Eason Book Club – August 2012
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?