A Good Country

AGC

Laleh Khadivi

First Sentence:     They told him it was the best, there was nothing better.

Back of the book:

Laguna Beach, California, 2010. Alireza Courdee, a fourteen-year-old, straight-A student, takes his first hit of pot. In that moment, he is transformed from the high-achieving son of Iranian immigrants into a happy-go-lucky stoner. He loses his virginity, starts surfing, cuts classes and lies to his father. For the first time, Reza – now Rez – feels like an all-American teen.

Then a terror incident shocks the nation. As fears escalate, his newfound friends withdraw and Rez becomes increasingly isolated, an object of suspicion because of his name and skin colour. Now he can only relate to Arash, a fellow Muslim student, and beautiful Fatima, who starts wearing a hijab and going to the local mosque. Little by little, Reza is drawn into a troubling new world.

Delicately capturing a young man’s alienation and search for identity, A Good Country is an unforgettable modern coming-of-age story. It is also a powerful portrait of the ways in which international events reverberate across the globe, damaging distant lives. Insightful, nuanced and emotionally forceful, it is an important book for our times.

Quotes from the book:

And then it was out of his mouth and he couldn’t take it back. The words smashed around the car like a trapped bird and Fatima drove even faster. She stared at the road and kept both hands on the wheel and Rez wished she would at least turn to him and see that he was sorry.

“They flew through the night, two or three hundred people in rows, each a universe of histories and desires and fears and futures.”

He considered himself, and the way he moved in reaction, like a pinball , from one thing to the next, as he was told, as was expected, as made the least friction, and he knew this was the lazy behaviour of a scared boy.

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A Natural

a-natural

Ross Raisin

First Sentence:     A few drivers had slowed to look up at the side of the coach as it circled the roundabout.

Back of the book:

Tom has always known exactly the person he is going to be. A successful footballer. A man others look up to. Now, though, the bright future he imagined for himself is threatened.

The Premier League academy of his boyhood has let him go. At nineteen, Tom finds himself playing for a tiny club in a town he has never heard of. But as he navigates his isolation and his desperate need for recognition, a sudden and thrilling encounter offers him the promise of an escape, and Tom is forced to question whether he can reconcile his suppressed desires with his dreams of success.

Leah, the captain’s wife, has almost forgotten the dreams she once held, for her career, her marriage. Moving again, as her husband is transferred from club to club, she is lost, disillusioned with where life has taken her.

A Natural delves into the heart of a professional football club: the pressure, the loneliness, the threat of scandal, the fragility of the body and the struggle, on and off the pitch, with conforming to the person that everybody else expects you to be.

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The End We Start From

TEWSF

Megan Hunter

First Sentence:     I am hours from giving birth, from the event I thought would never happen to me, and R has gone ups mountain.

Back of the book:

In the midst of a mysterious environmental crisis, as London is submerged below flood waters, a woman gives birth to her first child, Z. Days later, the family are forced to leave their home in search of safety. As they move from place to place, shelter to shelter, their journey traces both fear and wonder as Z’s small fists grasp at the things he sees, as he grows and stretches, thriving and content against all the odds.

This is a story of new motherhood in a terrifying setting: a familiar world made dangerous and unstable, its people forced to become refugees. Startlingly beautiful, Megan Hunter’s The End We Start From is a gripping novel that paints an imagined future as realistic as it is frightening. And yet, though the country is falling apart around them, this family’s world – of new life and new hope – sings with love.

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Reservoir 13

BOOK Reviews 110015

Jon McGregor

First Sentence:     They gathered in the car park before dawn and waited to be told what to do. 

Back of the book:

Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home.

Meanwhile, there is work that must still be done: cows milked, fences repaired, stone cut, pints poured, beds made, sermons written, a pantomime rehearsed.

The search for the missing girl goes on, but so does everyday life. As it must.

As the seasons unfold there are those who leave the village and those who are pulled back; those who come together or break apart. There are births and deaths; secrets kept and exposed; livelihoods made and lost; small kindnesses and unanticipated betrayals.

Bats hang in the eaves of the church and herons stand sentry in the river; fieldfares flock in the hawthorn trees and badgers and foxes prowl deep in the woods – mating and fighting, hunting and dying.

An extraordinary novel of cumulative power and grace, Reservoir 13 explores the rhythms of the natural world and the repeated human gift for violence, unfolding over thirteen years as the aftershocks of a stranger’s tragedy refuse to subside.

Quote from the book:

He felt as though he were holding the three of them, holding this room, this house. They made him feel at once immensely capable and immensely not up to the task.

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The Forensic Records Society

TFRS

Magnus Mills

First Sentence:     “I saw you!”

Back of the book:

Two men with a passion for vinyl create a society for the appreciation of records. Their aim is simple: to elevate the art of listening by doing so in forensic detail. The society enjoys moderate success in the back room of their local pub, The Half Moon, with other enthusiasts drawn to the initial promise of the weekly gathering.

However, as the club gains popularity, its founder’s uncompromising dogma results in a schism within the movement and soon a counter group forms. Then the arrival of a young woman called Alice further fractures the unity of the vulnerable society. As rifts are forged and gulfs widen, Magnus Mills examines the surreal nature of ordinary lives.

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