Unlike October, the November paperback schedules appear to be packed with far too much temptation, at least for me. I’ve only read one of the titles that snagged my attention so I’ll start with that. I’m a great fan of Alice McDermott’s fiction. She’s in the quiet understated school that if you’re a regular reader of this blog you may have noticed is my favourite kind of writing. Her first novel in seven years, Someone is about Marie whose unremarkable story is told in such light brushstrokes and with such empathy that the moments of drama stand out vividly. A lovely novel and one which I hope will introduce McDermott to more British readers.
David Leavitt is another fine novelist whose work I’ve long read and enjoyed. The Two Hotel Francforts is set in neutral Portugal in 1940 when Lisbon is seething with refugees hoping to escape the war through its port. When two American couples strike up a friendship – the conventional Winters, fleeing Paris, and the bohemian Frelengs – a passionate affair ensues with tragic consequences. This one will be at the top of my to buy list – I’ve a weakness for Lisbon and it’s an unusual setting for a wartime novel.
Anna Quindlen’s Still Life with Bread Crumbs is described as ‘a wry and knowing portrait’, and is, apparently, both moving and funny. A once-famous photographer’s career is on the slide along with her bank balance. She turns her back on the city, moves to the country and finds that there’s more to life than work. Doesn’t sound as if it will set the world on fire, I know, but Quindlen’s one of those writers I’d rank alongside Sue Miller in my reliably good, emotionally intelligent fiction pigeonhole.
Marie-Helene Bertino’s debut is irresistible for its title alone. 2 A. M. at the Cat’s Pyjamas, sees three lost souls meet on a snowy Christmas Eve in Philadelphia: nine-year-old aspiring jazz-singer Madeleine Altimari, her teacher apprehensively contemplating a dinner party with her teenage crush and the owner of the legendary Cat’s Pyjamas club, on the brink of closure. These three ‘will discover life’s endless possibilities over the course of one magical night’ – a tad worried about the magical bit but it sounds like a cheering November read.
I’ve picked the next book more on the recommendation of another blogger than the appeal of the publisher’s blurb which is a little off-putting but it is Tinder Press, an imprint I like, and I trust Elena over at Reviews and Words so here we go. It’s Morgan McCarthy’s Strange Girls and Ordinary Women, a ‘lyrical and utterly enthralling story of warped perceptions, female intuition and ‘the other woman’ – see what I mean about the blurb? Alice is convinced her husband is having an affair, Vic is worried about her dear friend Michael’s attraction to Estella. Into the midst of this comes Kaya who is determined to find a way out of her miserable world. We’ll see.
My last choice is Kerrigan in Copenhagen, the first in Thomas E. Kennedy’s Copenhagen quartet, presumably reissued to tie in with the final volume, Beneath the Neon Egg, which is also published this month. I’ve been meaning to catch up with these for some time and now seems a good opportunity. American writer Terence Kerrigan is drowning his sorrows after a lost love, writing a guide to the fifteen hundred pubs and bars of Copenhagen (good luck with that – a wincingly expensive occupation). A great deal of boozing then, but accompanied by lots of literary allusions and jokes, apparently, and like The Two Hotel Francforts it’s set in one of my favourite cities.
That’s it for November, although I do have a bit of a hankering for Claire Cameron’s Women’s Prize for Fiction longlisted The Bear but it’s narrated by a five-year-old which has put me off a little. A click on a title will take you to Waterstones website for more information and if you’d like to know what I have my eye on in October you can click on paperbacks or hardbacks.