Tuesday 4 December 2018

List #1: FICTION
Have a look through this selection of prose fiction we are recommending for summer reading and as seasonal gifts. Click through to read our reviews. Use the 'click and collect' function on our website to reserve your copies. 
If you don't find what you're looking for here, come and talk to us: we have many other interesting books on our shelves. 

Census by Jesse Ball       $37
A widower cares for his adult son, who has Down Syndrome. When he learns that he hasn't long to live the man takes a job as a census taker for a mysterious government agency and takes to the road with his son. 
"Census is a vital testament to selfless love; a psalm to commonplace miracles; and a mysterious evolving metaphor. So kind, it aches." - David Mitchell
"Census is Ball's most personal and best to date. Think The Road by Cormac McCarthy with Ball’s signature surreal flourishes." - New York Times
Evening in Paradise by Lucia Berlin          $38
Lucia Berlin burst, posthumously, out of obscurity in 2015 with the publication of a selection of her stories entitled A Manual for Cleaning Women. Here was an authentic voice, a cleanness of style, a depiction of disadvantage, vulnerability and strength without sentimentality of condescension, a mordant but sympathetic humour, and an ability to pivot the largest observations on the smallest of details. Evening in Paradise is a further selection from Berlin's work.

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne            $37
Is authenticity personal property? Writer Maurice Swift takes his stories from wherever he finds them, regardless of whose they are. Swift makes his literary name by appropriating the life story of Erich Ackermann, a celebrated novelist he meets by chance in a Berlin hotel. Thereafter he stops at nothing to live upon the stories of others. How far will he be prepared to go? A taut and thoughtful literary psychological thriller from the author of, most recently, The Heart's Invisible Furies

Milkman by Anna Burns         $33
Set in an unnamed city but with an astonishing, breath-shorteningly palpable sense of time and place, Milkman is a tale of gossip and hearsay, silence and deliberate deafness. The story of inaction with enormous consequences and decisions that are never made, but for which people are judged and punished.

Kudos by Rachel Cusk        $33
Cusk brings her masterly 'Faye' trilogy (following Outline and Transit) to a close by finally activating Faye herself, recording her aeroplane journey and the conversations she has, pushing at the form of the novel and forcing tectonic shifts in the reader's preconceptions.
>> "Perhaps the cruellest novelist at work today."
In the Distance by Hernán Díaz      $23
A young Swedish immigrant finds himself penniless and alone in California. The boy travels east in search of his brother, moving on foot against the great current of emigrants pushing west. Driven back again and again, he meets naturalists, criminals, religious fanatics, swindlers, Indians, and lawmen, and his exploits turn him into a legend. Diaz defies the conventions of historical fiction and genre, offering a probing look at the stereotypes that populate our past and offers a portrait of radical foreignness.
"Diaz sends a shotgun blast through standard received notions of the Old West and who was causing trouble in it." - Laird Hunt
The New Ships by Kate Duignan           $30
Acting and not acting each have their consequences, shunting lives onto quite different tracks. This long-awaited new novel from Duigan stretches the web of consequences from post-Twin Towers Wellington across time and space as far as a houseboat in Amsterdam in the 1970s. How do Peter and Moira respond to the new roles fate casts upon them? 
"The New Ships is a gripping novel about lost children and a very fine portrait of family life in all its beauty and betrayal. Intricate, compelling, and deeply moving." —Anna Smaill
"Beautifully fluid, elegant, assured and calm, intellectually right and morally true." —Emily Perkins
Murmur by Will Eaves        $33
Taking its cue from the arrest and legally enforced chemical castration of the mathematician Alan Turing, Murmur is the account of a man who responds to intolerable physical and mental stress with love, honour and a rigorous, unsentimental curiosity about the ways in which we perceive ourselves and the world. 
"Murmur is a profound meditation on what machine consciousness might mean, the implications of AI, where it will all lead. It’s one of the big stories of our time, though no one else has treated it with such depth and originality." – Peter Blegvad
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan          $33
A novel of slavery and freedom, fulfillment and restriction, love and anger, in which a young slave survives a Barbados plantation, reveals an astounding artistic talent, and, with his new master, eludes capture and enters a world of fantastic possibility. From the author of Half Blood Blues
Short-listed for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
>> I've never regretted a lost sentence
>> Edugyan in conversation with Attica Locke
Now, Now, Louison by Jean Frémon       $36
A remarkable fictional autobiography of Louise Bourgeois, in the form of a self-addressing interior monologue. 
"A truly wonderful book. Jean Frémon knew Louise Bourgeois, and in his words that are also her words I discovered her ahain in all her bitter, tender, heroic, violent creativity. There is something uncanmny at play in this small book, something I don't fully grasp. but I suspect that elusive, haunted excess may be exactly why I love it. " - Siri Hustvedt
>>Louise Bourgeois as I knew her. 
>>Something like a portrait of Louise Bourgeois. 
Take Nothing With You by Patrick Gale         $38
Drawing on Gale's own experience as a young person coming to terms with a strictured world and finding a sense of belonging in musical performance, his 16th novel is a sensitive portrayal of self-discovery.
"Elegiac and contemplative." - The Guardian

Mazarine by Charlotte Grimshaw        $38
When her daughter vanishes during a heatwave in Europe, writer Frances Sinclair embarks on a hunt that takes her across continents and into her own past. What clues can Frances find in her own history, and who is the mysterious Mazarine? 
>> What are the possibilities of fiction in a post-truth world? 

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne         $38
For Selvon, Ardan and Yusuf, growing up under the towers of Stones Estate, summer means what it does anywhere: football, music, freedom. But now, after the killing of a British soldier, riots are spreading across the city, and nowhere is safe. While the fury swirls around them, Selvon and Ardan remain focused on their own obsessions, girls and grime. Their friend Yusuf is caught up in a different tide, a wave of radicalism surging through his local mosque, threatening to carry his troubled brother, Irfan, with it.
“An ambitious mosaic of virtuosic ventriloquism, Guy Gunaratne’s book is an inner city novel for our times, exploring the endurance of social trauma across generations, and conveying the agony and energy of the marginalised, the outsider, and the oppressed. Both a social panorama and a thriller, it contains a vibrant energy and some extraordinary plot twists that go against what might be our cultural expectations. Gunaratne gracefully moves the large and small ambitions of his characters on an expressionist chessboard of a council estate.”- Judges' comment, on long-listing the book for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz           $30
A woman is beset by extreme ambivalences of every kind, particularly her longing for and revulsion by family life. If a thought is thought it must be thought until its end, and Harwicz maps the darkest (and most common) paths of thought sensitively in exquisite prose. 
Motherhood by Sheila Heti          $40
"I've never seen anyone write about the relationship between childlessness, writing, and mother's sadnesses the way Sheila Heti does. I know Motherhood is going to mean a lot to many different people - fully as much so as if it was a human that Sheila gave birth to - though in a different and in fact incommensurate way. That's just one of many paradoxes that are not shied away from in this courageous, necessary, visionary book." - Elif Batuman 
"With each of her novels, Sheila Heti invents a new novel form. Motherhood is a riveting story of love and fate, a powerful inspiration to reflect, and a subtle depiction of the lives of contemporary women and men, by an exceptional artist in the prime of her powers. Motherhood constitutes its own genre within the many-faceted novel of ideas. Heti is like no one else." - Mark Greif 
>> On failures of the word 'mother' and other failures
Days of Awe by A.M. Homes           $33
 A.M. Homes exposes the heart of an uneasy America in her new collection - exploring people's attachments to each other through characters who aren't quite who they hoped to become, though there is no one else they can be.
"Furiously good." - Zadie Smith
Everything Under by Daisy Johnson           $40
Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn't seen her mother since the age of sixteen, and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature. A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel's isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water, swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.
“A hypnotic, mythic, unexpected story from a beguiling new voice. Everything Under is an exploration of family, gender, the ways we understand each other and the hands we hold out to each other – a story that’s like the waterways at its heart: you have to take the trip to understand what’s underneath.” - The judges' comment, on long-listing the book for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
The Cage by Lloyd Jones         $38
Two mysterious strangers turn up at a hotel in a small country town. Where have they come from? Who are they? What catastrophe are they fleeing? The townspeople want answers, but the strangers are unable to speak of their trauma. Before long, wary hospitality shifts to suspicion and fear, and the care of the men slides into appalling cruelty. 
"Jones is a daring writer who can relied upon to ignore expectation." - The Guardian

The Cemetery in Barnes by Gabriel Josipovici      $28
How do lives and the narratives that impart these lives converge and overlay each other, and how is a translator able to correlate narratives not only across languages but across time? Beautifully constructed and written, a triple narrative both pulled towards and avoiding the darkness at its centre. 
"One of the very best writers now at work in the English language, and a man whose writing, both in fiction and in critical studies, displays a unity of sensibility and intelligence and deep feeling difficult to overvalue at any time." - Guardian
>> Visit the cemetery
The Ice Shelf by Anne Kennedy         $30
Who's the fridge? Is there no end to acknowledgements? Are acknowledgements a form of revenge? Is love a non-renewable resource? Is global warming a form of defrosting? Do relationships start to go off as soon as they start to warm up? Read The Ice Shelf and laugh your way past no end of serious issues. 
>> Is this the only novel ever published to have a fridge as one of its main characters? 

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver         $37
Parallel stories in 1871, when the discoveries of Darwin and others challenged established world views, and 2016, when Trump's election indicated a world-changing challenge of a different sort, Kingsolver's eagerly anticipated new novel is alert to the personal nuances of social change. 

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner           $37
The much anticipated new novel from the author of The Flame ThrowersIt is 2003 and Romy Hall is at the start of two consecutive life sentences at a women's prison. Outside is the world from which she has been severed: the San Francisco of her youth, and her young son. Inside is a world operating on its own mechanisms: thousands of women scrabbling to survive, and a power structure based on violence and absurdity. 
"The Mars Room is so sensually convincing it leaves its imprint of steel mesh on your forehead, while its compassion embraces baby-killer and brutal cop alike in the merciless confines of the American justice system. An extraordinary literary achievement." - Adam Thorpe
"Mysterious and irreducible. The writing is beautiful - from hard precision to lyrical imagery, with a flawless feel for when to soar and when to pull back." - Dana Spiotta
"Her best book yet." - Jonathan Franzen
>> "Prisons should exist only in fiction."
Crudo by Olivia Laing             $35
Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be Kathy Acker. From a Tuscan hotel for the super-rich to a Brexit-paralysed UK, Kathy spends the first summer of her forties trying to adjust to marriage as Trump tweets the world into nuclear war. But it’s not only Kathy who’s changing. Political, social and natural landscapes are all in peril. Fascism is on the rise, truth is dead and the planet's hotting up. Is it really worth learning to love when the end of the world is nigh? 
>> The Crudo playlist.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh         $35
Three men washed up on the beach create a dreadful intrusion on the inhabitants of the island: three sisters and their mother. 
"Extraordinary.' - The Guardian
>> A review by Jessie Bray Sharpin on Radio New Zealand
The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke by Tina Makereti        $38
The long-awaited new novel from the author of Where the Rekohu Bone Sings follows the experiences of the orphaned son of a Maori chief who, while being exhibited as a curiosity in Victorian London, turns his own gaze upon the multilayered deceptions and pretensions of an alien society. 

300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso        $20
Think of this as a short book composed entirely of what I hoped would be a long book's quotable passages.300 Arguments is at first glance a group of unrelated aphorisms, but the pieces reveal themselves as a masterful arrangement that steadily gathers power. Manguso's arguments about writing, desire, ambition, relationships, and failure are pithy, unsentimental, and defiant, and they add up to an unexpected and renegade wisdom literature. 
>> Interview
Bird Cottage by Eva Meijar          $33
Len Howard, the daughter of a poet, and a successful concert violinist, was forty years old when she decided to devote the rest of her life to her true love: birds. She bought a small cottage in Sussex, where she wrote two international bestsellers, astonishing the world with her observations on the tits, robins, sparrows and other birds that lived in and around her house, and would even perch on her shoulder as she typed. This novel is based on her life. 

Circe by Madeleine Miller         $32
“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Miller presents a beautifully written, thoughtful and passionate feminist retelling of the life of Circe, the witch who reduced Odysseus's crew to animals. From the author of The Song of Achilles.
"Circe is the utterly captivating, exquisitely written story of an ordinary, and extraordinary, woman's life." - Eimear McBride

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Otessa Moshfegh        $38
Fed up with her vapid life, despite all her privileges, a young woman decides to spend a year in narcotic hibernation, supervised by a very unsafe psychiatrist. Is alienation a threat to our personal wellbeing or its safeguard? From the author of the Booker-shortlisted Eileen
"Matter of fact, full of bravado yet always wryly observational. One of the pleasures of reading Moshfegh is her relentless savagery." - Guardian
>> Read an excerpt
>> Another excerpt (with photos!).
>> "I say too much."
>> What's in Moshfegh's fridge? 
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami          $45
A portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a previously unseen painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances. To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist's home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors. Beautifully presented. 
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata        $30
For nearly twenty years Keiko (like the author of this book) has been working in a convenience store, a role that both gives her purpose in life and, after initially allowing her to pass as a 'normal' person in a very conformist society, gives her a place from which to defy conformist expectations, especially concerning personal relationships, and to isolate herself from the pressures of social life. 
“The novel borrows from Gothic romance, in its pairing of the human and the alluringly, dangerously not. It is a love story, in other words, about a misfit and a store. Keiko’s self-renunciations reveal the book to be a kind of grim post-capitalist reverie: she is an anti-Bartleby, abandoning any shred of identity outside of her work. It may make readers anxious, but the book itself is tranquil—dreamy, even—rooting for its employee-store romance from the bottom of its synthetic heart.” —Katy Waldman, New Yorker
>> Odd is the new normal
>> An interview with the author
All This by Chance by Vincent O'Sullivan            $35
"If we don't have the past in mind, it is merely history. If we do, it is still part of the present." A thoughtfully written novel tracing the trauma of the Holocaust and of unspoken secrets through three generations of a family, crossing between Britain and New Zealand. 
Warlight by Michael Ondaatje        $35
Two teenagers, left by their parents in London after World War 2 under the protection of a man called The Moth and his mysterious companions, only realise much later the significance of what happened in this time and the truth about what they thought was their mother's betrayal. 
"His best novel since The English Patient." - New York Times
"A miraculous achievement." - David Herkt 
The Nine-Chambered Heart by Janice Pariat        $23
How has the same woman attracted the love of nine very-different people? In the absence of her own story, do their nine very-different accounts form a useful picture of the person at their centre? 
Melmoth by Sarah Perry         $33
The much-anticipated novel from the author of The Essex Serpent. Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But her sheltered life is about to change. A strange manuscript has come into her possession. It is filled with testimonies from the darkest chapters of human history, which all record sightings of a tall, silent woman in black, with unblinking eyes and bleeding feet: Melmoth, the loneliest being in the world. 
>>Draws on legends of eternal wanderers, epitomised in Charles Maturin's 1820 Gothic masterpiece Melmoth the Wanderer
Lucia by Alex Pheby         $32
"She is about thirty-three, speaks French fluently. Her character is gay, sweet and ironic, but she has bursts of anger over nothing when she is confined to a straightjacket," write James Joyce of his daughter, Lucia. Whose story is Lucia's story? Lucia Joyce was a lover of Samuel Beckett and an avant-garde dancer. From her twenties she was treated for schizophrenia and spent the last thirty years of her life in an asylum. After her death her letters were destroyed and references to her were removed from archives. Alex Pheby, who is superb at mapping the workings of minds outside the norm (read Thomas's review of Playthings here), fills in the erasures and lacunae in this fascinating novel, not appropriating Lucia's story but shining beams of light towards her from multiple points of view. 
"Brilliant, compelling, profoundly disturbing." - Literary Review
"An emotionally powerful and constantly questioning novel, Lucia probes speculation, truth and the fraught ethics of history, biography and narrative itself." - Irish Times
>> The lost story of a Parisian dancer
Writer in Residence by Francis Plug        $37
Oh no, Francis Plug is back! In the devastatingly funny How To Be A Public Author, Plug (a.k.a. New Zealander Paul Ewen) gave an account of visiting book festivals and events and getting Booker winners to inscribe books to him (>>read Thomas's review of that book here). Now Plug has landed a position as a writer-in-residence. What could be worse (or funnier)?
"Outstandingly funny, this book is pure delight. Plug’s observations on authors, academics and architects are hilarious and absurd but always compassionate." - The Guardian

The Overstory by Richard Powers       $37
Nine people, each learning to see the world from the point of view of trees, come together in an attempt to save a stand of North American virgin forest. The book gives a trees' perspective of American history, from before the War of Independence to the Timber Wars of the Pacific Northwest in the late 20th century. 
"An extraordinary novel. There is something exhilarating in reading a novel whose context is wider than human life. The Overstory leaves you with a slightly adjusted frame of reference. What was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down.” — Benjamin Markovits, The Guardian
"It’s not possible for Powers to write an uninteresting book." -  Margaret Atwood
>> Read an extract
The Long Take by Robin Robertson          $28
Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can’t return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity and repair. As he moves from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco we witness a crucial period of fracture in history, one in which America is beginning to come apart: deeply paranoid, doubting its own certainties, riven by social and racial division, spiralling corruption and the collapse of the inner cities. 
The Long Take is like a film noir on the page. A book about a man and a city in shock, it’s an extraordinary evocation of the debris and the ongoing destruction of war even in times of peace. In taking a scenario we think we know from the movies but offering a completely different perspective, Robin Robertson shows the flexibility a poet can bring to form and style.” - the judges' comment, on long-listing this book for the 2018 Man Booker Prize
Normal People by Sally Rooney       $33
Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.
Long-listed for the 2018 Man Book Prize.
"A tremendous read, full of insight and sweetness. Rooney’s mastery of tone is complete: Normal People takes themes of passivity and hurt and makes them radical and amazing. But the truth is that this novel is about human connection and I found it difficult to disconnect. It is a long time since I cared so much about two characters on a page." - Anne Enright
>> An extract. 
You Think It, I'll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld          $35
Curtis Sittenfeld has established a reputation as a sharp chronicler of the modern age who humanizes her subjects even as she skewers them. These ten stories upend assumptions about class, relationships, and gender roles in a nation that feels both adrift and viscerally divided.
“Every bit as smart, sensitive, funny, and genuine as her phenomenally popular novels.” - Booklist
Women in the Field, One and two by Thomasin Sleigh         $29
A young British woman in post-war London is tasked with recommending acquisitions for New Zealand's National Art Gallery. When she ventures into the basement of a charismatic Russian painter three decades her senior, she discovers a solution that reconciles her idea of that far-away country and her own modernist sensibilities. Women in the Field, One and Two explores two women’s creativity and freedom against the backdrop of art history's patriarchal biases. From the author of Ad Lib
Women Talking by Miriam Toews          $33
One evening, eight Mennonite women climb into a hay loft to conduct a secret meeting. For the past two years, each of these women, and more than a hundred other girls in their colony, has been repeatedly violated in the night by demons coming to punish them for their sins. Now that the women have learned they were in fact drugged and attacked by a group of men from their own community, they are determined to protect themselves and their daughters from future harm. From the author of the wonderful All My Puny Sorrows
"This amazing, sad, shocking, but touching novel, based on a real-life event, could be right out of The Handmaid's Tale." - Margaret Atwood
Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk           $37
An astonishing amalgam of murder mystery, dark feminist comedy and paean to William Blake from the winner of the 2018 Man Booker International Prize (for Flights). In the bleak Polish midwinter, men in an isolated village are being murdered, and it is left to Janina Duszejko, a kind of eastern European Miss Marple, to identify the murderer.
>>Read an excerpt
>>Read an extract
>> The novel was made into a film by Agnieszka Holland
The Sound of Breaking Glass by Kirsten Warner          $35
The traumas of Kristallnacht in 1938 continue to echo through the generations, making life difficult for Christel, the daughter of a holocaust survivor and refugee to New Zealand. When her protest sculpture made of plastic milk containers comes to life like a golem from Jewish folklore, characters from the past begin to clamour for attention and secrets are uncovered. 
>> Author sings
>> Author speaks

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch         $33
In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet's now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin. Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule - galvanised by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her.
"All my youth I gloried in the wild, exulting, rollercoaster prose and questing narratives of Henry Miller, Charles Bukowski, and Jack Kerouac, but cringed at the misogyny; couldn't we have the former without the latter? We can, because: Lidia Yuknavitch. Buckle your seat belts; it's gonna be a wild feminist ride." - Rebecca Solnit"A raucous celebration, a searing condemnation, and fiercely imaginative retelling of Joan of Arc's transcendent life." - Roxane Gay
>> This Joan's not for burning
Bonsai: Best small stories from New Zealand edited by Michelle Elvy, Frankie McMillan and James Norcliffe        $40
200 gems of flash fiction and associated forms, none exceeding 300 words, all exemplars of concision.

No comments:

Post a Comment