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My Holiday Reading list 2016

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Lou Pollard found this witty
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    Mrs Dalloway

    On a perfect June morning, Clarissa Dalloway fashionable, worldly, wealthy, an accomplished hostess sets off to buy flowers for the party she is to give that evening. She is preoccupied with thoughts of the present and memories of the past, and from her interior monologue emerge the people who have touched her life. On the same day Septimus Warren Smith, a shellshocked survivor of the Great War, commits suicide, and casual mention of his death at the party provokes in Clarissa thoughts of her own isolation and loneliness. Bold and experimental, Mrs Dalloway is a landmark in twentieth-century fiction and a book that gets better with each reading. With an Afterword by Anna South.

    I Am Pilgrim

    Can you commit the perfect crime? Pilgrim is the codename for a man who doesn't exist. The adopted son of a wealthy American family, he once headed up a secret espionage unit for US intelligence. Before he disappeared into anonymous retirement, he wrote the definitive book on forensic criminal investigation. But that book will come back to haunt him. It will help NYPD detective Ben Bradley track him down. And it will take him to a rundown New York hotel room where the body of a woman is found facedown in a bath of acid, her features erased, her teeth missing, her fingerprints gone. It is a textbook murder - and Pilgrim wrote the book. What begins as an unusual and challenging investigation will become a terrifying race-against-time to save America from oblivion. Pilgrim will have to make a journey from a public beheading in Mecca to a deserted ruins on the Turkish coast via a Nazi death camp in Alsace and the barren wilderness of the Hindu Kush in search of the faceless man who would commit an appalling act of mass murder in the name of his God.

    Under the Skin

    Sillonnant, au volant de sa Toyota rouge, les paysages magnifiquement désolés des Highlands d'Écosse, une jeune femme aux épaisses lunettes et à l'aguichante poitrine guette les auto-stoppeurs, jeunes, grands et musclés de préférence. La première énigme de cette fiction délirante, c'est le corps d'Isserley, dont les maux, les pulsions, les comportements laissent perplexe. Il y a dans le rituel de cette apparente obsédée sexuelle, quelque chose qui ne colle pas, quelque chose qui sans cesse déjoue la perspicacité de ses passagers de fortune - et du lecteur. Et, quand celui-ci finit par entrevoir qu'Isserley est au centre d'un univers plus terrifiant encore que ce qu'il avait pu supposer, le suspense se reconduit jusqu'aux dernières lignes. Michel Faber nous entraîne dans une narration d'une habileté machiavélique, doublée d'une fable cruelle sur le fonctionnement souterrain des hiérarchies de pouvoir dans les sociétés fondées sur la marchandise et le profit. Sous la peau est une oeuvre qui échappe à toute classification et qui ne manquera pas tour à tour de fasciner, troubler, voire de choquer le lecteur.

    Transit

    In the wake of family collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions - personal, moral, artistic, practical - as she endeavours to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life. Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed Outline, and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility and the mystery of change. In this precise, short and yet epic cycle of novels, Cusk manages to describe the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life, through a narrative near-silence that draws language towards it. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one's life and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real.

    Pond

    Feverish and forthright, Pond is an absorbing chronicle of the pitfalls and pleasures of a solitudinous life told by an unnamed woman living on the cusp of a coastal town. Broken bowls, belligerent cows, swanky aubergines, trembling moonrises and horrifying sunsets, the physical world depicted in these stories is unsettling yet intimately familiar and soon takes on a life of its own. Captivated by the stellar charms of seclusion but restless with desire, the woman's relationship with her surroundings becomes boundless and increasingly bewildering. Claire-Louise Bennett's startlingly original first collection slips effortlessly between worlds and is by turns darkly funny and deeply moving.

    An Expat living in Thailand for years and years. Reading, long distance walking, and baking seems to take up most of my time these days.

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