The three hour return train journey from visiting family in Newcastle, in addition to providing scenic views, always feels like such a peaceful stretch of precious time in which to read, muse, and to pen my thoughts about what I have been reading.
Today I have with me a copy of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, but before immersing myself in her magical world I wanted to share my thoughts on the Waterstone’s Eleven list, announce Thursday before last at their now annual event at the flagship Picadilly branch. The Eleven books chosen, all debut authors tipped to shine this year were;
The Panopticon – Jenny Fagan
Absolution – Patrick Flanery
Shelter – Frances Greenslade
The Art of Fielding – Chad Harbach
The Snow Child – Eowyn Ivey
The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce
The Land of Decoration – Grace McCleen
Signs of Life – Anna Raverat
The Lifeboat – Charlotte Rogan
The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker
Care of Wooden Floors – Will Wiles
It was a pleasure to read the extract book and to dip into such a variety of ideas and styles of writing. I’m being quite strict and narrowing my favourites to the following three books:
In Absolution by Patrick Flanery, biographer Sam Leroux is researching world renowned author Clare Wald who is writing a new book, set to confront her experiences in Apartheid-era South Africa. What immediately struck me in the extract that I read was the intense and uncomfortable feeling of intimacy between the author and her biographer. Wald is evasive and it seems as if she has something unpleasant to conceal, yet I felt that her ego would potentially lead to her letting something slip to the tactful but determined Leroux. I’m intrigued by both the headstrong personality of Clare and her mysterious past.
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan opens with a flashback into the memory of Grace Sachs a woman on trial. Trapped on a Lifeboat leaving a sinking ship each of the passengers respond in their own way to the set of circumstances they are confronted with, but the safety of the whole group relies on life or death decisions which are often cruelly pragmatic. I was left wanting to know why Grace was on trial and was she culpable, while suspecting that the answer to the question might be in shades of grey.
The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen stood out to me because it instantly struck me as original. McCleen’s subject is a little girl completely absorbed in her own world. Her father is a strict Christian and her mother absent because she has passed away. Judith has created an entire landscape in her bedroom made out of boxes and yoghurt pots and endless bric-a-brac where she escapes to when she is safe inside her own home. We meet her as she is readying herself with an encounter with the school bully and McCleen brilliantly communicates the anxieties and particular perspective of this child as she prepares herself.
Other titles were very promising too – I was on tenterhooks reading the first chapter of The Snow Child as a woman makes her way across a deadly ice-covered ravine, and I was drawn in by the authors engaging voice in Care of Wooden Floors, which leads me to wonder how much you can really tell just from a first chapter of a book. I expect to see some of these titles popping up in blogs and reviews so I’ll be looking forward to seeing what people make of the full novels.
Do any of the above books appeal to you? Do you find that you read many debut authors?