June Book of the Month
Following May’s Orange Prize extravaganza, time for the men show their literary colours. Jonathan Coe has moved in a new direction with a powerfully moving and poignant story of betrayal and regret. Sebastian Faulks has left the Second World War behind to focus on Britain in the 1980s, and on one man’s psychosis. Danny Scheinmann is the new kid on the block – his debut is a hymn to the power of love. And Patrick Gale, master of the family drama, explores the highs and lows of living with a tortured genius mother.
Which one will be our alpha male? Cast your vote and keep an eye on the race at the June Book of the Month poll.
The Rain Before It Falls – Jonathan Coe
Poetic, atmospheric and emotional – it is a new side to Jonathan Coe, best known for his black comedies such as What a Carve Up! And The Rotters Club. Through a series of photographs, our narrator Rosamund leads us through her family’s dark history, and in particular her great friendship with her cousin Beatrix. From the War years to the present day, we follow the choices, passions, betrayals and troubles that echo through the generations. There are twists and turns, surprises and drama; above all, there is very beautiful prose as stirring as the Shropshire countryside it describes. Buy it here
Mike Engleby, Cambridge undergraduate in the 70s and Thatcher kid in the 80s, is a loner. He's never been very good at social interaction, but his darkest side is slowly revealed in this subtle, psychological novel. Full of observant detail about 80s Britain, the Brixton riots, the terrible music, the British character, it's funny in parts, but not in any way as romantic as Birdsong and Charlotte Gray. There's no doubt that Faulks is an enormously accomplished writer and here he has created an unreliable narrator that absorbs even as he shocks you. Buy it here
Random Acts of Heroic Love – Danny Scheinmann
A book with a Mumsnet fan club thread. Two love stories combined in one novel, it follows prisoner of war Mortiz in 1917 and young backpacker Leo in 1992. Mortiz is sustained through his ordeal by the memory of his young love, Lotte. He escapes and embarks on a journey back to her, and his old life. Leo emerges from a terrible accident to discover that his girlfriend did not survive, but he cannot remember anything. He embarks on his own journey of grief and acceptance. I found Scheinmann’s style a little bit clichéd but it’s a good beach read and quite weepy in parts. Buy it here
Notes From An Exhibition – Patrick Gale
Rachel Kelly is a wife and mother. She is an acclaimed artist. She is also bipolar. She’s at her most creative when not on medication, and her wildness has wonderful moments. But the mood swings and erratic behaviour take their toll on her family and all the children have mixed feelings about their relationship with this ephemeral creature. When she dies in her attic studio in Cornwall, the true extent of her legacy becomes clear as husband and children try to deal with the emotional fallout. An intelligent, warm, thoughtful family drama. Buy it here
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