What We're Reading

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Neil

The Golden Legend, by Nadeem Aslam (Faber, 2017)

A novel set in Pakistan about religious intolerance, violence and fear. The Golden Legend is a very powerful and moving novel, full of cruelty and darkness, but also has moments of transcendent beauty and inspiring courage. More pared back than his earlier books, it's no less arresting.

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Neil

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward (Bloomsbury 2017)

A remarkable, fierce and extraordinarily moving novel, about a mixed race family in Mississippi, and the struggle with drugs, violence, racism, the legacy of slavery. It's a road novel, but an unusual one, with changing voices between the characters, and flashbacks to a darker past as narrated by the dead. A mighty powerful novel, especially towards the end.

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Neil

Strange Labyrinth, by Will Ashon (Granta 2017)

What a strange and brilliant book! The subtitle is 'Outlaws, Poets, Mystics, Murderers and a Coward in London's Great Forest', which is a bit of a mouthful. The forest referred to is Epping Forest, which is 24o hectares of ancient forest on the outskirts of London. Will Ashon owned and ran an underground record label in the UK for some time, and has a distinctive and very peculiar approach to life.

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Neil

All This By Chance, by Vincent O'Sullivan (VUP March 2018)

Following the lives of a number of closely linked characters across multiple generations, this is a moving novel about family secrets, the legacy of the Holocaust, and memory and its failings. Starting in 1947, in London, it moves forwards in time across different characters, and then moves back to 1938. It's a quite brilliant piece of writing; O'Sullivan's significant achievement is to manage a number of characters and time periods without confusing the reader. I think this is a landmark New Zealand novel, a classic in the making, and will win awards.

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Neil

Drawn Out, by Tom Scott (Allen and Unwin 2017)

Tom Scott's biography is pretty intimidating - columnist, cartoonist, political journalist, TV drama and documentary writer, film writer, playwright, author, and now memoirist. This hilarious and brilliantly written autobiography chronicles his life, from his tragic-comic childhood, student newspaper days, years as a political journalist and commentator, and later years as a successful collaborator on more projects than it's possible to summarise. He's a stunningly funny writer, but he can turn on the tears as well.

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Neil

The Necessary Angel, by C.K. Stead (Allen & Unwin 2017)

This is a romantic novel about living in contemporary Paris, about people grappling with love and fidelity, and a mystery with a surprising twist at the end. It's beautifully written, a sophisticated entertainment for those who love books and Paris.