Nigel Farndale’s The Blasphemer is one of those novels with prose that knocks your socks off. His new book, The Road Between Us, is even better. It begins in 1939 London where two young men are arrested for conduct unbecoming. Charles is courtmartialled, Anselm is deported to a German re education camp. Both are faced with difficult decisions that will impact on the rest of their life. Then it’s 2012 and Edward, Charles’ son, is released from eleven years being held captive by the Taliban in a cave in Afghanistan. His life is shredded and he decides to work out who arranged to pay his ransom and how his release is linked to his father. The prose is beautiful, the story worms its way into your heart, and the way Farndale can bring to life what Anselm’s life in camp was like is nothing short of extraordinary.
On friday I was given a copy of this young adult book to read, started and finished it in the bath last night. I dont know how to describe this book. Firstly the important bits – it’s written by Sally Gardner and has just won the Carnegie Medal and last year the Costa Children’s Book Award. It’s set in 1950’s Britain now called the Motherland and goverment is neo nazi, ruling by terror and violence. If you protest, you disappear. Standish Treadwell is 15 and sees the world differently. We dont realise until further into the book that he’s dyslexic. His parents have disappeared and a new boy with his family moves in next door and shortly after disappears. The Motherland is in a space race to get to the moon and Standish realises he must do something to fight back. The idea that one person can stand up to tyranny is inspiring, even when that person knows what the cost will be. This is a cold, gritty, dark book that is amazing. It’s certainly for adults and older teenagers. Incredible. Beautiful. Haunting. Terrifying. Fabulous.
What a sad way to start the day. Iain Banks died this morning. I think we all hoped there would be a healing miracle but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. He’ll stay forever with us, everytime I look at his books on the shelf. His new book, his last book, The Quarry, will be published June 27. And yes, he saw the finished copy.
Her dystopian trilogy has either driven you crazy or made you fall in love with her writing. I’ve been an Atwood fan for as long as we’ve had this store, and I’m in the latter camp. I do know however that some of the people in our bookclub fall into the former. Well, I’m half way through the third book in the trilogy, due for release later in the year. I love her mix of humour and violence. The book is called Maddaddam, a word which looks really weird in italics. It follows on from Oryx and Crake and The Year of the Flood. How someone can take a story of genetic tampering, corporate dictatorship and accompanying thuggery, dramatic climate change and ordinary people caught up in it and turn it into something funny, poetic, dramatic, powerful, is truly amazing. I am in awe not only of her writing but of her ability to conceive this story. John Updike has said of her ‘Atwood is a poet. Scarcely a sentence of her quick, dry yet avid prose fails to do useful work.’ And that’s an understatement. Prepare to be swept away when you start with Oryx and Crake.
One of the crime series I’ve loved is Mons Kallentoft’s Seasons books. We started with Midwinter Sacrifice,then came Summertime Death, Autumn Killing, and now the fourth book,Savage Spring, is available. We’ve followed Detective Inspector Malin Fors into some pretty vile crimes and met some horrible villains over a couple of years and three seasons, and now we have a deafening explosion ripping through the peaceful town square. Two little girls are killed and at first it is thought to be terrorism. But of course once Malin starts thinking about what’s happened, she sets out on a different tack. These books are beautifully written and Kallentoft is brilliant at nailing the female voice. We’ve run out of seasons so I hope Kallentoft invents a few more – I dont want to lose either his books or Malin Fors and her difficult life.