Tag Archives: Books published in June 2015

Books to Look Out For in June 2015: Part 2

cover imageQuite a mixed bunch for this second batch of June goodies. I’ll start off with what is probably my most commercial choice as we edge towards summer reading: Laura Barnett’s enticing sounding The Versions of Us which explores that old Sliding Doors idea of the role chance plays in our lives. It unfolds three different versions of the possible lives led by Eva and Jim who meet in Cambridge in 1958, aged nineteen. Each version hinges on a pivotal moment, a snap decision or random event. I like the sound of this very much – if handled deftly it could well be an excellent summer read.

Will Cohu’s Nothing But Grass doesn’t sound like the cheeriest of reads but it has the elements of an absorbing novel. Set in a small village riven with dark secrets – always the best kind – it begins with the murder of one workmate by another seemingly for no other reason than a fit of irritation. It’s a ‘portrait of a tarnished Albion’, apparently, with a strong vein of dark humour running through it. Cohu is the author of The Wolf Pit, an exploration of his rural childhood. This is his first novel – let’s hope it’s not autobiographical, too.

Sophie McManusThe Unfortunates sounds like the kind of absorbing summer read you canCover image sink into and forget about everything else. It’s about the wealthy Somners who face a difficult future, both financial and otherwise, as the matriarch of the family wastes away from a rare disease and her son goes to the bad. It’s described as ‘a rollicking wide-ranging story – of pharmaceutical drug trials and Wall Street corruption; of pride and prejudice, of paranoia and office politics, of inheritance, influence, class, power.’ I’m looking forward to some comeuppance, in fiction, at least, if not in real life.

Tod Wodicka’s The Household Spirit sounds like a bit of light relief after that. Howie and Emily have been neighbours in upstate New York since Emily was born. Each is very different from the other: Emily is outgoing and irreverent while the desperately shy Howie has been a recluse since his wife and daughter moved out. He’s a little worried about Emily who seems to have taken to gardening at night. What to do? Lifelong neighbours they may be but they’ve never exchanged a word. It’s described as a ‘poignant, big-hearted, and often humorous novel’ which might mean horribly sentimental but the premise is intriguing enough to give it a try.

Gerbrand Bakker’s an author I’ve been meaning to get around to for some time. June, his appropriately named new novel, is set over the course of one hot summer’s day in 1969 when all are gathered to greet Queen Juliana apart from Anna Kaan and her little daughter, Hanne, who arrive just as the Queen is about to leave. The queen graciously acknowledges them both – a golden day, then, but later Hanne is knocked down by a speeding baker’s van. The novel explores the effects of tragedy on both the family and its community.

The Reader on the 6.27Finally, Jean-Paul Didierlaurent’s The Reader on the 6.27 has been described as ‘Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore meets Amelie’ which could either mean that it’s wonderful or overly whimsical tosh but I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. Guylain hates his job at a book pulping factory, consoling himself every day with reading aloud the pages he’s saved from the pulping machine on the 6.27 train. When he discovers the diary of a young woman who seems as lonely as he is, he begins to fall in love. See what I mean about the possibility of whimsical tosh? We’ll see. It’s published under the usually reliable Mantle imprint so I’m willing to give it a try.

That’s it for June. If you missed part one you can catch up here, and a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis at Waterstones website should you be interested.

Books to Look Out For in June 2015: Part 1

TenderSuch are the many and varied splendours of the June publishing schedules that I’m going to spread them over two posts. Hard to choose which of the first two I’m looking forward to most – both authors are notable for their understated yet lyrical writing but I’ve been waiting four years for Belinda McKeon’s second novel. Her much-lauded debut, Solace, was one of the finest novels I read in 2011, the year it was published.  Set in the late 1990s, Tender is the story of Catherine and James who meet in Dublin, both fresh from rural Ireland. While Catherine welcomes life with open arms, James retreats into himself and their friendship founders. If it’s only half as good as Solace, Tender will be a very fine book indeed.

Hard to follow that but for me Kent Haruf’s Our Souls at Night is equally to be anticipated. Haruf’s elegant, small town novellas set in his home state of Colorado are an absolute joy to read. He died last year and I wondered if knowledge of what was coming might have coloured the melancholic Benediction. This final novel takes us back to Holt where Addie Moore, widowed for twenty years and lonely, pays the equally bereft Louis Waters a visit and puts a proposition to him. If you haven’t yet discovered Haruf please do try him, particularly if you’re a fan of that pared-back style I’m always banging on about.  

Both a poet and a novelist, Owen Sheers has quite a reputation for lyrical prose, too. His new novel, I Saw a Man, is about Michael Turner who has lost his wife and is now living in London next door to the Nelsons with whom he has become close friends. For Michael, the Nelsons represent everything he has lost but their friendship is a solace to him until a catastrophe changes everything. The synopsis sounds a little trite but Sheers is a fine writer and I suspect his book will be worth reading for that alone.Cover image

Julia Rochester’s debut, The House at the Edge of the World, also involves a death in the family. John Venton’s drunken spree lands him at the bottom of a cliff when Morwenna is only eighteen. The family scatters – Morwenna’s twin in one direction, she in another, while her mother happily turns her back on years of miserable marriage. Only her grandfather stays on in the family home. Seventeen years later they all meet again in the eponymous house and, as in all the best family stories, dark secrets begin to surface. I like the sound of this –  the family secret trope can be riveting if handled well.

Last year I read and enjoyed Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year, her account of the time she spent as an assistant to the eponymous reclusive’s literary agent. Bloomsbury are publishing her first novel A Fortunate Age off the back of her memoir’s success. A coming-of-age novel, it revolves around a group of college friends who are just starting out in late ’90s Brooklyn. I’d like to think it will be one of those absorbing novels played out on a small canvas: lots of opportunities for rivalries, domestic crisis, friendships made and broken – you know the kind. However a glance at Goodreads suggests it’s not an unalloyed joy. No doubt I’ll read it anyway

Cover imageChurlish as it may sound, after last year’s seemingly endless parade of titles about the First World War, I’ve been avoiding anything war-related – with the honourable exception of Catherine Hall’s The Repercussions – but Franz-Olivier Giesbert’s Himmler’s Cook sounds like an unusual take on the subject. Cook to Himmler, confidante to Hitler and Simone de Beauvoir’s pal to boot, Rose has not only managed to survive the Armenian genocide, the Nazis and the horrors of Mao Zedong’s regime but has maintained her zest for life throughout. Now 105, she’s recounting her life in what sounds like a thoroughly entertaining tale, tall or otherwise.

That’s it for the first batch of June titles. A click on a title will take you to Waterstones website for a more detailed synopsis. Look out for the second instalment sometime in a week or so, and if you’d like to catch up with May titles you’ll find hardbacks here and paperbacks here.