Wednesday, 30 December 2015

2015 has been one heck of a year for fiction

Check out my faves below based on your comments and views of my book reviews....

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Thanks for following my blog, keep reading in 2016

A fictional week.....

After having read the door-stop of a novel, City on Fire, over the last few weeks I was in need of some bite-sized reads this week. Fortunately I had a couple of short story collections on my bookshelf that I'd received as gifts.

Marina Keegan's The Opposite of Loneliness is a collection of essays and stories from Keegan who tragically died aged 22 having graduated from Yale with a career ahead of her at the New Yorker. Whether Keegan would have achieved her ambition as a celebrated writer we'll never know but this collection demonstrates that she had a raw and unpolished talent.

The key essay in the collection, The Opposite of Loneliness, is the most memorable. "We don't have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that's what I want in life" begins Keegan instantly grabbing the reader with an original and accessible voice. 

Keegan writes of her post graduate fears; "We're so young. We can't, we MUST not loose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have". Her hopes and dreams are at the same time deeply personal whilst also speaking for a generation. The truthful prose is even more profound given that the work was published, in this format, post-humously. That said, the genius of the essay is that Keegan speaks for not only her generation but for anyone who has ever dreamed of the future.

Keegan's fiction is less ambitious but readable never the less which leads to the second read of the week.

Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is a collection of 21 short stories previously published in magazines from Harpers Magazine to The New Yorker. As with most of Haruki Murakami's canon these stories are at times esoteric but always hugely original and imaginative best summed up by the writer himself; "I'm very realistic. But when I write, I write weird".

For me the stand out story is Chance Traveller which is, evidently, narrated by Mr Murakami himself and explores the idea of co-incidence. The piano player who meets a mysterious girl with a mole on her ear whilst reading Dicken's Bleak House is classic Murakami.

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is more than a hand full of shorts, its 21 slices of life waiting to be discovered. The chances are you'll be captivated by any number and most likely moved by others. 

The pleasure of consuming 21 short stories in the same time as reading a single novel is extraordinary which is why I've decided that, next Christmas, short story collections will make the perfect gifts.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

A fictional week......

City on Fire is one heck of a weighty novel. Even by the scale of some of this year's Man Booker Prize shortlisted novels, Garth Risk Hallberg's 960 page epic is am ambitious tome. As a debut novel this is unquestionably a staggering feat, but the question is, does Hallberg deliver value for his (much hyped and deftly negotiated) $2 Million advance?

The novel is set in early 1970s New York and follows a number of loosely connected characters affected by a seemingly random shooting on New Year's Eve in Central Park. The grimy New York of the novel is wonderfully researched and drawn clearly from a deep and implicit understanding of the city. The myriad characters are well conceived but it remains the city that is the star of the novel and what a splendid protagonist she is.

The narrative flips between long pensive prose and more pacey dialogue by diving in and out of the kaleidoscopic story. Characters build through a detailed narrative that flips backwards and forwards  in a technique that sees broad storytelling next to chapters devoted to specific narrative rabbit holes. Chapters are interrupted by extracts from diaries, and at one point a student magazine, which adds to the immersion in to the World Hallberg creates but is a little distracting for e-readers.

These highly articulate experiments which are often times successful but occasionally leave you wondering why the novel couldn't have been edited down by at least 250 pages. Hallberg has previously written short stories for the New Yorker and to some degree this work can be seen as an anthology in which you'll find parts you love next to parts you'll frankly want to skim.

So, did Hallberg deliver? The literary World needs new stars and the hype and column inches generated around this debut novel, for me, are a vital promotion for fiction overall. Bring on the next generation! 

Next up on the reading list is Marina Keegan's posthumous anthology The Opposite of Loneliness.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A fictional week...

Readers of this blog will know that I'm currently mid way through the Odyssey that is City On Fire. Coming in at an ambitious 960 pages long this is no quick read and proving to be a challenge to squeeze into the week. That said, its a nice problem to have. So far  I'm immersed, interested and sticking with it although there are times when I've imagined what I would do with an editor's red pen. This is a novel about New York in the 70s, predominantly, a period of crime, grime and hugely changing social attitudes. This is part social history and part family saga.

A five hour train journey to Edinburgh was certainly the best place to get through a fair chunk of the book. I'm thankful for quiet zones but why don't we have reading zones? The smell of second hand books, the gentle turning of pages and the witty literary chat that would doubtless ensue would be a brilliant tonic to the general travel experience  I'll be copying the lovely folk at Virgin Trains into this despatch.

Anyway, back to Edinburgh; city of haggis, whisky, the Royal Mile and of course Literature. You literally fall over literary landmarks in this city from JK Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith to Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle. Have a look at the brilliant  Book Lovers Tour on offer near the Writers' Museum.

For me though, the highlight has to be Armchair Books which '...ekes out its intense and blustery existence on Edinburgh's hallowed West Port". This labyrinthine altar to second hand books is a delight. The cosy atmosphere and bookish musk is as unique as the niche which this shop has established in Edinburgh. This sense of place and evocative atmosphere is exactly what is so often missing from the high street bookseller.

Monday, 23 November 2015

A fictional week...

No book reviews this week I'm afraid thanks to the sheer weight and depth of Garth Risk Hallberg's City on Fire which I started last weekend and, at over 900 pages, can expect to be carrying around with me for some time yet!

Truth be told City on Fire is taking some time to get in to but the intimate relationship Hallberg obviously has with New York City is compelling and intriguing. I'm well over two thirds into the novel's intricate narrative which sees a number of plot themes converge around New Year's Eve in 1977. More next week, but in the meantime City on Fire has got me thinking; What is it about door-stop novels in 2015?

Readers of this blog will know that I devoured A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Both come in at well over the length of a typical novel yet still leave you wanting more at the end. 

Perhaps fans of epic TV box sets like Game of Thrones no longer feel daunted by extremely long format drama? Has the e-book given rise to the super size novel now that hand-bags and ruck sacks are liberated from the heft of the hardback? 

Kindle is the obvious choice for reading novels of this size on the move or whilst waiting in a queue like me this week at The Royal Academy waiting for tickets for the Ai Weiwei show - great exhibition by the way and perfectly timed after reading Will Gompertz' Think Like An Artist

Thank you to everyone who liked and shared my review last week of Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas. Although this particular book is a niche genre I'm firmly of the view that the short fiction format is thriving at the moment. Just as well there are so many quality short story collections to read at the moment as I expect I'll be yearning for something more bite size after City on Fire!

"He ascended through Brutalist atriums and Byzantine stairways" 

Garth Risk Hallberg 'City in Fire'

Sunday, 15 November 2015

#amreading Merciless Gods

Author: Christos Tsiolkas

Discovered: I've been a Tsiolkas fan since The Slap

Where read: (in part) The wonderful Kioskafe in Paddington

What's the story?

Merciless Gods is a hard hitting collection of short stories from Christos Tsiolkas which comes off the back of recent critically successful novels The Slap and Barracuda. The stories shock from the off with pretty brutal portrayals of people dealing with family, betrayal and sacrifice.

The Word's Shortlist view:

I've read a number of cracking short story collections recently; Stuart Evers Your Father Sends His Love and Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash spring to mind immediately. For me the format is perfect for reading on the go. Short, sharp bursts of engaging narrative can temporarily change your journey, your day and when in the hands of a great writer you entire week.

Christos Tsiolkas is well known for his no holds barred, explicit and raw writing style and this collection of short stories doesn't disappoint. Tsiolkas always write from a place he implicitly understands; gay, Australian, from immigrant parents, yet his ability to speak with different voices is remarkable. 

The collection begins with a story about old friends getting together at a dinner party to discuss revenge stories. Like Tsiolkas' classic The Slap the story turns on a single action which shatters the middle class pretension of the dinner party. Other stories are set in less familiar territory; The T-Shirt With The Fist On It for example is a story about tourists in the Middle East and Porn 1 deals with a mother accepting her son's career as adult film star.

Explicit, sexually frank, indiscreet but always honest. Tsiolkas is a one man genre of contemporary Australian fiction.

What’s next on the bookshelf

City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

Sunday, 8 November 2015

#amreading Slade House

Author: David Mitchell

Discovered: I've been looking forward to this since the story was teased as part of Mitchell's Twitter fiction experiment last year.

Where read: (in part) The Coffee Works Project, Blackfriars Road

What's the story?

Slade House is set in the same world as The Bone Clocks but stands apart as its own story, a companion book if you like. Like Mitchell's other works Slade House features diverse voices from teenager Nathan in 1979 to an investigative journalist in 2015. The novel is based around the classic literary device of the haunted house but when given the fantasy time-bending David Mitchell treatment the end result is something unique.

The Word's Shortlist view:

David Mitchell never disappoints. Slade House is a short but dense tale that includes Mitchell's trademark multiple voices, intertwining destinies and time travel in a really accessible way. I have friends who have been put off by the sheer scale of The Bone Clocks but this novella is a great introduction to the horological themes in the main text. Banjax, psychovoltage, Engifteds - you'll soon get in to it!

The novella's structure is really simple; on Halloween every 9 years a small portal appears in the wall around Slade House which inevitably leads to somebody new discovering the house. Once inside the abductees' discover a missing person hostel, of sorts, preserved in amber. Fantasy meets pure gothic horror. Slade House is part detective investigation and part Doctor Who, Phantom Manor for grown-ups.

What’s next on the bookshelf

Merciless Gods by Christos Tsiolkas

Sunday, 1 November 2015

#amreading Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales

Author: Yoko Ogawa

Discovered: Recommended by Murakami fans

Where read: High speed train from St Pancras to Margate

What's the story?
As the title suggests Revenge is a collection of dark and macabre short stories from contemporary Japanese writer Yoko Ogawa. The stories are unconnected yet contain repeated themes and motifs that stem from the first story about a mother who buys cream cakes each year on the day of her dead son's birthday. 

The Word's Shortlist view:
Much has been written about how dark and lonely these tales are but honestly, themes of loss and isolation are pretty standard in Japanese fiction! Like her contemporaries (Kawakami and Yosimoto) Ogawa's prose is brief and lean, there is absolutely zero room for hyperbole. 

Pithy dialogue and minimal plot structure makes Revenge a neat and orderly read but don't be fooled, these eleven stories still manage to pack a punch. From a disused zoo to a museum of torture we're transported to a range of Gothic settings through the lens of Japanese modernity. Any why not? Much has already been written about the secrets that lie behind the neon lit streets of Japan's mega cities.

Revenge is a clever collection of stories inspired by contemporary Japanese writers as well as Edogawa Rampo (a thinly veiled Japanese interpretation of Edgar Allen Po) and the Mystery Writers of Japan. I'll be reading more of Ogawa's work in the future.

"Eternal truths are ultimately invisible, and you won't find them in material things or natural phenomena, or even in human emotions.” - Yoko Ogawa

Who should read this book?

Anyone who's enjoyed Murakami, Yoshimoto or Kawakami

What’s next on the bookshelf

Slade House by David Mitchell

Monday, 26 October 2015

#amreading A Little Life

Author: Hanya Yanagihara

Discovered: Shortlisted for the 2015 Booker Prize

Where read: Everywhere, this book didn't leave my side for 2 weeks

What's the story?
A Little Life is an epic coming-of-middle-age novel that follows a group of four friends after they graduate from college. Jude, Willem, JB and Malcolm each formed a bond in their twenties that ties them together through the rest of their lives. Lawyer Jude and actor Willem, both orphaned, take centre stage as the story develops in the apartment they rent together in NYC. The novel was shortlisted for both the National Book Award for Fiction and the Man Booker Prize.

The Word's Shortlist view:
I was thoroughly drawn into this novel from the very beginning bingeing on pages on the train, in the street and waiting for the lift at work. I can only apologise for the inevitable "Good Mornings" that I've been ignoring for the passed couple of weeks. Thinking back, the only other novel to have this affect on me recently was David Mitchell's The Bone Clocks

So, why is this book so easy to fall in love with? Hanya Yanagihara creates an intimate world full of characters we actually believe, empathise with and more importantly trust. Over 750 beautifully written pages we are rewarded with a lifetime's worth of compelling and at times devastating narrative.

For me, the genius of the novel is the way Yanagihara connects us with the characters, particularly Jude, before taking us to places few writers can effectively conjure. As we learn more about Jude's childhood there a scenes of child abuse, rape and self-harm that are devastating initially and eventually moving in a way few novels can actually deliver. 

But the novel is also accomplished in the detail, the extreme loyalty that Jude's friends and adopted family demonstrate throughout is unwavering and beautifully written. Harold, Jude's former mentor and later adopted father, is tender, kind and protective even when pushed to inconceivable lengths. The love he shows for both Jude and Willem is one of the most eloquent parts of the book.

Never indulgent, this is a story that needs many pages to breath. After all, real life isn't about one off incidents or experiences but about the way these are played out daily for years after.

"..things get broken, and sometimes they get repaired, and in most cases, you realize that no matter what gets damaged, life rearranges itself to compensate for your loss, sometimes wonderfully.”       

Who should read this book?

To live with these characters is an unforgettable experience that you'll miss when its over. Prepare yourself now, life will never be the same again. 

What’s next on the bookshelf

Revenge by Yoko Ogawa

Tuesday, 20 October 2015


#amreading Wind/Pinball

Author: Haruki Murakami

Discovered: Murakami fans, like me, have been waiting for this release for years

Where read: Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street, London

What's the story?

This, brilliantly designed, reversible hard-back release features Murakami's first 2 novellas (Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973) written in the early 1970s. Both novels feature an unknown narrator, his friend 'The Rat' and typical Murakami-esque settings; coffee shops, bars and cheap rent apartments.  

The Word's Shortlist view:
The fact that the first translation of a Murakami work into English can cause such a publishing stir is evidence of the near God like status of Mr Murakami. Such is the power of his canon that ANYTHING he writes, or once wrote, is treated as nectar by publishers and fiction fans alike. 

Could this simply be straight forward publishing furore? Possibly, but for us Murakami fans we just don't care. Both of these novels, and the newly composed prologue, can be seen as drafts of ideas that are later explored in classics such as A Wild Sheep Chase. You'll be tracing themes and characters from these stories right through to Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore.

For me Hear the Wind Sing is the stronger title and the most revealing in terms of Murakami's pre-emmience. The insight provided in the prologue exposes why his work has gone on to become the complete genre that it is. 

Murakami sums it all up perfectly; “There's no such thing as perfect writing, just like there's no such thing as perfect despair.”

Who should read this book?

Quite simply this is a book for Murakami fans (read super-fans) who will relish the genesis of the Murakami style. New readers may wonder what all the fuss is about.

What’s next on the bookshelf

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Last chance to read the novel before the movie release

Tender, sincere and beautifully understated.

Title: Brooklyn

Author: Colm Toibin

Tags: #ireland #norawebster #nickhornby

Discovered: Imagine. Colm Toibin: His Mother's Son (BBC)

Where read: (In part) Shoreditch Grind, Old Street 

The Word's Shortlist view:

"Some people are nice and if you talk to them properly they can be even nicer"

I've picked this book up any number of times over the last few years but never got around to actually reading it until watching Alan Yentob's brilliant film about Colm Toibin for Imagine. Plus with his new book Nora Webster receiving rave reviews this seemed like the right time to finally commit. 

Colm Toibin's Costa Novel Award winning book tells the story of Eilis Lacy, a young girl who escapes the hardship of 1950s Ireland in search of a new life in the USA. The dredge of colourless Enniscorthy in Southern Ireland is brilliantly portrayed as a cage trapped with family commitment and few job prospects. On the other hand, Brooklyn is a dream of bright lights, colour and hope. 

As the story develops, and Eilis settles in to a new life of work and study in Brooklyn, there is a foreboding sense that she won't fully shake off her former life in Ireland. Before long Eilis meets a young Italian plumber, Tony, and begins a romance played out over a beautiful Summer on Coney Island. Local priest Father Flood is protective and caring but didn't expect girls like Eilis to find their own independence in Brooklyn, having brought them over for one purpose only. 

Colm Toibin's depiction of this new girl coming of age on the other side of world is tender, sincere and beautifully understated. Elias makes choices that her mothers generation in Ireland could never have conceived.  

Out of the blue Eilis receives some tragic news from home and must return to Ireland to be with her family. This is the major plot point that goes on to define the novel and the duality which all emigres face. For most the journey across the Atlantic was one way leaving a bereaved family at home. For Eilis she must make the return journey to make a decision about her new life with Tony and her family commitments in Eniscorthy. 

Many Irish families will have an Eilis in their family which makes this book personal and intimate - the decision she must make is about more than her own family, this is a decision about a generation and about a time. This is a great read that explores the schizophrenic life of emigres forced to return home. 

With a film in the making we can expect renewed interest in this novel. Read the novel now and enjoy the movie later in the year.

Looking forward to seeing Tom Hiddleston's portrayal of Dr Robert Laing in High-rise? The film is adapted from the 1974 novel by JG Ballard which I reviewed back in 1974....

Watch the “Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months.”

With a new film in production, with Tom Hiddleston and director Ben Wheatley, and the Tate Britain exploring the enigma of ruined architecture, in current show Ruin Lust, this is the perfect time to pick up a copy of JG Ballard's 1975 sci-fi gem Highrise.

In the novel Ballard imagines a scenario in which society, in this case within the microcosm of a luxury Highrise development, completely breaks down. What begin as minor malfunctions such as faulty lifts and waste disposal systems soon escalate to life threatening events as the inhabitants turn feral within the luxury carpeted halls. Social order is literally thrown from the high rise balconies as a new dystopian order seeps through the concrete structure of the vertical city. 

The story centres on 3 key characters who neatly represent the social worlds that exist within the complex. On one of the lower proletariat floors is Laing, a lecturer who we meet early on in the novel roasting an Alsatian on a pyre of yellow pages. Higher up lives TV producer and social climber Wilder. On one of the upper floors is Royal, architect, urbanist and idealist.

The work is at its best when the boundaries blur between the social strata creating an anti-society no-mans land. Ballard allows us to experience this through the eyes of the three main protagonists effectively. This wouldn't have worked as well told through one single view point.

The challenge with the novel is to recognise that this is essentially a period piece. Much has changed since 1975 and the book is markedly void of digital interference.

A great read with a unforgettable first opening sentence that will hook you in whether browsing in the library/bookshop or trying a kindle sample. Your perfect hit of post-apocolyptic mayhem.

More about the film adaptation here

More about Tate Britain's show here

Tweet @wordsshortlist if you're planning to read

Saturday, 3 October 2015

#amreading Bonjour Tristesse

Author: Françoise Sagan

Discovered: Waterstone's, Leamington Spa Summer reads display

Where read: By the sea on La Corniche, Marseille

What's the story?

Françoise Sagan's debut novella was first published in 1954 to critical and commercial success at home in France. 18 year old Sagan was an overnight sensation and the book became a short-hand for glamorous and amoral Riviera life in Fifties France. More recently the book has been republished by Penguin Modern classics in the UK.

The Word's Shortlist view:
Bonjour Tristesse is a wonderfully simple novella that is vividly evocative of the 1950s. In Sagan's young hands we are instantly swept along in the story of Cecile, 17 years old and sent to spend the summer with her Father, Raymond, and his mistress Elsa. Sagan's prose is articulate yet naive and perfectly captures early adulthood and sexuality. “My love of pleasure seems to be the only consistent side of my character. Is it because I have not read enough?” 

Cecile hits the riviera running and sets out initially to attract men of her father's age. Although this strategy ultimately fails she does fall for a younger chap, Cyril. The story really develops with the arrival of Anne, another of Raymond's girlfriends. The combination of attention seeking Cecile, louche Raymond, superficial  Elsa and cultured Anne results in a delicious blend of love and revenge.

Bonjour Tristesse is a French literary classic and appears in Le Monde's top 100 books of all time. I also recently came across an article which suggested that this is one of Michael Stipe's favourite books of all time. Pick up a copy and find out why?

Who should read this book?

My recommendation? Pick up a copy and enjoy in the blazing hot Provençal sun under the very same skies depicted in the novel.

“La liberté de penser, et de mal penser et de penser peu, la liberté de choisir moi-même ma vie, de me choisir moi-même. Je ne peux dire ˝d´être moi-même˝, puisque je n´étais rien qu´une pâte modelable, mais celle de refuser les moules.” 
What’s next on the bookshelf

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Friday, 25 September 2015

#amreading The Book of Strange New Things

Author: Michel Faber

Discovered: Waiting at Marylebone railway station

Where read: (in part) A tiny cottage near Matlock, Derbyshire.

What's the story?

Michel Faber's novel was first published in the US to favourable reviews and is now available in the UK in paperback - cleverly published with 2 cover versions (see above). The novel is a slice of near future science fiction in which protaganist Pastor Peter Leigh is sent by a Christian organisation, USIC, as a missionary to far flung planet Oasis. The eponymous 'Book of Strange New Things' is, we learn, how the native Oasans refer to the Bible itself.

The Word's Shortlist view:
I must admit that what initial drew me to this book was the different covers which stopped me in my tracks in WH Smith (usually the least inspiring 'bookshop' on my travels). Having recently struggled with Margaret Atwood's MaddAddam I figured it was time to pick up another Sc-Fi novel, so job done I self scanned the novel and began to read immediately.

The premise of the book is brilliant, later life Christian Peter applies to become a space missionary and is blasted off to a planet on the edge of the galaxy to preach to a native alien species. Peter has not always been a pastor; his earlier years as a junkie petty criminal somehow appealed to the USIC panel who accepted Peter but not his wife Bea who is left home alone with cat Joshua.

This novel is at its best when Peter initially settles into his new surroundings at the base on Oasis; “There was a red button on the wall labelled EMERGENCY, but no button labelled BEWILDERMENT.”  The early meetings with the Osians are teasing and the initial dispatches to Bea back on earth capture the isolation of being so far away from home. 

But the trouble with the novel is that it fails to quite live up to its own hype. Oasis is a potentially brilliant setting in which a near future post-Earth utopia could play out but the narrative gets bogged down with Peter's endless anxiety about communicating with home. Faber paints a completely believable world in which the Oasans have an insatiable appetite for Bible teachings which is (sort of) juxtaposed with Bea's witnessing life on Earth unravel but Peter is just a passenger.

I fear Faber was quite right......“What do you expect? This place is one big anti-climax.” 

Who should read this book?

Fans of science fiction should certainly give this novel a go. More often than not I struggle with this genre but granted the premise is brilliant and the Oasans are a fascinating alien race.
What’s next on the bookshelf

TransAtlantic by Colum McCann

Saturday, 19 September 2015

#amreading All The Light We Cannot See

Author: Anthony Doerr

Discovered: Winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

Where read: (in part) During well deserved breaks from painting doors in my new flat in Old Town, Margate, Kent.

What's the story?

This year's Pulitzer Prize winner is an epic door stop of a novel set during and in the year's preceding World War II. These are well worn literary routes, it must be said, but what's compelling in this case is the viewpoint through which much of the novel is set; that of a blind young girl evacuated from Paris to St Malo to live with her Great Uncle.

The Word's Shortlist view:
This is a fast paced novel with a neat structure in which several distinct threads are destined to collide. Initially, in France, we meet Marie-Laure as her eye-sight fails and she is set tests and challenges by her father to develop her cognitive skills before her cataracts leave her completely blind. “Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.”  Alongside this story, and over the border in Germany, we meet Werner an 8 year old orphan with unique skills with radios and circuitry which make him attractive to the Hitler Youth.

The years running up to the war are brilliantly played out through the eyes of these youngsters on opposing sides of a growing conflict. Although the novel is over 500 pages long there are times, such as the passages in the early days of Werner's training, where you wish Doerr would apply the brakes. There is a lot of story here but you wonder what ended up in the editor's waste paper basket. 

I was completely immersed on this novel from the start and wish I could of read it in one sitting - ok, that's a bit indulgent but the point is that Doerr paints such vivid pictures that you're drawn in from the off. “Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever.” 

My only criticism is that, as the sub plots come careering together in the final chapters there is a tinge of fear that we've overlooked some missing chapters from earlier that would allow us to dwell a little big longer in this extraordinary world.

Who should read this book?

Read this novel and find our why it spent 58 weeks on the New York Times Hardback Bestseller list and ended up being shortlisted by the New York Times as one of top 10 best books of 2014.

What’s next on the bookshelf

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Sunday, 13 September 2015

#amreading Your Father Sends His Love

Author: Stuart Evers

Discovered: On Netgalley (thank you)

Where read: (in part) On the Jubilee Line over the course of a few days.

What's the story?

To be honest I received a review copy of this collection of short stories some time ago and, although I read it almost straight away,  just never got around to writing a blog post. Thanks to a little unplanned downtime this week I'm back on track. Stuart Evers punchy, witty and touching prose is perfectly suited to this collection of shorts that explore a whole range of parental relationships between sons, fathers and grandfathers. 

The Word's Shortlist view:
My posts about short story collections more often than not get far less views than posts about full length literary fiction. People tell me that they often find short stories hard to get into and/or difficult to recall individually afterwards. Its almost as if readers demand to to immersed in pages and pages of plot to get value for money. 

For me, the short story format works perfectly for trying new writers or genre without fully committing to a verbose novel. I love to read work that's taken stylistic risks and fermented down a core idea to a succinct nugget of literary prose. Stuart Evers book doesn't disappoint.

In these 12 stories Evers presents a totally honest narrative that sweeps across the full range of male identities from the young gay son in Lakelands to the new father in Frequencies and the grandfather in These Are The Days. Each story is fresh with tender prose as Evers really understands the characters he writes about which is, in part, why Your Father Send His Love is such a great read. We're in good hands with such an honest story teller.

Who should read this book?

If you one of those readers, and I know you're out there, who eschews short story collections in favour of conventional novels then this is the book for you. Make September your month for pithy prose! After this collection try Stay Up With Me by Tom Barbash      

What’s next on the bookshelf

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr