Tag Archives: The Snow Kimono

Paperbacks to Look Out For in February 2016: Part 1

Cover imageSpoilt for choice this month: two posts for new titles, and now two for paperbacks. I’ll start the first selection with one of my books of 2015. I have to confess that I didn’t get on with Emily Woof’s first novel, The Whole Wide Beauty. It was lauded to the skies by all and sundry but I gave it up. The premise of The Lightning Tree was so appealing, though, that I decided to give her a second try and I’m very glad I did. The bare bones are this: girl from one side of the tracks – comfy, middle-class, lefty activist parents – meets boy from the other side – council estate, working-class, Thatcherite mum and dad – they fall in love, the girl heads off to India, the boy to Oxford and then we see what happens, following them into their thirties. I find this structure a particularly attractive one: lots of lovely space for character development.

A. D. Miller’s The Faithful Couple also follows a relationship over many years. That name may ring a few bells for some readers – he’s the author of Snowdrops a hugely successful literary thriller set in Moscow in the 1990s, published back in 2010. His new novel begins in 1993 with two young British men, Neil and Adam, who meet on holiday in California. They instantly click then both become involved in a dubious moral act which dogs Adam, in particular. The book charts their friendship over nearly twenty years, picking out the tensions between them – Neil’s resentment of Adam’s casual privilege, career ups and downs, marriage and children with their attendant worries. Miller’s novel was an enjoyable piece of holiday reading for me last year which may explain why I remember it so well.

I think Jami Attenberg’s Saint Mazie would have stayed with me wherever I read it. As with Cover imageEmily Woof, I wasn’t particularly keen on Attenberg’s much praised The Middlesteins but the background to her new novel was so intriguing that it piqued my interest. The eponymous Mazie was the subject of a short essay by Joseph Mitchell first published in The New Yorker and included in his excellent collection Up in the Old Hotel. Like many of Mitchell’s subjects Mazie’s story is a fascinating one – an ordinary working-class New York woman who did something extraordinary. Attenberg has taken Mitchell’s essay and re-imagined Mazie’s life using fictionalised interviews and autobiography extracts with her diary as the novel’s backbone. Mazie is an unforgettable character, and Joseph Mitchell’s story is almost as interesting as hers.

Still in New York but fast forwarding several decades, Richard Bausch’s Before, During, After is an unusual take on the events of September 11th, 2001. As its title suggests, Bausch’s novel is set in the months before, during and after the terrorist attacks, exploring what happened very effectively by drawing parallels between the personal and the political. Michael and Natasha are newly in love, soon to be married. On the day of the attacks she’s in Jamaica with a friend, he’s in New York for a wedding. What follows is devastating for them both. It’s a profoundly involving novel – quite cerebral at times, but also emotionally engaging

Cover imageNow to one I haven’t read but am very much looking forward to: Mark Henshaw’s The Snow Kimono. On the same day a retired Parisian police inspector receives a letter from a woman who claims to be his daughter, he finds a stranger waiting for him at his apartment. Professor Tadashi Omura tells Inspector Jovert his extraordinary life story which has surprising parallels with Jovert’s own. It sounds intriguing and comes from Tinder Press who seem to have developed a sharp eye for talent.

That’s it for the first batch of February paperbacks. A click on the title will take you to my review for the first four while The Snow Kimono will take you to Waterstones website for a fuller synopsis. If you’d like to catch up with February’s new novels they’re here and here.

Books to Look Out For in April 2015

Cover imageSpring’s on the horizon at last here in the UK and with it comes a fair few temptations in the publishing schedules, several of which stand out for me. Melissa Harrison’s debut, Clay, was much praised for her lyrical descriptions of nature when it was published in 2012. I didn’t get around to it until recently but the writing is very beautiful, all wrapped up in a poignant story. I’m hoping for more of the same with At Hawthorn Time which follows four villagers through one spring month in which their lives intersect. Ali Smith picked Clay as one of her books of the year, apparently, should you need more encouragement.

Also eagerly anticipated is Liza Klaussman’s second novel Villa America. Her debut, Tigers in Red Weather, was one of those books about which there was a great deal of pre-publication brouhaha, justified in this case. It was set in a slightly Gatsbyesque world – although at the end of the Second World War – and this new novel actually features the Fitzgeralds entertained, alongside the likes of Picasso, dos Passos and Hemingway, by Gerald and Sara Murphy in their villa on the French Riviera until a stranger arrives and the dream shatters.

Christine Dwyer Hickey’s writing inhabits a much more work-a-day world. She’s one of those quietly accomplished writers whose books are to be savoured. In her last novel, The Cold Eye of Heaven, an old man looks back over his life as he lies dying. Memory is also a strong theme in The Lives of Women as Elaine, home from New York to live with her invalid father, watches his neighbours move out remembering the way in which an American divorcee shattered the dynamics of this small estate back in the ‘70s, teaching the women to drink Martinis and loosen their grip on their wifely duties. It sounds excellent.

Set in another small community but entirely different by the sound of it, Christopher Bollen’s Orient is compared to both A. M. Homes and Lionel Shriver in the publisher’s blurb – no pressure, there then. Set on Long Island in the eponymous small town much visited by artists and rich New Yorkers fleeing the city heat, it sounds like a thriller. When a local takes in an orphaned drifter, strange things begin to happen arousing the town’s suspicions. Thrillers aren’t usually my cup of tea but I’m a sucker for smalltown American novels.

There may well be a touch of the thriller about Mark Henshaw’s The Snow Kimono. On the same day a retired Parisian police inspector receives a letter from a woman who claims to be his daughter he finds a stranger waiting for him at his apartment. Professor Tadashi Omura tells Inspector Jovert his extraordinary life story which has surprising parallels with Jovert’s own. It sounds intriguing and comes from Tinder Press who seem to have developed a sharp eye for talent.Cover image

I wonder if Watertones will be piling up copies of Vesna Goldsworthy’s Gorsky featuring as it does a bibliophile Russian oligarch. Said oligarch is planning to woo the already-married Natalia with a spanking new mansion in ‘Chelski’. At the heart of the house is to be a large library stocked with first editions from the Russian literary canon. It’s narrated by the Serbian immigrant bookseller commissioned to track down these treasures, no matter how expensive they might be. The impoverished bookseller – is there any other kind? – finds himself in a glittering yet dangerous world.

That’s it for April. A click on a title will take you to Waterstones website where a more detailed synopsis will be revealed. Happy reading!