Anne Enright’s The Green Road and Adam Johnson’s Fortune Smiles are among the finalists for the LA Times Fiction award. Chigozie Obioma’s best selling The Fishermen and Sara Novic’s Girl at War are short-listed for the Art Seidenbaum Award for first fiction and Richard Prices’s The Whites is one of the five finalists in the Mystery/Thriller category. Full fiction lists inside:
Stasi Child, David Young’s debut novel, is set in 1975, fourteen years after East Germany
erected the Berlin Wall, the “iron curtain” designed to stem the exodus of its population to the freedom of the West. To most of the world East Germany became a closed book, led by a secretive, repressive regime. Its most powerful weapon was fear.
Oberleutnant Karin Muller is the first female to be in put in charge of a team at the Kriminalpolizei (Kripo), East Germany’s civilian police investigative unit. She and her ambitious deputy, Werner Tilsner, are specifically directed by the Stasi to investigate the mutilated body of a teenage girl, found lying in the snow within sight of the Wall, apparently shot by Western border guards while escaping into the east. As the Stasi officer at the scene says: “It is, I admit, an unusual scenario.”
For a debut novel, in fact, for any novel, The Widow by Fiona Barton is a staggering success. It grabs you in the first few pages and just doesn’t let go. In theory it’s the relatively straightforward story of a crime and the ensuing police investigation, albeit dealing with a deeply harrowing subject. A toddler, Bella, has gone missing from her garden during the few minutes she had been left unattended. A media frenzy engulfs the country. In the absence of any immediate breakthroughs, speculation and gossip become the main currency. But slowly, painstakingly, the police begin to piece together shards of evidence which takes them into the dark world of on-line hard-core sex and pedophilia and, finally, a suspect.
One of the literary highlights of 2015 for me was the number of superb collections of short stories published (Adam Johnston’s Fortune Smiles and Colm McCann’s Thirteen Ways of Looking being two standouts). Now Australian author Fiona McFarlane has given me hope that this year is going to be as good.
McFarlane’s collection, The High Places, brings together thirteen stories that are highly original, often haunting and occasionally slightly disturbing. Although I wanted to race through them in long hit, I soon forced myself to leave a gap between each to allow time for their substance to settle, the frequently tantalizing ambiguity to be fully appreciated.
In The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, Joanna Cannon transports the reader back in time with a visceral sense of moment. It’s 1976 and England is sweltering in what was to become an infamous heat wave, with standpipes in the streets and tempers boiling over. But the hottest topic on The Avenue is not the soaring temperatures but the sudden disappearance of Mrs Creasy.
Will she, as her husband tells everyone, just return or has she met an untimely end? After all, she was a friend to many in the neighbourhood; a keeper of secrets. But that’s not the only drama being played out. What is the secret that binds together a group of residents? What happened to the missing infant all those years ago? Was a recent fire a question of arson? And why is Walter Bishop an outcast?
Novels and collections of short stories including work by Elizabeth Harrower, Charlotte Wood and Amanda Lohrey dominate the long list $50,000 annual Stella Prize which celebrates great books, fiction and non-fiction, by female Australian authors. The only non-fiction book to make the list is Small Acts of Disappearance : Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright. The full long list is:
GETTING AROUND: Stockholm is made up of a necklace of 14 islands linked by 54 bridges. But much of what’s popular with visitors lies in the neighbouring suburbs of Norrmalm, Ostermalm, Djurgarden, Sodermalm and Gamla Stan. Getting around is easy. Many attractions (including the beautiful waterfront area) are within walking distance of each other. There are good cycleways and an efficient bus and underground system and boats and ferries that offer cruises around the city or to nearby islands. Tip: Watch out for the funky art at many of the underground stations.
It’s been more than five years since the publication of Julian Barnes‘s highly acclaimed last novel, The Sense of an Ending, which won the 2011 Man Booker Prize, so expectations of his new novel are inevitably high. The Noise About Time is about composer Dimitri Shostakovich and his attempts to navigate the iron web that has been woven around every aspect of life within Russia first under Stalin then Khrushchev (Nikita the Corncob). Intellectuals, particularly those in the arts were particularly vulnerable, elevated to great heights for providing pride, solace and inspiration to the masses, then sent crashing to earth or worse, for unimagined infractions.