Phil, Queen's Sqaure | January 2, 2020
It’s nearing year end for my monthly Fiction Picks “column”. I hope you’ve enjoyed my suggestions.
Each month I’ve read some of the latest releases and hoped to share some of that passion for fiction.
This month we have three novels, that in very different ways, attempt to understand the world we live in.
Jonathan Coe’s Middle England is the most straightforward approach: a state of the nation look at England, that features some of his past characters (NB: this is not in any way a series) all infused with Coe’s wicked sense of humour.
Disappearing Earth by Julia Phillips is set in Kamchatka, where two girls go missing. This is not a mystery novel so much as it is an exploration of ethnic tensions, loss and our sense of place. Her novel is full of sharp observations and relevant themes that transcend place.
Amitav Ghosh’s Gun Island is the most ambitious book of the three, a story of Bengali folklore, that explores storytelling (particularly in trying times), migration, climate change, realism and the supernatural in a story that pulls you to find a comfortable chair on a quiet weekend. Masterful storytelling at its best.
And finally, a new book that is not new at all: A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunsmore is newly reprinted, but was originally published in 1995. Why include this book in a column about new fiction? I just wanted to point out that not all of your best reading needs to be a brand-new book, and that with the three “heavier” books noted above, sometimes it’s nice to find a place to escape day to day life. A Spell of Winter is a wonderfully gothic novel set at the turn of the 20th Century that deals with loss and madness, eloquently imagined by the former Orange Prize winner.
And where do we go for our December reads? New Me by Halle Butler, The Women Who Blow on Knots by Ece Temelkuranand, and Island by Johanna Skibsrud. Yes, only three titles this month. Christmas and various holidays are coming and I know you’re all busy.
Go get your bookmarks!