What We're Reading

Neil's picture
Neil

Sabrina, by Nick Drnaso (Granta 2018)

I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but as this one was on the Booker Longlist I needed to find out what the fuss was about. It's quite an achievement, a very ambitious story, formally ingenious, beautifully written and sensitively drawn. It's a mystery of a girl who has disappeared, her depressed boyfriend, and his friend who he stays with while the disappearance is being investigated. But it's really about contemporary paranoia, misinformation, and the trauma of tragedy and violence in modern America. It's mighty powerful.

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Neil

Warlight, by Michael Ondaatje (Cape 2018)

Very much a return to form here, after 2 or 3 not-quite-there novels from one of my favourite novelists Michael Ondaatje. 12 years after the war, the narrator Nathaniel pieces together the events that took place when he was a young man. Unexpectedly abandoned by their parents, 14 year old Nathaniel and his sister are cared for by a series of enigmatic and mysterious characters, who are clearly up to something which he doesn't fully understand. Written with typical Ondaatje lyricism, the reader comes on events obliquely, and it does take some attention to put together the puzzle.

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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.