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Whichbook of the week

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

The Natural Way of Things

The Natural Way of Things

Disturbing and extraordinary, this story provokes more questions than it answers. Dealing with misogyny, sex scandals and punishment, nobody is particularly likeable and yet the book is incredibly readable. The writing is poetic, even in the most unsettling situations, & it makes you think about feminism and the position of women in society. The lack of a satisfying resolution left me angry, which I felt was exactly the author’s intention.

Posted by Ruth Ng - more details

The Empress and the Cake

The Empress and the Cake

What a bizarre & disturbing read - but increasing addictive and impossible to look away. A seemingly innocent act of hospitality by an elderly lady towards a young woman she meets in a bakery slowly reveals itself to be something much more sinister. This tiny novel packs a powerful punch of sickening excess, freakish horror & uncomfortable laughter. The dual narrative bounces the reader between centuries - cranking up the surreal to full pitch.

Posted by Fiona Edwards - more details

The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer

If you are of mixed race, you may feel you sit between two worlds. And if your country is torn apart by war, which side do you choose? This dilemma is at the heart of a story of impossibly tested friendships. Told with wry humour, it is nevertheless gut-wrenching and disturbing.

Posted by Nicole Cornell - more details

A Country Road, A Tree

A Country Road, A Tree

A fictionalised version of Irish author Samuel Becket's time spent in France during WW2 and his activities with the Resistance. The writing is very quiet and powerful with minimal emphasis on the action which seems to mirror Becket's character perfectly. Some horrific scenes of the devastation and retribution of war – but at the same time, beautifully atmospheric. I loved it.

Posted by Frances Bell - more details

The Winterlings

The Winterlings

Graphic, gothic and often gruesome – this has the timeless feel of a folk tale. A rural village in Galicia is the setting for the return from exile of two sisters after the Spanish civil war. Superstition and intrigue hint at a violent and sinister past among the local cast of eccentrics and grotesques, adding to the air of unease and foreboding. Though reminiscent of a Brothers Grimm story, this surreal tragicomedy is one for adults only.

Posted by Anne Horton-Smith - more details

The Last of Us

The Last of Us

At first glance this apocalyptic story seems like many others of its genre, but is told from the perspective of a young girl. One of only five children left alive, Rona struggles to make sense of what has happened. The remote island setting intensifies the feeling of isolation and the shifting dynamics of the small group of survivors is very realistically portrayed. Visually chilling, this book would also appeal to young adult readers.

Posted by Wendy Smith - more details

Sudden Death

Sudden Death

Blackly, brutally funny take on sixteenth century Europe. Art and power epitomised in Cortez's conquests and the Counter-Reformation, as imagined through a game of tennis. It sounds mad but is really gripping stuff - unless you hate magical realism.

Posted by Rosemary Bullimore - more details

The Seed Collectors

The Seed Collectors

This is a marmite-kind of a book. If you love eccentric characters, a basketful of ideas, plenty of tangents in the narrative and whacky humour, you will love it. If not, you might struggle to know who is who and what it is all about!

Posted by Nicole Cornell - more details

Addlands

Addlands

From 1941 to 2011, three generations of the Hamer family eke out an existence in the Radnorshire hills. But this is not a tale of epic hardships and their brutalising effect on relationships, rather the beauty of land and humanity in symbiosis, observed with a crystal objectivity and delight in the detail of nature and personalities.

Posted by Andrew Fitch - more details

Black Wave

Black Wave

This heady mix of memoir and metafiction takes us from the slacker counterculture of nineties San Francisco to a near-future dystopian Los Angeles, with the world on the brink of environmental apocalypse. Alienation, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity and self-loathing feature heavily, so don’t expect a cosy feel-good trip. This is hardcore entertainment - funny, fearless, insightful and mind-blowing.

Posted by Anne Horton-Smith - more details

Feeding Time

Feeding Time

The residents of Green Oaks Residential Home for the elderly decide to take their destiny (what little is left) into their own hands. A good mixture of characters with only their advanced years in common. The Care Home staff, especially the manager, are the deranged ones. The extraordinary, but also imaginary, wartime diaries of resident Captain Ruggles regularly interrupts the story line. An interesting and uplifting debut novel.

Posted by Frances Bell - more details

Turning Blue

Turning Blue

There is no hiding place from a shady web of depravity and sleaze as the story progresses from bizarre and creepy to alarming and sinister with a feeling of unease invading every page, although all this grim horror is balanced with beautiful, descriptive prose and vivid detail of the Yorkshire landscape. This vision of rural noir is not for the easily offended as you are pushed beyond sympathy to a state of bewildered anger.

Posted by Richard Ashman - more details

All Embracing & Other Stories

All Embracing & Other Stories

This is a truly wonderful, perceptive, human collection of short stories. Dave Pescod has a skill in the use of descriptive language that leaves you in no doubt whatsoever about what he wanted to tell you. In that, his writing is extraordinary. But these stories are also witty and heartwarming. Settle back for a treat.

Posted by David Kenvyn - more details

Viral

Viral

This is the only book I've ever read where the first six words made me audibly gasp, 'I sucked twelve cocks in Magaluf'. What an opening! It certainly made me want to read on. It was good to read a book so currently 'on topic' where the subject matter of social media affects all. Hidden behind PCs, so many of us are tempted to expose ourselves on social media without thinking of the ultimate cost it may make to our lives.

Posted by Karen Pugh - more details

Lily and the Octopus

Lily and the Octopus

Part memoir, part magical realism, this poignant account of the bond between a neurotic dog owner and his loveable dachshund is hard to resist, especially for any dog lovers out there. As well as a moving tribute to man’s best friend, it has a lot to say about living in the present, coping with grief and how to relate meaningfully to others. Although a very emotional read, it manages to be both amusing and cathartic at the same time.

Posted by Anne Horton-Smith - more details

The Good Guy

The Good Guy

Abigail's neighbours think her husband Ted is a good guy because he washes the dishes and folds the laundry. Frankly, he's a bit of a pillock, but I couldn't help other than like him. I loved the retro feel of this novel, the period details are top-notch - all the trappings of 1960's suburban life are there. Although this is a book with a sad story at its heart, it is alleviated with snappy dialogue and moments of laugh out loud humour.

Posted by Wendy Smith - more details

Noontide Toll

Noontide Toll

Reading this book was a very sensuous experience - it constantly called on my emotions as secrets unfolded from the past. I found it to be a sombre story that kept its warmth with moments of wit and the reassuring, sage-like counsel of the central character. I was held spellbound by the deep insights into human truths and the beautiful depiction of Sri Lanka

Posted by Laura Bell - more details

Tregian's Ground

Tregian's Ground

Religious intolerance wrecks lives ... a contemporary tale? No, this is Renaissance Europe. It teems with life: from weavers to lords and from Shakespeare to Monteverdi. Follow the footsteps of the unconventional Tregian, nobleman, musician and spy and listen to the lessons of the past.

Posted by Nicole Cornell - more details

Break in Case of Emergency

Break in Case of Emergency

The age-old problem of trying to ‘have it all’ bedevil our thirty-something heroine as she juggles the roles of wife, employee and best friend, while confronting the issue of a fertility ticking-time bomb. This biting satire will strike many a chord with anyone who has ever worked in an all-female workplace, with bitchy bosses and undermining colleagues.

Posted by Anne Horton-Smith - more details

These are the Names

These are the Names

Don't be discouraged by a grim story of refugees, trekking through the steppe in the bleak atmosphere of the post Soviet empire. It's an Exodus of sorts, without Moses but with a dash of deadly humour. Everyone is on a journey whether settled in town or an alien, and parallel lines collide when the migrants meet a police officer on his own spiritual quest. Can any of them, including the policeman, be saved? We can always hope.

Posted by Anne Jones - more details