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Literary Fiction

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The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont
Publisher: Corsair
Publication Date: Thursday 17 January
IBSN: 9781780338484

New book for the favourite list alert. It was reminiscent of The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which is possibly my favourite book of all time. So, holy Moses, let’s get to it.

The Starboard Sea is a tale of the upper-class elite. The rich kids that, if were English, none of us from the comprehensive school posse would like – a little too close to the bell-ends on Made In Chelsea, perhaps. But the fact that it’s set in the eastern coast of America, gives us just enough distance for an unhealthy and morbid fascination. Cue Jason Prosper, the epitome of the pensive protagonist, a Catcher in the Rye-esque thinker and as the name would suggest he comes from a prosperous background. Son of a high-flying New York Banker and a neurotic mother and brother to a dodgy Dell-boy investor, Jason spends his summer between New York penthouses and summerhouses in Maine, whereas term time was spent at the prestigious Kensington Prep. That was, until he got kicked out.

The reader is, to begin with, shrouded in mystery as to why our hero has faced a scandalous expulsion and is now heading to the illustriously crappy Bellingham Academy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lot fancier than the chewing-gum decorated halls that I used to walk through, but as far as the elite US schools go…it’s scraping the barrel.

Set against the wall street crash of the eighties, the kids knock around at school; sex, drugs and wild parties are a daily occurrence. But our Jason doesn’t quite fit this mold. He has the money and he has the looks (if you squint a bit), but he also has a torn heart, still mourning the suicide of his best-friend, roommate and sailing partner, Cal.

But a new school brings a new start and a new friend with it. Aidan. A troubled girl with unruly hair and a striking face. Tentatively together they attempt to mend each other. Everything is starting to look up until a storm brings a devastating tragedy upon it’s waves.

It’s a story of unlikely friendships and sinister undercurrents. The language is perhaps the most beautifully metaphoric of its kind that I have recently read – each line taking you back to the gentle whirring of the ocean.

Let this story sweep you out to sea.

5/5

Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz
Publisher: Corsair
Publication date: 20 September 2012
IBSN: 9781780338675

I haven’t read a book like this in a long time. It’s a heart-string puller, but not in the annoying way that many chick-lit books attempt to be. It’s truthful, stark and at moments chilling. I’d read Reservation Road by Burnham Schwartz prior to this for an American Modern Fiction lecture at University, and as much as I enjoyed it, it didn’t grab me in the same way that Northwest Corner did.

The book follows five characters’ tales, making up very much one solid story: Dwight, Sam, Ruth, Emma and Penny.

Dwight Arno is a fifty year old man. He works as a manager at a sporting goods shop. His Life seems simple,but it is far from it. 12 years before, Dwight is complicit in a terrible accident and a cover-up which lands him in prison for a substantial amount of time. He lives alone in California, dating a woman who knows nothing of his past and seems unable to move on from his tragedies. He has a son and an ex-wife who he never sees. That is, until one day, Sam turns up on his doorstep.

Sam is in college. Or at least he was. A star athlete with the physical attributes of a lithe, gorgeous god, he is certainly a young man I wouldn’t say no to meeting. But he’s not cocky, he’s not a jock and  he’s certainly not happy. Self-deprecating and broody, he struggles to live with the consequences of his past, a past lain out for him, without any way of him changing it. And then Sam makes his own terrible decision, an in-the-moment devastating act that sends him running to the front door of the man he thought he’d never want to see.

Ruth, the mother and ex-wife. With her own battles, a cancerous attack on her femininity, who is frail in body but strong in mind. Sam is the apple of her eye and her every mood can depend on his smallest of actions. A baseball bat to a stomach sends her world spiraling and memories cascade into her everyday narrative.

Emma, the sister of a killed boy. Spending summer at home helping her mother. A chance meeting with Sam brings their history to the surface.

Penny is Dwight’s lover. It’s not serious and it might already be over before it even really began. But his revelations get her thinking about the future.

I think the reason I was so taken with this book was the use of language. It was absolutely beautiful, lyrical and fluid. It’s a book for those quiet moments, that deafens out the commuters, the trains and the children who won’t stop crying that you’d like to punch in the face.

Breathtaking.

4/5

The Thief by Fuminori Nakamura
Publisher: Corsair
Publication Date: 16th August 2012
IBSN: 9781780339139

This little beauty was my back to work (only after the weekend…it’s not like I’ve been on maternity leave. Can you even imagine.) read and what a quick read it was. A short-feeling 208 pages after a list of much longer books and with its stylish lay out – i.e. missing out loads of pages – I reckon it only came in at about 180.

I’m always a bit wary about reading Japanese translations, I’ve read the odd book that I’ve not identified with at all or the culture has seemed too alien. I’ve also read some that have been fantastic. It can be very hit and miss. I don’t know if it’s just me, but every single one that I’ve read involves prostitution.

Well hello, fantastic. Nice to see you again. This book was stark, snappy, honest and thrilling. It follows a pickpocket who’s cruising through life one rich man’s wallet at a time. His compelling first-person narrative quickly slots itself into your psyche until the anonymity of a thiefing lifestyle doesn’t seem so strange anymore. The thing is, he gets himself into a bit of a sticky situation. One harmless crime too many and now pure danger is nipping at his heels.

The protagonist is smart, likeable and sitting on the oustskirts of the community. But can he get himself out of this pickle? You’d better read it to find out then.

Oh and by the way, I feel like this today:

“Good thing I’m so fluffy.”