Tag Archives: An Unremarkable Body

Paperbacks to Look Out for in July 2018

Cover imageTwo titles were in tight competition for the top of this short list of July paperbacks, so tight that I’ve decided to take them in alphabetical order. Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists is one of those books surrounded by the kind of social media brouhaha that so often promises the world but delivers a pale imitation. This time, however, the hype is entirely justified. Benjamin hangs her glorious, engrossing story on a very clever hook: how would you live your life if you knew which day you were going to die? Her book follows four siblings each of whom deals with the knowledge in very different ways having gained it from a fortune-teller when they were children. Exploring themes of family, love, religion and grief, it’s an entertaining, compassionate and satisfyingly immersive novel.

Runner-up by an alphabetical whisker is Peter Carey’s A Long Way from Home which follows the Bobs family, who have moved to Bacchus Marsh in an effort to escape Titch Bobs’ overbearing father, and their neighbour Willie Bachhuber who finds himself navigator in the Bobs’ attempt to win the inaugural 6,500-mile Redex Trial in 1953. Carey tackles themes of identity, racism, sexism and Australia’s shameful treatment of its indigenous people, all framed within the context of a riveting piece of storytelling with a rich vein of humour running through it.Cover image

Zipping over to France for the next two novels the first of which is Sophie Divry’s Madame Bovary of the Suburbs. It’s always a risky business when an author writes their own version of a much-loved classic but Divry acquits herself beautifully with this story of M.A., born in the 1950s to parents who’ve lifted themselves up a notch in the world. Hers is an unremarkable life – college, career, love, family, adultery, retirement then a fall – but Divry delivers it in perceptive and insightful prose, laced with a gentle humour.

Jane Delury’s The Balcony is set on a small estate just outside Paris and explores the lives of the people who have lived there over the last century, from a young American au pair who falls for her boss to the Jewish couple in hiding from the Gestapo. ‘The stories of those who have lived within the estate have been many and varied. But as the years unfold, their lives inevitably come to haunt the same spaces and intertwine, creating a rich tapestry of the relationships, life-altering choices, and fleeting moments which have kept the house alive through the last hundred years. . .’ say the publishers rather long-windedly but it’s an interesting idea.

Cover imageMy last July paperback choice is Elisa Lodato’s An Unremarkable Body about a daughter’s attempts to understand her mother’s life after she’s found dead at the foot of her stairs. It’s structured along the lines of a medical report, apparently. ‘What emerges is a picture of life lived in the shadows, as well as an attempt to discover how and why her mother died. To make sense of her own grief Laura must piece her mother’s body back together and in doing so, she is forced to confront a woman silenced by her own mother and wronged by her husband’ according to the blurb which sounds intriguing.

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

Books to Look Out for in December 2017

Cover imageAs ever, there’s very little in the way of new titles to trouble your credit card with in December. Probably a relief given the wear and tear of Christmas shopping. Elisa Lodato’s An Unremarkable Body sounds intriguing, though. It’s about a daughter’s attempts to understand her mother’s life after she’s found dead at the foot of her stairs, and it’s structured along the lines of a medical report. ‘What emerges is a picture of life lived in the shadows, as well as an attempt to discover how and why her mother died. To make sense of her own grief Laura must piece her mother’s body back together and in doing so, she is forced to confront a woman silenced by her own mother and wronged by her husband’ according to the blurb.

Lily Tuck’s Sisters explores a second wife’s obsession with her husband’s first marriage. ‘Will the narrator ever equal the first wife intellectually and sexually, or ever forget the betrayal that lies between them? And what of the secrets between her husband and the first wife, from which the second wife is excluded? The daring and precise build-up to an eerily wonderful denouement is a triumph of subtlety and surprise’ say the publishers enticingly. Shades of Rebecca here, maybe.

In January I read Our Magic Hour, an extraordinarily impressive novel by an Australian author called Jennifer Down. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. Pulse Points is Down’s collection of short stories about people who ‘live in small dusty towns, glittering exotic cities and slow droll suburbs; they are mourners, survivors and perpetrators’ according to the publishers. Naturally, I’d have preferred a novel but if her short stories are only half as good as Our Magic Hour they’ll be a treat to savour.Cover image

Just one paperback to look out for – Roy Jacobsen’s The Unseen, shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize earlier in the year. It’s the story of Ingrid Barroy, born into the only family who live on a tiny Norwegian island. When she grows up, Ingrid is sent to the mainland amidst great change for her country then tragedy strikes and she must do what she can to protect her remote home. ‘In detailed, quietly gripping prose, writer Roy Jacobsen and translators Don Bartlett and Don Shaw use a small canvas to tell a great, universal story’ say the Man Booker judges which sounds right up my street and all the more intriguing given that two translators worked on the novel.

That’s it for December, and for 2017 previews. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you be interested. Already looking forward to what 2018 has to offer…