What We're Reading

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Neil

Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver (Faber 2018)

As expected from this author, her new book is very much of the present moment in America. It's told in two time periods: 1871, and 2016, in the same house in the same small town, and describes how little human nature has changed in that time. In the historical section, which alternates chapters with the contemporary thread, a young science teacher is struggling against ostracism in the town for daring to teach Darwin's new theories.

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Neil

Dead Reckoning: The Dunedin Star Disaster, by Jeff Dawson (Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2005)

The Dunedin Star was shipwrecked in 1942 on the Skeleton Coast of Namibia. 63 passengers and crew made it to shore, the most violent and inhospitable shore imaginable - 500 miles of raging seas and burning desert, all but inaccessible by land, air or sea. From interviews with survivors, historical archives and diaries the author reconstructs the epic rescue attempts and incredible survival against all the odds of most of the survivors. A real true life thriller.

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Neil

The Diary of a Bookseller, by Shaun Bythell (Profile 2017)

This is a hilarious memoir, written in the form of diary entries covering a year in the life of Scotland's biggest second-hand bookshop, in Wigtown. Shaun Bythell is the owner of the shop, a permanently grumpy misanthrope, who writes exceptionally well about his employees and his eccentric customers. A very charming book, a must read.

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Neil

Oliver Loving, by Stefan Merrill Block (Atlantic 2018)

Oliver Loving is Stefan Merrill Block's third novel. His first, The Story of Forgetting was deservedly acclaimed. He's really hit his straps with this one. Oliver Loving has survived a school shooting, and is in a coma, non-responsive. Ten years have passed, his family and the small town where the shooting took place have never recovered, but no one knows the truth about what happened and why Oliver does, and the reader learns what happened, without knowing whether Oliver is still aware in his comatose body.

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Neil

OK, Mr Field, by Katharine Kilalea (Faber, 2018)

This is a very odd, quite unsettling novel. Mr Field, the narrator, is a concert pianist whose career has been ended by an accident, and on a whim he spends his compensation money on a reproduction of Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, in Cape Town. He moves there with his wife, who soon leaves, and he becomes lethargic and disoriented, and as the house decays around him, he becomes obsessed with its former occupants. He is an elusive character, as he descends into madness, but the reader is drawn along with him, all the time with increasing anxiety.

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Neil

Scrublands, by Chris Hammer (Allen & Unwin 2018)

I read this twisting turning Australian thriller pretty much in one sitting, which is the best way to keep track of the revelations! It's set in a small town in New South Wales. The local priests kills 5 local parishioners, so right from the beginning the reader knows what has happened, but not why. The journalist-with-a-past sent to the town to find out why finds a lot more than he bargained for. The plot twists and surprises come regularly, but all are convincing, plausible, and add massively to the tension. A superb thriller.