Did Jane Austen write the first seaside novel?


This post is by Kathryn Sutherland from Books | The Guardian


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The author visited the new resorts of Lyme Regis and Sidmouth, and is rumoured to have had a holiday romance. Did she also create a new genre with Sanditon, her strange final work?

Sanditon, abandoned unfinished in March 1817, four months before Jane Austen died, is set in a fictional fishing village on the Sussex coast. Here the property speculators Mr Parker and Lady Denham plan an ambitious modern development to rival its longer established neighbours at Brighton, Eastbourne and Worthing. This was not the first time Austen had imagined characters by the sea. Persuasion, finished only months before Sanditon was begun, is set in part in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast. And in her fourth novel, Emma, fretful Mr Woodhouse disputes with his elder daughter Isabella the pros and cons of two resorts for health and sea bathing – South End, on the Thames ...

Expectation by Anna Hope review – intelligent and humane


This post is by Hannah Beckerman from Books | The Guardian


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The disappointed lives of three women add up to high reader satisfaction in Anna Hope’s perceptive new novel

“You must keep hold of your friendships, Lissa. The women. They’re the only thing that will save you in the end.”

Such is the advice a mother gives her daughter in Anna Hope’s profoundly intelligent and humane third novel, Expectation, about the disjunct between the lives we once imagined for ourselves and the lives we end up living.

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Diary of a Somebody by Brian Bilston review – a spoof too far


This post is by Johanna Thomas-Corr from Books | The Guardian


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There’s some clever parody in this comic novel by Twitter’s ‘unofficial poet laureate’, but it’s short on bite and wit

Britain has a rich tradition of literary diarists, from Samuel Pepys and James Boswell to Frances Partridge and Alan Bennett. We also have a rich tradition of spoof diarists, who seem realer than real to many readers: Charles Pooter, Bridget Jones, Adrian Mole.

Brian Bilston falls somewhere between the two. Like Mole, he’s a poet, only a real-life published poet with a large social media following. But Brian Bilston is a pseudonym, the creation of a man named Paul Millicheap, who has now written a fictional diary. While the “real” Bilston is known as “the poet laureate of Twitter” for his minimalist musings on Jeremy Clarkson and Ocado deliveries, fictional Brian is struggling to attract more than 43 tweeple to retweet his daft doggerel. “Beat poets” is one ...

Book clinic: which fiction best depicts therapy and therapists?


This post is by Bijal Shah from Books | The Guardian


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The counsellor and author Bijal Shah recommends novels from the psychiatrist’s chair and beyond

Q: I’m studying to become a therapist. What are the best depictions of therapists and therapy in fiction?
Georgia Smith, 43, North Carolina, US

A: Bijal Shah, a counsellor, ‘book therapist’, author and poet, writes:
Fiction offers thoughtful insight into the conscientious work of therapists. Using the full breadth and depth of the creative licence, client cases are examined in blistering detail. The book that jumps to mind is Irvin D Yalom’s When Nietzsche Wept. A perennial literary guide for both therapists and therapists-in-training, it marries philosophy and psychoanalysis. Modern psychoanalysis founder, Joseph Breuer, attempts to treat the influential philosopher, Nietzsche, who is on the brink of suicide. Breuer, himself, is recovering from a broken heart. They form a therapeutic alliance, each attempting to heal the other’s depression. Yalom’s other notable novels with protagonist therapists, ...

Who Among Us? by Mario Benedetti review – a slippery love triangle


This post is by Jonathan Gibbs from Books | The Guardian


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An enticing novel about love and betrayal from a revered Uruguayan writer whose work is being translated into English at last

Mario Benedetti was a hugely cherished writer in his native Uruguay, amassing a bibliography of some 80 books by the time of his death in 2009, but he was not translated into English until recently. Now Nick Caistor has translated two short, splendid novels, both built around love triangles in which a woman – regretfully, cautiously – leaves her husband for another man.

In Springtime in a Broken Mirror, published last year, that wrench is made more poignant by the fact that the abandoned man is imprisoned abroad, a political prisoner. In Who Among Us? the setup is more straightforward, but still the woman’s choice to leave is a fraught one. Alicia’s 11-year marriage to her childhood sweetheart Miguel has given them two children, but it has faded ...

Colson Whitehead: ‘We have kids in concentration camps. But I have to be hopeful’


This post is by Sukhdev Sandhu from Books | The Guardian


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The Underground Railroad made him a household name. Now the author is back with a ‘Trumpian novel’ – inspired by a horrifying but ignored part of US history

It is the summer of 2019 and Colson Whitehead is sitting in midtown Manhattan thinking back to the birth of his new novel, The Nickel Boys. “It was 2014,” he recalls, “and it was a rough summer in terms of race and police brutality. Michael Brown was shot by a white cop in Ferguson, Missouri. Eric Garner, who was selling bootleg cigarettes in Staten Island, was choked to death by a cop. And no one was being held accountable. No one was being disciplined or going to jail. And then I came across Dozier School.” The Arthur G Dozier school, more formally known as the Florida School for Boys, existed from 1900 to 2011 as a reform institution for ...

Plastic Emotions by Shiromi Pinto review – an architectural romance


This post is by Shahidha Bari from Books | The Guardian


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The richly imagined story of an affair between Le Corbusier and Sri Lanka’s first modernist architect, Minnette de Silva

There’s an air of romance to nearly all the places Shiromi Pinto describes in Plastic Emotions, her novel about a love affair between two great 20th-century architects. Some of those places are tropical and alluring. In Sri Lanka, we head to Kandy with its verdant hills, and then Colombo with its chattering bourgeoisie. In India, Pinto takes us to Chandigarh and its elegantly experimental modernist buildings. Even in Paris and London, we are surrounded by the glamour of bohemians and their postwar parties. But it’s in the mildly prosaic confines of a conference in Bridgwater, Somerset, that the Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier seems first to have collided with a Sri Lankan architect called Minnette de Silva.

It’s there that the illustrious Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne descended in 1947 for a ...

From Ted Hughes to HG Wells: Jeanette Winterson picks the best books about the moon


This post is by Jeanette Winterson from Books | The Guardian


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Fifty years since Apollo 11 landed, the novelist shares her favourite books and poems about Earth’s mysterious satellite

There she is, 239,000 miles from Earth. A lover’s moon, a poet’s moon, a painted moon, made of green cheese, home to the Man in the Moon, visible above the lights of Moscow and Manhattan, Tokyo and London. Hanging as the silent guardian of rivers and woods. Symbol of the mystery of the universe.

None of this has changed since Apollo 11 landed on that broken silent surface 50 years ago. The moon is just as familiar and just as remote. The mythical and magical moon, the lunatic moon that drives men mad, Earth’s moon, lifting tides and raising sap.

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I Am Sovereign by Nicola Barker review – The Author strikes back


This post is by Toby Litt from Books | The Guardian


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A metatextual farce set during a house viewing in Llandudno is a timely critique of political and narrative authority

Nicola Barker is literary royalty. Her last novel, the visionary dystopiaH(a)ppy, won the Goldsmiths prize for innovative fiction. Her territories are large, fertile and expanding. She is Queen of the Hinterlands of Quirk but also Empress of the Quotidian.

Time and again, while reading I Am Sovereign, I thought a detail or name had been invented by Barker because it seemed comically exaggerated. But Adam Wallwork really is the name of a ceramicist known for making wall tiles, and there is a self-help course called How to Silence the Inner Critic Fast by Richard Grannon. This is the particular prank that great comic writing pulls. The reader laughs along with a book but puts it down saying, “That’s just clowning around.” And the moment they walk ...

My Name Is Monster by Katie Hale review – post-apocalyptic debut


This post is by Sandra Newman from Books | The Guardian


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There are fresh and powerful ideas here, but this unusual tale of a mother-daughter relationship fumbles the story

Katie Hale’s debut novel is a post-apocalyptic tale narrated by two female characters, both called Monster. The first Monster is an adult woman who, by her own account, is monstrous because she is a natural solitary, fascinated by how machines and bodies work but hostile to all human contact. She is estranged from her parents, has no sexual desires and wants no friends. When the apocalypse comes, at first she experiences it as freedom: “The three Warhammer geeks I live with have already scuttled home. I spread myself through their empty rooms. I am enormous. I am bigger than the city.” Her mother pleads: “You have nobody – come home.” Monster replies: “I have myself.”

When the book opens, these events are in the past, and Monster is trekking ...

Train Man by Andrew Mulligan review – when life hits the buffers


This post is by Suzi Feay from Books | The Guardian


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Can a lonely bachelor on a suicidal mission be saved by the kindness of strangers?

Up to now “Andy” Mulligan has been known for his imaginative and challenging range of kids’ and young adult novels, including Trash, adapted for cinema, about children in the developing world who live on a rubbish heap, three romps set in the anarchic boarding school Ribblestrop, and a dark fable about mental disorder, The Boy With Two Heads. Train Man is his first foray into adult fiction, and it’s equally readable.

Lonely bachelor Michael has allowed his debts to spiral to the point where he can see no way out other than via the crushing wheels of a train. With his last working credit card and a small amount of cash he sets off, heading for a certain platform where the only person he’s likely to traumatise is the driver. However, the station he’s ...

Andrea Camilleri had the latest, but greatest, career in crime writing | Mark Lawson


This post is by Mark Lawson from Books | The Guardian


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The author, who has died aged 93, was almost 70 when he took up the genre, but his novels are as rich with serious thinking as with thrilling plots

Andrea Camilleri, who has died aged 93, was one of the latest starters and latest finishers in crime fiction.

He was almost 70 – after a rich career as a theatre director, TV producer, playwright and novelist in other genres – when, finding himself stuck on a historical story, he distracted himself by quickly writing a detective story. In a sort of literary European Union, he was influenced by three literary heroes: the Belgian Georges Simenon, creator of Inspector Maigret; Leonardo Sciascia, author of The Day of the Owl, who was a native of Sicily like Camilleri; and the Spanish writer Manuel Vázquez Montalbán.

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Top 10 queer rural books


This post is by Mike Parker from Books | The Guardian


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Sexual freedom is most often associated with the city, but a small but growing canon including EM Forster and Sarah Waters tells a different story

If the countryside appears at all in LGBT+ stories, it is usually only as somewhere to escape from. For many of us, this is a pattern that never fitted, and though we did the urban thing to burst (or tiptoe) from the closet, the lure of the rural soon overwhelmed the anonymity of the city. It didn’t feel like a choice, but something intrinsic that would have been dangerous to resist, like the act of coming out itself.

So it was for George Walton and Reg Mickisch, an elegant couple who met in the postwar rubble of London, and in 1972 headed for the sticks, opening a B&B in a tiny mid-Wales village. They became much-loved members of our thinly scattered community, and great ...

Turkish translation of Paulo Coelho ‘removed mention of Kurdistan’


This post is by Sian Cain from Books | The Guardian


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Publisher and translator express shock that version of Eleven Minutes published in Turkey had reference cut

A Turkish publishing house is pulling its translation of the Brazilian author Paulo Coelho’s Eleven Minutes after readers discovered that the translation had removed a reference to Kurdistan and changed it to the Middle East.

In the English translation of the original Portuguese, Coelho writes: “She went into an internet cafe and discovered that the Kurds came from Kurdistan, a nonexistent country, now divided between Turkey and Iraq.” The Turkish translation changes the second part of the sentence to “it was written on the internet that the Kurds lived in the Middle East.”

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What does Boris Johnson’s terrible novel Seventy-Two Virgins tell us about him?


This post is by Mark Lawson from Books | The Guardian


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It’s sexist, racist fundamentally undiplomatic, and stars a tousled, bicycling Tory MP who believes everything is up for grabs

Boris Johnson’s self-identification as the new Winston Churchill invites widespread scepticism. But, if the member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip forms a government this summer, he will, in one respect, immediately emulate Churchill, and indeed Benjamin Disraeli – as a Conservative prime minister who is also a novelist.

Disraeli had published 14 works of fiction by the time he took the highest office, while Churchill was a one-off novelist – an African adventure yarn, Savrola (1900) – in common with his modern Tory impersonator. Seventy-Two Virgins – A Comedy of Errors came out at the start of September 2004, when Johnson was MP for Henley, shadow arts minister, and simultaneously editor of the Spectator, in contradiction of an apparent undertaking to the then proprietor not to combine the editorship with parliament.

...

Andrea Camilleri, beloved creator of Inspector Montalbano, dies aged 93


This post is by Alison Flood from Books | The Guardian


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One of Italy’s most popular authors, Camilleri wrote 23 novels starring his Sicilian detective, selling more than 30m copies around the world

One of Italy’s most popular authors and creator of the Inspector Montalbano series, Andrea Camilleri has died at the age of 93.

Camilleri, who was born in Sicily in 1925, was taken to hospital in Rome in June after going into cardiac arrest.

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Stand By Me by Wendell Berry review – the soul of Kentucky


This post is by Jane Smiley from Books | The Guardian


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The farmer-environmentalist’s precisely drawn tales about family loyalties span a century of rural life

When you say the word “Kentucky”, most Americans think of long-time Republican senator Mitch McConnell, arguably the man behind the curtain in the present US governmental collapse, as well as of horse racing and tobacco, not necessarily in that order. The octogenarian writer, farmer and environmentalist Wendell Berry, a native Kentuckian who has been hailed as “a prophet” by the New York Times, has a more nuanced view of his home state, and presents it with precision and care in this collection of short stories written over 40 years and centred on a group of (male) friends and relatives in a town near the Kentucky River, a little south of the Ohio border.

The title of Berry’s collection, Stand By Me, reflects his overall theme, which is an exploration, covering about a century, ...

Tips, links and suggestions: what are you reading this week?


This post is by Guardian readers and Sam Jordison from Books | The Guardian


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Your space to discuss the books you are reading and what you think of them

Welcome to this week’s blogpost. Here’s our roundup of your comments and photos from last week.

Good news from Kemster, who is “thoroughly enjoying” Frank Herbert’s Dune:

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Ducks, Newburyport by Lucy Ellmann review – pushes narrative to its limits


This post is by Alex Preston from Books | The Guardian


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An Ohio housewife ruminates on her past in a complex novel made up of ‘just eight near-endless sentences’

The fact that Ducks, Newburyport is 1,020 pages long, the fact that 95% of the novel is made up of just eight near-endless sentences, without paragraph breaks, some of them spooling over more than 100 pages, the fact that most of the novel is a list of statements, separated by commas, that begin with the phrase “the fact that”, the fact that you soon don’t notice the repetition of “the fact that”, the fact that these statements are also punctuated by the seemingly random emanations of the narrator’s mind, the fact that some of these are songs, earworms (Mad Dogs and Englishmen), the fact that I wouldn’t usually mention that Lucy Ellmann is the daughter of Richard Ellmann, the Joyce scholar, because she’s a serious novelist in her own right, but ...