This month’s selection of new contemporary fiction will provide some great reading. Two highly recommended novels are Ten White Geese by the award winning author Gerbrand Bakker and the most recent novel from Amelie Nothomb titled, Life Form.
Ten white geese : a novel / Gerbrand Bakker ; translated from the Dutch by David Colmer.
“A Dutch woman rents a remote farm in rural Wales. She says her name is Emilie. She has left her husband, having confessed to an affair. In Amsterdam, her stunned husband forms a strange partnership with a detective who agrees to help him trace her. They board the ferry to Hull on Christmas Eve. On the Welsh farm, a young man out walking with his dog injures himself and stays the night, then ends up staying longer with Emilie. Yet something is deeply wrong. Does he know what he is getting himself into? And what will happen when her husband and the detective arrive?” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Oleander girl / Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
“Orphaned at birth, Korobi (Bengali for oleander ) always wondered why her mother named her after a beautiful but poisonous plant. Raised in Kolkata by her sweet if burdened grandmother and her grandfather, a famous and irascible lawyer, Korobi is a modest, smart, and unworldly college student when she meets wealthy, stylish, and jaded Rajat. Much to the surprise of his high-society friends and the horror of his mega rich ex-lover, Rajat proposes to quiet, unhip Korobi, who feels as though she has stepped into a fairy tale, cuing us to expect tragedy. But there is no anticipating the complexities and implications of the crises and obstacles Korobi and Rajat face in light of Korobi’s resolute quest for the truth about her father as she journeys across harshly xenophobic post-9/11 America.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
I, Hogarth / Michael Dean.
“William Hogarth narrates the story of his rise from poverty in London to Sarjeant Painter to the King in language that evokes his most famous images. Along the way, the artist wins-and almost loses-the love of the gentle but keenly intelligent Jane Thornhill, the daughter of one of his artist heroes. Crammed with lovingly described sights that intoxicate the imagination, Hogarth’s London emerges as the great romance of his life. While the artist’s fall from public favor ultimately kills him, Jane’s love mollifies the cruelness of public disfavor.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The universe versus Alex Woods / by Gavin Extence.
“A tale of an unexpected friendship, an unlikely hero and an improbable journey. This is the story of seventeen-year-old Alex Woods, born to a clairvoyant mother and a phantom father, victim of an improbable childhood accident, who is stopped at Dover customs in possession of 113 grams of marijuana and the ashes of his best friend, Vietnam veteran Isaac Peterson. What follows is a highly original and compelling account of Alex’s life and the strange series of events that brought him here.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The palace of curiosities / Rosie Garland.
“Set in Victorian London, it follows the fortunes of Eve, the Lion-Faced Girl and Abel, the Flayed Man. Before Eve is born, her mother goes to the circus. She buys a penny twist of coloured sugar and settles down to watch the heart-stopping main attraction: a lion, billed as a monster from the savage heart of Africa. Mama swears she hears the lion sigh, just before it leaps, and nine months later when Eve is born, the story goes, she doesn’t cry, she meows and licks her paws. When Abel is pulled from the stinking Thames, the mudlarks are sure he is long dead. As they search his pockets to divvy up the treasure, his eyes crack open and he coughs up a stream of black water. But how has he survived a week in that thick stew of human waste? Cast out by Victorian society, Eve and Abel find succour from an unlikely source. They soar to fame as The Lion Faced Girl and The Flayed Man, star performers in Professor Josiah Arroner’s Palace of Curiosities. And there begins a journey that will entwine their fates forever.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
The town that drowned / Riel Nason.
“Living with a weird brother in a small town can be tough enough. Having a spectacular fall through the ice at a skating party and nearly drowning are grounds for embarrassment. But having a vision and narrating it to the assembled crowd solidifies your status as an outcast. What Ruby Carson saw during that fateful day was her entire town, buildings and people floating under water. The residents of Haverton soon discover that a massive dam is being constructed and that most of their homes will be swallowed by the rising water. Suspicions mount, tempers flare, and secrets are revealed. As the town prepares for its own demise, 14-year-old Ruby Carson sees it all from a front-row seat. Set in the 1960s, The Town That Drowned evokes the awkwardness of childhood, the thrill of first love, and the importance of having a place to call home.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)
Life form / Amélie Nothomb ; translated from the French by Alison Anderson.
“Belgian author Amelie Nothomb receives a letter from 400 pound US Army private Melvin Mapple in December 2008. Normally she would ignore it, but something makes her respond. Amelie hates long letters and hides from fan requests, but agrees to help Melvin commit weight-gaining “body art” as a protest to the war America is fighting. Over two years the two grow to depend on each other’s letters to create a shared reality. All is well until Melvin disappears. Amelie worriedly searches and what she finds is a despairing man who has nothing “left to live for.”(adapted from Syndetics summary)
Instructions for a heatwave / Maggie O’Farrell.
“It’s July 1976. In London, it hasn’t rained for months, gardens are filled with aphids, water comes from a standpipe, and Robert Riordan tells his wife Gretta that he’s going round the corner to buy a newspaper. He doesn’t come back. The search for Robert brings Gretta’s children, two estranged sisters and a brother on the brink of divorce, back home, each with different ideas as to where their father might have gone. None of them suspects that their mother might have an explanation that even now she cannot share.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
Don’t go / Lisa Scottoline.
“When he deployed to Afghanistan for the Army Medical Corps, Mike Scanlon left behind an enviable life, with a beautiful wife, an infant daughter, and a prospering practice as a podiatrist/orthopedic surgeon. Six months later, a freak accident changes Mike’s world forever. As Mike struggles with the aftermath and searches for answers, he soon learns that his bad luck has only just begun. Despite an overwhelming share of tragedy, betrayal, and rejection, Mike maintains his unwavering love for his daughter, Emily. After a series of bad choices, Mike finds his life spiraling deeper into a hopeless quagmire of despair, eventually learning what it’s like to lose everything.” (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The city of Devi / Manil Suri.
“Set in a futuristic India, where Hindu and Muslim factions are deeply at odds and bombing raids have been ongoing. Amid the chaos, 33-year-old Sarita armed only with a pomegranate, ventures into the streets of Mumbai, on the eve of its threatened nuclear annihilation. She is looking for her physicist husband Karun, who has been missing for over a fortnight. She is soon joined on her quest by Jaz, a cocky, handsome, Muslim, gay, and in search of his own lover. Together they traverse the surreal landscape of a dystopia rife with absurdity, and are inexorably drawn to the patron goddess Devi ma, the supposed saviour of the city.” (adapted from Amazon.co.uk)