Paperbacks to Look Out For Out for in March 2022: Part Two

Cover for Painting Time by Maylis de KerangalThe second part of March’s paperback preview begins with two novels on an art theme: one I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed; the other I haven’t but it comes highly recommended.

Maylis de Kerangal’s Painting Time follows one of three students who meet in Brussels while on a trompe l’œil course. Paula shares her small apartment with Jonas, the star of the course, barely registering each other for months so immersed are they in sheer hard grind. Kate, a young Scottish woman who will excel at reproducing the most precious of marbles for the rich, makes up the third of the trio. Years later, when Jonas is unable to fulfil a lengthy commission to reproduce the Lascaux cave paintings, he passes it to Paula and with it the chance to lose herself in this ancient story. Rich in anecdote and erudition, de Kerangal’s novel wears its meticulous research lightly.

I wasn’t a fan of her debut, When God Was a Rabbit, but I’m including Sarah Winman’s Still Life as several bloggers whoseCover for Still Life by Sarah Winman opinions I trust have assured me it’s very good. Art historian Evelyn Skinner meets Ulysses Temper, a young British soldier, while taking shelter from a bombing in a Tuscan villa in 1944. Evelyn’s reminiscences over the ensuing evening, her talk of truth and beauty, will help shape the next four decades of Ulysses’ life. ‘Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful novel about beauty, love, family and fate’ say the publishers.

Cover for The Magician by Colm ToibinColm Tóibín’s The Magician also has a wartime backdrop following Thomas Mann from his childhood in Lübeck to his last days in Switzerland, still living in exile from his beloved Germany. Mann was a patriot, slow to acknowledge the threat of Nazism despite the cajoling of his brother and older children. When war finally broke out, he was in Switzerland at the beginning of an exile which took him and his wife to the US where his influence as a Nobel Prize-winning writer led to his involvement with the American war effort. The Magician is an intimate reimagining of the life of a complex, flawed but immensely influential man who clearly fascinates Tóibín. Engrossing, polished and accomplished, but I’m hoping for something more Brooklyn-like next time.

Opening in 1947, Lars Saabye Christensen’s Echoes of the City tells the story of Oslo’s emergence from wartime austerityCover for Echoes of the City by Lars Saabye Christensen through the Kristoffersen family and their neighbours in the Fagerborg district where the Red Cross have established a department. Ewald Kristoffersen works for an advertising agency while his wife Maj looks after their seven-year-old son, her talent for bookkeeping making her a shoo-in as the local Red Cross treasurer. Christensen’s novel lives up to the ‘slow storytelling’ mentioned in his prologue and is all the better for it. It’s the first in a trilogy, the second of which, Friendship, I’ve also read and reviewed. Already looking forward to the third.

Cover image for The Field by Robert SeethalerMade up of the thoughts, memories and stories of those laid to rest in the unfarmable land that became part of Paulstadt’s cemetery, Robert Seethaler’s The Field has the intriguing premise: telling the story of the town through the voices of its dead. Some have a great deal to say, others very little, and some are notable by their absence. Seethaler brings the same understanding of the richness of everyday life to this novel that made A Whole Life so satisfying. Regret, sorrow, love, happiness, revenge, dishonesty, loneliness, misunderstanding, greed – all human life is here so to speak. Such an unusual idea, and so well executed. Kudos to Charlotte Collins for her expert translation.Cover image for White City by Kevin Power

Kevin Power’s White City sounds like the kind of thing I watch on Walter Presents with its Serbian gangsters encountered by the son of a rich Dublin banker, clearly out of his depth. After bumping into an old schoolfriend keen to cut him in on a property deal, 27-year-old Ben sees an opportunity to do something with his life after years of dead-end jobs and drug-taking but what appears to be the cure for all his ills turns into a nightmare. Not entirely sure about this one but it’s much praised by the likes of John Boyne.

Cover image for Winter in Tabriz by Sheila LlewellynMy last March choice is Sheila Llewellyn’s Winter in Tabriz set against the backdrop of 1970s Iran just before the revolution. Llewellyn tells her story through four young people: two Oxford academics who become closely involved with a poet and his elder brother, an aspiring photojournalist keen to capture the uprising on the streets. Described by the publishers as ‘an expertly imagined tale of the fight for artistic freedom, young love and the legacies of conflict’, it’s the unusual setting that attracts me to this one.

That’s it for March’s paperbacks. As ever, a click on a title will either take you to my review or to a more detailed synopsis, and if you’d like to catch up with part one, it’s here. New fiction is here and here.

24 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out For Out for in March 2022: Part Two”

  1. I am currently reading Still Life – it’s fabulous. And I love the sound of all the other titles in your post. I’ll definitely be picking up the Seethaler as I have readily enjoyed his previous books, but will find it hard to resist looking at the others too! Thanks Susan

    1. You’re welcome, Liz, and thanks for your reassuring comments about Still Life! I’m a huge Seethaler fan – he and his brilliant translator, Charlotte Collins, make a great combination.

  2. Finally two on your list I am familiar with, although I still have to read the de Kerangal (I want to take time to compare the French language version with the translation). I have read The Field and loved it, a very clever idea, neat interweaving of characters, but perhaps just a tad too long.

  3. As always, thanks for the update. And, almost as always, the additions to the TBR! Although I’ve not gotten to it, I have a copy of Painting Time; since I love books about art/artists, I very much look forward to it.
    I’ve been sitting on the fence about Still Life but . . . it does sound so tempting. Echos of the City and The Field definitely go on the list (The Field BTW reminds me of Anderson’s Spoon River Anthology, a poetry collection in which the dead in a cemetery narrate the stories of their lives, creating a tapestry of their community).
    Like you, I’m attracted to Tabriz’s exotic setting, but one must call a halt somewhere (especially since I also have Toíbin’s The Magician gathering dust on the shelf!)

    1. You’re welcome and thanks for the tip about the anthology. I’ll look into that. Highly recommend Painting Time, particularly as you share my weakness for fiction with an art theme.

  4. Lots of familiar names here with books coming out in March, I like the concept of Seethaler’s The Field and I have to smile as I’ve just started the opening pages of Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, which begins with the discovery of the death of a neighbour.

    I’m tempted by the Maylis de Kerangal, both because I enjoyed her earlier novel and also because of the subject matter. Wouldn’t surprise me to hear it’s being adapted to film.

    I haven’t read Winman, but if I ever come across one of her books like this one or Tin Man I know I’ll read them, they sound promising for those times you need a comfort read.

    1. Ah, you’re making the acquaintance of the unforgettable Janina! You’re spot-on about the film idea for the de Kerangal. There’s a wonderful scene in which Paula walks through the many stored film sets at Rome’s Cinecittá.

  5. I’m hoping to read Still Life and The Magician – both on the longlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction – before the shortlist is announced at the beginning of April. I have a hunch at least one of them will make it to the shortlist.

  6. I have heard such good things about Still Life, the setting and period appeals and my sister has a copy which I may borrow at some point. Is that a new edition of Echoes of the City? I have had a copy for a while, your review convinced me to get it.

  7. Ooh, maybe I’ll see if I can nab a paperback review copy of The Field. I loved The Tobacconist. Still awaiting my library hold of The Magician. After it was nominated for the Folio Prize I decided I do want to read it. I’ve borrowed Still Life a few times now and still not managed to read it!

    1. Highly recommend The Field but also A Whole Life if you’ve not read that yet. I probably wouldn’t have read The Magician had it not been by Toibin but I’m glad I did. Still not convinced I’ll get to the Winman.

  8. I’m reassured by your comment that “de Kerangal’s novel wears its meticulous research lightly” – I’m getting too irritated by books that are unnecessarily stuffed with research.

    So many enticing options this month – especially the Sarah Winman of which I keep hearing good things

    1. I think some novelists spend so much time on research they can’t bear to let it go. I remember reading Sebastian Faulks’ Human Traces and suspecting that he really wanted to write a history of pyschiatry not a novel.

  9. Sheila Llewellyn

    many thanks for mentioning my book ‘Winter in Tabriz’ – I really appreciate it, and hope that some of your readers will find it an interesting read. I’m also a great fan of Seethaler, so thanks for reminding me he has a new novel out. All best wishes,
    Sheila ( Llew).

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