It’s been a funny few months, hasn’t it? Do you know what you need? Some cracking book recommendations! Without further ado, let me tell you the three best books I read in the last quarter…
May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes
I love A. M. Homes. I really love her. Her writing feels almost dangerous to read; I once read a review of one of her books, which said she writes like a man and, whilst I generally find this offensive, I sort of know what they mean. She is unafraid of saying what she needs to say, she doesn’t hold back, she doesn’t side-step the nasty stuff. I love her.
May We Be Forgiven opens with a series of awful events, none of which I will tell you because I benefitted from not knowing and you should too. But they revolve around George Silver, a deeply unpleasant TV executive and his less unpleasant brother Harry, the book’s main protagonist, who is left to pick up the pieces. So many things follow – random internet hook-ups; the discovery of Nixon’s secret short stories; the disappearance of a local young woman; a Bar Mitzvah in an African village; an experimental correctional facility that is not unlike the setting of Battle Royale; a CIA sting; a swingers’ meet-up at a LazerQuest – that I’ve mostly forgotten and occasionally recall events and am surprised by them all over again.
If all that seems too much, there’s a point to the novel too, direction within the chaos, and the story moves from its grim opening to a resolution that is satisfyingly upbeat. Some might say sentimental, I say just right.
Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt
I like quirky novels (as the review above probably suggests) and Undermajordomo Minor is a quirky novel, although not like May We Be Forgiven is a quirky novel.
Lucy Minor is a young man without many prospects. He applies for and unexpectedly secures a posting as an under-major-domo (me neither) in a dilapidated castle that is home to the all but invisible Baron Von Aux; his elderly and loyal major-domo Olderglough; Agnes, a mean cook who specialises in concrete-like porridge; and something terrible that stalks the halls at night. On the slopes of the hill that the castle sits atop, a war is raging but it is one that doesn’t seem to interfere with life inside the castle itself or in the nearby village, where Lucy meets and falls in love with Klara, the daughter of a local thief.
Undermajordomo Minor is strange and funny; at once a gothic folk tale, a comic fable and a love story, it is difficult to place in space or time but is charming all the same.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
How to define Amy Liptrot’s The Outrun? It is autobiographical, charting Liptrot’s descent in to alcoholism and her subsequent recovery, but it is also a beautiful piece of nature writing, the Orkney Islands – their flora, fauna and wildlife – featuring centrally as the setting for her journey to abstinence.
The Outrun is arguably something of a busman’s holiday for me but, still, I was struck by Liptrot’s honesty, particularly in the passages that detail her behaviour and her experiences when drinking alcohol, and by how vividly the restorative nature of the islands is described. Sure, the islands are wild and destructive but they are not nearly as wild and destructive as her addiction.
This quarter I also read:
- Carol by Patricia Highsmith
- My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
- The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
- Worse. Person. Ever. by Douglas Coupland
- Lover by Anna Raverat