Tag Archives: Jay Rubin

Paperbacks to Look Out for in April 2019: Part Two

Cover imageI’ve read none of the paperbacks in this second part of April’s preview which I’m kicking off with Patrick Gale’s Take Nothing with You set in 1970s Weston-Super-Mare where ten-year-old Eustace finds a passion for the cello when his mother signs him up for lessons with a glamorous teacher. Lessons of another kind are learned when Eustace enrols on a holiday course in Scotland, apparently. ‘Drawing in part on his own boyhood, Patrick Gale’s new novel explores a collision between childish hero-worship and extremely messy adult love lives’ according to the blurb. I’ve long been a fan of Gale’s writing, going right back to The Aerodynamics of Pork in the ‘80s.

S. K. Perry’s Let Me Be Like Water is also set in a British seaside town, this time Brighton where Holly is hoping to escape the loss of her boyfriend. There she meets Frank, a retired magician with his own grief to bear. ‘A moving and powerful debut, Let Me Be Like Water is a book about the humdrum and extraordinariness of everyday life; of lost and new connections; of loneliness and friendship’ say the publishers which may not sound particularly original but Perry’s a poet so I’m hoping for some lyrical writing.

Death is also the theme of Laura Lindstedt’s Oneiron but from the other side of the divide. Seven women meet in an undefined, timeless white space. None of them are known to each other, none of them remember what has happened to them. Together they try to fathom who they are and what they did in their past lives. ‘Deftly playing with genres from essay to poetry, Oneiron is an astonishing work that explores the question of what follows death and delves deep into the lives and experiences of seven unforgettable women’ say the publishers. This one’s here purely out of curiosity. Could be wonderful, could be dire but definitely worth investigating.

Ceridwen Dovey’s In the Garden of the Fugitives examines a past life, too, as Vita is catapulted back twenty years when she answers an email from the man who funded her university scholarship. ‘Profoundly addictive and unsettling, In the Garden of the Fugitives examines the complex power structures between men and women, between the powerful and the voiceless. Ceridwen Dovey takes us deep into the heart of a dangerous game, where there are always two sides to every story’ say the publishers promisingly although I’m much more persuaded by Kate’s review at Books Are My Favourite and Best.Cover image

My final paperback choice for April is The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories edited by Jay Rubin, known to many as one of Haruki Murakami’s translators. ‘Ranging over myth, horror, love, nature, modern life, a diabolical painting, a cow with a human face and a woman who turns into sugar, The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories is filled with fear, charm, beauty and comedy’ according to the blurb which promises to include stories from names unfamiliar to many of us as well as well-known Japanese writers such as Akutagawa, Murakami, Mishima and Kawabata. I’m looking forward to exploring this one.

That’s it for April. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you be interested. If you’d like to catch up with the first part of the month’s paperback preview it’s here, and new titles are here.

Books to Look Out for in January 2019: Part One

Cover imageYou may be a little weary of 2018’s books of the year roundups (mine included) and wondering what publishers are planning to help us through the long winter evenings. If so, there are lots of potential treats to look forward to in January starting with Daphne de Vigan’s Loyalties. Thirteen-year-old Theo and Mathis’ behaviour has attracted the attention of their teacher who becomes obsessed with rescuing Theo while Mathis’ mother stumbles across something dreadful on her husband’s computer. ‘Respectable facades are peeled away as the four stories wind tighter and tighter together, pulling into a lean and darkly gripping novel of loneliness, lies and loyalties’ say the publishers. De Vigan’s Based on a True Story was one of 2018’s favourites for me.

Another pair of children faces difficulties in Paula Saunders’ debut The Distance Home, set in ‘60s America. Siblings Rene and Leon excel at dancing but while Rene is a confident over-achiever, her brother is plagued by shyness and a stutter. Each parent favours a different child leading them down widely divergent paths. ‘The Distance Home is the story of two children growing up side by side – the one given opportunities the other just misses – and the fall-out in their adult lives. It is a hugely moving story of devotion and neglect, impossible to put down’ say the publishers promisingly.

Michael and Caitlin have been conducting an affair for twenty-five years, meeting once a month in an escape from their unhappy marriages in Billy O’Callaghan’s My Coney Island Baby. One winter’s afternoon they’re faced with the harsh realities of serious illness on one side and a move far away on the other. ‘A quiet, intense drama of late-flowering intimacy, My Coney Island Baby condenses, within the course of a single day, the histories, landscapes, tragedies and moments of wonder that constitute the lives of two people who, although born worlds apart, have been drawn together’ says the publisher in the slightly overblown blurb.Cover image

Elanor Dymott’s Silver and Salt was a disappointment for me but that hasn’t stopped me casting an eye over her new novel,  Slack-Tide. Elisabeth meets Robert four years after her marriage had split up when she lost her child, and quickly falls in love with him. ‘Slack-tide tracks the ebbs and flows of the affair: passionate, coercive, intensely sexual. When you’ve known lasting love and lost it, what price will you pay to find it again?’ ask the publishers suggesting that all does not go well.

Laura Lee Smith’s The Ice House sees Johnny MacKinnon on the brink of losing his business thanks to the fallout from an industrial accident. Then he collapses on the factory floor with a suspected brain tumor. ‘Johnny’s been ordered to take it easy, but in some ways, he thinks, what’s left to lose? Witty and heartbreaking, The Ice House is a vibrant portrait of multifaceted, exquisitely human characters that readers will not soon forget’ according to the publishers which doesn’t entirely sound up my street but Richard Russo has praised Smith for her ‘intelligence, heart and wit’ which is what’s put it on my radar.

Set against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in 1981, Geraldine Quigley’s debut Music Love Drugs War follows a group of friends about to leave school, not knowing what to do with the rest of their lives and avoiding the issue by doing what teenagers do. When a friend is killed, it’s time to sober up but decisions made in haste and anger have irrevocable repercussions. ‘With humour and compassion, Geraldine Quigley reveals the sometimes slippery reasons behind the decisions we make, and the unexpected and intractable ways they shape our lives’ according to the publishers. Very much like the sound of this one.

Cover imageI was surprised when Haruki Murakami’s name popped up quite so soon after Killing Commendatore was published but then I spotted that Birthday Girl is a mere 48 pages. It’s about a waitress whose plans to take her birthday night off have backfired, then she’s asked to deliver dinner to the restaurant’s reclusive owner. ‘Birthday Girl is a beguiling, exquisitely satisfying taste of master storytelling, published to celebrate Murakami’s 70th birthday’ according to the blurb. An amuse bouche, then.

That’s it for the first part of January’s preview. Second batch of potential treats follows soon…