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Whichbook of the week

A personal introduction from a Whichbook reader to a book you may not have met before

Carnivalesque

Carnivalesque

Run into the hall of mirrors and lose yourself for a few hours! This rite-of-passage story has it all: it is eerie and familiar, funny and moving, beautiful and terrifying. All that and a new twist on Irish folklore too.

Posted by Nicole Cornell - more details

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sing, Unburied, Sing

Sad, brutal, tragic, poetic, demanding. Told in separate chapters by members of a black and mixed race Mississippi family; some of whom are ghosts (the 'Unburied' of the title). Whilst it can be read as a history of Southern black suppression, it is much, much more. The relationship of Jojo and his little sister Kayla brings some light relief. Seldom in literature have I encountered such realistic children. A worthy prizewinner and a must read.

Posted by Frances Bell - more details

An Unremarkable Body

An Unremarkable Body

The hook in this moving story is that chapters open with an extract from a postmortem report. Don't be misled into thinking it's a book about death, as it is very much about life. I am not a fan of shouty novels narrated by overwrought characters. Thankfully this was more thoughtful - the fictional equivalent of sifting through a box of family photographs - a reflective and bittersweet experience.

Posted by Wendy Smith - more details

A Kind of Freedom

A Kind of Freedom

I like the way the writer puts an emphasis on hope, family ties and survival. Life for a New Orleans family isn't easy, but Evelyn, her daughter Jackie and Jackie's son T.C. don't let their war- drugs- and racism related problems get the better of them. Written in a cool but at the same time compassionate way this was certainly human story I could relate to.

Posted by Els Willems - more details

The Wangs vs the World

The Wangs vs the World

In a reversal of the usual story of immigrants struggling to integrate, this is a rollicking rags-to-riches-to-rags tragicomedy. The misadventures of a Chinese American family on a coast to coast road trip across America, led by their incorrigible patriarch Charles Wang (who has lost the family fortune and privileged lifestyle in the global recession) makes for a highly entertaining tale of family loyalty and resilience in the face of adversity.

Posted by Anne Horton-Smith - more details

The Golden House

The Golden House

How do stories shape our identity? That's the big question in this tale of a shady tycoon, his sons and a young film-maker during Obama's presidency. But this is a Rushdie book and you can't expect a linear novel with a few twists and turns and a big 'reveal'. Instead, you'll get a meditation on good and evil, the ills of the contemporary world and a plethora of cultural references and word play. For me, a chocolate box to savour. For you?

Posted by Nicole Cornell - more details

The Tobacconist

The Tobacconist

A coming-of-age story with a real difference as country-boy Franz is overwhelmed by both passion and reason after his move to the city. This is a tragic book because the city is Vienna and the year 1938, but it is also the story of Franz's personal triumph told with compassion and understated humour. Highly recommended.

Posted by Rosemary Bullimore - more details

The Rift

The Rift

Families never recover from the disappearance of a child or sibling. Selena's account of the effect of her sister Julies's disappearance on her family is heartbreaking. Julie's return after twenty years and her explanation of where she has been only causes more grief, disbelief and family discord. So don't look for certainties in this brilliant family/SF novel. Although not usually a sci-fi fan, I loved it.

Posted by Frances Bell - more details

Echoland

Echoland

On the cusp of childhood and adolescence, Arvid is on a family visit to Denmark. The wild openess of the coastal landscape reflects his unpredictable emotions and behaviour; generational tensions make adults seem childlike compared to his longings. An existential read indeed!

Posted by Andrew Fitch - more details

Her Body  and Other Parties

Her Body and Other Parties

These are stories about the lives of ordinary women. Lives that are messy. Lives with coping strategies. Lives with sex and disease and the need to survive. Lives where weird things happen as a matter of course and ordinary things are completely strange. Lives without certainty, but lives with hope. Well worth a read. You will learn something about the way some women have to live.

Posted by David Kenvyn - more details

The Man Who Died

The Man Who Died

Nordic Noir? Is it? The Finnish weather is sunny in this story, but don’t let that deceive you. I really felt for Jaako Kaunisma, a chubby thirty-something. Everything is going to the dogs until he takes his short remaining life in hand, while encountering a few bodies along the way. Mainly understated humour - but the dealings with his staff and his competitors made me laugh out loud. And his wife gets her comeuppance. Very satisfying.

Posted by Els Willems - more details

Lea

Lea

A successful middle aged scientist, who has always achieved his goals, relates to a complete stranger he meets in a cafe, the failure in his relationship with his talented musician daughter. The story is told on an atmospheric and brooding car journey through France in winter. The two men discuss careers, relationships, failure and regret. Not a cheerful read but an interesting perspective on the family dynamic.

Posted by Frances Bell - more details

Anna

Anna

Grim but addictive, this dystopia will disturb and move you. In a near future where a virus has killed adults, a girl and her brother struggle to survive. Can they afford the luxury of hope?

Posted by Nicole Cornell - more details

So the Doves

So the Doves

With two timelines in alternating chapters, this is both a murder mystery and a study of how memory can deceive and distort the truth. Revisiting his teenage friendships, whilst investigating a crime in his old home town, a journalist finds his perceptions of the past challenged by the guilt and shame of the memories he had suppressed. The depiction of time and place is very evocative to anyone who has lived through the late eighties.

Posted by Anne Horton-Smith - more details

Secret Passages in a Hillside Town

Secret Passages in a Hillside Town

Just when I thought I was reading more Nordic surrealist fun, life treated as a classic film script as a way of solving mid-life crises, the dangers of resurrecting the past become much more apparent as buried truths and obsessions are unearthed. For readers who, like me, enjoy a challenge.

Posted by Rosemary Bullimore - more details

The Limehouse Golem

The Limehouse Golem

Mid Victorian Music Hall Melodrama, Mayhem and Murder? Or a study of poverty and social awareness? Whichever, nothing, including gender or sexuality, can be taken for granted in this truly engrossing tale. Even London seems to take on a life of its own – pervading the very essence of those living there and determining their actions – for evil and for good.

Posted by Rosemary Bullimore - more details

Elmet

Elmet

Lurking in the pages of Elmet there's a growing menace that quietly prowls. Daniel, the narrator, tells the story of himself, his sister Cathy and the enigmatic Daddy. Never quite fitting in their story is another of a tension and opposition with surrounding society that has grown over time. Rich in its depiction of rural Yorkshire, Elmet is an atmospheric and memorable read.

Posted by Paul Doyle - more details

4321

4321

This is like life lived through quantum theory. There are choices. There are possibilities. There is one character, but with four possible lives. These are reduced by chance and circumstance until there is only one man standing. You will have to make an effort to keep up, to remember which Ferguson is which and what happened to him when. But it is definitely worth the effort. You will enjoy this book, and the writing is astonishingly beautiful.

Posted by David Kenvyn - more details

History of Wolves

History of Wolves

Fitting in is hard enough for any teenager. But, if you live on an old commune in sleepy Minnesota, you'll go to any length, whatever the cost. I was torn between sympathy for Linda and horror at the result of her choice. Shock, revulsion, sadness: you are in for a tough ride and the beauty of the lake setting only adds to the disquiet you will feel.

Posted by Nicole Cornell - more details

Cove

Cove

A story of a man adrift at sea and his battle for survival against the elements is reminiscent of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, but this slim novella reads more like a prose poem with its lyrical imagery, economy of style and stanza-like layout. The shifts of tense and fragmentary thinking-aloud narration evoke the man’s disorientated state of mind, immersing the reader in a stirringly profound experience.

Posted by Anne Horton-Smith - more details