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Category Archive for 'ALL GENRES'

Sleep of Memory, Modiano’s first published work since he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2014, draws together many of his never-revealed, often frightening,memories of his late teens and early twenties, some of them in fragments, which have haunted him from the mid-1960s. It is by far the most intimate picture he has ever given of his life, which feels so real here that it is hard to imagine that is “fictionalized.” He recalls these years as “a time of encounters, in a long-distant past,” admitting that he “was prone back then to a fear of emptiness, like a kind of vertigo.” Mysteries surround his characters, their lives, and their motives, and the sudden disappearance of a young woman is a warning sign that things may not be as they appear. Another woman involves him in a terrifying event for which the terms “amnesty,” “witnesses,” and “statute of limitations” creep into the narrative. People enter, then leave Modiano’s life, and years later, he seeks out some of these people and places still looking for resolution for some of the issues he has faced. Newcomers to Modiano will probably want to start with SUSPENDED SENTENCES, about his childhood, to start familiarizing themselves with Modiano’s work. Those who are already fans will want to start on this one without delay!

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Eric Vuillard’s latest prizewinner opens with the secret arrival of twenty-four wealthy industrialists at the Berlin palace of the President of the Assembly in 1933. When asked by Hermann Goering to donate to the Nazi cause, they do so without hesitation. The Nazi movement grows. Four years later, Hitler is on the verge of entering Austria and taking over. Surprising details emerge throughout this short work which shows how Hitler, an ordinary person with an unalterable goal, could affect the lives of so many other ordinary people through persuasion, fear, and raw power. Guilt, innocence, and ignorance get the full treatment here as Eric Vuillard brings life to the years leading up to the Second World War, and readers will be astonished by the breadth and depth of history which this author achieves within this very compressed work.

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Setting this novel in 1940, 1950, and 1981, with action that moves around within these different time frames, award-winning author Kate Atkinson writes a World War II novel about the Fifth Column and other British sympathizers of Fascism who lived in England during the years leading up to England’s entry into the war. Juliet Armstrong, only eighteen when she is recruited from her job at the BBC, becomes a transcriber of the conversations she overhears in a Dolphin Square apartment as a member of MI5 in 1940. By 1950, many of the characters she has worked with have gone elsewhere and she is back working for the BBC on a TV series when she gets a message, “You will pay for what you did.” In 1981, she is sixty years old, when she has an accident. Each of these sections deals with the themes of illusion and truth, though the 1940s section is, by far, the most vivid. Readers new to Atkinson might want to start with LIFE AFTER LIFE or A GOD IN RUINS to get the full flavor of her style and character development.

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In The Only Story, British author Julian Barnes returns to examine, once again, some of his most encompassing themes. As in his Booker Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending, he writes a “character novel,” in which a main character examines his experiences with love, loss, memory, and time to try to ascertain a grander truth about life, something not affected by immediate emotions, the sentimental memories of the good times, or the tendency to see what one wants to see in the past. Here Barnes examines the intensity of a first love and its effects on main character Paul Roberts’s entire life, emphasizing that no matter what the outcome of such a love is – happy, sad, long-lasting, or brief – that its effects on a life are, in fact, ineradicable. This engrossing and expansive study of two very different characters, creates empathy for Paul as he deals with love’s complexities at the same time that the reader recognizes that Paul Roberts is not alone.

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In Some Trick, a collection of thirteen thoughtful and challenging stories, author Helen DeWitt calls to mind a mood similar to that of her first published novel, The Last Samurai, published in 2000. Short-listed for the prestigious IMPAC Dublin Award, The Last Samurai tells the story of a single mother, Sybilla, as she brings up her genius son Ludo. DeWitt had written fifty novels before she felt comfortable enough with The Last Samurai to submit it for publication, and it was a ground-breaking literary success when it was published in 2000. Lightning Rods, her second novel, eleven years later, was a similar critical success, though less popular. Some Trick examines difficult issues about writing, publishing, an artist’s relationships with the public, the involvement of agents and representatives who sometimes distort an artist’s goals in the name of sales, the dependence of creative scholars on outsiders for professional survival, and the lonely life of a creative artist who will never be fully understood. The stories, darkly satiric and sometimes eerie or bizarre, are also heady, intense, concentrated, and often difficult, and the overall intellectualism of the collection is so weighty that readers unfamiliar with DeWitt would do well to read the more charming and character-driven The Last Samurai first. Some Trick, read leisurely, is a fascinating encore for those, who crave more.

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