As I’m writing this particular post, I’m preparing for a quick pre-Christmas getaway to the beach and I cannot wait. Maybe that’s because I can easily visualise myself lying on a towel (under some sun-smart shade, of course) and reading any one of these books. Ah, bliss. Anyway, before I get too distracted, let me talk more about them individually.
I’ll start with Fresh Complaint by Jeffrey Eugenides ($27.95 – Hardcover) because I’m currently reading it. Eugenides is one of my favourite authors – I feel like I can trace significant periods of my own life through his novels: I read The Virgin Suicides when I was a teenager, Middlesex when I was in my 20s and The Marriage Plot in my 30s. Now I’m knocking on the door of my 40s, the timing is fitting! This is a collection of short stories and opening the cover and slipping into his prose feels so wonderful.
City of Crows by Chris Womersley ($24.50) is the first of three historical novels to be featured on this list. Here is the synopsis:
France, 1673. Desperate to save herself and her only surviving child from an outbreak of plague, the widow Charlotte Picot flees her village to seek sanctuary in Lyon.
But, waylaid on the road by slavers, young Nicolas is stolen and his mother left for dead. Charlotte fears the boy has been taken to Paris for sale, for it is well known there is no corruption in a man’s heart that cannot be found in that terrible City of Crows.
Yet this is not only a story of Paris and its streets thronged with preachers, troubadours and rogues. It is also the tale of a woman who calls herself a sorceress and a demon who thinks he is a man …
You can read a sample over at the Pan Macmillan website. Although this will be my first Womersley book, I have read and enjoyed his shorter works in various literary journals and am keen to get stuck in!
Another medieval novel is A Column of Fire: The Kingsbridge Novels by Ken Follett ($29.95 – Hardcover). In this mini-documentary, author Ken Follet gives a primer on the Tudor period setting.
We leave medieval Europe for the early 20th century in Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan ($24.50). Set in New York, Manhattan Beach “is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world”. (Source) This is Egan’s first novel since the tremendous A Visit From the Goon Squad and is eagerly anticipated.
So is First Person by Richard Flanagan ($29.95 – Hardcover).
A young and penniless writer, Kif Kehlmann, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl proposes a deal: $10,000 for Kehlmann to ghost write his memoir in six weeks.
But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghost writing a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him—his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl—and who is Kif Kehlmann?
By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, First Person is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.
If you’re keen to hear more about it, let me point you in the direction of this great ABC interview of Flanagan with Leigh Sales on the 7.30 Report. It is certainly intriguing!