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Bookends #1 February 2018

It’s been a long time since I last did one of my Bookend posts. Not sure why I stopped doing them. Maybe I was travelling and didn’t get the time to write them for a few weekends and just got out of the habit. Or maybe I just ran out of steam.

But Simon’s weekend miscellany posts at Stuck in a Book have given me the motivation to give Bookends another go. In its original incarnation, Bookends was a round up of miscellaneous bookish news. I’m going to streamline this a bit and in future each post will consist of just three things that have caught my attention, aroused my curiosity; stimulated my interest

  • a book
  • a blog post and
  • an article

Book: May by Naomi Krüger

May

Here in Wales we will be celebrating our patron saint’s day (St David) next week. So it seems very appropriate to highlight a new title from Seren, one of the independent publishers in Wales. May is the debut novel of Naomi Krüger, creative co-director of the North West Literary Salon and a lecturer in creative writing. It caught my attention because it’s written from the perspective of a woman with dementia who is trying to piece together the fragments of her memory. I’m currently reading and loving Three Things About Elsie  by Joanna Cannon which is also about an elderly woman and her past. I also enjoyed Emma Healey’s debut novel Elizabeth is Missing, which had an octogenarian narrator. Maybe Naomi Krüger’s novel will complete my hat trick? May is published by Seren on March 12. Details are on their website here https://www.serenbooks.com/productdisplay/may

To whet your appetite, here is the blurb:

The door to the past has been locked to May but fragments of memories still remain: a boy running on the green, his fiery hair, a letter without a stamp, a secret she promised not to tell. She can’t piece together the past or even make sense of the present, but she revisits what she knows again and again. The boy, the letter, the secret. She can’t grasp what they mean, but maybe the people she’s loved and lost can uncover the mystery of the red-headed boy and his connection to May.

Blog post: Anticipating the Man Booker International Prize List

The longlist for the Man Booker International Prize will be announced on March 12. Tony Messenger has put together his own wishlist; titles that he thinks will be on the judges’ list; or should be. Do you agree with his predictions?

Article: In Praise of Negative Book Reviews

In the journal The Baffler, author and columnist Rafia Zakaria argues the case for more  negative book reviews. “The general tone and tenor of the contemporary book review is an advertisement-style frippery”, she claims, consisting of “vapid and overblown praise”.  She doesn’t give any examples unfortunately or cite the offending publications but I can’t say I’ve noticed a preponderance of “forced and foppish praise” in the newspaper review sections I read. Have you?

 

Classic Reading I missed

classicsclub3The Classics Club question this week asks “What are you looking forward to reading in May?” The answer to which, for me, is “the one I never got around to reading.”

I’d planned to read Achebe’s Things Fall Apart having heard so many comments from friends and other bloggers about how wonderful it is. And I really did mean to read it. Honestly!

But May is almost over and I haven’t even opened it. Why not?

Part of the reason (or should that be excuse) is that I’m already reading a novel set in Africa — Petals of Blood by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o which is taking me longer than expected to read. It’s an epic that chronicles the lives of four people from a small, forgotten village as they deal with the aftermath of colonialism, the devastation of drought and the indifference of their government. It’s not a book you can read quickly. It’s fascinating reading but I don’t think I can crowd my brain with a book that has some similarities at the same time.

TheSeaBut the other reason is that I’ve been distracted by the fact I’m off to the Hay Literature Festival tomorrow where I’ll be listening to a discussion with Man Booker prize winner John Banville talk about his latest novel Ancient Life and preview the film of his prize winning novel The Sea. Light dawned only this week that I hadn’t actually ever read anything by Banville even though I have a copy of The Sea on my bookshelf ( a bargain copy picked up during a library sale). So I’m trying to finish it or at least get far enough forward that I’ll understand some of his comments. It’s a mesmerising book about memory and loss told in a wonderfully lyrical style.

So the upshot is that Achebe will have to wait until later in the year.

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