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Jane Ciabattari

Ten books to read in 2020

From a story of friendship and a much-anticipated Tudor tale to the latest novel by Elena Ferrante, here are some reading ideas...

Published : Saturday, 18 January, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1776

Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

Apeirogon
Colum McCann
McCann's new novel, named after "a shape with a countably infinite series of sides", is a glorious storytelling hybrid, structured in 1,001 sections, some only a sentence long. At its heart is the true story of an extraordinary friendship between Palestinian Bassam and Israeli Rami, the fathers of young daughters killed in the conflict - Abir by a rubber bullet, Smadar by a suicide bomber. The fathers work together for decades, lecturing throughout the world, using "the force of their grief as a weapon". McCann folds in facts about weapons invention, ornithology, and human nature which creates an ongoing meditation on violence. Apeirogon is a brilliant novel, formally intriguing, profoundly human. (Credit: Random House)


Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

The Night Watchman
Louise Erdrich
Award-winning novelist Erdrich's 17th novel is based on her grandfather's work on behalf of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. They were disputing a 1953 bill brought before the US Congress aiming to terminate treaties with Native Americans that were originally supposed to be in place "for as long as the grasses shall grow, and the rivers run". She orchestrates a rich community tale, featuring Thomas Wazhushk, the tribal chair and night watchman in the Turtle Mountain jewel-bearing plant, who leads the fight against termination, and Patrice Paranteau, a young worker at the plant who sets out in search of her missing sister Vera. Behind the fiction is a reminder: 113 tribes were terminated (78 regained federal recognition), and 1.4 million acres of tribal land was seized. (Credit: Harper)




Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

A Long Petal of the Sea
Isabel Allende
In 1939, a ship called the SS Winnipeg, commissioned by poet Pablo Neruda, took 2,000 refugees from the Spanish Civil War to Chile, arriving on the day World War Two began in Europe. This exodus is the basis for Allende's riveting new historic saga, which has echoes in today's global refugee crises - and parallels to Allende's own life. She begins in 1938, with Victor, a young medical student working on the Republican wounded. As Franco's forces approach Barcelona, he and his late brother's girlfriend Roser marry hastily, join the retreat by foot, spend time in a French concentration camp, then board the Winnipeg. Their complicated love story continues through the Pinochet regime, and a renewed search for home in the 1990s. The book is translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Amanda Hopkinson. (Credit: Ballantine Books)



Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

Child of Light
Madison Smartt Bell
This is a masterful first biography of novelist Robert Stone, a "conflicted, sometimes tormented" author whose work defined a tumultuous US half-century. Stone was raised in poverty in New York, born to a single mother thought to have schizophrenia. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and married Janice, a fellow student at New York University (and a major source for Bell), in 1959. A Stanford Stegner fellowship ushered him into the literary world, bouncing from Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters to Swinging London to the Iowa Writers' Workshop, scriptwriting in Los Angeles and Hemingway's Key West. Bell follows the chronology of the novels, as Stone unravels the sinister undersides of the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War, the Monroe Doctrine, Hollywood, Wall Street and US politics. (Credit: Doubleday)




Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

I Hold a Wolf by the Ears
Laura van den Berg
Ghost stories and glimpses of the unreal are featured in Van den Berg's otherworldly yet timely fourth story collection. A gig economy worker specialising in impersonating dead wives encounters a dangerous client. Another gig worker spends hours nightly wailing over the phone to dacryphiliacs. At her dying daughter's bedside, a woman is haunted by the spectre of the first child she lost at birth. Another woman's twin sister lingers in a coma after being shot, only days after they returned from witnessing the "shuddering, smoking earth" of Iceland. In the title story, drawn from a phrase meaning "there is no easy way out", a woman impulsively impersonates her missing sister, leading her to question her own identity. (Credit: Farrar, Straus and Giroux)




Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

Memorial Drive
Natasha Trethewey
Trethewey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former US Poet Laureate, uses her consummate literary skills to craft this heart-rending account of her mother's murder at age 40, shot by an ex-husband who had been tormenting her for years. Tretheway, who was 19 at the time, didn't return to Memorial Drive in Atlanta for three decades. She recalls her early childhood in Mississippi, where her mother, Nova Scotia-born father, grandmother, great-aunt and uncle provided a supportive web of family. She examines memories, dreams, and evidence. These include police reports filed by her mother and witnesses, the autopsy, and "indications of police indifference". A tragic tale, told with clarity and shattering insight. (Credit: Ecco)




Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

Verge
Lidia Yuknavitch
In these 20 short stories, Yuknavitch writes with rare empathy about the repercussions of grief, loss and dislocation. In The Pull, a proficient young swimmer slips into the Aegean Sea after her refugees' raft flounders, obeying the pull that signifies her own fight for life. The Organ Runner portrays a young girl who regains a hand severed in a farm accident after a risky operation, then builds a reputation throughout Ukraine and Russia for her success in ferrying human organs on the underground market. In these risk-taking tales of misfits and survivors, Yuknavitch includes "bought and sold Eastern European girls," a girl who follows her outlaw brother to the edge, and a boxer fighting against his own body chemistry. (Credit: Riverhead Books)



Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

Heathcliff Redux and Other Stories
Lily Tuck
In 1963, while she is rereading Wuthering Heights, the narrator of the title novella sees Cliff, a lean dark-haired rider, leaping into his saddle at a steeplechase race in Arbemarle County, Virginia. "He's nothing but trouble, mark my words," a friend tells her. She learns about his lies, his crimes and his troubled marriage. But Cliff is irresistible to this New Englander, who hates the South and is bored with her husband and children. Provocative quotes from the Emily Brontë classic and critics create a syncopated back beat as Cliff lures her into an affair and dismantles her world. Four stories - one an homage to Roberto Bolańo - complete this artful new collection from a National Book Award winner. (Credit: Atlantic Monthly Press)




Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

The Mirror & the Light
Hilary Mantel
The final novel in Mantel's ground-breaking, double Booker award-winning trilogy about Thomas Cromwell - which presents 16th-Century historic events with a 21st-Century literary sensibility - gathers Mantel's characters for a final reckoning. "In every scene, even the quiet ones, I try to create… multiple turning points," Mantel noted at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. "So… the reader's expectation of how and why is constantly challenged." Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies created an intimate third-person portrait of Cromwell as he ascends from being blacksmith's son to occupy an increasingly precarious position at the right hand of King Henry VIII. Her last volume, anchored by the death of Anne Boleyn, addresses Cromwell's questions: "What have I but what my king gives me? Who am I but what he has made me?" (Credit: Henry Holt)








Ten books to read in 2020

Ten books to read in 2020

The Lying Life of Adults
Elena Ferrante
Ferrante's Neapolitan Quartet saturated the literary world with an intimate sense of the decades-long ambivalent relationship between two women raised in working-class Naples. Ferrante's new novel is narrated by Giovanna, an innocent at 12 years old, who opens the novel with this line: "Two years before leaving home my father said to my mother that I was very ugly". After overhearing this assessment, Giovanna sees herself as nothing but a "tangled knot… nobody, not even the one who at this moment is writing, knows if it contains the right thread for a story or is merely a snarled confusion of suffering, without redemption". Over four years, as Giovanna witnesses class divisions in Naples, and the lies her parents tell as their marriage pulls apart, she develops the withering perspective of adolescence. The novel is translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein. (Credit: Europa)



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