Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
Switching between 1962 Italy and 2010 Hollywood the author bridges the timeslips with engaging and moving stories in each setting that link and then interlink. It's a love story, a love letter to Italy, a view on how life seems to race past us and how the decisions we take have long term consequences for us.
It's a lovely read - funny, moving, sad and happy. It features very funny cameo appearances from Richard Burton and other assorted Hollywood stars.
In terms of how much I loved this book - it was on a par with The New Confessions and The Luxury of Exile (both of which you should also read!)
||Power of the Dog by Don Winslow
I don't like to read novels twice but I made the mistake the other day of picking this up when I had nothing on the go to read - and ended up caught up in it again and read it in two days. It is unputdownable.
One one level it is the story of how two lives on opposite sides of the Mexican drug trade intertwine over thirty years. But is's not just that - it comments about love, power, sacrifice, and obesession. And it is a page turner like no other - buy it - it is fantastic.
The Crow Road by Iain Banks
Forget the BBC adaptation of this novel - it's great. Starts with one of the best opening lines of a novel "It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snorning in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach."
Prentice, the narrator, returns to his hometown and dark family secrets and unrequited love. Full of the stories we all have of love won, lost, mistakes made, times enjoyed but only fully realised in retrospect - but does he have a chance to get it all back? A warm duvet of a read, great plotting and something Banks has never bettered. Espedair Street gets near it but the Crow Road is so far away his best book. If you're in your 40s you will get a load of musical references too.
|The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Again – you probably already have this. This novel runs Time Traveller close for second spot in my affections. The book covers a yoiung biy growing up and his dedication to finding out why the author Caraz has disappeared and why all his books are being destroyed. It turns into a rite of passage, discovery of love (and yes, of course, loss), intrigue, mystery, danger and such compelling side stories.
It is set in Barcelona - which is lovingly described. The characters are engaging and vivid and the writing is beautiful. No matter how exciting the book is - and it is truly wonderful - I found myself deliberately reading slowly towards the end because I just didn't want to finish it. I spotted another holidaymaker reading it in German - and I had to go up to her to talk about it even though I don't speak German - that's how much you get to love it. And yes, "is gut!"
|Girflriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland
Wow - what a story! What a great idea. 1979 and an 18 year old girl falls into a coma which lasts 17 years. When she wakes up she sees her friends and what they have become - and sees it all through the optimistic and fun eyes of an 18 year old. She sees how everyone is now so busy and crazy on gadgets that they have forgotten the dreams and time they had for other things when they were younger.
Have they done the things they wanted to do or has time drifted and their dreams with it? And what has she seen on the other side? Add to this that she was pregnant when she fell into a coma and was delivered of a daughter and you have quite a few questions going on. How she relates to the daughter who is now as old as she was when she went into a coma so she feels more like a sister than a daughter.
The 'other side' then comes into play in the second half of the book. It's funny and sad and maybe ultimately optimistic. Certainly thought-provoking and an incredible read. I read all hos other books and this is definitely my fave.
|The Villa Triste by Lucretia Grindle
The Villa Triste was in fact the Gestapo HQ in Florence. The story switches from the war to the present with an interweaving story concerning two sisters. In the present day Inspector Pallioti finds himself investigating the muder of a partisan hero and ends up leading two investigations - the official one of a modern day murder, and the real centre of the book - an unofficial one into what went on with the partisans in the war and who betrayed them.
Manages to capture the mood of both eras really well and her further novels concerning Pallioti are well worth reading too. Very satisying read.
by Jason Webster
A year spent in search of 'duende' - the spiritual state that the best flamenco engenders.
The author travels from struggling with guitar lessons to forming part of a travelling gypsy flamenco troupe. I know he had the lessons because my brother also had lessons from his guitar teacher who I think gave him some of the stories (but no credit, no sour grapes there then).
Sure you can see how Webster romaticises his own journey, spiritual and geographical and maybe waxes a little too lyrical - but for all that it's a decent insight into a world most of us know just through tacky Hotel floorshows. I liked it.
||A Small Death in Lisbon by Robert Wilson
Winner of the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger (a reliable award imho) this is a captivating read where you get inside the steamy word of spies and diplomacy in wartime Lisbon. Again a timeslip novel - because the story unfolds from a modern day murder in Lisbon and mazes its way back into how one of its major banks was established and back to the war. There is love, romance, betrayal, ambition - and everything youi need for a great novel!
||The Luxury of
Exile by Louis Buss
Alright - I confess - this is my favourite novel of all time.
Why? It's a story of love and loss and moments that just come alive
and live with you forever. The story of a 40 something Antiques
Dealer whose wife leaves him prompting him to go on an odyssey to find
Byron's Diary in Naples - but really the journey is about finding out what
life is about, what's important to you, feeling all the sensation and
beauty that life can bring. It's a great read but leaves you with so
Again - out of print but do track ti down - you will be happy you did and amazed it is out of print.
Confessions by William Boyd
Is the "autobiography" of John James Todd which takes you
through the whole of the 20th Century from the 1st world war, the glamour
and grime of Hollywood, inter-war Berlin and so much more.
course the main character never existed but after reading this book you
won't be able to believe that. An uplifting book - when you turn the
last page you really will be sad! And then you will buy Any Human Heart - which is nearly as good, and then anything else Boyd has written. I especially recommend his short stories.
The New Confessions is outrageous, extraordinary, hilarious and heartbreaking.
||Sacred Hunger by
Tracing the history of a Slave Ship in the 18th Century and the lives of
two very different brothers, one who owns it and one who ends up working
on it. It's like Roots but
better. Heart rendingly sad and beautiful too. This is a book
that is truly extraordinary. It won the Booker Prize and is readable
I know I know - it sounds a bnit heavy to take on holiday - it isn't. It is easy to read and really moving.
Your life will be better for reading this and again, you will
not be able to put it down.
||Essays in Love by Alain de Botton
Want to know why you fall in love? And why you act the crazy way you do when you do fall in love? Or have a friend who is going bonkers? Or unsure whether you will ever fall in love again? Well this book has some answers. Tells the story on the one hand of a love affair from beginning to end - and at the same time - deconstructs what is going on in his mind as he does it. Hilarious - you will see yourself in so much of this. The sentences are beautifully formed and so much rings true. I have probably bought this book for about five people in the last year. Don't miss out. It's a short, easy read but leaves you thinking long after you have turned the last page. And does love exist? Is it real? You'll have to read it to find out.