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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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

murakami cover

 Haruki Murakami

First Sentence:     From July of his sophomore year in college until the following January, all Tsukuru Tazaki could think about was dying.

Back of the book:

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance all of their names contained a colour. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’. Tazaki was the only last name with no colour in it.

One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.

Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

Quote from the book:

Jealousy – at least as far as he understood it from his dream – was the most hopeless prison in the world.

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The Childhood of Jesus

The Childhood of Jesus

J.M. Coetzee

First Sentence:     The man at the gate points them towards a low, sprawling building in the middle distance.

Back of the book:

After crossing oceans, a man and a boy arrive in a new land. Here they are each assigned a name and an age, and held in a camp in the desert while they learn Spanish, the language of their new country. As Simón and David they make their way to the relocation centre in the city of Novilla, where officialdom treats them politely but not necessarily helpfully.

Simón finds a job in a grain wharf. The work is unfamiliar and backbreaking, but he soon warms to his stevedore comrades, who during breaks conduct philosophical dialogues on the dignity of labour, and generally take him to their hearts.

Now he must set about his task of locating the boy’s mother. Though like everyone else who arrives in this new country he seems to be washed clean of all traces of memory, he is convinced he will know her when he sees her. And indeed, while walking with the boy in the countryside Simón catches sight of a woman he is certain is the mother, and persuades her to assume the role.

David’s new mother comes to realise that he is an exceptional child, a bright, dreamy boy with highly unusual ideas about the world. But the school authorities detect a rebellious streak in him and insist he be sent to a special school far away. His mother refuses to yield him up, and it is Simón who must drive the car as the trio flees across the mountains.

Quote from the book:

Everything flows. Did you forget that when you crossed the ocean to come here? The waters of the ocean flow and in flowing they change. You cannot step twice into the same waters. As the fish live in the sea, so we live in time and must change with time.

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Dublinesque

dublinesque

Enrique Vila-Matas

First Sentence:     He belongs to an increasingly rare breed of sophisticated, literary publishers.

Back of the book:

Samuel Riba is about to turn 60. A successful publisher in Barcelona, he has edited many of his generation’s most important authors. But he is increasingly prone to attacks of anxiety – inspired partly by giving up alcohol, and partly by his worries about the future of the book. Looking for distraction, he concocts a spur-of-the-moment trip to Dublin, a city he has never visited but once had a vivid dream about.

Riba sets off for Dublin on the pretext that he wishes to honour James Joyce’s Ulysses, and to hold, on Bloomsday, a funeral for the age of print. But as he and his friends give their orations, a mysterious figure in a mackintosh hovers in the cemetery, looking rather like Joyce’s protégé Samuel Beckett. Is it Beckett, or is it the writer of genius that Riba has spent his whole career trying, and failing, to find? As he ponders this, and other profound questions, he marks a death but makes some illuminating discoveries about life.

Quotes from the book:

[…] this morning he seems condemned to go from Gutenberg to Google and from Google to Gutenberg, moving back and forth between two options, between the world of books and that of the web […]

‘It will be much better if, at the end of everything, sorrow disappears and silence returns.’

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HHhH

Laurent Binet

First Sentence:     Gabčík – that’s his name – really did exist.

Back of the book:     Two men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo. This is Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, chief of the Nazi secret services, ‘the hangman of Prague’, ‘the blond beast’, ‘the most dangerous man in the Third Reich’.

His boss is Heinrich Himmler but everyone in the SS says ‘Himmler’s brain is called Heydrich’, which in German spells HHhH.

All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how do you resist the temptation to make things up?

Quotes from the book:

I just hope that, however bright and blinding the veneer of fiction that covers this fabulous story, you will still be able to see through it to the historical reality that lies behind.

“And just so there’s no confusion, all the dialogues I invent (there won’t be many) will be written like scenes from a play. A stylistic drop in an ocean of reality.”

Through all the years that I carried this story around with me in my head, I never thought of giving it any other title than Operation Anthropoid (and if that’s not the title you see on the cover, you will know that I gave in to the demands of my publisher, who didn’t like it: too SF, too Robert Ludlum, apparently).

“Spring is late and the stubborn snow whispers under his boots.”

The Kindly Ones is simply “Houellebecq does Nazism.”

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