Catching up – here is a short list of what was published in April. Expect May’s posting early next week.
Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd Boyd is a Scottish author (born in Ghana Africa) who has won some minor prizes as well as being nominated for The Booker Prize. His latest work is set in 1913. Lysander Rief, a young English actor, travels to Vienna to undergo psychotherapy for a sexual ailment. When there he meets two people, a woman with whom he has an affair and a mysterious British diplomat. The woman accuses him of rape and the diplomat extricates him from the mess. However once back in England, Lysander is expected to help the diplomat out and is drawn into the world of war and espionage trying to determine what is real in the murky underworld he finds himself in.While some of the reviews for this novel are mixed, it does soun like a great travel read.
Newspaper and Blog Reviews:
From Bibliophile by the Sea: The story for the most part was fast paced. The writing is well done, very descriptive, steamy and sensual, combined with a bit of mystery, WWI background, lots of intrigue and plot twists.
From The Seattle Times: Oddball subsidiary characters — notably, Lysander’s gay uncle Hamo, just back from explorations in Africa — add to the lively swirl of action…The more somber theme of the novel is stated well into the book: “All history is the history of unintended consequences.” And its central question — “What had really happened in Vienna in 1914?” — stays in play until its last few pages.
Intricate plot points do take over character-driven action in the final stretch. But certain wild-card factors, especially those provided by the blithely perverse Hettie, keep things pleasurably unhinged until the end.
From The Guardian: What are we to make of it all? Not too much or too little. It would be mean-spirited to focus on structural or stylistic defects to the exclusion of the enjoyments of a story of no great depth or pretensions but good on atmospherics, and which, after a slowish start, will deliver the requisite satisfactions to all generations of readers.
The Bee-loud Glade by Steve Himmer: This debut novel seems to have slipped under the radar. It is a novel which uses a character named Finch to explore various topics. Finch loses his corporate job, gives up on life, and is hired by a wealthy man to be an ornamental hermit. Consisting mostly of internal dialogue, it sounds like a wonderfully quirky novel.
From Leeswammes’ Blog: This was a mysterious and fun read…Very well-written, not a moment boring, this book is for anyone who likes good fiction.
From Between the Covers: The ideas that Himmer explores in The Bee-Loud Gladearen’t new–they have been written about in many different books by many different authors–but Himmer explores these themes of nature vs. technology and solitude vs. society in a modern way (and in a different way than anything I’ve read before) and it was thoroughly enjoyable…The Bee-Loud Glade is a very good debut novel, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes good literary fiction, and/or to anyone who likes Thoreau’s Walden. It is a good modern-day take on the nature vs. technology and solitude vs. society themes, wrapped in a wonderful storyline.
From Inside of a Dog: The Bee-Loud Glade is whimsical and written with a very light touch, but it has left me longing for my own hermetic life. But maybe only at weekends.
A Land More Kind Than Home: by Wiley Cash: Another debut novel this time set in a small town in western North Carolina. The story is told by three characters, the town conscious, a young boy coming of age, and the sheriff with his own burdens of the past. Add in a charismatic pastor with less then good intentions and a grandfather who reappears after a long absence when his family is in trouble and you have what sounds to me, a winner. The quotes from the book that I have read have astounded me – it hits upon some of my favorite themes – the heavy burden of memory and secrets and the tug between good and evil.
From The Washington Post: The story has elements of a thriller, but Cash is ultimately interested in how unscrupulous individuals can bend decent people to their own dark ends, often by invoking the name of God. As Adelaide observes near the end of this impressive debut, “The living church is made of people, and it can grow sick and break just like people can.”
From The Florida Times-Union: The underlying themes of A Land More Kind Than Home – loss of innocence, betrayal of trust, manipulation of religion, the search for forgiveness and redemption – are not new to literature. How Cash makes his mark, and makes those themes his own, is through his amazingly nuanced development of character and the story’s wonderfully evocative mid 1980s rural western North Carolina setting.
Absolution by Patrick Flanery: Set in contemporary South Africa aging writer Clare Wald is being interviewed by a Journalist. Clare has several ties to the upheaval of the Apartheid era including the murder of her sister and the disappearance of her daughter. This debut is told in four narrative strands which look back to the past and its connections with the present. The ghost of the past, of deeds done and not done, haunt the novel as well as the need to seek and find absolution.
Newspaper and Blog Reviews:
From The Independent: Patrick Flanery’s debut novel costructs a mosaic of South Africa . . . as powerfully described here as in any book by JM Coetzee or Damon Galgut. . . . This is an exceptionally intelligent, multi-layered novel encompassing politics, history, a gripping storyline, and complex characters. It has absorbing depictions of grief, guilt, parenthood, and sibling rivalry, and is beautifuly written. The prose is lucid and strong, scenes of crime are full of suspense, and time and again phrases haunt with their imagery. . . . Absolution is an exceptional book.
From The Literary Corner Cafe: This is an intelligent book filled with intelligent characters. It’s a book that asks difficult moral questions for which there may never be any satisfactory answers. It’s a book, that like South Africa, itself, contains a beauty – and a horror – that’s truly overwhelming.
Also of Note:
The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler: Aaron, a middle-aged man is devastated by his wife’s death and gradually restored by her frequent appearances, a novel of loss and acceptance.
One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson: For children and all dog lovers. All Hal ever wanted was a dog. His parents finally capitulate with a catch – they get a rent-a-dog. When Fleck is returned, Hal must find a way for him and his dog to be together.
Children in Reindeer Woods by Kristín Ómarsdóttir and translated by Lytton Smith: Eleven-year-old Billie lives at a ” home for abandoneded children” which happens to be in the middle of a war zone. She ends up living with a man who kills everyone else including his companions who help him in the murders. It sounds odd but is getting good reviews as a “modern fable” exploring the contrast between violence and innocence. The NY Times describes it as a “daringly droll, wholly perturbing book”
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