What We're Reading - 24 January 2020

Lucy Nathan
Opinion - Books Friday, 24 January 2020

The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables


Jo Henry
I'm deep in helping judge the adult fiction Selfies entries at this time of year, and have been enjoying books set in the West Country (with dodgy estate agent), a girls' boarding school (with dodgy librarian), Anglo-Saxon England, 13th century France, a mysterious government research station in Scotland and many, many more. Our shortlists will be revealed early next month, so I look forward to sharing my favourites with everyone soon!

David Roche
Pajtim Statovci is a Finnish/Kosovan author who started making waves when his first novel My Cat Yugoslavia won the prestigious (in Finland, at least) Helsingin Sanomat Literature Prize for debut fiction, and was also adapted for the Finnish National Theatre. His second novel, Crossing (Pushkin Press), is the story of 2 boys who flee from Albania and travel across borders to different countries, and differing levels of acceptance and intolerance, taking in Rome, New York and Helsinki along the way. I am not qualified to judge the accuracy of David Hackston's translation but I really enjoyed the humour and character of the first-person protagonist, Bujar, whose resilience and wit in overcoming harsh travails along the way is made artful.

Nicholas Clee
I worked with Elly Griffiths (Domenica de Rosa, as she was then) at the Bookseller, and have been excited to observe her successes as a novelist. She does so well, I think, because she writes fiction that reflects her personality: engaging, observant, funny. To these she adds intellectual curiosity and a gift for conveying atmosphere. All these qualities make her series about archaeologist Ruth Galloway addictive, and are to the fore again in The Lantern Men (Quercus, 6 February).

Lucy Nathan
I've spent this week reading YA - I tore through Karen McManus's new mystery novel, One Of Us Is Next (Penguin), and I thought that Loveboat, Taipei, by Abigail Hing Wen (Simon & Schuster) was a really gorgeous romance about culture, family pressures, and finding one's own path in life. I also really enjoyed The Lady Rogue by Jenn Bennett (Simon & Schuster) - she is by far one of my favourite YA authors and although the fantasy and adventure of this book was a departure from the other books of hers that I've read, I loved it. I've also been reading the children's fiction entries for the Selfies and have been utterly charmed by each one.

Julie Vuong
I've lost count of the number of times I've read The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (Vintage). This time I felt the urge to pick it up while reading Lennie Goodings' brilliant forthcoming memoir A Bite of the Apple (OUP, out Feb) in which she talks fondly of publishing Carter's work. This collection of dark fairy-tales features perhaps my favourite short story ever: The Werewolf. It's brutal, beautiful and done with effortless brevity.

Neill Denny
As I expected Iain Ballantyne's The Deadly Trade (W&N) is more than a week's worth of reading, for me at least, but it is rewarding stuff. Ballantyne's level of detail and scope are quite something, and despite the inevitable concentration on the two World Wars and the Cold War, he finds time for more peripheral conflicts such as the American Civil War and The Falklands - in which he backs the decision to sink the Belgrano.

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