots of potential for dark secrets and character development.

I read Magda Szabo’s Iza’s Ballad on holiday in Antwerp and regretted it. It’s a book that deserves more attention than a short city break allows. I’m determined that won’t happen with Katalin Street which follows the sole surviving family of the three who grew up together on the same street in pre-war Budapest, picking their story up in the Soviet era. ‘Magda Szabo conducts a clear-eyed investigation into the ways in which we inflict suffering on those we love. Katalin Street, which won the 2007 Prix Cevennes for Best European novel, is a poignant, somber, at times harrowing book, but beautifully conceived and truly unforgettable’ say the publishers. I’m hoping for more of the quiet understatement and elegant prose that struck me in Iza’s Ballad.Cover image

Gerald Murane’s Border Districts takes us somewhere entirely different. A man moves to an isolated town intending to spend his last years casting his mind back over a lifetime of reading and considering which characters, metaphors and lines of glittering prose have caught in his memory. ‘Feeling an increasing urgency to put his mental landscape in order, the man sets to work cataloguing this treasure, little knowing where his `report’ will lead and what secrets will be brought to light’ say the publishers. This is the first book by Murane to be published in the UK, apparently, which seems surprising given he’s a literary star in his native Australia. Kim at Reading Matters is a big fan.

Lightening the tone a little after two rather sombre sounding novels, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister, the Serial Killer sounds darkly humorous. Korede’s sister has issued yet another cry for help after ridding herself of her third boyfriend. Korede jumps to, disposing of the body, but alarm bells start to ring when Ayoola begins dating the man Korede’s had her eye on for some time. Ayobami Adebayo has called it ‘Disturbing, sly and delicious’ which is what’s caught my eye with this one.

‘Delicious’ is a word which may well apply to Pascal Pujol’s Little Culinary Triumphs set in Montmartre where Sandrine is eager to set up a restaurant and willing to go to any lengths to do so. ‘A carousel of extravagant characters follows: the giant Senegalese man, Toussaint N’Diaye; the magical chef, Vairam; the extravagantly flatulent Alsatian, Schmutz and his twelve-year-old daughter Juliette—IQ 172!; the alluring psychologist and Kama Sutra specialist, Annabelle Villemin-Dubreuil’ promises the publisher but all does not go well, apparently.

Cover imageI’m ending this preview with Diane Setterfield’s nineteenth-century set Once Upon a River which sounds like a piece of good old-fashioned storytelling, entirely appropriate for January evenings. A stranger knocks on the door of a riverside inn, badly injured and holding the body of a drowned girl in his arms. Hours later, the girl revives. Who is she, and how has she survived? It’s been over twelve years since the publication of Setterfield’s debut, The Thirteenth Tale, the book for which she’s best known, and I’m sure this one will be eagerly anticipated.

That’s it for January. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis if any take your fancy and if you’d like to catch up with the first instalment it’s here. Paperbacks soon…

18 thoughts on “Books to Look Out for in January 2019: Part Two

  1. Café Society

    I was one of the few people who really didn’t like The Thirteenth Tale, however, her more recent Bellman and Black is coming up on one of my books group lists in the new year so I shall reserve judgment about reading Once Upon a River until I’ve read that.

    Reply
  2. whatcathyreadnext

    I thought Once Upon A River was brilliant – definitely ‘good old-fashioned storytelling’. I found it more compelling than The Thirteenth Tale in fact.

    I read the first chapter of My Sister, the Serial Killer via Readers First and, although I didn’t think it was something I liked, actually the dark humour intrigued me and I can see why it’s being talked about.

    Reply
      1. Rebecca Foster

        I won a proof copy of the Setterfield on Twitter months ago and it’s been a similar thing – so much gushing over it, perversely, makes me less likely to pick it up. But I’ve read both of her other novels and I expect I’ll enjoy this one, too, if I can find the right moment.

        Reply
  3. Elle

    My Sister the Serial Killer sounds bonkers and delightful and dark – a bit like Killing Eve crossed with an Ottessa Moshfegh novel? I’ve already read When All Is Said and thought it was very nice, if a tiny bit commercial-crossover-y, and Little Culinary Triumphs sounds like one to keep an eye out for (though potentially with a touch of the McCall-Smith about it…)

    Reply
    1. Susan Osborne Post author

      Bonkers indeed! I’m hoping for something with a little more bite with Little Culinary Triumphs than McCall Smith but we’ll see. I’m just catching up with Killing Eve, ages after everyone else, and trying to get over that hairpin scene in the first episode.

      Reply
        1. Susan Osborne Post author

          My partner’s a handy indicator as to just how gruesome things are on the screen. The minute a weapon hoves into view I watch his expression and when he’s stopped grimacing I know it’s safe to look.

          Reply

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