Relativity

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Antonia Hayes

First Sentence:     Before you hear any words, you can feel the panic.

Back of the book:

A tiny baby is rushed to hospital. Doctors suspect he was shaken by his father, who is later charged and convicted. The baby grows up in the care of his mother. Life goes on.

Twelve years later, Ethan is a singular young boy. Gifted with an innate affinity for physics and astronomy, Ethan sees the world in ways others simply can’t – through a prism of light, time, stars and space.

Ethan is the centre of his mother’s universe. Claire has tried to protect him from finding out what happened when he was a baby. But the older Ethan gets, the more questions he asks about his absent father.

A single handwritten letter is all it takes to set off a dramatic chain of events, pulling both parents back together again into Ethan’s orbit. As the years seem to warp and bend, the past is both relived and revealed anew for each of them.

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The Thief

Fuminori Nakamura

First Sentence:     When I was a kid, I often messed this up.

Back of the book:

Nishimura is a seasoned pickpocket. Anonymous in his tailored suit, he weaves through the crowded Tokyo streets, stealing wallets from strangers so smoothly sometimes even he doesn’t remember the snatch. To him, people are just nameless faces from whom he chooses his victims; he has no family, no friends, no connections . . . But he does have a past, which finally catches up with him when his old partner-in-crime reappears and offers him a job he can’t refuse. It should have been easy: break into an apartment, tie up an old rich man, steal the contents of his safe, no-one gets hurt. But the day after the job, Nishimura learns that the old man was a prominent politician – and that he has been brutally murdered. Suddenly, Nishimura finds himself caught in a tangle so tight that even he might not be able to escape.

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A Visit from the Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan

First Sentence: It began the usual way, in the bathroom of the Lassimo Hotel.

This book has received a lot of coverage lately, annoyingly mostly due to the fact that a certain other novel did not win The 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, as opposed to celebrating the fact that this one actually did. It is one of those novels which has many, many different stories and characters and layers, and it is simply not possible to do it all justice in one short review. Basically, it spans the globe and the decades from New York and San Francisco to Africa, from the ’70s to the near-future. Characters come and go, but it centres on Bennie Salazar, a music mogul, and his PA Sasha. It centres on them and their journeys and the lives they touch. It has the feel of a book that can be enjoyed in bite size pieces or as a full on feast, depending on your mood. Mostly though it is a book about time, and the unavoidable and unpredictable effects of time on every single person in the world. This is summed up nicely by Bosco, an old musician who plans on releasing his final album A to B, and then embarking on a farewell tour until he literally dies on stage. “And that’s the question I want to hit straight on: how did I go from being a rock star to being a fat fuck no one cares about?”. This question is central to the novel and all of the characters ask themselves similar questions at some stage in the book. If you like books with endless characters and narratives that interlace in exciting ways this is worth getting sucked into. And for what it’s worth, I’m glad it won that award instead of that other book.

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