50 Books You Might Want To Read in 2011* (Pt 5)

Ghost Milk by Iain Sinclair – Following on from his extraordinary and bestselling documentary fiction, Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire, Iain Sinclair sets out from the East London Olympic site – another ruin in the making – on the trail of our recent Grand Projects. From the Athens Olympic zone, empty of life but for packs of feral dogs, to the abandoned monuments of Britain’s Millennium moment, Sinclair crosses territory and time like no other literary traveller, reporting back on the trouble to come.

Ms Hempel Chronicles by Sarah Shun-lien Bynum – I first chanced across Sarah Shun-lien Bynum in Best American Short Stories and that was before she was named one of the New Yorker Magazine’s top “20 Under 40” fiction writers. Her second novel Ms Hempel Chronicles a teacherly affair set in middle school and it’s certainly one of those novels I’m willing to suck and see…

Cold Light by Jen Ashworth – We liked Ashworth’s debut, A Kind of Intimacy enormously and so are looking forward to her major label debut (she’s with Hodder now), which concerns two fourteen-year-old girls and a volatile combination of lies, jealousy and perversion that ends in tragedy (a tragedy, we are told,even darker and more tangled than their tight-knit community has been persuaded to believe). And this time around, Orange committee take note!

Mr Wonderful by Daniel Clowes – Although it’s a couple of years old (and, between ourselves, if you’re that way inclined, can be read in full over at the NY Times site), this is the first time Mr Wonderful has been collected between hard covers – which means it counts as new for mostly everyone. And a new Daniel Clowes, hard on the heels of the inestimable Wilson, is always good news.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 1969 by Alan Moore – The latest League outing catches up with Miss Wilhelmina Murray and her extraordinary colleagues almost 60 years after the events of Century 1910, in the psychedelic haze of Swinging London in 1969 – a place where Tadukic Acid Diethylamide 26 is the drug of choice and where different underworlds are starting to overlap dangerously to an accompaniment of sit-ins and sitars. And we still have the final outing (apparently featuring The A Team’s BA Barraccus and Back to the Future’s Doc Brown to look forward to…)

The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed – ‘It is Kashmir in the early 1990s and war has finally reached the isolated village of Nowgam close to the Pakistan border. Indian soldiers appear as if from nowhere to hunt for militants on the run. The families in the village begin to think it’s time to flee, to search for a place of greater safety. But the headman will not allow his family to leave. And, whilst the headman watches his dreams give way beneath the growing violence, his son, under the brutal, drunken gaze of the Indian army captain, is seemingly forced to collaborate and go into the valley to count the corpses, fearing, each day, that he will discover one of his friends lying amongst the dead…’ Sounds good eh?

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright – Enright’s first novel since she bagged the Booker for The Gathering is, we are told, a kind of romance set in Terenure, a Dublin suburb, between ‘girl about town’ Gina Moynihan and ‘ the love of her life’ Sean Vallely. We meet Gina as she awaits the arrival of Sean’s 12 year old daughter Evie and discovers ‘the complication, the gravity, of this second life…’

King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher – ‘Hanmouth is usually quiet and undisturbed. But it becomes the centre of national attention when an eight-year-old girl vanishes. This tragic event serves to expose the range of segregated existences in the town, as spectrums of class, wealth and lifestyle are blurred in the investigation. The undisclosed passions of a quiet international aid worker are set against his wife, seemingly a paragon of virtue to the outside world; a recently-widowed old woman tells a story that details her late discovery of sexual gratification; and the Bears have a memorable party. As the search for the missing girl continues, the case is made for increased surveillance, and old notions of privacy begin to crack.’ Tantalising eh?

A Film by Spencer Ludwig by David Flusfeder – The mighty David Flusfeder is back with a father/son road movie of a novel. Spencer Ludwig, idealist and filmmaker, is making one of his regular duty visits from London to New York City to tend to his declining but still fearsome father. Driving back from one of their doctors’ appointments, Spencer decides not to take the turn to his father’s apartment: instead, they hit the road. Ahead of them will be an emotional ride taking in police and prostitutes, film festivals and gambling in Atlantic City, as father and son try to make sense of each other’s lives and hearts, and their own…

The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress by Beryl Bainbridge – During the investigation in 1968 into the assassination of Robert Kennedy, several witnesses recalled seeing a girl in a polka dot dress in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel. She was never found. Bainbridge’s last novel, The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress is a vintage tale of murder and retribution, underpinned by Bainbridge’s trademark and uniquely dark comedy.

*When I say ‘you’ I mean ‘me’ and I say ‘me’ in the hope that this will help those of you (you know who you are) who tend to be mortally offended by the imputation that you’d deign to read any books that might either be popular or written by a man.


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