Summer books: Seven seriously good reads

29 November 2016 - 09:32 By Tymon Smith, Andrea Nagel

With the holidays around the corner it's time to catch up on reading. This selection of serious fiction will keep you occupied over the coming tribulations of family gatherings and overcrowded beaches.

'Swing Time' by Zadie Smith, published by Hamish & Hamilton

A tale of the friendship between "two brown girls" who meet in a dance class in 1980, Smith's novel marks a return to form and provides the reader with a nuanced and moving look at race and feminism. It's also a compelling story about the shaping of relationships by the force of time which asks the question of how, in spite of the ways we are defined by others, we might work towards finding ourselves. - Tymon Smith

'The Fortunes' by Peter Ho Davies, published by Sceptre

 

Another book which wrestles with the effects of time and questions of identity, this book looks at the fortunes of four Chinese-American characters over 150 years of US history. It's a fascinating and engaging book that tackles big questions about politics and the formation of immigrant identities. - TS

'Here I Am' by Jonathan Safran Foer, published by Hamish Hamilton

 

Safran Foer's third novel is his longest and most ambitious. Eleven years in the writing, it's deeply concerned with the state of a particular urban, intellectual Jewish American life that recalls the work of his contemporary Jonathan Franzen. It's a sometimes solemn examination of a marriage in crisis, and, as always with Safran Foer, loss is central to its themes but it is full of life and a sharp wit . - TS

'The Schooldays of Jesus' by JM Coetzee, published by Harvill Secker

 

The continuation of the story of the strange child introduced to readers in The Childhood of Jesus, Coetzee's latest has a title that you might associate more with a Broadway musical than a heavily philosophical novel. It has divided reviewers, with some withering comments on its heavy-handed ruminations on everything from parenting to passion. Others have seen in it an allegory for our times. - TS

'Autumn' by Ali Smith, published by Penguin

 

The first book of a planned quartet, Autumn is a difficult but intriguing novel. Like many on this list it's concerned with the question of time. It examines the relationship between a young woman and a much older man using dreamscapes and memories and set against the backdrop of Brexit in a unique and captivating style. - TS

'Barkskins' by Annie Proulx, published by Simon & Schuster

 

Proulx has gone the epic route with this 800-page-plus novel that tells the story of the centuries-long destruction of the world's forests. The book follows two French immigrants and their progeny as they exploit the tearing down of the forests for the benefit of the logging and ship-building industries. Essentially, it is an in-depth look at the root causes of climate change as seen through the eyes of one industrial and one indigenous family relying on subsistence for survival. - Andrea Nagel

'Hag-Seed' by Margaret Atwood, published by Hogarth Shakespeare

In this retelling of  Shakespeare's The Tempest, Atwood recasts the title character, Prospero, as Felix, artistic director of an Ontario theatre festival. Felix loses his job to his conniving business partner, Tony, and so he hatches a long-term revenge that involves staging The Tempest with a cast of local prisoners. The book is a witty and clever re-interpretation of Shakespeare's play. - AN

 

BOOK BITES

£119000 - the price paid by an unnamed bidder for a handwritten poem by Anne Frank.

The document is a rare example of Frank's handwriting and was sold in just two minutes last week at the Bubb Krupyer auction house in Haarlem, The Netherlands.

Julian Barnes - the former Man Booker Prize winner says 'I don't agree with opening up the Booker for the Americans. The Americans have got enough prizes of their own.'

The Book Lounge in Cape Town - where Christa Kuljian will be in conversation with Ciraj Rassool at the launch of Kuljian's book 'Darwin's Hunch' tonight at 6pm. - Tymon Smith

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