Tag Archives: The TWelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

Paperbacks to Look Out for in February 2018: Part Two

Cover imageI’ve yet to get around to reading George Saunders’ Man Booker Prize winning Lincoln in the Bardo. which examines the effects of the death of the President’s eleven-year-old son on his father. Lincoln was rumoured to have frequently visited his son’s grave despite the ravaging of his country by the American Civil War. ‘From this seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of realism, entering a thrilling, supernatural domain both hilarious and terrifying’ according to the publisher. I’m not entirely sure what to make of that but it’s the novel’s central question – ‘how do we live and love when we know that everything we hold dear must end?’ – together with Saunders’ reputation that makes this one attractive for me rather than its Man Booker prize.

My second choice was shortlisted for the Sunday Times/Peters, Fraser and Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award whose judges handed the prize to Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. The shadow panel begged to differ, loving Julianne Pachico’s The Lucky Ones so much they picked it as their winner. Pachico’s short story collection is set in Colombia and New York, bringing together ‘the fates of guerrilla soldiers, rich kids, rabbits, hostages, bourgeois expats, and drug dealers. Exploring what makes a victim and what makes a perpetrator, these stories show lives fatefully entwined, despite deep cultural divides’ which sounds fascinating enough as it is but Annabel, Elle and Rebecca’s reviews are even more persuasive.

I’m particularly fond of the idea of an apartment block portrayed as a microcosm of a city – Alaa Cover imageAl Aswany did it beautifully in The Yacoubian Building as did Manil Suri in The Death of Vishnu but my favourite has to be Georges Perec’s Life, a User’s Manual. Fran Cooper’s debut, These Dividing Walls, is also set in a Parisian building whose inhabitants live their separate lives, barely aware of their neighbours’ existence. Enter Edward who seems to be about to change all that. ‘As the feverish metropolis is brought to boiling point, secrets will rise and walls will crumble both within and without Number 37…’ say the publishers somewhat melodramatically. Maybe I’ve set the bar too high having Perec in mind but it sounds worth investigating.

Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley comes billed by Ann Patchett as ‘one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade’. Samuel has spent years on the run but has moved to his late wife’s hometown with his teenage daughter who is increasingly curious about what happened to her mother not to mention the twelve scars on Samuel’s body, each from a bullet. ‘Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love most’ say the publishers whose synopsis suggests the makings of a rollicking good bit of storytelling

Rick Gekoski’s Darke  looks like it picks up the existential angst theme with which this post began. It sees the eponymous character consumed by his ‘coming of old age’ journal, seeking consolation in books but finding little until his grandchildren distract him. ‘With scalding prose, ruthless intelligence and an unforgettably vivid protagonist, Darke confronts some of humanity’s greatest and most uncomfortable questions about how we choose to live, and to die’ promise the publishers. You may wonder why I’ve plumped for such a gloomy sounding subject in the middle of winter but I’ve enjoyed Gekoski’s memoirs of life as a rare book dealer very much.

Cover imageThanks are due to Heavenali for reminding me last week that the paperback edition of Rachel Malik’s Miss Boston and Miss Hargreaves is due in February. Based on the author’s family history, it’s about two women who meet when Rene is a Land Girl and Elsie is running the family farm alone. These two become inseparable, facing adversity together until a dramatic event forces them apart. I’ll be posting a review of Malik’s tender, engrossing novel sometime in the next few weeks after being tempted to read it by Ali’s post.

That’s it for February’s paperbacks. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis should you be interested, and if you’d like to catch up with the first part of the preview it’s here. New titles are here and here.

Books to Look Out for April 2017: Part Two

Cover imageGiven all that’s been happening in the US over the past few years, it’s a brave author who decides to write a piece of fiction about contemporary America but perhaps Hari Zunzru’s White Tears isn’t the state of the nation novel it first appears, more a comment on race relations. Two very different young New Yorkers, friends since college, share a passion for music and are now the rising stars of the city’s music scene. A chance discovery of an old blues song sets in train a chain of events which leaves them in grave danger. ‘Electrifying, subversive and wildly original, White Tears is a ghost story and a love story, a story about lost innocence and historical guilt. This unmissable novel penetrates the heart of a nation’s darkness, encountering a suppressed history of greed, envy, revenge and exploitation, and holding a mirror up to the true nature of America today’ say the publishers. The music theme seems to have cropped up several times recently: last year saw the publication of both Zadie Smith’s Swing Time and Kim Echlin’s much overlooked Under the Visible Life which I’ll grab any chance I can to mention.

Set in the summer of 1920, Laird Hunt’s The Evening Road explores a more extreme racial tension. Two women are on the road, one black the other white. Smart, attractive Ottie Lee Henshaw is caught up in a suffocating marriage and suffering the unwelcome attention of a lecherous boss; Calla Destry is trying to find the lover who has promised to help her escape her violent circumstances. Meanwhile Klan members are gathering in Marvel. ‘The Evening Road is the story of two remarkable women on the move through an America riven by fear and hatred, eager to flee the secrets they have left behind’ say the publishers. Both Emma Donoghue and Hilary Mantel are fans. Cover image

Tensions run high in Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Devil and Webster which explores student politics at an elite New England college where Naomi Roth, a feminist scholar, has been elected president. When a student protest breaks out which includes her daughter, she’s initially supportive but the focus of attention on a Palestinian student strains the campus atmosphere to breaking point leaving her overwhelmed. ‘The Devil and Webster is shot through with caustic comedy, and yet the Faustian notes are a persistent reminder that the possibility of corruption – personal or institutional – remains our persistent companion, however good our intentions might be’ according to the publishers. I’m a sucker for campus novels and this one sounds particularly intriguing.

Staying in New England for what sounds like a very different novel: Hannah Tinti’s The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley has been billed by Ann Patchett as ‘one part Quentin Tarantino, one part Scheherazade’ while the publishers liken it to Patrick Dewitt’s wonderful The Sisters Brothers which immediately snagged my attention. Samuel has spent years on the run but has moved to his late wife’s hometown with his teenage daughter who is increasingly curious about what happened to her mother not to mention the twelve scars on Samuel’s body, each from a bullet. ‘Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love most’ say the publishers whose synopsis suggests the makings of a rollicking good bit of storytelling.

Cover imagePhillip Lewis’ The Barrowfields takes us south of New England to the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. Just before Henry is born, his father – a lawyer and frustrated novelist – returns to where he was brought up, moving into a gothic mansion nicknamed ‘the vulture house’. Henry grows up in awe of his brilliant father but a death in the family brings about an unravelling which leaves Henry’s respect for him in tatters. Henry flees the family home, forced to return by events many years later. I’m not entirely sure about this one but Jenni Fagan’s dubbed it ‘A beautiful, evocative novel with an amazing sense of place and an understated, dark sensibility. A brilliant debut’ so I’m willing to give it a go.

That’s it for new April titles. As ever a click on a title will take you to a longer synopsis should your interest be piqued and if you’d like to catch up with part one it’s here. Paperbacks soon…