Tin Man – Sarah Winman

Tin Man - Sarah WinmanMs. Winman has written two fabulous books: the hilarious When God Was A Rabbit, and the poignant A Year Of Marvellous Ways. Her latest book is entirely different but also brilliant in an understated and quiet fashion. Ellis and Michael have been best friends since they were twelve years old. Eventually Ellis meets and marries Annie which produces an interesting and dynamic 3-way friendship. The story unfolds in non-linear time and because the writing is spare, some attention is required to appreciate the vibrant storytelling. Some key things are left without explanation or detail, which is perfect for a book about love and loss.

Swimming to Elba – Silvia Avallone

Swimming to Elba - Silvia Avallone.jpgThis is an excellent book for two reasons. The first is context: Italy in 2001, specifically a town on the west coast across from Elba, dominated by soul crushing work in a steel factory. The description of drug-fuelled workers in the paralyzing heat of summer is incredible. And the second reason is the author’s description of emotion, particularly in family and friendships. There are breathtakingly horrible husbands/fathers but the key relationship is between two young girls, best friends forever who undertake a remarkable coming -of-age transition at the age of 14. Their actions are both risqué and innocent while navigating the emotional pitfalls of adolescence. Overall, a powerful, gritty and captivating story.

The Burning Girl – Claire Messud

The Burning girl - Claire MessudMessud wrote the very excellent The Woman Upstairs, about the relationships of a mature woman. In this new novel, Messud has turned her perceptive gaze to a coming-of-age story of two girls, best friends since nursery school whose lives begin to diverge in middle school. What does friendship entail? What stories do we create for others and for ourselves? This is a beautifully poignant book.

The Golem and the Jinni – Helene Wecker

The Golem and the Jinni - Helene WeckerA second recommendation from Steph, so thanks again. This book is another example of a remarkable first novel, notable both for its imagination and context. A golem is created from clay and brought to life by her master who then promptly dies, leaving her adrift in New York. A jinni is accidentally released from a copper container. Much of this book is about alienation – how to fit into a human population. And the context is glorious: New York in 1899 with detailed descriptions of Little Syria and the Jewish enclave with some fantastic trips to Central Park. And yes, there is a wicked villain! This is a very entertaining book.

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

A Litte LifeThis is a powerful and also profoundly disturbing book, a guy book about 4 male college friends, with a detailed (1352 pages in my digital library copy) account of their relationships with each other mostly: intense friendship and sometimes love. There are essentially no important relationships with women. At the core of the book is Jude, who undergoes horrific abuse as a child that will bring you to tears. Predictably, Jude suffers pronounced attachment disorder which makes his subsequent relationships with his friends very complicated. One of the brilliant features of this book is the ability to illustrate how someone who is very very intelligent can repeatedly engage in completely irrational behaviour: Jude knows this but can’t stop. This should produce a pause in those who think that abuse can be trivialized by “just get over it”. This is a tough read for emotional reasons but very worthwhile. This book is a Man Booker finalist.

The Confessions Of Frances Godwin by Robert Hellenga

Confessions of FrancesAfter the death of her husband, Frances begins to chronicle her life, her confessions, from marriage in the 1960s to 2006. She has been a Latin teacher so there are lovely passages about learning Latin in Italy. Her spiritual conversations (NOT confessions) with a Catholic priest provide a surprising element, along with some dialog with God. This is a very good read.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18594395-the-confessions-of-frances-godwin