October Book of the Month
To kick off, I’ve picked three of the paciest paperbacks from this summer. They all share a gripping, page-turning quality that pelts you through at cracking speed. None of them are necessarily what you call Great Literature (we’re saving that for our Booker books next month) but they’re Great Storytellling, with meaty subjects in each. And most of all, they’re addictively enjoyable, the kind of book you'd sneak off and go to bed early for.
William Boyd has turned his hand to all sorts of things (film scripts, journalism, novels) - his latest book, Restless, is an intelligent spy-thriller. Its all about Eva, a beautiful Russian emigree trained by the British Secret Service during the Second World War, now living an outwardly normal, quiet life in Oxfordshire. Its only when her daughter notices her mother’s sudden purchase of a gun, accompanied by some erratic behaviour, that Eva’s final mission begins. Eva is a gutsy, clever heroine and I raced along the pages, enjoying the unpredictable plot and intrigued by a fascinating area of the war that is still relatively unknown. My only warning is that whatever you read next will seem rather slow and workmanlike in comparison. Buy it.
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (author of the steamy Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith) is also set in World War Two, but her heroines are too busy driving ambulances and falling in love with each other to do much spying. Water’s portrait of London in the Blitz is vivid and authentic, especially the thrilling freedom for women able to have a life outside the home for the first time. There are several interlocking stories that bring our characters together: a young man suffering the terror of bombardment from within prison walls; a secretary whose doomed love affair continues to haunt her after the war; an ambulance driver whose broken heart refuses to heal. Hidden secrets, twists and turns are Sarah Waters’ trademark, and The Night Watch keeps you wondering and guessing how these lives turned out they way they did. Buy it.
Hisham Matar's debut novel, In The Country of Men, was one of the 2006 Booker shortlist. Set in 70's Libya, under the Gaddafi regime, it is the story of Suleiman, a nine-year-old boy whose family is torn apart by the brutality of life under a dictatorship. A sense of danger and guilt permeates every stage of the book, as a friend's father is arrested, and Suleiman's own father goes into hiding. While his mother battles with alcoholism, Suleiman struggles to negotiate the traps and betrayals that surround him. The beautifully evoked setting and stunning descriptions of Tripoli made it the most powerful novel I've read this year - even more so because the author's own story mirrors Suleiman's so closely (Matar's father went missing 13 years ago and no-one knows if he is still alive). A heart-breaking, heart-in-your-mouth story. Buy it.
That's the October selection then - do hope you approve. Now its up to you – vote for the book you'd like to read this coming month.
Last updated: about 3 years ago