Such Small Hands

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Andres Barba

First Sentence:     Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital.

Back of the book:

Her father died instantly, her mother in the hospital. She has learned to say this flatly and without emotion, the way she says her name (Marina), her doll’s name (also Marina) and her age (seven). Her parents were killed in a car crash and now she lives in the orphanage with the other little girls. But Marina is not like the other little girls. In the curious, hyperreal, feverishly serious world of childhood, Marina and the girls play games of desire and warfare. The daily rituals of playtime, lunchtime and bedtime are charged with a horror; horror is licked by the dark flames of love. When Marina introduces the girls to Marina the Doll, she sets in motion a chain of events from which there can be no release. With shades of Daphne du Maurier, Shirley Jackson, Guillermo Del Toro and Mariana Enriquez, Such Small Hands is a beautifully controlled tour-de-force, a bedtime story to keep readers awake.

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The Nakano Thrift Shop

9781846276002

Hiromi Kawakami

First Sentence:     You know what I mean?

Back of the book:

When Hitomi takes a job on the cash register of a neighbourhood thrift store, she finds herself drawn into a very idiosyncratic community. There is Mr Nakano, an enigmatic ladies’ man with several ex-wives; Masayo, Mr Nakano’s sister, an artist who has never married; and her fellow employee Takeo, a shy but charming young man. Every day, customers from the neighbourhood pass in and out as curios are bought and sold, each one containing its own surprising story. When Hitomi and Takeo begin to fall for one another, they find themselves in the centre of their own drama – and on the edges of many others. A tender and affecting exploration of the mystery that lurks in the ordinary, this novel traces the seemingly imperceptible threads that weave together a community, and the knots that bind us to one another.

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A Meal In Winter

A Meal In Winter

Hubert Mingarelli

First Sentence:     They had rung the iron gong outside and it was still echoing, at first for real in the courtyard, and then, for a longer time, inside our heads.

Back of the book:

One morning, in the dead of winter, three German soldiers are dispatched into the frozen Polish countryside. They have been charged by their commanders to track down and bring back for execution ‘one of them’ – a Jew. Having flushed out the young man hiding in the woods, they decide to rest in an abandoned house before continuing their journey back to the camp. As they prepare food, they are joined by a passing Pole whose outspoken anti-Semitism adds tension to an already charged atmosphere. Before long, the group’s sympathies have splintered as they consider the moral implications of their murderous mission and confront their own consciences to ask themselves: should the Jew be offered food? And, having shared their meal, should he be taken back, or set free?

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Strange Weather in Tokyo

Strange Weather in Tokyo

Hiromi Kawakami

First Sentence:     His full name was Mr Harutsuna Matsumoto, but I called him ‘Sensei’.

Back of the book:

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love. Perfectly constructed, funny, and moving, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

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