The Longest Night by Otto De Kat

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This is an exquisite novel, translated from the Dutch original. The central character is Emma Verweij and she is a woman of 96 facing her own death, while looking back over her long and eventful life. The writing is superb, with not a superfluous word to be found. Reading this achingly sad and deeply moving book was in a paradoxical way a pure pleasure. It was akin to meditation, as the author draws us in to the inner world of Emma as the key elements and turning points of her life are revealed. The story unfolds in a cinematic series of memories as they come to Emma, as she prepares to let go of everything. This novel does not deal in graphic images or torturous long winded descriptions of the horrors of war, but rather it distils the essence of what happened and illustrates impact on those caught up in war with telling little details and suggestions rather than bold statements.

To read “The Longest Night” is to engage with our own attitudes to life, relationships and suffering. If this sounds gloomy, it isn’t, instead it’s uplifting and life affirming. The cultural context of the Dutch attitude to end of life decisions was a bit difficult and challenging for me but other than that, I thought this a beautiful read. It has given me more insight into the effects of the Second World War on those who lived through it than any amount of factual accounts.

Do yourself a favour and give yourself the gift of this wonderful little (200pages) novel. You will be changed.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue online here.

Foster by Claire Keegan

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It is a hot summer in Rural Ireland. A small girl is taken by her father and sent to live with strangers on a farm in Wexford. She does not know when/if she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And in this house where affection grows and there are meant to be no secrets- a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realises how fragile her idyll is.

This book is beautifully written; sad , melancholy and moving. It is a story of longing to belong. It is short, only 87 pages, but it still won the Davy Byrnes award and I would gladly have read more.

Recommended!

[Editor’s Note: Another contributor reviewed this on the blog before here]

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Kingdom of Strangers by Zoe Ferraris

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Katya Hijazi is one of the only women in the police force in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She actually works in the lab in forensics but her dream is to be an investigator. Through a combination of hard work, being in the right place at the right time and doing some investigating out of hours Katya is allowed assist in a case involving a serial killer who has murdered at least nineteen women. Inspector Ibrahim Zahrnai is the lead detective on the case, more women start to go missing including the detective’s mistress, Sabria and the disappearances are linked to the serial murders. Adultery is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and Zahrani has to take Katya into his confidence if he is to find the culprit. Time is of the essence as the kidnapped women could still be alive

I always find novels based in different countries very interesting. Being set in Saudi Arabia, there are lots of cultural references which gives an insight into life there and lots of different customs and traditions. There are several twists in the plot which will keep you guessing until the end.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

The Green Road by Anne Enright

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Anne Enright proves, yet again, that she is a writer of immense talent. This novel is set in rural Ireland, in the 1980s and 2000s. We are brought into the lives of the Madigan children It is a work of savage honesty and emotional intensity.

I was hooked from the first page, by the story of the dysfunctional Madigan siblings. Constance, Hannah, Dan and Emmet. The power of the story lies in the recognition we feel in certain aspects of the characters, there were lots of moments when the writing took my breath away, as I could connect what was happening in the narrative with aspects of people I knew.

Enright charts the lives of the children as they emerge to adulthood, forever overshadowed by the forceful, unpredictable personality of their mother. I thought the New York section of the story was very affecting and tenderly portrayed the Gay community in that city. For Enright, the past is not “a foreign country”, as L P Hartley put it, but rather it is alive and well and recognisable in the present, in the learned patterns of relating absorbed in the childhood home. The patterns of childhood are replicated in adult life.

I did not want this book to end and I was left thirsting to find out more about the Madigans, yet knowing that this novel is a work complete in itself. Anne Enright is an Irish writer to be treasured for her talent, her searing honesty and her ability to draw us into a story with the power of her writing. I highly recommend this novel.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Vigilante by Jessica Gadziala

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Since day one of hearing about Luce I’ve wanted his story. I’ve wanted to know what was behind the dark, sexy vigilante. This story was fantastic, I couldn’t put it down. I just love when Jessica goes Dark, and dark she went with Vigilante!

This is a standalone story, but like most of Jessica’s books we get glimpses of Navesink Bank. Which is always enjoyable. The storyline blew my mind and it was all go from the first one word of this book. Ev’s is a kick ass character. She is fearless and one thing I love out of my leading ladies is a strong fearless woman!

Yes, pick this book up you won’t regret it!

What Was Promised by Tobias Hill

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A remarkable story set in a very bleak post war London. Unlike most books which romanticise this  period in British History, this book takes a different approach.  People were still practically starving and the capitol was in ruins – there’s nothing remotely glamorous about children playing in dangerous bomb sites orphans living rough.

Hill tells the story of native Londoners , Jewish immigrants,  immigrants from former British colonies, against a background of the London Markets.  colourful Petticoat lane and the bleak existence of the costermongers.  Very poignant with a strange not-altogether satisfying ending.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Titles #120

it can't happen here
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
‘An eerily prescient foreshadowing of current affairs’ Guardian

‘Not only Lewis’s most important book but one of the most important books ever produced in the United States’ New Yorker

A vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant, fearmongering demagogue runs for President of the United States – and wins. Sinclair Lewis’s chilling 1935 bestseller is the story of Buzz Windrip, ‘Professional Common Man’, who promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous once more, but takes the country down a far darker path. As the new regime slides into authoritarianism, newspaper editor Doremus Jessop can’t believe it will last – but is he right? This cautionary tale of liberal complacency in the face of populist tyranny shows it really can happen here.

Brilliant Book Titles #116

love letters angels
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb:
A breathtaking literary debut, Love Letters of the Angels of Death begins as a young couple discover the remains of his mother in her mobile home. The rest of the family fall back, leaving them to reckon with the messy, unexpected death. By the time the burial is over, they understand this will always be their role: to liaise with death on behalf of people they love. They are living angels of death. All the major events in their lives births, medical emergencies, a move to a northern boomtown, the theft of a veteran s headstone are viewed from this ambivalent angle. In this shadowy place, their lives unfold: fleeting moments, ordinary occasions, yet on the brink of otherworldliness. In spare, heart-stopping prose, the transient joys, fears, hopes and heartbreaks of love, marriage, and parenthood are revealed through the lens of the eternal, unfolding within the course of natural life. This is a novel for everyone who has ever been happily married — and for everyone who would like to be.

Barkskins by Annie Proulx

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Real vintage Proulx , spanning centuries and telling the story of the destruction of the forests and ecosystem of Canada and north America.

Using a device she used in Accordion Crimes  she follows two families across the centuries.  It’s not an easy read and it’s very sad although it does end on a slightly hopeful note for the world we inhabit. It is very well researched as you would expect and very interesting culturally both European and Native American. It took me a while to read because of the breadth and sheer  numbers of characters but I was glad I persevered.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

The Night We Met by Rob Byrnes

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You’ve heard the term ‘romp,’ right? That describes this book perfectly.

Andrew is a book editor who’s managed to publish two novels to absolutely zero notice and no acclaim. Frank is a gangster, who has just opened a new gay bar called Benedick’s (which throughout is constantly mispronounced by people as Benedict’s, perhaps so they don’t have to realise that the original name, well, Frank is Italian and ‘bene’ in Italian means ‘good…). After being harangued into drag for the first time on Halloween, he stumbles through the wrong door in Benedick’s and meets Frank. They have a lovely evening, but of course, Frank is straight, right?

Well, kinda.

What follows is a madcap rollercoaster romp including book tours, gangsters with names like Crazy Anna Franco (who just happens to be Frank’s fianceé) and Big Pauline Macaroni. Andrew’s hum-drum life is completely turned upside and he ends up on the run from the cops, two families of gangsters, the FBI and the grande dame of literary crime. It’s ridiculous at times but it’s that kind of book. The book has the great supporting characters of Denise and David, Andrew’s two best friends who throughout are trying to talk sense into Andrew and make him drop Frank who has, intentionally or otherwise, completely wrecked his life. But Andrew can’t, he’s in love, and having been recently dumped at the start of the book, he never thought he’d find it again.

With shades of Armistead Maupin, this book is the right blend of clever and silly, and had me reading to the very end, and even had me worried if Andrew and Frank would get their Happily Ever After.

(Postscript: I absolutely hate the cover, and the blurb on the back is pretty crap too. It was a friend’s review that actually spurred me onto read this – I don’t think I would’ve picked it up, so it just goes to show important reviews can be *koffkoff*)