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!
There’s one statement my colleagues at Eason and book club friends have heard me say countless times this year: ‘2012 has been an amazing year for fiction!’ I’ve spent the last few years immersed in the worlds of young adult novels and now feel fully prepared for a dystopian future so I thought it was time to see what the world of general fiction had to offer. I picked up Tigers In Red Weather, brought it on holiday and melted into the glamorous, gin fuelled 40’s, 50’s and 60’s America captured so vividly within the pages.
The debut novel from Liza Klaussmann, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Herman Melville, will undoubtedly travel the world through word-of-mouth recommendations. This haunting story, which sweeps across three decades and is told from the perspectives of five characters, is addictive.
“If there’s one thing you can be sure about in this life, it’s that you won’t always be kissing the right person.” This motherly advice from the affluent Nick Derringer to her misunderstood daughter Daisy sums up the effect that the five main characters have on each other throughout their intertwined lives. We first meet Nick and her close cousin Helena as they are about to embark on their adult lives. Their shared experience of hazy summer days at the Martha’s Vineyard family property The Tiger House has obviously created an unbreakable lifetime bond. While the bond never breaks, the relationship becomes sour as we follow the saga of Helena’s spiral into passiveness and reliance, Nick’s erratic behaviour brought on by the distance between her and her husband Hughes, and the unsettling relationship between Daisy and her cousin Ed. A series of horrifying events make one summer unforgettable for the young cousins. The hazy summer days as seen through a child’s eye are far from comforting and reminded me of the early story in Ian McEwan’s Atonement.
Through extensive attention to everyday detail and the layers of human relationships, Klaussmann has recreated an atmosphere akin to Richard Ford’s Revolutionary Road. But don’t get me wrong, Tigers In Red Weather is fresh and original and stands out for me as one of the best novels I’ve read in 2012.
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann is one of Eason’s Books of the Month for August.