Lizzie Benson, the narrator of Jenny Offill’s latest novel Weather, is a failed university student, librarian, surveyor of life and lives, and enthusiastic amateur psychiatrist. She is busily absorbed in managing the everyday: her relationship with husband Ben, a laid-back IT specialist, caring for her worryingly bright son, religion-obsessed mother…
It’s half way through 2015 and time for a literary stock take of my year so far. The bare statistics underpinning six months of reading pleasure are: total number of books – 55 books consisting of 50 novels, three works of non-fiction, one book of poetry and one play. The gender breakdown was 33 women writers and 22 male, drawn from 13 countries, with the largest number coming from Australia and Great Britain. Below are my ten favourite books (so far), not in any particular order as just selecting the ten was hard enough. One of Us by Asne Seirstad, Waiting for the Past by Les Murray and The Eye of the Sheep by Sofie Laguna deserve a special mention because they would have been on the list if the Top 10 was actually a Top13.
- Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel
- Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
- Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw
- The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck
- River of Fire by Amitav Ghosh
- The Truth and Other Lies by Sascha Arango
- One Life by Kate Grenville
- The Bees by Laline Paull
- The Last Pilot by Benjamin Johncock
- Department of Speculation by Jenny Offill
Ever since I read the opening paragraph of Jenny Offill‘s Dept. of Speculation I have been looking for an opportunity to slip it into casual conversation. “Antelopes have 10x vision, you said… That means that on a clear night they can see the rings of Saturn.” I checked it out on the Internet where opinion seems divided on its accuracy. But I’m backing Offill. I like the idea of a group of antelope standing around looking up into the night sky and marvelling at its wonders.
The book is peppered with scientific data and quotations from, or references to, texts from writers like Socrates, Coleridge, Simone Weil and Carl Sagan, interesting snippets that Offill says
Sometimes, the list of entrants who don’t make make it onto the shortlist for a literary prize can be as interesting as those who do. The prestigious Folio Prize, which is open to books of any genre from anywhere in the world, written in the english language and published in England, this week named its final eight, and there were some surprising omissions. First the shortlist which includes some exciting and original works: