Name: Valerie O’Riordan
Just Finished: Jellyfish, Janice Galloway. A reissue of a book that came out a couple of years ago, only the original publisher went bust. I enjoyed it – Galloway’s always good – though I think it’s not as good as her best.
On The Go: Where Reasons End, Yiyun Li. A writer explores her son’s suicide through imagined dialogue. Incredibly moving and very thoughtful. Review to follow…
Next Up: My Coney Island Baby, Billy O’Callaghan. A novel, but I don’t know much about it yet. Review also to follow!
Name: Pete Wild
Just Finished: The Quickening Maze by Adam Foulds, as research for the podcast [Ed: you guys better be listening to our FANTASTIC new podcast!]
On The Go: An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozi Obioma. It’s getting tremendous reviews that definitely piqued our interest. Review to follow very soon.
Next Up: Outside Looking In by the mighty TC Boyle. We’ll be interviewing him for episode 4 of the podcast in April too.
Name: Carola Huttmann
Just Finished: Emma Brown, by Clare Boylan (2003), expanded from the twenty page fragment of Charlotte Brontë’s last novel which she left unfinished at the time of her death in 1855. Boylan’s reading of what might have followed is a Victorian mystery about identity and unexpected connections.
On The Go: I would argue that Season of the Witch (2013), by Natasha Mostert is the most riveting 21st century gothic novel written to date. Gabriel Blackstone is a cyberthief who makes his money hacking into corporate computer networks and selling the information to others. When he becomes involved with the two beautiful Monk sisters his life is no longer safe.
Next Up: Critics have called Miranda Seymour’s biography of Mary Shelley, first issued in 2000, the most definitive and well researched version of all who have attempted to tell her story. It was reissued in February 2018 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the original publication of Frankenstein.
Name: James Doyle
Just Finished: ‘The Country Funeral’ by John McGahern in Faber’s new series of short stories. Three brothers go the funeral of a relative, they drink heavily, argue and one of them changes his life: “it is not generally light but shadow that we cast.” Read on its own, apart from the other stories in McGahern’s Creatures of the Earth, it does have new force.
On The Go: Jo Baker’s A Country Road, A Tree. A fictional description of Samuel Beckett’s life in occupied France during World War Two when he worked for the Resistance and, the novel suggests, gathered the strength and resolve to become the writer we know. It is very much a portrait of the Beckett of the popular imagination, cheerfully pessimistic, always committed to carrying on: “she’s swinging along the pavement as though she’s glad to be alive. Charming, that, if quite deluded.” It gives a new context to Beckett, who rarely mentioned his war-time work (and it is a gap in the biographies of Beckett), and Jo Baker handles the subject perfectly.
Next Up: ‘Paradise’ by Edna O’Brien, also in the Faber series of short stories. A bored woman goes on holiday with a wealthy man.
Name: Dan Carpenter
Just Finished: Just finished: The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh. File this one under – how on earth did this not get shortlisted for the Booker? A tremendously odd and haunting novel with shades of Dogtooth and Picnic at Hanging Rock. I loved it.
On The Go: The Devil’s Aspect by Craig Russell. Not my usual cup of tea, but this crime novel set in Prague in the late 30s has some interesting ideas, combining gory horror, and traditional crime narratives; and placing mental illness at the centre of an interrogation into the rise of Nazism. It goes down the road of cliche a fair bit, but it’s doing good stuff along the way so far.
Next Up: The Dollmaker by Nina Allan. Best English Novelist at the moment, Nina Allan has a new book out, I am going to be reading it as soon as I can, obviously.
Name: Jackie Law
Just Finished: Mothers and Daughters by Vedrana Rudan (translated by Will Firth). A caustic exploration of a relationship more typically steeped in sentimentality. The daughter is sixty and feels guilt having put her elderly mother in a care home. The story looks at the complexities of family ties and expectations when modern medicine can keep people alive for longer than they want. Thought provoking and fearless – a fine read. Balancing this on my reading pile was Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession – a gentle yet penetrating look at family love and friendship. Schmalzy though that sounds the voice and insights of the narrative lift it to another plane. A rare achievement and a sterling read.
On The Go: Dedalus by Chris McCabe – recently longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize for Small Presses (I’m hoping to read a fair few from this list). The book is set the day after Ulysses (mostly), employs the same characters, and plays fast and loose with language and form. Just delicious.
Next Up: Doppelgänger by Daša Drndić (translated by S.D. Curtis and Celia Hawkesworth) – also longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize. Then Music Love Drugs War by Geraldine Quigley.