Tag Archives: debuts

Camus by numbers (in a good way): You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik

3 Apr

You Deserve Nothing by Alexander MaksikI’ve just heard that Alexander Maksik’s You Deserve Nothing was on Sunday’s TV Book Club. Unfortunately I missed the show, but I read the book last year and really liked it. Set in Paris, it’s a cleverly told, elegantly expressed story that explores the battle between morality and free will (in a Not Lame kind of way). Does it make sense to stop yourself from doing something because you know it should be wrong? Can a good person do something bad without being driven by external factors? If you found yourself at turning point, how would you react? Rights, wrongs and lot of existential sub-tones made this a captivating read for me. Plus I tend to be a sucker for any novels set in Paris. Here’s my review that featured in a mag last year…

I’m always keen to read books recommended by my favourite authors, and this compelling debut comes with a particularly exciting stamp of approval – bestselling writer Alice Sebold hand-picked it to launch her new boutique publishing imprint, Tonga, in the US.

Set in an international school in Paris, the story centres round William Silver, a charming young literature teacher who uses unconventional methods to engage his students in passionate debates on everything from Sartre to religion, truth and morality. He’s adored by impressionable student Gilad, and desired by countless female pupils, including headstrong Marie. But Will doesn’t live up to the ideals he promotes, and temptation will cause his life to unravel at breakneck speed.

On the face of it, this could sound like an age-old story of teacher/pupil power abuse. But through literary references (Shakespeare, Camus, Faulkner) and a mixture of narrative voices (the story is told by Will, Marie and Gilad), Maksik forces us to question whether anything is ever really that simple. His teenage characters are brilliantly complex, their voices portraying a convincing mix of bravado and insecurity that draws comparison with The Catcher in the Rye. But it’s Will who’s the real enigma- unable to apologise for his actions and never once trying to justify them, he often bears resemblance to Camus’ anti-hero, Meursault.

You Deserve Nothing is a bold choice for Sebold – fans of the sentimental, dream-like essence of The Lovely Bones will be struck by Maksik’s stripped back prose and the quietly foreboding intensity of the subject matter. But it’s a necessary vehicle for Maksik’s weighty central motif: how should we live our lives, and by whose ideals? Prepare to be left with more questions than answers.

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BOOK WARS: Land of Decoration vs Wonder

14 Mar

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this week’s Stylist magazine  I go up against Entertainment Editor Debbie McQuoid as we pitch this week’s must reads. In the blue corner, we have crossover weepy Wonder by RJ Palacio. In the red corner, quirky tale of religious fervour and one of my favourite books of the year so far, The Land of Decoration. Who will be victorious? Click here to find out. DING DING.

Ones to watch: 2012’s hottest debuts

13 Mar

If it’s not already obvious from this blog, I LOVE debut novels. There’s something extra special about discovering a first-time writer that really appeals to me. Maybe it’s the fact they’ve finally ‘made it’, or the way debuts often go to town on the innovation front… either way, I really enjoy discovering new voices and if your debut captures my imagination then by golly I will go on about it til the End Of Time (be warned, you may have seen some of these books on my blog before!). One of the best things about my job as a freelance reviewer is that I get to hear about some of the most exciting books around before they make it to the shelves. So without further ado, here are 9 titles that have caught my eye already, as seen on the Stylist.co.uk website. Enjoy.

1. WE THE ANIMALS BY JUSTIN TORRES, OUT NOW

Justin Torres’ punch-packing debut wrestled its way into the US bestseller chart last year, earning him a string of accolades from critics and authors alike. Out in the UK now, the semi-autobiographical We The Animals tells the story of three brothers growing up in a poor family with a white mother and a Puerto Rican father. Told from the perspective of the youngest brother, it’s a coming of age tale played out against a backdrop of a turbulent marriage, poverty and violence. Dubbed a young Jeffrey Eugenides, Torres crafts a narrative voice that’s exciting and unique and his powerful, lyrical prose gives even the darkest of scenes a sheen of brilliance.

2. TIGERS IN RED WEATHER BY LIZA KLAUSSMANN, OUT 2 AUGUST

Tigers in Red Weather by Lisa KlaussmannHopes are high for the forthcoming Tigers in Red Weather, out in August. A dark, sparkling tale of a glamorous East Coast family plagued by secrets, it sweeps across ’40s, ’50s and ’60s America and is already being compared to classic novels like Tender is the Night and Revolutionary Road. Think passion and betrayal masquerading behind a backdrop of jazz, cocktails and hazy sunshine. The subject of a huge bidding war amongst publishers – and already generating interest from LA film studios – it’s proof that our love affair with everything retro is long to continue.

3. THE LAND OF DECORATION BY GRACE MCCLEEN, OUT 1 MARCH

The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleenFirst-time author McCleen draws on her experience of growing up in a fundamental religion to create this unforgettable novel narrated by ten-year-old Judith. Bullied at school for her Father’s religious beliefs, Judith retreats to the Land of Decoration, a replica of The Promised Land made from discarded rubbish. But when God gives her the power to create miracles, the consequences threaten to bring tragedy. Chosen by The Sunday Times as one of 2012’s must-reads, it’s surprisingly dark in places and tackles big issues like faith and bereavement. The perfect read for fans of Room and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

4. TEA AT THE GRAND TAZI BY ALEXANDRA SINGER, OUT 1 MARCH

Tea at the Grand Tazi by Alexandra SingerWriting a book is no mean feat for anyone, but Alexandra Singer’s debut is even more impressive given that four years ago she had completely forgotten starting it. The legal student was struck down with nerve condition cerebal lupus in the middle of writing Tea at the Grand Tazi, leaving her with long-term memory loss and unable to walk or write. After her brother found the manuscript in her flat, Singer set herself a daily writing target to complete the book. Finally released in March, her debut is an intensely colourful tale of a young ex-pat in Morocco who gets swept up in the seedy underworld of Marrakech.

5. SWITCHED BY AMANDA HOCKING, OUT NOW

Switched Amanda HockingShe is the 27-year-old self-published author who joined the Kindle Million Club last year, with her hugely popular collection of paranormal novels putting her in the same league as Stephenie Meyer and Stieg Larsson. This year, Amanda Hocking has teamed up with Macmillan (thanks to a whopping seven figure deal) to releaseSwitched, her first novel to be published in the traditional sense. The first of the Trylle trilogy, a paranormal romance as addictive asTwilight, all three books will be published before April. Is the hype deserved? There’s only one way to find out…

6. THE LIFEBOAT BY CHARLOTTE ROGAN, OUT 29 MARCH

The Lifeboat Charlotte RoganDubbed ‘the most gripping debut of 2012’ by The Sunday Times, The Lifeboat is page-turning literary fiction at its best. Set in 1914, it introduces us to 22-year-old Grace Winter who is about to go on trial for her life. We know she survived a shipwreck and three weeks at sea on a lifeboat; we don’t know how. There follows a tale of survival told through an unreliable narrator who keeps you guessing throughout, making it fantastic fodder for book club debate. With fans including Emma Donoghue and Hilary Mantel, it’s the authors’ top choice for 2012.

7. LIKE A VIRGIN BY AARATHI PRASAD, OUT 16 AUGUST

Like a Virgin by Aarathi PrasadScience journalist Aarathi Prasad is a leading voice in the genetics field and is fast popping up all over the media – think of her as the female equivalent of Brian Cox making science accessible for the masses. Her first book, out in August, probes into the world of reproductive science to look at the evolution of a potentially sexless future. From the creation of artificial eggs to silicone wombs for men and egg-fertilizing computer chips, Prasad asks whether a future of virgin pregnancies could be just around the corner, and if so, where will that leave men? Entertaining and provocative, it promises to change the way you think about sex.

8. THE BOOK OF SUMMERS BY EMYLIA HALL, OUT 1 MARCH

The Book of Summers by Emylia HallOne of only three authors to make this year’s Red List Hot 100, Hall’s debut novel is the story of Beth Lowe, a 30-year-old woman who is sent The Book of Summers, a scrapbook of holiday photos and mementos compiled by her long-estranged, and now deceased, mother. Over 7 summers spent in rural Hungary – with descriptions so vivid and beautiful that you will long to visit – Hall reveals the long-buried secret that changed everything the year Beth turned 16. Fantastically evocative and sun-drenched with a twist, it’s guaranteed a place on our summer holiday reading list.

9. THE SNOW CHILD BY EOWYN IVEY, OUT NOW

The Snow Child by Eowyn IveyAlaskan author Ivey spends her time hunting moose and raising chickens, so it’s no surprise that her first novel is inspired by the stark landscapes of her hometown. Set in 1920s Alaska, it introduces us to Jack and Mabel, a grieving childless couple who build a child out of snow and awake the next morning to see a little girl running through the forest. What follows is an enchanting tale of love, spirit and survival. One of Waterstones’ top debuts of 2012 and already an international success, it is completely deserving of the hype. Devour it and pass it on to your friends.

So there you have it, 9 books to look out for. Any recommendations for the 10th spot?