Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander, £16.99 Hardback
Seventh Seltzer has done everything he can to break from the traditions of the past, but in his overbearing, narcissistic mother’s last moments, she whispers in his ear the two words he always knew she would: ‘Eat me’. This is not unusual, as the Seltzers are Cannibal-Americans, a once proud and thriving ethnic group, but for Seventh, it raises some serious questions. Of practical concern, she’s six-foot-two and weighs over thirty stone – even divided up between Seventh and his eleven brothers, that’s a lot of red meat. Plus, Second keeps kosher, Ninth is vegan and Sixth is dead. To make matters worse, even if he can wrangle his brothers together for a feast, the Can-Am people have assimilated, and the only living Cannibal who knows how to perform the ancient ritual is their Uncle Ishmael, a far from reliable guide. Beyond the practical, Seventh struggles with the sense of guilt and responsibility he feels – to his mother, to his people and to his unique cultural heritage. A bizarrely enjoyable read, with lots of dark humour. It highlights how we all judge other people for being ‘not like me’, and rarely take the time to understand other cultures in detail. It also raises a lot of questions about how we all relate to death and grief.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro, £20, hardback
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her. When the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. In Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly-changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?
Animal Farm by George Orwell, £8.99 paperback
Mr Jones of Manor Farm is so lazy and drunken that one day he forgets to feed his livestock. The ensuing rebellion under the leadership of the pigs Napoleon and Snowball leads to the animals taking over the farm. Vowing to eliminate the terrible inequities of the farmyard, the renamed Animal Farm is organised to benefit all who walk on four legs. But as time passes, the ideals of the rebellion are corrupted, then forgotten. And something new and unexpected emerges. First published in 1945, Animal Farm – the history of a revolution that went wrong – is George Orwell’s brilliant satire on the corrupting influence of power. I first read this at school and was shocked to realise just how powerful it still is to me. The propaganda sections were hugely so, and still incredibly scary. So glad I read it again.
The Library of the Dead by T L Huchu, £14.99 hardback
Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker – and now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honour bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world. She’ll dice with death as she calls on Zimbabwean magic and Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. In the process, discovering an occult library and some unexpected allies. A really enjoyable read that navigates it dark turns well. Looking forward to the second in the series.
Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner, £12.99 hardback
Helen has it all. Daniel is the perfect husband. Rory is the perfect brother. Serena is the perfect sister-in-law. And Rachel? Rachel is the perfect nightmare. When Helen, finally pregnant after years of tragedy, attends her first antenatal class, she is expecting her loving architect husband to arrive soon after, along with her confident, charming brother Rory and his pregnant wife, the effortlessly beautiful Serena. What she is not expecting is Rachel – brash, unsettling, single mother-to-be who wants to be Helen’s friend. Who wants to get know Helen and her friends and her family. Who wants to know everything about them. A masterfully plotted thriller that is hugely addictive, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Pull of the Stars by by Emma Donoghue, £8.99 paperback
Dublin, 1918. In a country ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city centre, where expectant mothers who have come down with an unfamiliar flu are quarantined together. Into Julia’s regimented world step two outsiders: Doctor Kathleen Lynn, on the run from the police, and a young volunteer helper, Bridie Sweeney. In the darkness and intensity of this tiny ward, over the course of three days, these women change each other’s lives in unexpected ways. They lose patients to this baffling pandemic, but they also shepherd new life into a fearful world. With tireless tenderness and humanity, carers and mothers alike somehow do their impossible work. Again, an addictive read that has real pace and excitement. However, it is quite a tough read. NOT recommended for anyone who is due to have a baby as it’s extremely graphic about the process of childbirth!
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