Nutshell

nutshell-1

Ian McEwan

First Sentence:     So here I am, upside down in a woman.

Back of the book: 

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home – a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse – but not with John. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy’s womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

Quotes from the book:

“But here’s life’s most limiting truth—it’s always now, always here, never then and there.”

It’s already clear to me how much of life is forgotten even as it happens. Most of it. The unregarded present spooling away from us, the soft tumble of unremarkable thoughts, the long-neglected miracle of existence. When she’s no longer twenty-eight and pregnant and beautiful, or even free, she won’t remember the way she set down the spoon and the sound it made on slate, the frock she wore today, the touch of her sandal’s thong between her toes, the summer’s warmth, the white noise of the city beyond the house walls, a short burst of birdsong by a closed window. All gone, already.

Thoughts:

A wonderful novel, thoroughly enjoyable.

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Miss Jane

miss-jane

Brad Watson

First Sentence:     You would not think someone so afflicted would or could be cheerful, not prone to melancholy or the miseries.

Back of the book:

Since his award-winning debut collection of stories, Last Days of the Dog-Men, Brad Watson’s work has been as melancholy, witty, strange, and lovely as any in America. Inspired by the true story of his own great-aunt, he explores the life of Miss Jane Chisolm, born in rural, early-twentieth-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect that would stand in the way of the central “uses” for a woman in that time and place – namely, sex and marriage.

From the country doctor who adopts Jane to the hard tactile labor of farm life, from the sensual and erotic world of nature around her to the boy who loved but was forced to leave her, the world of Miss Jane Chisolm is anything but barren. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her still.

Quote from the book:

He stood there until his eyes stopped leaking and dried themselves, stiffening trails down his cheeks he could feel tightening the skin. Such a mortal feeling, this small thing.

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All The Birds In The Sky

all-the-birds

Charlie Jane Anders

First Sentence:     When Patricia was six years old, she found a wounded bird.

Back of the book:

Patricia is a witch who can communicate with animals. Laurence is a mad scientist and inventor of the two-second time machine. As teenagers they gravitate towards one another, sharing in the horrors of growing up weird, but their lives take different paths… When they meet again as adults, Laurence is an engineering genius trying to save the world and live up to his reputation in near-future San Francisco. Meanwhile, Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the magically gifted, working hard to prove herself to her fellow magicians and secretly repair the earth’s ever growing ailments. As they attempt to save our future, Laurence and Patricia’s shared past pulls them back together. And though they come from different worlds, when they collide, the witch and the scientist will discover that maybe they understand each other better than anyone.

Thoughts:

One of those books where the jacket and the quotes all over it (3 more on the back, in addition to the ludicrous Michael Chabon one on the cover, AND two more full pages inside) tricked me into reading it. This is in no way a good book—massively disappointing.

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All We Shall Know

all-we-shall-know

Donal Ryan

First Sentence:     Martin Toppy is the son of a famous traveller and the father of my unborn child.

Back of the book:

Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. Her husband doesn’t take her news too well. She doesn’t want to tell her father yet because he’s a good man and this could break him. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go. What she did to Breedie Flynn all those years ago still haunts her.
It’s a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody’s life.
Donal Ryan’s new novel is breathtaking, vivid, moving and redemptive.

Quotes from the book:

But still he stayed with me, and I was terrified of losing him, and we insisted on marrying each other, and lowering ourselves onto a bed of terrible, scalding, comfortably familiar pain.

‘The story was there all along, in the wheeling stars, in its entirety , the parts already told and all the parts to come, Brailled in dots of light against the black.’

And I’m frightened now that I was such a show, and I’m frightened about what will be said, and I’m frightened about what will reach my father’s ears, and how his heart will speed and slow in worry and fear, and how he’ll want to help but won’t know how, so will stand at the window, and watch the weather, and wait.

Thoughts:

This is my favourite Donal Ryan book so far. There’s a sentence early on in the book (page 18 in the copy I have) that begins  “I could still fly to London and end this […]”. This sentence contains more emotion, is more heartbreaking, and has more substance to it than entire books I have read in the past. It’s too long to reproduce here, but even just for that one sentence this book deserves to be read by anyone who appreciates quality writing. A very fine book indeed.

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The Comet Seekers

the-comet-seekers

Helen Sedgwick

First Sentence:     They arrive on the snow during the last endless day of summer.

Back of the book:

One Day meets The Time Traveler’s Wife in this spellbinding, magical debut novel about love, loss, hope and heartbreak that shows us that for each of us, the world can be as lonely or as beautiful as the comets that illuminate the skies above us.

Róisín and François first meet in the snowy white expanse of Antarctica. And everything changes.

While Róisín grew up in a tiny village in Ireland, ablaze with a passion for science and the skies and for all there is to discover about the world, François was raised by his beautiful young mother, who dreamt of new worlds but was unable to turn her back on her past.

As we loop back through their lives, glimpsing each of them only when a comet is visible in the skies above, we see how their paths cross as they come closer and closer to this moment.

Theirs are stories filled with love and hope and heartbreak, that show how strangers can be connected and ghosts can be real, and the world can be as lonely or as beautiful as the comets themselves.

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