I’m sure this will be my book of the year even though it’s only August. I’m not sure about the Catch 22 reference, I think it may be faster paced and actually an easier read, but, it is as powerful and funny, and it resonates and affects your thinking about war and these young men that fight it. I like this quote from Fountain’s editor, “This book has disrupted and unsettled my assumptions exposed my prejudices. It’s a rare book that can do this and make you laugh, too.” And it does these things brilliantly. I think this is one of those books that will be read for years, if not generations, to come.
I really enjoyed The Mandrake File it is a top shelf espionage thriller. Fascinating setting, Afghanistan, and great characters including Kabul murder squad chief and a mild mannered Swiss analyst are pitted against a Blackwater-like entity that will stop at nothing to recover the file. A great read and very interesting insight into the complexities of life in Afghanistan.
Capital is an ambitious novel that aims to capture the moment the financial crisis hit London, but really in the end it is about people and money and their different relationships with it. Lanchester introduces us to an exceptionally varied group of people vividly depicted that have in one way or another found themselves living or working on Pepys Road, London just as notes start coming through the letter box reading “We want what you have”. Lanchester delves into the reactions this brings. Capital isn’t perfect but it is an interesting and entertaining story well worth investing in.
Keret's stories are reminiscent of Roald Dahl's adult short stories or more contemporary guys like Michel Faber, Jim Shepard, Wells Tower amongst others. The thing with Keret is how he can brilliantly make a really brief story feel like it could be an amazing quirky Hollywood film. If you appreciate the short fiction form you must read Etgar Keret.
The Other Hand is a hugely engaging book. As much I may be jaded or unemotional I could not help being drawn in and towed into quite an emotional roller coaster. That said I can't take anything away from such an imaginative story, the kind with the turns you just don't see, that surprise you in that rewarding way as you turn the page in the early hours of the morning or in the car on the way to work. I could have simply said an addictive read you will force your friends to read just so you can talk about it.
An extremely engaging novel set in the romantic world of a Parisian international school, You Deserve Nothing is a complex story about an inspiring teacher who finds it impossible to live up to the standards he wants to set for his students. Maksik has crafted a dark and complex drama in the vein of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, using the multiple perspectives of the somewhat enigmatic teacher and two of his loyal loving students. It is brilliantly written drawing the reader to confront the contradiction of his fondness of Wil with the result of his actions.
In the final book of the fantastic trilogy that started with Child 44 Tom Rob Smith continues to follow the adventures of ex Soviet secret service agent Leo Demidov. Each of them has been a great page turner with intelligent plots based around exciting and grim historical times and Agent 6 is no different, bringing to culmination a story that crosses to the U.S and has devastating repercussions for Leo and his tenuous family life.
A really great end to a - for want of a better genre description -
trilogy of thrillers. If you haven't read Tom Robb Smith's first books in the series I kind of envy you as discovering these kinds of books doesn't happen all that often.
David Mitchell's latest novel is a more straight forward narrative than the previous and fantastic Cloud Atlas, but that said his storytelling ability, prose writing and ability to meld different styles into this beautiful and complex historic novel makes it a joy to read.
Set in a Dutch trading post in Nagasaki harbour at the end of the 18th century the novel is a facinating combination of adventure story, historic observation and forbidden love.
I highly recommend both this and Cloud Atlas - different but both great reads
With S.S.T.L.S Shtyngart has written a prescient novel of biting satire. America teeters on the brink of collapse and throws itself prone at the feet of China as its saviour, privacy has completely disappeared and celebrity is all pervading and perverse. Mix in the complicated love story of a book loving pitiable Russian American and a beautiful, young, calculating Korean girl and you have a super intelligent, intriguing book that really captures the zeitgeist.
#5 Everything Ravaged Everything Burned by Wells Tower
A man is booted out of his home after his wife discovers that the sweat-smudged footprint on the inside of his windscreen doesn't match her own. Teenage cousins, drugged by summer, meet with a reckoning in the woods. A boy runs off to the carnival after his stepfather bites him in a brawl. In the stories of Wells Tower, families fall apart and messily, hilariously try to reassemble themselves. His characters - marauding Vikings, washed-up entrepreneurs, and jobbing hacks on local papers - are adrift from the mainstream, confused by contemporary masculinity, angry and aimless. Combining electric prose with compassion and dark wit, this is a major debut.
#4 Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
I could smell him - or rather the booze on his breath - before he even opened the door, but my sense of smell is pretty good, probably better than yours.
So begins this fabulous, funny new detective novel featuring Bernie, a slightly down-at-heel PI; and his offsider, Chet, a dog - and the captivating narrator of the story.
Chet may have flunked out of police school (I'd been the best leaper in K-9 class, which had led to all the trouble in a way I couldn't remember exactly, although blood was involved), but he's just as much a detective as Bernie - superior, sometimes, in his insight into human foibles.
In Dog On It, their first adventure, Chet and Bernie investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl who may or may not have been kidnapped, but who's definitely gotten herself mixed up with some very unsavoury characters.
#3 It's All in a Word by Vivian Cook
Cross words, crass words, kind words, bad words, first words, rude words, new words, weasel words, teen words, rap words, power words, colour words, Indian words, Brit words, Blairwords, war words, ad words, pc words, borrowed words, Shakespeare's amazing words, false words, fine words, wine words, American words, name words, last words, even lost for words - this book has them all.
Vivian Cook takes us on a series of excursions down the curious byways of word history and meaning, mingling the fare with games, lists, tests, and quotes. Discover the theojollylogical joys of infixation. Find out if you're a charva, what it means to be nithered, and how to hoy. Delve into the hidden nature of words. Consider how they're born, why they change, and how they die. Learn about the words that are never spoken and others that don't get written. Here's a book overflowing with words and about every kind and variety of word. It offers an irresistible cornucopia of information and entertainment.
#2 Nocturnes by Kazuo Ishiguro
'It was our third time playing The Godfather theme since lunch ...'
In a sublime story cycle, Kazuo Ishiguro explores ideas of love, music and the passing of time. From the Piazzas of Italy to the Malvern Hills, a London flat to the 'hush-hush floor' of an exclusive Hollywood hotel, the characters we encounter range from young dreamers to cafe musicians to faded stars, all of them at some moment of reckoning.
Gentle, intimate and witty, Nocturnes is marked by a haunting theme: the struggle to keep alive a sense of life's romance, even as one gets older, relationships flounder and youthful hopes recede.
#1 The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith
Soviet Union, 1956: Stalin is dead. With his passing, a violent regime is beginning to fracture - leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. The catalyst comes when a secret manifesto composed by Stalin's successor Khrushchev is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant and a murderer. Its promise: The Soviet Union will transform. But there are forces at work that are unable to forgive or forget Stalin's tyranny so easily, that demand revenge of the most appalling nature.
Meanwhile, former MGB officer Leo Demidov is facing his own turmoil. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his involvement in the murder of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa and their family are in grave danger from someone with a grudge against Leo. Someone transformed beyond recognition into the perfect model of vengeance.
From the streets of Moscow in the throes of political upheaval, to the wintry Siberian gulags and to Budapest, where a revolution will destroy as many innocent lives as the regime it is attempting to end, The Secret Speech is another stunning thriller from the author of the Booker- longlisted Child 44.