Read yourself around the world with this month’s selection of new Contemporary Fiction. With novels sent in Australia, Canada, East Germany, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, and of course America and England, hours of sometimes thought provoking, and at other times pure escapist reading is assured.
The house at the edge of night / Catherine Banner.
“On a tiny island off the coast of Italy, Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, thinks he has found a place where, finally, he can belong. Intrigued by a building the locals believe to be cursed, Amedeo restores the crumbling walls, replaces sagging doors and sweeps floors before proudly opening the bar he names the House at the Edge of Night. Surrounded by the sound of the sea and the scent of bougainvillea, he and the beautiful, fiercely intelligent Pina begin their lives together. Home to the spirited, chaotic Esposito family for generations, the island withstands a century of turmoil, transformed in ways both big and small by war, tourism and recession.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Between a wolf and a dog / Georgia Blain.
“Ester is a family therapist with an appointment book that catalogues the anxieties of the middle class: loneliness, relationships, death. She spends her days helping others find happiness, but her own family relationships are tense and frayed. Estranged from both her sister, April, and her ex-husband, Lawrence, Ester wants to fall in love again. Meanwhile, April is struggling through her own directionless life; Lawrence’s reckless past decisions are catching up with him; and Ester and April’s mother, Hilary, is about to make a choice that will profoundly affect then all.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Waking lions / Ayelet Gundar-Goshen ; translated from the Hebrew by Sondra Silverston.
“A neurosurgeon runs an illegal immigrant over in his car. There are no witnesses, and the man will die in any case-so why endanger his career and report the accident? But the next day, the victim’s wife knocks on the doctor’s door and makes him an offer which will completely derail his well-ordered life.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Barkskins : a novel / Annie Proulx.
“In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, René Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a “seigneur”, for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters, barkskins. René is forced to marry a Mi’kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, and then sets up a timber business. Barkskins tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years, their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand, under stunningly brutal conditions, the revenge of rivals, and cultural annihilation.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Marrow Island / Alexis M. Smith.
“It has been twenty years since Lucie Bowen left the islands, since the quake set loose catastrophic waves along the west coast. Then, Lucie’s father disappeared in an explosion at the Marrow Island oil refinery, a tragedy that destroyed the island’s ecosystem and sent Lucie and her mother to the mainland. Back then, Lucie and her best friend, Katie, were hovering under mylar sheets, hoping to survive. Now, Katie writes with strange and miraculous news. Marrow Island is no longer uninhabitable, no longer abandoned. She is part of a community, a mysterious Colony that has, somehow, conjured life again from Marrow’s soil. Lucie returns. Her journalist instincts tell her there’s more to the Colony and their charismatic leader, a former nun with an all-consuming plan, than its members want her to know. What price will she pay for the truth?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The Gustav sonata / Rose Tremain.
“Gustav Perle grows up in a small town in ‘neutral’ Switzerland, where the horrors of the Second World War seem a distant echo. But Gustav’s father has mysteriously died, and his adored mother Emilie is strangely cold and indifferent to him. Gustav’s childhood is spent in lonely isolation, as time goes on, an intense friendship with a boy of his own age, Anton Zwiebel, begins to define Gustav’s life. Jewish and mercurial, a talented pianist tortured by nerves when he has to play in public, Anton fails to understand how deeply and irrevocably his life and Gustav’s are entwined.” (Adapted from Syndetics Summary)
Vinegar girl : The taming of the shrew retold / Anne Tyler.
“Kate Battista feels stuck. How did she end up running house and home for her eccentric scientist father and uppity, pretty younger sister Bunny? Dr. Battista has other problems. After years out in the academic wilderness, he is on the verge of a breakthrough. His research could help millions. There’s only one problem: his brilliant young lab assistant, Pyotr, is about to be deported. And without Pyotr, all would be lost. When Dr. Battista cooks up an outrageous plan that will enable Pyotr to stay in the country, he’s relying, as usual on Kate to help him. Kate is furious: this time he’s really asking too much. But will she be able to resist the two men’s touchingly ludicrous campaign to bring her around?” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
The finding of Martha Lost / Caroline Wallace.
“Martha is lost. She has been lost since she was a baby, abandoned in a suitcase on the train from Paris. Ever since, she has waited in station lost property for someone to claim her. It’s been sixteen years, but she’s still hopeful. In the meantime, there are mysteries to solve: secret tunnels under the station, a suitcase that may have belonged to the Beatles, the roman soldier who appears at the same time every day with his packed lunch. Not to mention the stuffed monkey that someone keeps misplacing. But there is one mystery Martha cannot solve. And now the authorities have found out about the girl in lost property. Time is running out, if Martha cannot discover who she really is, she will lose everything.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)
Stasi child / David Young.
“1975. The body of a teenage girl has been found by the East German border; the girl appears to have been fleeing from the West into the East, an uncommon scenario. Her back is riddled with bullet holes, her face has been mutilated beyond recognition and strange tyre tracks pockmark the snow. In an effort to identify the murdered girl, Stasi officer Klaus Jäger enlists the help of Karin Müller, a detective with the Kriminalpolizei. Partnered with her deputy, Werner Tilsner, a man with whom she has been having an illicit affair, Karin is thrust into a conspiracy that sends shockwaves right to the very top of the Secret Police.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)