I couldn't get a ticket to see Karin Altenberg at last summer's Edinburgh Book Festival and was vexed because I was keen to know more about her novel Island of Wings, set in remote St. Kilda in the 1830s (click there to hear the waves on the shore!), but months on I'm reading the book now. Longlisted for the Orange Prize, it reminds me to some extent of Sarah Moss's terrific Night Waking though Karin's book has no modern day strand and is altogether a more softly-voiced story. Half way through I'm loving it.
Lolly Willowes was first published in 1926 but is "as fresh and powerful today as it was [then]". It is "magical and subversive, anticipating the fiction of Angela Carter and Jeanette Winterson," apparently, and I'm looking forward to discovering its author through this, her first novel, as well as
The Corner That Held Them (1948), the author's own favourite and one of her most popular. Set in a Benedictine community in the fourteenth century, this book is "dense with physical detail and imagined lives".
I'm a fan of D.J. Taylor's books and have had the pleasure of talking to him and getting to know a bit more about the art and craft behind them. Having read and enjoyed At the Chime of a City Clock, set in the seedier parts of 1930s London, I'm glad to have the sequel, Secondhand Daylight, which sees us back with struggling writer James Ross. With a job front-of-house in a Soho nightclub, it's not long before an unfortunate incident puts James in a police cell, but coerced into undercover work by the mysterious Inspector Haversham he then finds himself infiltrating the Chelsea HQ of Mosley's Blackshirts...
Last of this bunch which should take me through the next fortnight is When Hoopoes Go to Heaven by Gaile Parkin, and by the sound of it this should appeal to all of us who are fans of Alexander McCall Smith's Mma Ramotswe books. It features ten-year-old Benedict who lives in Swaziland and who "likes to find ways to make things better" - a worthy occupation indeed, and "in Benedict's wonder-filled world, even the ugliest situation has a certain magic". A warm and funny book which will "restore your faith in humanity". That appeals.