I like to have a theme running through these preview posts, a pleasing link between one title and the next but this first batch of September paperbacks is made up of such a disparate bunch of books I’ve given up, kicking off with one that I have hopes for despite a string of disappointments. Unsurprisingly, three characters are the focus of William Boyd’s Trio, set in the summer of 1968, about the making of a movie in Brighton, a world away from the Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy assassinations of that year. The titular trio comprises a producer, a novelist and an actress who become increasingly focused on each other until it all becomes too much, apparently. A new Boyd on the horizon once signalled a treat in store for me. Not so in recent years but that premise sounds very tempting.
Despite rampant enthusiasm for it on social media, I only got around to Fiona Mozley’s Elmet for my stint as a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year shadow judge. It wasn’t my first choice, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by the confidence of Mozley’s writing. Set in gentrified Soho where a brothel is under threat from the building’s billionaire owner, Hot Stew sounds equally assured. Determined to keep their home, Precious and Tabitha launch a campaign against the steely Agatha. ‘Hot Stew is an insightful and ambitious novel about property, ownership, wealth and inheritance. It is about the place we occupy in society and the importance placed on class and money. It doesn’t shy away from asking difficult questions but does so with humour and intelligence’ say the publishers promisingly.
This one’s a step or three outside my usual reading territory but Annabel at Annabookbel was such a persuasive champion of it last year that I’ve had to think again. In Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi the eponymous character charts the many wonders of the house he’s lived in all his life, from the multitude of statues to the clouds flitting through the upper floor. Apart from two weekly meetings with a friend, it’s a solitary life suddenly disrupted by the knowledge that someone new has entered the house. ‘The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous. The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite’ according to the blurb. If you want to know more, Annabel’s hymn of praise is here.
Years ago, I read Abdulrazak Gurnah’s beautifully expressed, poignant By The Sea, including it in my Five Books I’ve Read About Immigrants post. In Afterlives Gurnah explores the return of two men to their homeland: one kidnapped and forced to fight against his own people; the other sold into the same war. Both are connected by Afiya, the sister of one, beloved by the other. ‘As fate knots these young people together, as they live and work and fall in love, the shadow of a new war on another continent lengthens and darkens, ready to snatch them up and carry them away…’ says the blurb of a novel much acclaimed when it was published in hardback.
That’s it for the first rather brief instalment of September’s paperbacks. A click on a title with take you to a more detailed synopsis should you want to know more and if you’d like to catch up with the month’s new titles, they’re here. Part two soon…