Tag Archives: Shena Mackay

Paperbacks to Look Out for in November 2018

Cover imageJust a handful of paperbacks for November, none of which I’ve read although I did toy with Laurie Canciani’s The Insomnia Museum before taking off on holiday earlier in the year then somehow never got around to reading it. It’s about seventeen-year-old Anna who has spent the last twelve years building the titular museum with her father using his hoard of junk. One day when her insomniac father finally falls asleep she steps outside their flat into a world stranger than the one they’ve constructed inside it. ‘In this dazzlingly original debut novel, Laurie Canciani has created a world that is terrible, magical, and richly imagined’ say the publishers making me think I should look at it again

Sarah Françoise’s Stories We Tell Ourselves sounds much more straightforward. It’s about a marriage in trouble, or perhaps a whole series of them. Joan and Frank have spent three decades in an unfinished house in the French Alps. Frank is involved in an epistolary affair with his German ex-girlfriend, and Joan is losing patience but it’s Christmas. They’re about to be visited by their three children, all wrestling with their own relationship difficulties. ‘Written with a rare precision and insight, the author explores the thorniness of familial love and its capacity to endure with warmth, wit and disarming honesty’ say the publishers, a promise which if it’s fulfilled could result in an entertaining read

Jonathan Dee’s The Locals features a character fleeing New York for a small town in New England just after 9/11. Hedge fund manager Phillip Hadi employs Mark Firth, recently swindled by his financial advisor, to make his new home secure. These two men are from very different worlds: one rural middle class, the other urban and wealthy. Hadi’s election to mayor has a transforming effect on Firth’s home town, one that will have implications for Firth and his extended family. ‘The Locals is that rare work of fiction capable of capturing a fraught American moment in real time. It is also a novel that is timeless in its depiction of American small town life’ say the publishers which sounds very appealing to me.

After beginning this short preview with a debut it feels fitting to end it with a collection from anCover image author whose first novel was published in 1964 when she was twenty and who’s still going strong. Shena Mackay’s short story collection Dancing on the Outskirts draws on five decades of writing. Known for her darkly comic, sometimes surreal observations of suburbia, Mackay is one of those writers who has quietly garnered a loyal following and a good deal of a critical acclaim. I’m expecting a treat.

That’s it for November. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis and if you’d like to catch up with new titles they’re here and here. With publishing eyes firmly fixed on a bright shiny Christmas, I suspect there won’t be much to snag my attention for December but you never know…

Books to Look Out For in November 2015: Part 2

Cover imageThe second instalment of November goodies begins with a debut – Sloane Crosley’s The Clasp – although you may already know her from the delightfully named set of essays I Was Told There’d be Cake. Crosley’s novel follows a set of college friends as they make their way in the big wide world of jobs, romantic entanglements and friendships. This structure is catnip for me as regular visitors to this blog may have already noticed. Michael Chabon likes it too, apparently

Lorna Gibb’s A Ghost’s Story is just the sort of title publishers bring out for Christmas. Often they’re to be avoided like the plague but Gibb’s novel sounds intriguing. The Katie King spirit was famous in the 19th and 20th centuries for her appearances at séances and this is her fictionalised autobiography, ‘an examination of belief and a spectacular insight into what lies on the other side’, apparently. It’s also the story of a scholar who attempts to understand the Katie phenomenon. If Gibb manages to pull it off this could be a wonderfully original novel. We’ll see.Cover image

In Karine Tuil’s The Age of Reinvention successful Manhattan attorney Sam Tahar has built his life on a lie. The son of a Tunisian living in Paris, Tahar threw off his impoverished background making friends with a Jewish student at law school until they both conceived a passion for the same woman. When Nina chose Samuel, Tahar took off for America assuming Samuel’s identity. Many years later the three meet again with disastrous consequences. Tuil’s novel was a Prix Goncourt finalist and sounds well worth a look.

Set in Copenhagen just before the 2008 crash Martin Kongstad’s Am I Cold follows food critic Mikkel Vallin. Divorced, deserted by his girlfriend, sacked and unhappily middle-aged, he’s sworn off fidelity and his new girlfriend agrees. All seems fine and dandy until Vallin thinks he may be falling in love. Kongstad’s ‘debut turns the last, glorious, debauched days of pre-crash decadence into a wild satire of modern life’ Cover imagesay his publishers and if it lives up to that billing it could be very entertaining.

Having said so many times that I’m not a short story fan, here I am again including another set. This one’s from Shena Mackay many of whose novels I’ve enjoyed, particularly The Orchard on Fire which was shortlisted for the Booker way back in 1996. Her settings are often suburban, sometimes surreal and she has a fine line in dark humour all of which makes this collection something to look forward to.

That’s it for November hardbacks. As ever a click on a title will take you to a more substantial synopsis, and if you’d like to catch up with part one it’s here.