The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables
Does My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (4th Estate, 23 January) justify the excited build-up? Yes, I think so. You may well already know that it's the narrative of a 32-year-old woman forced to confront her past when her high school English teacher is accused of abuse. What makes the novel exceptional is Russell's insights into both the lies Vanessa tells herself and the lies that the teacher, Strane, tells himself. Strane is, to this extent, sympathetic, but hateful too - a balance that good fiction can achieve, but that so often leads to misreadings.
I am off this week to the rather lovely Durham Book Festival, where the Festival Laureate is Raymond Antrobus, whom I was lucky enough to meet when he was Poet of the Fair at this year's LBF. I am dipping into his engaging poetry collection The Perseverance (Penned In the Margins) which won this year's Rathbones Folio Prize and the Ted Hughes Award in 2018. Antrobus explores many issues around communication and loss, along with his deafness. If you get the chance to hear him read, as he has done at Glastonbury and elsewhere, do.
While on holiday, I couldn't put down the YA novel Frankly In Love (Penguin) by David Yoon (incidentally, married to Everything, Everything author Nicola Yoon). It's about Frank Li, a Korean-American high school senior who finds himself caught between his parents' traditional views and his own more modern outlook. It's a novel that combines the age-old trope of fake dating that falls into real love with a lot of sincere depth and emotion, along with a realistic and bittersweet ending. Highly recommended.
I've been keen to read the graphic novel Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Vintage) for a long time now, so recently borrowed back the copy I'd given my daughter. Satrapi, aged 10 at the time of the Islamic revolution, depicts her childhood in Iran and then Austria, where she was sent by her parents to keep her safe, and, finally, her return to Iran. The pressures of her teenage years, spent far from family, friends and her beloved homeland, are both exceptional and universal. Fascinating, enlightening and terribly moving, this is a wonderful book about an extraordinary life.
After a lot of history and biography, time for a fiction palate-cleanser. My nippers are going through a horror film phase, so I have been reading them stories from Stephen King's Night Shift (Hodder). I find his full-length novels a struggle, but his short stories are masterly. Two or three of those in Night Shift have been turned into Hollywood feature films, such is the compression of ideas he can achieve. Once read, never forgotten.