Wednesday, 26 February 2014

'one of the cities in the world where the least work gets done'

The Oxford brought to life in Javier Marias novel All Souls is beautifully rich and bursting with interesting characters drawn from personal experience of the author as a visiting lecturer from Spain. This version of Oxford is Pan’s Labyrinth with academic gowns!  

The theme of the story is an adulterous affair the narrator embarks on with young tutor Claire Bayes. The affair really serves as a metaphor for the way the narrator/Marias gets drawn deeper and deeper into collegiate life at All Souls college – a microcosm of intrigue and mystery occupied by larger than life intellectuals.     

Fast pace this isn’t but where the novel succeeds is in weaving together memories and recollections of events and people around some clear set pieces such as the meeting at Didcot train station and the High Table dinner. Marias’ black comedy touches are excellent and his understanding of British quirks and eccentricities carries the narrative.

Well written and a fascinating insight into a world behind the closed doors of the learned institutions you so easily walk past in Oxford.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer was recently, and deservedly, announced as the winner of The Costa Book of the Year 2013 and, since its release in paperback earlier this year, its been a bedside table staple.

This debut novel tells the story of a Matthew a young man growing up and learning to come to terms with his role in the death of his brother on a family holiday. This is an intimate family profile that's tiny in scope but epic in emotional drama.

Much has been written in the media about how cleverly this novel sheds light on life as a young person dealing with mental illness. Nathan Filer's own experience as a mental health nurse surely contributing to his compassionate and empathetic writing style that explores Matthews struggles with his tragic past. The warm and affectionate narrative grabs you from the first page and, even in its most despairing moments, the story remains heart-warming. 

The book is a true page-turner, some have literally read it cover to cover in one sitting! Driving this is the structure of the novel; Filer maintains the suspense by introducing ideas and plot points but then, teasingly, keeps you waiting for more. The use of different typographic styles also keeps the story moving as the narrative is told through typed memoirs and letters received.

Anyone who has enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time or Silver Linings Playbook will recognise, in this book, a similarly straight-forward character whose honesty is both touching and poignant. This book is likely to be celebrated in much the same way for years to come.  

A must read and must share


Thursday, 13 February 2014

‘The Knife of Never Letting go’ by Patrick Ness is a fantastic achievement – an original work of fiction which delivers drama, suspense, alien landscapes and compelling characters, oh and it just so happens to have been written for the Young Adult market.

The novel is set in Prentisstown, a newly colonised planet that has fragmented into dystopian chaos with warring groups and ideologies. This setting is instantly recognisable to anyone who is living through, or has experienced adolescence, and yet remains uniquely fresh. Our hero Todd, bursting with boyhood naivety, is the perfect symbol of an age. Once we discover that we can hear the thoughts of his loyal canine companion, Manchee we’re hooked.

The action begins from the outset with a succinct writing style that packs a punch and keeps you turning the pages as quickly as the action unfolds. Ness’s stylistic approach appeals to both the young adult and time pressured adult looking to cram a chapter on a lunch-break or commute.

There are bucket loads of clever devices in this novel; the recurring mad preacher villain and the native alien Spackles are well crafted, but the winner is the concept of ‘noise’ – a germ contaminant which allows everyone’s inner thoughts to be audible.  A typographic device is used to convey this concept, see the image below, with some pages literally surrendered to an overload of sound.

Todd’s adventure is fast paced and could have dwelled for longer at times. Certain elements, for example the story of Todd’s adopted family, are rushed and unexplored. Perhaps these themes are revisited in books 2 and 3?

Searching for coming of age fiction, sci-fi action or self-affirming then look no further!!

Monday, 10 February 2014

The future for The Word's Shortlist?

We love this story about a man on a mission in rural Italy.

Let's just say that its got us thinking.......

In the meantime check out the February shortlist here:;postID=8825030428877688643;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=3;src=postname

Now lending! To borrow any book mentioned on these pages simply tweet @wordsshortlist

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Radio 4s Book Club this month features a fascinating interview with the author of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini.

The Word's Shortlist was lucky enough to be invited to the recording to listen to Khaled talk in depth about the origins of the novel, as a piece about the history of kite flying in Afghanistan, which went on to become a powerful and unforgettable story about family and betrayal.

Published shortly after 9/11 the book was the first Afghan novel to be published in English and brilliantly captures the troubled spirit of the country. 

Listen to the interview here:

Hosseini's most recent novel And the Mountains Echoed offers another epic family based story which transcends generations of a Afghanistani family.

Read and share