Bookends #12 December 2018
This week’s Bookends features an article about reading African women writers, a blog post about the importance of context in our reading and a book written by a woman who for eight years was hardly out of the media spotlight.
Book: Blue Sky by Kate Atkinson
Kate Atkinson used to be one of my favourite authors. But we parted company when she brought out A Life after Life in 2013. I abandoned it half way through. I know I was in a minority in saying that I didn’t enjoy this novel (it won the Costa Book of the Year) but sometimes that happens. Her next book, A God In Ruins picked up some of the same characters and themes so it didn’t appeal to me.
I’ve yet to catch up with her most recent novel Transcription which features a young woman who is recruited by an obscure wartime department of the Secret Service.
But now, thanks to Susan at A Life in Books I discover that she already has another book in the pipeline. Big Sky will be published in 2019 and will mark a return after a nine year absence to her detective series, featuring the ex-Cambridge Constabulary private investigator, Jackson Bodie.
The publishers Transworld will not release details of the plot until next year so until then we’ll have to make do with the cover image….. I’m hoping however that these two books will see the return of my love affair with Atkinson.
Blog Post: Books of the Year
This is the time of year when many publications and bloggers reflect on the last 12 months and decide what titles make their ‘Books of the Year’ list. The Millions newsletter has been running a series of articles on this theme for the past few weeks – you can read them here
If you don’t have the time to read through all these lists, help is at hand via Kate at Books are My Favourite blog who has amalgamated multiple published lists into her Top 50 Books of 2018. This is a great resource because it shows which books which most regularly appeared in “Best of ….” lists. Judging by this, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is the outstanding hit of this year since it appears in 17 separate lists.
What I found interesting about Kate’s list was how few of the 2018 Booker Prize contenders are included. Only 11 lists included The Booker winner Milkman by Anna Burns. It actually rated lower overall than three other candidates: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner, The Overstory by Richard Powers and Washington Black by Esi Edugyan.
Article: African women writers
Guardian journalist Gary Younge was embarrassed by how few women writers from Africa he had read. Though he was familiar with many of the big names like Chimamanda Adichi and Nadine Gordimer, there were many more countries about whose literature he knew nothing. So he decided to do something about it by making 2018 his year of reading African women writers.
He’s now read 19 books by authors from Morocco, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Egypt, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Guadeloupe.
As a result his perceptions have been turned on their head. When he began his project he expected that reading African women would be “self-improving but not necessarily enjoyable.” But to his surprise it’s been “mostly the latter and often both.” He’s read books that portrayed ordinary domestic scenes and love between Africans, books that dealt with migration and books set against a background of political upheaval.
I recognised a few of the author names he mentions but there are many more who are new to me. These will be great additions to the list of books to read for my World of Literature project.
If you’re thinking of making a 2019 resolution to read more broadly, this article could gie you some good pointers about authors to explore. Read Gary Younge’s article here
And so that’s a wrap for this episode of Bookends. Have you found anything new exciting and to read this week that might entice me?
11 thoughts on “Bookends #12 December 2018”
I felt the same way you did about Life After Life even after I made it through to the end. You are not alone. I also do like the Jackson Brodie series. An American Marriage is worth reading in my opinion. Lots to think about by the end. Thanks for the link to African women writers. I think one of my self-created challenges for 2019 will be to read more novels from around the world. Our American problems quite wore me out this year.
Isn’t Kate’s list great?
I haven’t read Atkinson for ages, though I have Life after life in e-version.
I haven’t read many African women writers either, besides those two obvious ones!
The Gary Younge article is fantastic, isn’t it. I suspect the reason An American Marriage was on so many lists is because it got a ton of buzz in the States – Oprah picked it up for the rebooted version of her book club. It was published here by Oneworld, but to much less fanfare. I was impressed by it, but it’s a very distinctly American book.
I found Transcription very read able, it I thought that in terms of Atkinson’s output it rather fell between two stools. She seemed to be trying to deal with the same sort of themes as her two previous novels, but the tone was more that of the Brodie books. I’m not surprised it hasn’t appeared on any award lists.
Sounds like she set her self a difficult challenge, trying to bridge the gap between some disparate styles
My instant response is ‘has it really been nine years?’. A familiar feeling these days. Fingers crossed we’ll all like this one.
I enjoyed American Marriage but I’m surprised to hear it’s on quite so many books of the year lists. I suspect it will have resonated more in the US than here.
I’d not even heard of American Marriage so it was a surprise to me too
I’ve reviewed it if you’re interested.
I’m way behind in terms of reading people’s blogs – but now you have mentioned it I shall go take a look
I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that didn’t like Life After Life…and I didn’t even attempt A God in Ruins. I loved the Jackson Brodie series, so I’m excited to hear she is bringing back the detective.
I also enjoyed An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Someone on a blog wrote about a previous book by this author called Silver Sparrow.
Thanks for sharing, and enjoy!
I think there will be quite a long queue of people wanting the new Atkinson…