Friday, 18 February 2011


A couple of brief updates this week on authors I have featured previously.  Joe Abercrombie has published The Heroes, his fifth novel.  He did an extensive UK tour, and he is a generous signer, so there have been plenty of signed, lined and dated copies available via ebay (where I got mine). Waterstones in the UK had an exclusive first edition with an additional short story, and I think this should be the edition of choice. Prices of his earlier books also updated - these have continued to climb since I wrote the original entry, and the first two in particular now have significant value.
Meanwhile, Simon Scarrow has published his first novel aimed at young adults - Gladiator, Fight for Freedom.  This is the first in a series, published both as a hardcover and paperback.  A limited collectors' edition is available from the authors website. Profits go to charity. 

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Book of the Week - Anthony Quinn, Half of the Human Race

Half of the Human Race is the second novel of Liverpool born author Anthony Quinn. Quinn moved to London in 1986 and has written about film and books for a number of newspapers and magazines, including The Independent, Daily Telegraph, New York Times and Mail on Sunday. For three years he was the arts editor at Harpers & Queens. Since 1998 he has been film critic of The Independent. In 2006 he was one of the judges of the Man Booker Prize. His first novel (Rescue Man, 2009, set in Liverpool during the blitz)  won a number of awards, including the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award. Half of the Human Race is set earlier in the 20th century against the background of the suffragette movement and cricket. An unusual combination, but positive reviews suggest that this book may do well.

“London. In the sweltering summer of 1911, the streets ring to the cheers for a new king’s coronation, and to the cries of suffragist women marching for the vote. One of them is twenty-one-year-old Connie Callaway, daughter of a middle-class Islington family fallen on hard times since the death of her father. Forced to abandon her dream of a medical career, Connie is now faced with another hard choice - to maintain lawful protest against an intransigent government or to join the glass-breaking militants in 'the greatest cause the world has ever known'.

Holidaying with her family on the South Coast, Connie is introduced to Will Maitland, cricketer and rising star of his county. Despite their mutual attraction, they part on unfriendly terms, she dismayed by his innate chauvinism, he astonished by her outspokenness. Yet they are destined to meet again, their lives inextricably entangled in the fate of Will’s friend and idol Andrew Tamburlain, 'The Great Tam', a former Test batsman whose legendary big hitting was once the toast of the nation.
Duty plays a commanding part in the life of these two young people, whose love for one another, in a different time, might have bound them in matrimony. But Connie, fired up by the possibilities of independence, wants more than the conventional comforts of marriage; and Will, a son of his age and class, is both attracted and appalled by her quest for self-fulfilment. Buffeted and spun by choice and chance, the two remain tied together, even as the outbreak of war drives them further apart.

Combining national drama and private tragedy, Half of The Human Race is a book about men and women and their difficulties in understanding each other at a turning-point in history. It is a deeply affecting story of love, sacrifice, suffrage and county cricket, projected against a vivid backdrop of England in an extraordinary age of turmoil and violence.”

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Book of the Week - Nicole Krauss, Great House

Great House is the third novel by Nicole Krauss; the UK edition has just appeared, although it was published in the US in October 2010. I greatly enjoyed her previous novel (The History of Love), which was shortlisted for the Orange Prize – it also won the William Saroyan International Prize for Writing, France’s Prix du Meilleur Livre Ėtranger, was named #1 book of the year by, and was short-listed for the Médicis and Femina prizes. Her first novel, Man Walks Into a Room, was previously a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award for First Fiction. In 2007, she was selected as one of Granta’s Best Young American Novelists, and in 2010 The New Yorker named her one of the 20 best writers under 40. Krauss married novelist Jonathan Safran Foer in 2004, and currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. Great House did very well in the US, and is certainly worth picking up.

“For twenty-five years, a reclusive American novelist has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer’s life reeling. Across the ocean, in the leafy suburbs of London, a man caring for his dying wife discovers, among her papers, a lock of hair that unravels a terrible secret. In Jerusalem, an antiques dealer slowly reassembles his father’s study, plundered by the Nazis in Budapest in 1944.

Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away. As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.

Great House is a story haunted by questions: What do we pass on to our children and how do they absorb our dreams and losses? How do we respond to disappearance, destruction, and change?

Nicole Krauss has written a soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.”