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As is now customary when we look at the recently acquired new fiction lists, we like to focus on one title and author. For this month’s spotlight, we would like to talk about the highly acclaimed Ukrainian author Andreĭ Kurkov, and his newly translated into English 2012 novel Jimi Hendrix live in Lviv.
Andreĭ Kurkov was born in Leningrad, USSR. He has so far written nineteen novels. The first novel, the fabulous Death and the Penguin, was published two weeks before the fall of the Soviet Union. it was initially self-released and has subsequently become an international bestseller.
His books have been translated into 37 languages and heaped with awards. His writing is surreal and fantastical, weaving in black humour and post-Soviet reality, and are often rooted in real places in Ukraine. One critic describes his writing style as “Vodka fuelled magical realism”.
Jimi Hendrix live in Lviv was written before the Russian invasion and as such is from a happier time in Ukraine. It is a playful book full of varied components, there are supernatural twists and oddball characters such as a group of hippies visiting a Lviv cemetery to pay homage to Jimi Hendrix’s hand. The book is also a heartfelt love letter to Lviv and poignantly celebrates that city’s unique culture.
Since the start of the war, Andreĭ Kurkov has stopped writing fiction and has instead become a roving ambassador for his country. He has written numerous articles and pieces for newspapers and magazines across Europe and the U.S. about the conflict. In 2022 he released his Diary of an Invasion his own vivid, personal and profound account of the war.
You can find Andreĭ Kurkov’s recent Guardian piece on the death of the Ukrainian writer Victoria Amelina here. You can visit this link to view our collection of Andreĭ Kurkov’s works.
Our other selected fiction highlights are below.
Jimi Hendrix live in Lviv / Kurkov, Andreĭ
“Strange things are afoot in the cosmopolitan city of Lviv, western Ukraine. Seagulls are circling and the air smells salty, though Lviv is a long way from the sea… A ragtag group gathers round a mysterious grave in Lychakiv Cemetery – among them an ex-KGB officer and an ageing hippy he used to spy on. Before long, Captain Ryabtsev and Alik Olisevych are teaming up to discover the source of the ‘anomalies’. Meanwhile, Taras – who makes a living driving kidney-stone patients over cobblestones in his ancient Opel Vectra – is courting Darka, who works nights at a bureau de change despite being allergic to money. The young lovers don’t know it, but their fate depends on two lonely old men, relics of another era, who will stop at nothing to save their city.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The house of doors / Tan, Twan Eng
“It is 1921 and at Cassowary House in the Straits Settlements of Penang, Robert Hamlyn is a well-to-do lawyer and his steely wife Lesley a society hostess. Their lives are invigorated when Willie, an old friend of Robert’s, comes to stay. Willie Somerset Maugham is one of the greatest writers of his day. But he is beleaguered by an unhappy marriage, ill-health and business interests that have gone badly awry. He is also struggling to write. The more Lesley’s friendship with Willie grows, the more clearly she see him as he is – a man who has no choice but to mask his true self. As Willie prepares to leave and face his demons, Lesley confides secrets of her own, including how she came to know the charismatic Dr Sun Yat Sen, a revolutionary fighting to overthrow the imperial dynasty of China. And more scandalous still, she reveals her connection to the case of an Englishwoman charged with murder in the Kuala Lumpur courts..” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The artist / Solly, Ruby
“In a Southern land, where the veil of time and space has worn thin, twins with otherworldly ways are born to a stone carver and his wife. As they grow into themselves, the landscape and its histories will rise up to meet them and change their whanau forever. Cave art leaps from walls, pounamu birds sing, legends become reality, and history becomes the present in this verse novel by Ruby Solly (Waitaha, Kati Mamoe, Kai Tahu). The Artist brings to life the histories of our great Southern iwi through the whakapapa of its characters and the rich world they and their ancestors call their turakawaewae-their place to stand, their place to sing.”(Adapted from Catalogue)
Owlish / Xie, Xiaohong
“With your face covered, sneaking into a city you thought you knew, are you still yourself? Or have you crossed to another world, where the streets are unpredictable and the people strangers, where you might at any moment run into some unknown dream version of yourself? In a city called Nevers, there lives a professor of literature called Q. He has a dull marriage and a lacklustre career, but also a scrumptious collection of antique dolls locked away in his cupboard. And soon Q lands his crowning acquisition, a music box ballerina named Aliss who has tantalisingly sprung to life. Guided by his mysterious friend Owlish and inspired by an inexplicably familiar painting, Q embarks on an all-consuming love affair with Aliss, oblivious to the protests spreading across the university that have left his classrooms all but empty. The mountainous city of Nevers is itself a mercurial character with concrete flesh, glimmering new construction, and ‘colonial flair’. Having fled there as a child refugee, Q thought he knew the faces of the city and its people, but Nevers is alive with secrets and shape-shifting geographies.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The fire and the rose / Cadwallader, Robyn
“England, 1276: Forced to leave her home village, Eleanor moves to Lincoln to work as a housemaid. She’s prickly, independent and stubborn, her prospects blighted by a port-wine birthmark across her face. Unusually for a woman, she has fine skills with ink and quill, and harbours a secret ambition to work as a scribe, a profession closed to women. Eleanor discovers that Lincoln is a dangerous place, divided by religious prejudice, the Jews frequently the focus of violence and forced to wear a yellow badge. Eleanor falls in love with Asher, a Jewish spicer, who shares her love of books and words, but their relationship is forbidden by law. When Eleanor is pulled into the dark depths of the church’s machinations against Jews and the king issues an edict expelling all Jews from England, Eleanor and Asher are faced with an impossible choice.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The sorcerer of Pyongyang / Theroux, Marcel
“Ten-year-old Jun-su is a bright and obedient boy whose only desire is to be a credit to his family, his nation, and most importantly, his Dear Leader. However, when he discovers a copy of The Dungeon Master’s Guide, left behind in a hotel room by a rare foreign visitor, a new and colorful world opens up to him. With the help of an English-speaking teacher, Jun-su deciphers the rules of the famous role-playing game and his imaginary adventures sweep him away from the harsh reality of a famine-stricken North Korea. Over time, the game leads Jun-su on a spellbinding and unexpected journey through the hidden layers of his country, toward precocious success, glory, love, betrayal, prison, a spell at the pinnacle of the North Korean elite, and an extraordinary kind of redemption. A vivid, uplifting, and deeply researched novel, The Sorcerer of Pyongyang is a love story and a tale of survival against the odds. Inspired by the testimony of North Korean refugees and drawing on the author’s personal experience of North Korea, it explores the power of empathy and imagination in a society where they are dangerous liabilities.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
Dream girl / Holley, Joy
“Alice wants a heart-shaped bed. Mary, Genevieve and Angelica want to know the future. June says she wants Lena to rescue her from a rat, but really she wants Lena to make out with her. Eve wants to get Wallace alone at the strawberry farm. Olivia just wants to leave the haunted boarding school and go home.Bittersweet and intimate, comic and gothic, Dream Girl is a collection of stories about young women navigating desire in all its manifestations. In stories of romance and bad driving, ghosts and ghosting, playlists and competitive pet ownership, love never fails to leave its mark.” (Adapted from Catalogue)
The Ghost Theatre : a thrilling adventure / Osman, Mat
“To love is to fall… On a rooftop in Elizabethan London two worlds collide. Shay is a messenger-girl and trainer of hawks who sees the future in the patterns of birds. Nonesuch is the dark star of the city’s fabled child theatre scene, as famous as royalty yet lowly as a beggar. Together they create The Ghost Theatre: a troupe staging magical plays in London’s hidden corners. As their hallucinatory performances incite rebellion among the city’s outcasts, the pair’s relationship sparks and burns against a backdrop of the plague and a London in flames. Their growing fame sweeps them up into the black web of the Elizabethan court, where Shay and Nonesuch discover that if they fly too high, a fall is sure to come…” (Adapted from Catalogue)