Book choice for May 2011

Paradise [suggested by Neil Fletcher]

front cover

Hannah Luckraft knows the taste of paradise. It's hidden in the peace of open country, it's sweet on her lover's skin, it flavours every drink she's ever taken, but it never seems to stay.

Almost forty and with nothing to show for it, even Hannah is starting to notice that her lifestyle is not entirely sustainable: her subconscious is turning against her and it may be that her soul is a little unwell. Her family is wounded, her friends are frankly odd, her body is not as reliable as it once was. Robert, an equally dissolute dentist, appears to offer a love she can understand, but he may only be one more symptom of the problem she must cure.

From the North East of Scotland to Dublin, from London to Montreal, to Budapest and onwards, Hannah travels beyond her limits, beyond herself, in search of the ultimate altered state - the one where she can be happy, her paradise.

Incapable of writing a dull sentence, or failing to balance the grim with the hilarious, the tender with the grisly, A.L. Kennedy has written an emotional and visceral tour-de-force. A compelling examination of failure that is also a comic triumph, a novel of dark extremes that is full of the most ravishing lyrical beauty, Paradise is the finest book yet by one of Britain's most extraordinarily gifted writers.

The above description is taken from the author's website. Unusually, Paradise does not (yet) have a Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Copious information on A.L. Kennedy's website, or her Wikipedia page.


Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. This month Neil's other selections were:

Oracle Night

Oracle Night

Paul Auster's 11th novel Oracle Night is as intelligent and compellingly written as any he has produced. Sydney Orr is a writer recovering from an illness that almost killed him. Out on his daily constitutional he happens upon a curious stationery shop, the Paper Palace, and purchases a blue Portuguese notebook. The notebook casts a curious hold over Orr and seems to enable him to write, something he hasn't done since coming out of hospital. He writes a story about a books' editor who, on serendipitously avoiding some falling masonry, decides to read the near-accident as a reason to change his life. He takes an unread, recently discovered, manuscript of an important writer from the 1930s, Sylvia Maxwell, and disappears off to Kansas City. Reinvention and the associated idea that identity is fluid, re-imaginable, are linked, as is often the case with Auster, to the idea of chance.

So, Auster's usual themes are here: writing about writers and writing he discusses themes such as identity, disappearance, creativity, chance. But, despite what initially looks like a tricky structure (with footnotes and stories within stories) this is really a novel about love and forgiveness. Notwithstanding the dubious reputation of being a "writer's writer" the philosophical Auster has written a comparatively simple, very moving, quite brilliant novel. If the novel's ending is a little too neat, and the drama, as the narrative moves to a close, a little too soap opera, this hardly matters. --Mark Thwaite [Amazon]


About the Author

Paul Auster's Wikipedia entry.

Minimal biog notes here, where it states his next novel is "due to be published in 2007" which tells you a bit about the rest of the website.

Requiem for the East

Requiem for the East

At the beginning of Requiem for the East, mysterious explosions shake the mountain above an isolated house in the Caucasus. A round disk of rock is ripped out of the mountain, slices through the forest and embeds itself in the house, missing a sleeping child by inches. There it remains, marking the difference of this family from others, and its narrow escape from elimination by history.

The sleeping child will be our narrator. He will tell us the stories of Nikolai, his grandfather, and Pavel, his father, bracketed by his own. Nikolai joins the Bolsheviks in order to escape the slavery of ploughing. Soon, however, he is repelled by that murderous world, and returns to the private realities of land and love.

The above taken from a review in the Independent written in 2001. Read the rest of it here. There's also this review by Dudley Moore writing on Amazon:
I am yet to find a person who does not find Andrei Makine's novels to be anything short of brilliant. He manages to subtly evoke the most tender of emotions and the most tragic political situations with little more than a description of the narrators surroundings, a gift which precious few writers are endowed. If that were not enough to make a great book, the fact that, by way of a meticulously realised attack on modern day historical misrepresentation, the authour manages to weave a contemporary significance into his work certainly is. For me, Makine's subject is somewhat akin to that of W. G. Sebald's writing - themes of love and loss poetically drawn out through dense prose. But Makine is far more accesible, far more readable, and I would argue, much better for it.

About the Author

Andreï Makine was born in Russia in 1958 and emigrated to France in 1987. In 1995 his novel Dreams of My Russian Summers won the Goncourt Prize and the Médicis Prize, France's two most prestigious literary awards. He divides his time between Paris and a village in southwestern France.

That's from the Arcade Publishing website and includes a short bibliography. There's also a Wikipedia page and a dedicated website (in French. Translatable, but not very informative).


Previous Months' Book Choices

April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
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January 2010
November 2009
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