Month: August 2012

Know Your Booker!: André Brink’s Philida

PhilidaSo you think you know everything there is to know about André Brink’s Booker nominated novel Philida? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

Philida is described by the book’s publisher Harvill Secker as follows:

LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2012. An unforgettable story of a woman determined to find her freedom – set in South Africa in 1830s, as slavery was about to be abolished. The masterpiece from the twice Booker-shortlisted author.

Soon there must come a day when I can say for myself: This and that I shall do, this and that I shall not.

Philida is the mother of four children by Francois Brink, the son of her master. The year is 1832 and the Cape is rife with rumours about the liberation of the slaves. Philida decides to risk her whole life by lodging a complaint against Francois, who has reneged on his promise to set her free.

His father has ordered him to marry a white woman from a prominent Cape Town family, and Philida will be sold on to owners in the harsh country up north. Unwilling to accept this fate, Philida continues to test the limits of her freedom, and with the Muslim slave Labyn she sets off on a journey across the great wilderness on the banks of the Gariep River, to the far north of Cape Town. Philida is an unforgettable story of one woman’s determination to survive and be free.
(more…)

Know Your Booker!: Sam Thompson’s Communion Town

Communion_TownSo you think you know everything there is to know about Sam Thompson’s Booker nominated novel Communion Town? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

Communion Town is described by the book’s publisher Fourth Estate as follows:

Two travellers arrive in an unknown city: Ulya and Nicolas are asylum seekers, hoping for safety and a better life, but instead they find a haunted metropolis whose people live in fear of the monsters in the shadows. When her brother disappears, Ulya learns how easily anyone can fall into the city’s underworld.

Communion Town maps this imaginary city, and explores the ways in which it invents itself by creating outcasts and scapegoats. As the novel unfolds in different parts of the city, we encounter a lovelorn folk-singer, an introverted child, a repressed detective, a slaughterhouse worker, a lost tourist, a ghost and a gigolo. From their lonely voices we gather the many-faceted story of the city: a place imagined differently by each citizen as he or she searches for connection, transformation or escape.

Mixing the everyday with the gothic and the fantastic, Communion Town is a novel that deals in the uncanny: in doubles and repetitions; in things half-glimpsed; in desires half-acknowledged. It is a virtuosic piece of writing from a young writer of true talent.
(more…)

Know Your Booker!: Michael Frayn’s Skios

SkiosSo you think you know everything there is to know about Michael Frayn’s Booker nominated novel Skios? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

Skios is described by the book’s publisher Faber & Faber as follows:

Good God, thought Oliver, as he saw the smile. She thinks I’m him! And all at once he knew it was so. He was Dr Norman Wilfred.

On the sunlit Greek island of Skios, the Fred Toppler Foundation is preparing for the most important event in its calendar: its annual lecture. This year they have secured a major star: Dr Norman Wilfred, the world-famous authority on the scientific organisation of science. When he arrives he turns out to be surprisingly young and charming – not at all the intimidating figure they had been expecting.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the island, a young woman waits for the notorious chancer she has rashly agreed to go on holiday with and who has only too characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped in the villa with her instead, by an unfortunate chain of misadventure, is a balding old gent called Dr Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper and increasingly all normal sense of reality …

And as the time draws ever nearer for one or other Dr Wilfred – or possibly both – to give the eagerly-awaited lecture, so Skios – Greece – Europe – career off their appointed track.

(more…)

Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse (Review #2)

The_LighthouseRating: 3.5
The Lighthouse
A Novel by Alison Moore
2012 / 192 Pages

The Setup: The Lighthouse begins on a North Sea ferry, on whose blustery outer deck stands Futh, a middle-aged, recently separated man heading to Germany for a restorative walking holiday.

Spending his first night in Hellhaus at a small, family-run hotel, he finds the landlady hospitable but is troubled by an encounter with an inexplicably hostile barman.

In the morning, Futh puts the episode behind him and sets out on his week-long circular walk along the Rhine. As he travels, he contemplates his childhood; a complicated friendship with the son of a lonely neighbour; his parents’ broken marriage and his own. But the story he keeps coming back to, the person and the event affecting all others, is his mother and her abandonment of him as a boy, which left him with a void to fill, a substitute to find.

He recalls his first trip to Germany with his newly single father. He is mindful of something he neglected to do there, an omission which threatens to have devastating repercussions for him this time around.

At the end of the week, Futh, sunburnt and blistered, comes to the end of his circular walk, returning to what he sees as the sanctuary of the Hellhaus hotel, unaware of the events which have been unfolding there in his absence. (From the hardcover edition)

(more…)

Know Your Booker!: Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home

Swimming_HomeSo you think you know everything there is to know about Deborah Levy’s Booker nominated novel Swimming Home? Test your knowledge against our GoodReads quiz here!

What’s it about?

Swimming Home is described by the book’s publisher And Other Stories as follows:

As he arrives with his family at the villa in the hills above Nice, Joe sees a body in the swimming pool. But the girl is very much alive. She is Kitty Finch: a self-proclaimed botanist with green-painted fingernails, walking naked out of the water and into the heart of their holiday. Why is she there? What does she want from them all? And why does Joe’s wife allow her to remain?

Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious harm that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams.

Deborah Levy’s writing combines linguistic virtuosity, technical brilliance and a strong sense of what it means to be alive. Swimming Home represents a new direction for a major writer. In this book, the wildness and the danger are all the more powerful for resting just beneath the surface.

With its biting humour and immediate appeal, it wears its darkness lightly.

(more…)

Book Review: 2012 Long Listed: Deborah Levy’s Swimming Home (Review #3)

Swimming_HomeRating: 4.5
Swimming Home
A Novel by Deborah Levy
2012 / 157 Pages

The Setup: Swimming Home is a subversive page-turner, a merciless gaze at the insidious harm that depression can have on apparently stable, well-turned-out people. Set in a summer villa, the story is tautly structured, taking place over a single week in which a group of beautiful, flawed tourists in the French Riviera come loose at the seams. (From the hardcover edition)

(more…)