What We're Reading

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Neil

On The Trail of Genghis Khan, by Tim Cope (Bloomsbury 2013)

I heard Tim Cope interviewed by Kim Hill on National Radio a while ago, and he spoke with such charm and confidence for such a young man, and about such an extraordinary journey, that I had to read it. Tim Cope was in his 20s when he decided to retrace the journey of Genghis Khan by riding on horseback from Mongolia to Hungary - 10,000 km over 3 years. As he travels, he learns about the traditions and history of the people of the steppe, and what they have lost of their way of life over the centuries. He's a very engaging and modest narrator, well read and informative.

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Neil

Days of Awe, by A.M. Homes (Granta July 2018)

I love A.M Homes's writing. Her memoir The Mistress's Daughter was brilliant, and she has written some terrific fiction. This is a short story collection, and a wildly varied one in terms of subject and tone, but many of the stories explore families and secret histories. Some of the stories are extremely funny, some savagely satirical, some moving. I didn't like all of them, and I suspect not many readers will, but it's definitely worth a look. Homes is a writer at the height of her game, and this is a worthy addition to her oeuvre.

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Neil

Old Records Never Die, by Eric Spitznagel (Plume 2016)

This is a record collecting memoir, similar in tone to High Fidelity. Eric Spitznagel is a middle aged journalist feeling the loss of some vague sense of youthful freedom, which manifests itself in nostalgia for the records he sold in a past financial pinch. This is a very common sentiment amongst people of a certain age, but Spitznagel sets out to be reunited with all of the records he owned - the original artefacts, though, not replacements..This may seem completely absurd, but it makes for a terrific read - he's self-effacing, honest, flawed.

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Neil

The New Ships, by Kate Duignan (VUP May 2018)

Kate Duignan's much acclaimed and successful first novel was published in 2001. Now, 17 year's later, is her second. In The New Ships, Peter Collie, the narrator, is struggling to deal with the death of his wife. He works over the past, overseas trips, relationships, moral choices; there is a revelation which forces him to reassess his roles as husband, father and son. It's a beautifully fluid novel, traversing continents and historical events with intellectually astute observations of human nature and the ongoing impact of past decisions.

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Neil

The Life To Come, by Michelle de Kretser (A&U 2017)

I have enjoyed Michelle de Kretser's previous novels - all of them sophisticated, intelligent, compelling and powerful. The Life To Come is is all of these things, but it's also a little frustrating. It could be described as a series of long, linked short stories, and is probably better read that way. Some of the more interesting characters appear only fleetingly, others reappear, and one, Pippa, is the only constant, significant character. This makes it a challenge for the reader, who invests empathy with a character, only for them to disappear for ever.

Neil's picture
Neil

Travelling In A Strange Land, by David Park (Bloomsbury May 2018)

There is a 2013 Tom Hardy movie called 'Locke', in which almost the entire movie is Tom Hardy driving from Birmingham to London, talking on the phone. This novel reminded me of that - the entire book is narrated by a character called Tom, driving through a snow-bound, treacherous landscape from Belfast to Sunderland, thinking about his life and family, their secrets and haunting memories. It's an almost unbearable read, written in spare, plain prose, every sentence resonates. It's quite short, about 160 pages, and could be read in a single sitting.