What We're Reading - 15 November 2019

Opinion - Books Friday, 15 November 2019

The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables


Nicholas Clee
Jane Casey is one of the best police procedural writers around. Like her HarperCollins stablemate Susie Steiner (see below), she fleshes out her thriller plots with involving domestic details and sharply observed character portraits. DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent have the classic trait of many detective partnerships: they're the only people in the novels who don't recognise how much they care about other. It's fun to follow. Cruel Acts, Casey's latest, is well up to standard.

Lucy Nathan
I tore through Susie Steiner's next book, Remain Silent, in a day. It was impossible to put down: Manon Bradshaw is my favourite modern detective, and the novel was packed with wit and pathos. There were so many tiny, perfect observations that made the story feel intensely realistic and at times unbearably sad, both in terms of the central plot, which starts when a young migrant is found hanging from a tree, and in terms of Manon's life as she feels the ache of ageing and of her brilliantly written, complicated relationships with her partner and children. Remain Silent comes from Borough Press on 28 May next year.

David Roche
The very nice founder of the Republic of Consciousness Prize, @neilgriffiths, recently tweeted that Mathias Enard was "the most important writer of fiction in the world", so I thought I had better take a look. I decided to ease myself in via his novella Tell Them of Battles, Kings and Elephants (Fitzcarraldo), which is translated from the French by Charlotte Mandell. Enard studied Arabic and Persian, and here he pieces together archive material: Michelangelo is drawn to Constantinople, despite papal disapproval, to succeed where Leonardo da Vinci failed, and design a bridge to cross the Bosporus. I really enjoyed this sojourn, and now will upgrade to Enard's Zone, which Griffiths describes as "the most serious work of fiction of *all time*". Gulp.

Jo Henry
I absolutely loved Ann Patchett's Commonwealth (Bloomsbury), my book club book this month. I had read only one Ann Patchett before, a long time ago, and had forgotten what a brilliant writer she is. The compelling and poignant story of two families intertwined by remarriage; the author paints a forensic picture of the lasting impact on the six children and how, in adulthood, they come to terms with a family tragedy. I really didn't want it to end.

Neill Denny
The news this week that Lionel Barber is giving up the editor's seat at the FT prompted me to remember the last time I met him, at the FT's business book awards last year - and to pick up the winner again. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou (Picador) richly displays the virtues, and the vices, of American business journalism. There is a massive amount of research, an obsession with detail and evidence that starts to overwhelm the narrative - but also the jaw-dropping tale of how a fraudulent Silicon valley start-up burnt through over a billion dollars before anyone noticed. In the end, though, the lack of narrative drive won, I'm rather afraid to say.

Julie Vuong
Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi is a story for book lovers: a memoir of the author's life told via books under the Islamic Republic's rule after the revolution. I'm fascinated to hear that Iran was, in some respects, a much freer society under the Shah: women had far greater rights, and culture blossomed. Nafisi tells the story in chapters each relating to a book - by authors including Nabokov, Austen and James - that she and her class of girls read for her Thursday book club. Though her tone is sometimes too melodramatic, she is obviously a fiercely intelligent woman with an extraordinary story to tell.

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