The Book Of Strange New Things

The Book of Strange New Things

Michel Faber

First Sentence:     “I was going to say something,” he said.

Back of the book:

‘I am with you always, even unto the end of the world…’ Peter Leigh is a missionary called to go on the journey of a lifetime. Leaving behind his beloved wife, Bea, he boards a flight for a remote and unfamiliar land, a place where the locals are hungry for the teachings of the Bible – his ‘book of strange new things’. It is a quest that will challenge Peter’s beliefs, his understanding of the limits of the human body and, most of all, his love for Bea. The Book of Strange New Things is a wildly original tale of adventure, faith and the ties that might hold two people together when they are worlds apart. This momentous novel, Faber’s first since The Crimson Petal and the White, sees him at his expectation-defying best.

Quote from the book:

He remembered how, when he was a kid, he would play with the girl at the end of the street and she’d spray him with the garden hose and he’d jump to avoid it  but get caught anyway, which was the whole point and pleasure of it, Knowing that it would get you, but that you wouldn’t come to harm and you’d love it really.

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The Crimson Petal And The White

Michel-Faber-Crimson-Petal-and-the-White1Michel Faber

First Sentence:    Watch your step.

Back of the book:

‘Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them . . .’

So begins this irresistible voyage into the dark side of Victorian London. Amongst an unforgettable cast of low-lifes, physicians, businessmen and prostitutes, meet our heroine Sugar, a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can. Be prepared for a mesmerising tale of passion, intrigue, ambition and revenge.

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Under The Skin

under-the-skin-

Michel Faber

First Sentence:     Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up.

Back of the book:

Isserley spends most of her time driving. But why is she so interested in picking up hitch-hikers? And why are they always male, well-built and alone? An utterly unpredictable and macabre mystery, Michel Faber’s debut novel is an outstanding piece of fiction that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

Quote from the book:

As soon as he’d entered her car and sat down, Isserley sensed he was trouble. It was as if the laws of physics were unsettled by his presence; as if the electrons in the air were suddenly vibrating faster, until they were ricocheting around the confines of the cabin like crazed invisible insects.

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The Dinner

Herman Koch

First Sentence:    We were going out to dinner.

Back of the book: 

A summer’s evening in Amsterdam and two couples meet at a  fashionable restaurant. Between mouthfuls of food and over the delicate scraping of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of politeness – the banality of work, the triviality of holidays. But the empty words hide a terrible conflict and, with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened…

Each couple has a fifteen-year-old son. Together, the boys have committed a horrifying act, caught on camera, and their grainy images have been beamed into living rooms across the nation; despite a police manhunt, the boys remain unidentified – by everyone except their parents. As the dinner reached its culinary climax, the conversation finally touches on their children and, as civility and friendship disintegrate, each couple shows just how far they are prepared to go to protect those they love.

Quotes from the book:

‘All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,’ is the opening sentence of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

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The Foxes Come at Night

Cees Nooteboom

First Sentence:    I am my own barometer, he said as they stood peering at the barometer.

Before this, the only book of Nooteboom’s I had read was The Following Story. At the time I remember wanting to like The Following Story a lot more than I actually did, and now, years later I can’t for the life of me remember why, or even what it was all about. I was therefore a bit reluctant when I started this collection of short stories but I’m definitely glad I did. In a way this collection could even be read as a novel as there are a lot of recurring characters and the central theme, death, is present in all the stories. For example one story where a character is trying to contact his dead friend is followed by another story written by that friend. After her death. I’m not entirely sure why, but in some ways this book reminded me of Ishiguro’s Nocturnes, another fine collection of short stories which has one theme linking them all, this time music. The story to get the ‘First Sentence Last Sentence’ treatment is the 2nd one and it’s called Thunderstorm. In it a couple witness a tragedy during a thunderstorm and for me it captures the subtleties of human relationships perfectly in just a few brief pages. Throughout this book there are countless re-readable sentences and here’s just one:

There were myriads of stars, more than you ever see here, a whole sea of infinitely distant other worlds, signs, shapes, scrolls in the incredible stillness.

If nothing else, this book makes me want to go back and read The Following Story again. Just to see what I’d make of it now…

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