New Books Added To The Shelves

A combination of announcements about some of the leading literary prizes and a some browsing of favourite bloggers’ sites resulted in a bit of a splurge on the book buying front this week.

First up are two authors who came to my notice when they were named last week as finalists for this year’s Man Booker International Prize.

The Way of the Women by Marlene van Niekerk

Way of the Women Van Niekerk is a South African author who has been feted in her country in 2011 for her outstanding intellectual contribution to literary arts and culture through her poetry, literature and philosophical work. The Way of the Women was originally titled Agaat but  renamed when the English translation was published. It went on to be shortlisted for the 2007  Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The novel is set on a farm in the Western Cape of South Africa whose aged occupant Milla de Vet lies dying from a  wasting disease. Paralysed she has to depend on another woman Agaat Lourier with whom she has a close but ambiguous relationship forged over half a century of apartheid in South Africa.

Tree of Life by Maryse Conde

Tree of LifeMaryse Conde is a Guadeloupean author also named as a Man Booker International finalist.  I was hoping to get one of her earlier and most acclaimed novels Segu but couldn’t find a reasonably priced and decent quality second hand one. So I settled for Tree of Life instead, reassured by a comment  by Victoria at LitLove on my post about the prize, that she hadn’t been disappointed by any of Conde’s work. In this novel, Conde traces the personal story of how one Guadeloupe family rises from poverty to wealth over several generations. This has a wide range of settings, from Guadeloupe and Harlem, to the slums of  Haiti and the exclusive enclaves of the Parisian upper class.

 The recent announcement of the Folio Prize for 2015 was responsible for my third purchase:  Family Life by Akhill Sharma

Family LifeThe Folio Prize was the latest accolade for Akhill Sharma’s novel — last year it was selected as one of The New York Times Book Review’s 10 Best Books of 2014.  It’s a semi-autobiographical work that documents the young life of Ajay Mishra, a child in a young middle-class family in Delhi. His father decides the family must leave the uncertainty of a country living under emergency rule for the ­prosperity of the West. Settled in New York the family struggle to cope with a personal tragedy and the challenge to their idea of the American Dream.

Prize announcements aside, my final two purchases were prompted by a guest post I published last year about Australian literature. Whispering Gums mentioned many authors but I chose just two to begin with: David Malouf and Patrick White.

Remembering Babylon by David Malouf 

Remembering BabylonThis novel won the inaugural IMPAC Award in 1993 and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Miles Franklin Award.  Its the story of an English cabin boy who is cared for by Aborigines when he becomes marooned in the far north of Australia. Sixteen years later me moves back to the world of the Europeans, relatively new settlers who find their new home an alien place. What attracted me to this book was how its themes of living on the edge and of Australia as a fearful land reflect some of the ideas in the course on Australian literature I started a few weeks ago.


Voss by Patrick White

VossWhispering Gum called Voss her “absolute standout” novel from her youth, a novel which  “had it all for a teenage girl – outback drama, romance (of a cerebral and spiritual nature), and angst about life and society.” I’m long past my teenage years but this sounds like one of the classics from Down Under. The publishers’ blurb made it sound too good to miss:”Set in nineteenth-century Australia, Voss is the story of the secret passion between an explorer and a naïve young woman. Although they have met only a few times, Voss and Laura are joined by overwhelming, obsessive feelings for each other. Voss sets out to cross the continent, and as hardships, mutiny and betrayal whittle away his power to endure and to lead, his attachment to Laura gradually increases. Laura, waiting in Sydney, moves through the months of separation as if they were a dream and Voss the only reality.”

That little haul should keep me quiet for a while…..


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

11 thoughts on “New Books Added To The Shelves

  • I also bought Family Life but it is still in transit. I’ve read Remembering Babylon years ago. I bought it for the same reason as you did. I remember how spare the writing is but I can’t remember the details.

    • Family life just arrived. Too late to pack in my suitcase now so will have to wait my return from holidays.

  • Look at all those yummy new books! I look forward to hearing all about them!

  • All of these books sound amazing! Thanks for sharing your findings. I think I’m going to have to add these to my long list of “to reads”. I saw your spin list for the Classics Book Club. You will love Grapes of Wrath (I absolutely ADORE John Steinbeck…if you haven’t read Eat of Eden yet, you should start with that one. I think it is his best book.) and Mrs. Dalloway, if you can find it, pick up the Mrs. Dalloway Reader. It makes it so much more interesting, because it gives the history of the time, which helps to make the book more relatable. And I saw today that #2 was chosen, and you have Mansfield Park. That was my favorite Jane Austen book. Happy reading!

    • I tried Grapes of Wrath many years ago but didn’t get very far with it so I formed the impression i wouldn’t like Steinbeck. then I read Mice and Men and Cannery Row which changed my mind so I’m looking forward to the next encounter with him. Thanks for the recommendation re Dalloway

  • I doubt you will stay quiet — just busy commenting on your reading. Interesting new books!

  • Well great minds and all… I have had my eye on Family Life since it came out but it will have to wait. The Van Niekerk is on its way from the UK – given my fondness for South African lit I have long wanted to read it. Remembering Babylon I read a number of years ago but thoroughly enjoyed and Voss I bought last year and I absolutely must get to it soon. I have bought another Patrick White since so it will soon be time. I will look forward to your reviews.

    • I’m toying with taking Van Niekerk with me on my hols to Africa next week – it seems fitting to read it while I’m actually in the country. But it is rather big.

  • I really love the sound of Family Life, I read his novel An Obedient Father some years ago and liked it though the subject matter is very uncomfortable the writing won me over.

    • I’d not heard of him until the prize was announced but I read a few reviews and it did sound so good


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