Elena Ferrante, the mysterious Italian author whose identity remains closely guarded, has been gaining increasing attention in the book world – and her popularity is certainly justified. Her novel, The Days of Abandonment written in 2002, is the hard-hitting, detailed account of the period after Olga’s husband announces he is leaving her. It is a raw, unsentimental depiction of loss of family and loss of self, written with a searing touch. The four Neapolitan novels: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child are all being re-issued this September. Ferrante’s work is quite astonishing!
T.C. Boyle, the California author who has been forcing me to face confrontational literature since my early 20s, recently spoke to members of the John Adams Institute during an evening at my home. His latest novel, The Harder They Come, focuses on the paranoid, addicted Adam who fancies himself as soldiering mountain man, independent of modern society. His idol, the 18th century trapper John Colter who outstripped the Blackfeet Indian pursuing him on foot, is a real-life mountain hero whose statue I encountered across Wyoming and Montana this summer. This 15th novel explores the modern relationship of guns and violence and can be chilling, shocking, and disturbingly revealing about our society today. Boyle himself is cultured, amusing and charming with a touch of the Davy Crockett mountain man about him. This is a many-layered, masterful piece of work – if often hard to accept.
Wolves are popular in literature at the moment. Rachel Caine, a zoologist working with wolves in Idaho, returns to her native Cumbria to assist a local lord in re-introducing wolves to the wilds of the Lake District. The story is an ode to natural beauty and the freedom of animals to live in untamed areas; it touches on the turmoil of human lives, on love, politics and the general public’s fear, outrage and simultaneous delight in blurring the borders between civilization and wildness. Sarah Hall, author of The Wolf Border, has produced a passionate, topical and compelling novel which thoroughly delighted me.
Deborah Moggach, author of Tulip Fever and These Foolish Things which was made into the hit movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has just produced a complex but accessible story of four women desperate to protect their secrets but also get their lives back on track. Something to Hide moves across continents, linking the characters in unexpected turns of fortune. A delightful book, primarily for the ladies.
For ten to thirteen year olds, Penguin has just published the first in a new series of historical thrillers which has left me most impatient for the next instalment! Young Christopher Rowe is apprenticed to a respected apothecary in London just after the restoration of Charles II to the English throne in the 1660s. A rash of grisly murders leads to whispers that a Cult of the Archangel is trying to wipe out the apothecaries in the city. Full of chemical potions, explosions, wild chase scenes, secret codes and deep mystery, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands is guaranteed to get your children reading!!