The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014 long list was announced earlier this week with a list of 152 books contending for the top prize. Members of the Eason Book Club on BookBind discuss their favourites from the list.
Maria from the Eason Book Club:
‘My favourite from the list is Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk–it’s the story of a young American soldier returned home from Iraq for a brief ‘victory tour’. It’s a great book, full of wry humour and empathy, highlighting the contrast between the public celebration of soldiers and the reality of war. I loved Heft by Liz Moore too. Telling the twin stories of a popular but troubled teenage boy and a lonely reclusive professor, it’s a bittersweet book with great characters.
Fantastic to see such great Irish talent on the list too. Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart was one of my books of last year – an intense and troubling portrait of post-Celtic tiger Ireland and the private lives and sorrows of a small town.
I always love anything by Dave Eggers. Hologram for the King took on new territory for him, exploring the corporate world, but his characters are always incredibly well drawn and empathetic and this book is no different.
There are two ‘marmite’ books on the list too – people either loved or hated Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth with its surprising ending, and JK Rowling’s Casual Vacancy really divided critics. I though both were brilliant, so I’m delighted that they made the list.’
Stephen from the Eason Book Club:
‘My first choice from this year’s IMPAC list is the wonderful Hhhh by Laurent Binet. A true-to-life fable set during World War II, it follows two Czech parachutists trying to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, all the while interweaving the struggles of the author as he tries to write the book itself. Oftentimes very funny and moving, this book is a true original.
Already a winner of the Giller Prize, dubbed the ‘Canadian Booker’, Will Ferguson’s 419 is a fantastic story of a young woman’s attempt to understand the events leading up to her father’s suicide. When she discovers he may have been taken in by an email scam, her search leads her on a heart-stopping journey to Nigeria.
A journey of an entirely different sort is at the heart of Rachel Joyce’s The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry . Learning that an old friend has fallen gravely ill, Harold Fry unexpectedly finds himself walking to the other end of England to say a final goodbye. A brilliant book club read with a huge heart, this is one you won’t be able to stop your friends about.
Finally, I’m especially delighted to see the comic novel Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple nominated for the award by two Irish libraries (Waterford and Limerick City libraries). A hilarious epistolary novel that takes a none-too-subtle satirical sideswipe at our consumerist culture, Bernadette and her daughter Bee are heroines you’ll be rooting and cheering for until the very end.’
Caoilfhionn from the Eason Book Club:
‘Of all the fantastic books on this year’s list, my favourite has to be The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. It tells the story of eleven year old Julia as she, her family and friends struggle to adapt to life on Earth during the ‘Slowing’, the literal slowing down of the Earth’s rotation. As the concept of time gets completely altered and the end of the world becomes a real possibility, Julia still has to deal with the daily trials and tribulations of being a teenager, which is what makes this book so bittersweet. Walker has achieved the perfect balance of coming-of-age awkwardness, first love and apocalyptic disaster.
One title that we were all delighted to see on the list is The Fault In Our Stars . This book has become an unstoppable force and rightly so, because John Green’s story of love in a teenage cancer support group is nothing short of breath-taking. Sixteen year old Hazel is an extremely powerful narrator and you will be rooting for her and Augustus Waters from the outset. This book will break your heart, but with as much laughter and joy as tears and sadness.
Another nominee that I really enjoyed is The Dinner by Herman Koch. Originally written in Dutch, the story takes place in Amsterdam and focuses on two sets of parents as they come together over dinner to discuss something their sons have done. All seems innocent and banal at first but it soon transpires that the two boys have committed a horrific crime. As the meal progresses, it becomes clear that those around the table will go to great lengths to protect their families. I’m not usually a thriller fan but this was too intriguing to ignore. Definitely worth a read.
Finally, I’d like to give a mention to Gold by Chris Cleave. At first glance, this is simply a sports novel about two female cyclists in the London 2012 Olympics. In truth, it is so much more than that. Kate, the physically stronger of the two, is burdened by her home life, while Zoe, despite having no real ties to hold her back, is blinded by fame and ambition. From the sweet, sad scenes with Kate’s sick daughter, to the nerve-wracking moments on the race track, I enjoyed every bit of this book. Cleave is a great writer so it’s no surprise that he appears on the IMPAC again this year, having been nominated previously in 2010 for The Other Hand
Natalie from the Eason Book Club:
‘I urge anyone who has not read Tell the Wolves I’m Home , to read it. It really struck me because it is told in such a fresh and sweet way. Our narrator is 14 year old June who learns to deal with the loss of a loved one through new bonds, a secret friendship and a painting. One of my favourite reads last year and top of my IMPAC list.
Mr Penumbras 24 Hour Book Store turned out to be quite the surprisingly fun and fluid read. If you are looking for a quirky story to make you smile then this tale which combines the traditional world of book selling with the ever evolving digital world will leave you grinning from ear to ear. It starts off with our narrator Clay finding a new job which turns out to be more than intriguing, taking him on a quest to solve the mystery surrounding Mr Penumbras 24 hour book store and what lies beneath. Throw some ‘googlers’, nerdy types and a little love into the mix and what you have is a cleverly spun and thoroughly enjoyable modern tale.
A popular choice among the Eason book club is Donal Ryan’s The Spinning Heart which brings you deep into the dark heart of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland and does it so eloquently that you will not realise how deeply affecting this book is until you turn the last page.
Two other books on the list that which for me were more than worth the read are The Fault In Our Stars and The Age of Miracles which again deal with catastrophic subjects through fresh and original voices. Both are due to hit the big screen in the not too distant future so best to read it, before you see it.
Looking forward to the shortlist….’
David from the Eason Book Club:
‘As you know, I’ve been kind of trapped in a world of Young Adult reading for the past 5 years, so when the IMPAC long list was released I wasn’t expecting to have anything to say. But then I saw that Gone Girl was on the list and while not Young Adult, it was the first “Grown Up” book I’ve read in ages, and I did so , purely based on the high concept idea of the unreliable narrators (had to get that in there) that are used as the voices. I really enjoyed this book, it zipped along at a breakneck pace and had me guessing all over the place whether what I was reading was the correct account of events or not. A very clever idea spun out into an extremely enjoyable novel. What more could a reader want.
Well ….. lots more actually. I was delighted to spot two Young Adult titles (crossover, main protagonists are teenage) on the list and they were the two standout books for this age group for the year. Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker is another high concept idea (Earth’s rotation slowing down) surrounded by beautiful prose and a fantastic character in Julia. I adored this book and have spent the past year boring people to death and giving copies to people to read. The other book on the list and the one which might break the YA mould and make it on to the short list is The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. This is a truly important book, a beautiful thing that has, through word of mouth taken the world of Teenagers by storm. A tale of two teenagers in love who meet in a Cancer support group, this is a heart breaking, soul warming story. John Green is one of the most important writers for a current generation of teenagers and it would be awesome to see his stunning body of work represented on the short list in the form of Fault. Like the previous book (Age of Miracles), while the protagonists are teenagers the book is not just for teens …. Please Please Please read it … as a look through our Book Club will tell you, I wasn’t the only one taken in by its beauty.’
It’s now less than a month to the highlight of the Irish Literary calendar, The Irish Book Awards. The shortlists for this year’s awards have just been announced and the winners will be revealed at the Awards Gala Dinner and Ceremony on November 26th 2013. Following on from the success of Ancient Light by John Banville in 2012, Eason are delighted to again be sponsoring the prestigious Novel of the Year Award. It’s been a year full of tremendous highlights in this genre that has resulted in the highest ever number of submissions and our award will be given to one of these six stunning literary works of fiction by an Irish author.
|The Things We Know Now
|The Thing About December
|This is the Way
In recent years, the awards dinner has become a major event in the Irish literary calendar, bringing together the entire literary community – readers, authors, booksellers, publishers and librarians – like no other awards. Rest assured, Eason will be there on the night and will keep you right up to date on all the results as they happen. If you want to catch the awards on TV, they will be shown on RTÉ Television this year on Saturday November 30th.
From the thirteen titles selected as the Man Booker longlist in July, a panel of judges have now announced the 6 finalists in consideration for the Man Booker Prize 2013.
The 2013 Finalist are:
- The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
- Harvest by Jim Crace
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
- The Testament of Mary, by Colm Toibin
- The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
- We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo
On the 15th of October, the Man Booker Prize will be awarded to one of these outstanding authors, but who do you feel is deserving of the prize?
Comment below with your experience of these books and if you haven’t read them yet, you can buy them Here
Every month here at Eason Book Club, we choose a selection of titles that we think book clubs around the country will enjoy. The subject matter is always varied, always topical, with something to appeal to all tastes. This month’s choices include a harrowing story of a child on trial for murder (The Guilty One), a gripping account of the psychological impact of war (The Yellow Birds), a child born into a fragile world on the eve of the German invasion of France (The Confidant), a marriage with a dark ending (The Rose Petal Beach) and a new narrative on love and war from the critically-acclaimed author of Birdsong (A Possible Life).
As well as new titles, we also like to highlight authors’ older works that we feel deserve some more recognition. This week’s choice is David Guterson’s modern day reimagining of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex in which a risk assessor takes the biggest risk of his own life and sleeps with his not-entirely-legal au pair, resulting in a string of serious consequences, not least the birth of the eponymous character, Ed King.
Next up is Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question, which tells the story of a group of old acquaintances who come together one evening to reminisce about the past in this clever, darkly comical but ultimately very wise novel by the winner of the 2010 Man Booker Prize and self-confessed “Jewish Jane Austen”.
Later in the month, we highlight one of our favourite novels of last year, Sebastian Barry’s On Canaan’s Side in which we meet Lily Bere, an elderly woman mourning the loss of her beloved grandson and looking back on the many difficulties she’s had to deal with throughout her life, from the moment she was forced to flee Ireland in the early 20th century and build a new life for herself in America. Covering several decades and continents, this is a story that is at once epic and intimate, as Sebastian Barry delicately weaves Lily’s tale with his trademark prose and attention to detail. Near perfect! And if you’ve already enjoyed Barry’s novel, may we recommend Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville, involving another epic ocean crossing, this time to Australia. Sarah must embark on a journey into her past in order to save her relationship, in this novel about love, tangled histories and how it matters to keep stories alive.
And finally, to finish up the month, we have The Midwife’s Daughter by Patricia Ferguson, a moving tale of love, prejudice, tragedy, bravery and the changing lives of women in the early twentieth century. Violet has delivered many of the town’s children in her capacity as handywoman but with medical advances, her calling is dying out. For Violet and Grace, a young black orphan and Violet’s adopted daughter, the coming war will bring more upheaval into their lives: can they endure it, or will they, like so many, be swept aside by history’s tide?
There’s only one way to find out!
Every month here at Eason Book Club, we choose a selection of books that we think book clubs around the country will enjoy. The selection of 4-8 books is always varied, always topical, with something to appeal to all tastes. This month choices deal with a very broad range of subjects:
A single survivor in an apocalyptic world.
A lonely Irishwoman’s struggles on the plains of Africa.
A shocking crime.
An old man on a mission.
A relationship torn apart by war.
A woman scorned.
A family mystery.
Cannibalism, terrorism and castration in Siberia.
In Dog Stars by Peter Heller, we meet Hig, lone survivor of a flu that killed everyone he knew. He lives in the hangar of a small abandoned airport with his dog, and flies the perimeter of the airfield in his 1956 Cessna. Sometimes he sneaks off to the mountains to fish and pretends that things are the way they used to be. One day, a random transmission beams through his radio, the voice igniting a hope deep inside him that a better life exists beyond the airport. Risking everything, he flies past his point of no return–not enough fuel to get him home–following the trail of the static-broken voice on the radio. But what he encounters and what he must face is both better and worse than anything he could have imagined.
Duty and love collide on the arid plains of central South Africa in Barbara Mutch’s The Housemaid’s Daughter. It’s 1919 and Cathleen Harrington leaves her home in Ireland for South Africa, to marry the fiancé she has not seen for five years. Isolated and estranged in a harsh landscape, she finds solace in her diary and the friendship of her housemaid’s daughter, Ada. Cathleen recognises in her someone she can love and respond to in a way that she cannot with her own husband and daughter. Under Cathleen’s tutelage, Ada grows into an accomplished pianist, and a reader who cannot resist turning the pages of the diary, discovering the secrets Cathleen sought to hide. When Ada is compromised and finds she is expecting a mixed-race child, she flees her home, determined to spare Cathleen the knowledge of her betrayal, and the disgrace that would descend upon the family. Scorned within her own community, Ada is forced to carve a life for herself, her child, and her music. But Cathleen still believes in Ada, and risks the constraints of apartheid to search for her and persuade her to return with her daughter.
A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened. This is The Dinner by Hermann Koch. The sons of the couples in question have committed a terrible crime and each is looking for someone to blame. Touted as this year’s answer to The Slap, it may not be quite as shocking but it is very, very good.
Jonas Jonasson’s One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared begins, unsurprisingly, on the one-hundredth birthday of Allan Karlsson. Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, he is waiting for the party he-never-wanted-anyway to begin. The mayor will be there; the press will be there but… as it turns out, Allan will not. Slowly but surely, Allan climbs out of his bedroom window and makes his getaway, embarking on an epic journey involving criminals, murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, we learn about his earlier life and how he came to be a participant behind the scenes in many key events of the twentieth century. This book is quirky, entertaining and a lot of fun.
From a distance, Michael and Jolen Zarkades seem to have it all: a solid dependable marriage, exciting careers and children they adore. But after twelve blissful years together, the couple has lost their way. They are unhappy and edging towards divorce. Then an unexpected deployment tears their already fragile family apart, sending one of them deep into harm’s way and leaving the other at home, caring for the children and waiting for news. When the worst happens, each must face their darkest fear and fight for the future of their family. Home Front by Kristin Hannah is an intimate look at the inner landscape of a disintegrating marriage and a dramatic exploration of the price of war. Linksave.
First published in 2008, Ron Rash’s Serena received critical acclaim in the writer’s home country but was slow to cross the water. With a film adaptation starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence coming in 2013, now is the perfect time to introduce our Book Clubbers to this wonderful piece of American literature. The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton arrive from Boston in the North Carolina Mountains to create a timber empire. Serena is new to the mountains – but she soon shows herself the equal of any worker, overseeing crews, hunting rattlesnakes, even saving her husband’s life in the wilderness. Yet she also learns that she will never bear a child. Serena’s discovery will set in motion a course of events that will change the lives of everyone in this remote community. As the Pembertons’ intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel, this riveting story of love, passion and revenge moves toward its shocking reckoning.
Emilie de la Martinieres has always fought against her aristocratic background but after the death of her mother, she finds herself alone in the world and sole inheritor of her grand childhood home in the south of France. An old notebook of poems leads her in search of the mysterious and beautiful Sophia, whose tragic love affair changed the course of her family history. As Emilie unravels the story, she too embarks on her own journey of discovery, realising that the chateau may provide clues to her own difficult past and finally unlock the future. From the author of the bestselling Hothouse Flower, Lucinda Riley’s Light Behind the Window is a breath-taking and intense story of love, war and, above all, forgiveness.
Siberia, 1919. In the outer reaches of a country torn apart by civil war lives a small Christian sect. Stationed in their midst is a company of Czech soldiers, on the losing side of the recent conflict and desperate to get home. Into this isolated community trudges Samarin, an escapee from Russia’s northernmost prison. His arrival intrigues many of the locals, including Anna Petrovna, a beautiful young war widow, but when the local shaman is found dead, suspicion and terror engulf the little town… The People’s Act of Love by James Meek is an epic drama of desire and sacrifice, a grand tale for modern times.
The choice is yours! Which one will you pick?