What books are we reading at Polari HQ this week?
After reading Patrick Ness’ brilliant article in the Guardian this week on the dangers of social media, I picked up the first of the Chaos Walking trilogy, The Knife of Never Letting Go. The books remarkable. I read all three back-to-back shortly after the third, Monsters of Men, was published. The trilogy is set on a colonised world in which all the thoughts of men can be heard. Todd Hewitt is about to become of age in a town where there are no women. There is no silence anywhere. Todd, who is the narrator, calls it his Noise. The day that he discovers a patch of silence all the lies that he has been brought up on tumble down. The trilogy is an intoxicating meditation on power and the lies that are told to maintain that power. Ness’ imagination is extraordinary. On a second read my eyes are as wide as they were on the first.
Ness is proving to be a talented polemicist, which is apparent in this week’s Guardian article, and his profound defence of the teenager, ‘Teenagers Deserve Better’: “I think to be a teenager is to yearn. I yearned for someone to tell me I was all right, that everything was going to be all right. I can barely think about the ‘It Gets Better’ campaign for LGBT youngsters without tearing up, because I know how desperately I yearned for someone to say those words to me, just once.”
Michael Langan – What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank
by Nathan Englander
This prize-winning collection of short stories is Englander’s second after the equally brilliant For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. (He’s good at titles, isn’t he?) All of the protagonists in Englander’s work are Jews and his stories are about negotiating what Jewishness means – as an individual identity, a political entity, a religious faith and as a cultural force. If that sounds somewhat narrow thematically, be assured that there’s enough intelligence and sparkle in these stories to appeal to anybody – pithy, witty and wise, Englander makes his points mainly through family relationships and you can’t get much more universal than that.
Nadine Chryst – Death Angels by Ake Edwardson
Erik Winter, debonair and sophisticated Swedish detective leaves his native Gothenburg and travels to South London to solve the gruesome murders of three young gay men. Just what you’d expect from Ake Edwardson and his superb series of novels following the life, loves and crime solving of Jazz music lover Winter. Compelling and twisty, the clues are there, but can Chief Inspector Winter stop the terrible killings before another man is slaughtered? Crime scenes in Sweden and in London seem to prove that the same killer is stalking the gay community, a killer who captures the atrocities on film. Is it just for his own warped entertainment ?
It’s certainly for mine!! I love crime stories….can’t get enough. Possibly due to my lifelong yearning to be a detective or spy but certainly when someone writes as well as Edwardson and the story telling is cold, dark and disturbing you can guarantee I’m hooked! I can recommend his other novels also. Fans of deftly constructed and compelling Scandicrime genre will not be disappointed. Winter is no Nancy Drew…but he’s as good as!
Scott De Buitléir – Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End
by Leif G.W. Persson
Translated into English from the award-winning Swedish original, the story is based on Superintendent Lars Johansson who is met with the case of a young American student who apparently jumped to his death from his apartment in Stockholm. To other officers, it seems like an open-and-shut suicide case, but Johansson isn’t too certain. His curiosity leads him to discover just how corrupt things are in the Scandinavian justice system – not just with the police department, but with the entire government.
The story jumps seamlessly from character to character, allowing your imagination to picture the story unfold like scenes in a film. Paul Norlén has made a perfect translation from Swedish as well; allowing enough English idioms in without forgetting that the story is based in Stockholm. As a fan of all things Nordic, I’m hooked so far.