British author Jane Harper brings a potent outsider’s eye once again to the uncanniness of the Australian bush in the follow-up to her powerful debut, outback thriller The Dry, published last January. The speed of the publication of Force of Nature is a mark of the impact of that award-garlanded first book. Written via a three-month online course, the story of a federal police officer, Aaron Falk, returning to the remote town he grew up in to investigate a childhood friend’s death won a slew of prizes and has been optioned by the same Hollywood production team behind Gone Girl and Big Little Lies.
As such, many of the pieces published here in Feel Free – a collection of Smith’s writing from the past eight years – will most likely be familiar to readers. With 31 pieces, readers are certainly getting their money’s worth: essays, book reviews, six months of Harper’s columns, pieces written for exhibition catalogues, a lecture and three book introductions (JG Ballard’s Crash, Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia, and one about Jerry Dantzic’s photos of Billie Holiday). Considering the latter, they showcase some of Smith’s writing’s best features – her inclination to clearly say what she sees before delving into the complexities of meaning.
Publishing is alive and well in Scotland. Most, but not all of the writers on this list are Scottish (some are only Scotland-based there), but they each explore aspects of Scottish culture and identity through fiction, varying widely in subject and scope. Through these novels we travel to British Columbia and Japan, the Shetland Isles and the heart of Glasgow, go back in time to 18th century Edinburgh, explore the great political upheaval that was the Scottish independence referendum, and revisit one of the greatest of all Scottish classics.
There are obvious similarities between Julian Barnes’s new novel The Only Story and his 2011 Man Booker Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending. Told from the points of views of now older men looking back over their lives, each explores what Barnes has his most recent protagonist describe as “that familiar question of memory”, namely its inherent unreliability and bias.
Poet and novelist Helen Dunmore has won the Costa Book of the Year Award for a collection of poetry written in the final weeks of her life. Inside the Wave had previously won the Costa Poetry Award and considers the author's terminal cancer diagnosis and impending death.
Marianela Nuñez makes dancing joyful. Her happiness in movement has been a hallmark of this Royal Ballet star’s career, a delight that reaches out to her audience but also helps to shape her characters. In Giselle, playing a peasant girl deceived by a nobleman, it makes her touchingly vulnerable: her happiness is so open, and so unguarded.
“Two hundred lunatics circumnavigating the continent of Australia, more than ten thousand miles over outback roads so rough they might crack your chassis clean in half.” Little Irene Bobs isn’t at all convinced when her equally diminutive husband ‘Titch’ proposes they enter the famous Redux Reliability Trial in an effort to garner publicity for the car dealership they want to open in Bacchus Marsh, a small town 33 miles outside Melbourne. Titch may be the best car salesman in rural South-eastern Australia, but Irene is the better driver, and he needs her. The twice Man Booker Prize-winning Australian novelist Peter Carey’s evocative and exciting fourteenth novel, A Long Way Home, is set in the forward-looking, optimistic 1950s.
Is this the last in the series of the great crime writer James Lee Burke’s novels featuring Cajun detective Dave Robicheaux? That eponymous title and an air of mortality as pungent as the semi-tropical Louisiana setting of these outstanding novels would suggest this may be the case.
Reading French-Moroccan author Leïla Slimani’s spine-tingling Prix Goncourt-winning novel Lullaby, I kept thinking back to Loin du 16e.The short film directed and written by Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas from the 2006 feature Paris je t’aime -a love letter to the French capital in the form of 18 shorts, each set in a different arrondissement. On first glance a slightly sentimental story about motherhood, really it’s a caustic tale of socio-economic disparity, and it’s this very same layering that Lullaby does so brilliantly.
When I started at Penguin 20 years ago, as part of an entirely new team, there was a real sense that change was needed and that we had been brought in to achieve it. One of our challenges was to reinvigorate the likes of Anthony Burgess, George Orwell, James Joyce and Evelyn Waugh and appeal to a new generation by showcasing this amazing Penguin backlist in a more relevant way. The collection of re-branded classics would be called Penguin Essentials: we aimed to persuade new readers to discover these books as well as re-ignite existing readers’ love for them.
Seems like the much discussed ‘marriage thriller’ is still going strong if Sarah Vaughan’s Anatomy of a Scandal—the first of this year’s hyped psychological thrillers—is anything to go by. The story begins with Kate, a young, ambitious QC who’s made her name prosecuting the very worst sexual assault cases. James has always been the golden boy, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, educated at Eton and Oxford (where he met Sophie), he then made some money in the city and is now a junior Home Office minister—Tory, obviously—and “confidant” of the PM, Tom Southern.
2018 has only just started but there is already an excellent line-up of fiction, from psychological thrillers with surprising twists to an exploration of the bleak and comical undertones of 18th century London. Michael and Melissa used to be head over heels in love, but now they have two kids and Melissa is convinced she is going slowly mad in her crooked Victorian tumbledown house in south London. Tim Winton’s brilliant novel The Riders was about a journey with a potentially perilous ending, and his new novel, The Shepherd’s Hut, revisits some of these themes.
The great American writer James Salter was only just finding wider acclaim when he died age 90 in 2015. For many years a writer’s writer admired by authors from Susan Sontag to Richard Ford he produced an arresting body of work spanning novels, short stories, screenplays, memoirs and journalism. A graduate of West Point, Salter was a fighter pilot in Korea, a period documented in his novel The Hunters.
When Louise Erdrich’s new novel Future Home of the Living God opens, Cedar Hawk Songmaker—the 26-year-old “adopted child of Minneapolis liberals”—is four months pregnant. For the first time in her life, she’s moved to discover more about her biological parents—members of the Ojibwe tribe—not least because she wants to know if she should be on the look-out for any genetic abnormalities lying in wait for her unborn child.
Below, The New York Times’ three daily book critics — Dwight Garner, Jennifer Senior and Parul Sehgal — share their thoughts about their favourites among the books they reviewed this year, each list alphabetical by author. Janet Maslin, a former staff critic who remains a frequent contributor to The Times, also lists her favourites. Michiko Kakutani stepped down as our chief book critic in July.
Following in the footsteps of Angela Carter and Helen Oyeyemi, the eight tales in Carmen Maria Machado’s exciting, if a little uneven debut, Her Body and Other Parties, are twisted fairytales from and for the contemporary world. It’s the first example of a theme that runs through the collection: the bodies of Machado’s women are constantly under attack.
Charles Bukowski - the “laureate of American lowlife” - remains a divisive figure more than 20 years after his death. His belligerent and blackly comic novels, stories and poems cast an unsparing eye over the American underbelly and his hard-drinking persona marked him as an ultimate ‘outlaw’ writer. He has been variously denounced as a Nazi sympathiser, an anti-Semite and a misogynist - a roughneck writer unworthy of serious critical attention. His prodigious output, at times, to be fair, of variable quality - some 50 to 60 books - is one reason for this critical neglect. ...
The Devil Wears Prada is finally continuing its story: but this time it will focus on Miranda's other assistant, Emily Charlton (Emily Blunt in the film). While the first two books in the series focused the life of Miranda's assistant Andrea Sachs (played by Anne Hathaway in the movie), the latest work titled When Life Gives You Lululemons chronicles Emily's career as a celebrity image consultant who lands a huge opportunity in the suburbs. In Weisberger's follow-up, Emily heads to Greenwich, Connecticut, to help spin the image of supermodel and senator's wife Karolina Hartwell who got a DUI.
Scrooge’s conversion from miser to benefactor has been told and retold since Charles Dickens first wrote A Christmas Carol in the autumn and winter of 1843. Ebenezer is a wonderful character, so richly portrayed and fascinating he’s echoed in stories from How the Grinch Stole Christmas to It’s a Wonderful Life. Pop culture has embraced both Dickens and his tale.
“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures” said 19th century writer and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. In a world of farcical politics and chronic social division filtered through “fake news” and caricatured by social media, fiction might just be medium we need to better understand our contemporary reality.
A new chapter in the Harry Potter series has been created using a predictive keyboard - and it's perfect. Botnik Studios, a creative collective which describes itself as "a community of writers, artists and developers collaborating with machines to create strange new things", developed a predictive keyboard to craft sentences using an algorithm. The name of the book and chapter details are, of course, hilarious and weird.
In her pleasingly distinct debut novel, An Unremarkable Body, Elisa Lodato sets out to tell the story of a middle-aged woman’s life through her autopsy report. One day, in February 2012, thirty-year-old Laura arrives at her fifty-one-year-old mother Katharine’s house in Surbiton—Laura’s childhood home—for lunch, only to discover her mother’s body lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs, her neck broken by the fall. In the months that follow, and while Laura attempts to process her grief, questions about her mother’s life start to nag at her, namely why Katharine apparently sanctioned her husband Richard’s affair with the babysitter Jenny, whom he eventually left his wife and kids (Laura has a younger brother) for.
Most people discover Richard Adams via the warrens of Watership Down. The Adventures of Egg Box Dragon is Adams’s first story for pre-schoolers and the last he ever wrote. “One nice sunny day, when Dad was 93 and having a good day, I shoved him into the dining room with a pad of paper and said, ‘Go on, write Egg Box Dragon!” says Juliet Johnson, who is chatting to me with her sister, Ros Mahony, from Juliet’s Oxford home.