Nayomi Munaweera, Island of a Thousand Mirrors

Nayomi Munaweera, Island of a Thousand Mirrors

"By turns tender, beautiful, and devastating, Island of A Thousand Mirrors is a deeply resonant tale of an unraveling Sri Lanka. Incredibly moving, complex, and with prose you may want to eat, this debut is a triumph." NoViolet Bulawayo, award-winning author of We Need New Names

Island of a Thousand Mirrors may not be getting the shelf space it deserves in Australia. Make the effort to seek it out. This debut novel by Sri Lankan-American writer Nayomi Munaweera is a full sensory experience that takes us way beyond the Paradise Lost cliche.  

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Akhil Sharma, Family Life (with Q&A)

Akhil Sharma, Family Life (with Q&A)

If there is a book that should be compulsory reading for book clubs in 2014, make it Family Life

Twelve and a half years  – 7000 pages whittled down to 200 pages – has seen Akhil Sharma finally release his second novel, Family Life.

Is there a better line you've read this year, than: "I used to think my father had been assigned to us by the government."

 Sharma's thoughts on writers are also priceless. Who else would describe Hemingway as "... romanticism in drag." 

Make sure you read and listen to all the extra links I've included on his battle with voice, perspective, writing and style. Trust me you'll want much, much more of Akhil Sharma. 

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Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

Emily St. John Mandel, Station Eleven

In the wake of SARS, Swine Flu and the current devastating outbreak of Ebola Virus spreading through Africa, it no longer seems quite so implausible that a serious flu outbreak can bring the world to a halt.

Station Eleven does not concern itself with the logistics of global death. Instead the book focuses on a handful of central characters and how they adapt and survive. 

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Herman Koch, Summer House with Swimming Pool

A cleverly crafted and mildly subversive combination of psychological thriller and black comedy…Distinguished not just by the elegance of Koch’s writing (and by extension, that of his translator, American Sam Garrett) but by its satirical take on the pretensions of the creative middle classes.
— Saturday Age/Sydney Morning Herald

Readers who enjoyed Koch's sophisticated comedy of manners, The Dinner, are in for a treat. The title takes its name from an ad for a summer vacation rental and of course it sounds very alluring. 

With Koch, nothing is ever as it seems. The conservative GP Dr Marc Schlosser is narrator and despite his fastidious observations, both medical and personal, you find yourself backtracking through the book querying every angle you previously trusted. His medical observations seemed accurate, so why should we not trust his other sensible observations?

The language is sharp: descriptive, lyrical and teasing without being sappy. It's a credit to the translator Sam Garrett that we hang on every word of this dark psychological thriller.

The story unfolds as Dr Schlosser takes his wife and two teenage daughters on a summer holiday on the Mediterranean and 'bumps' into a fading actor of some note, Ralph Mier, who happens to be holidaying nearby with his wife and teenage sons in a summer house with a swimming pool. Quel Surprise!

What happens this on this summer idyll will make your blood run cold. As for who did it? ... write to me and tell me who you think is the culprit. I guarantee you won't be able to put this book down until you are done. And then you might have to re-read it.

The Blurb: Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch 

Translated by Sam Garrett
When a medical procedure goes horribly wrong and famous actor Ralph Meier winds up dead, Dr Marc Schlosser needs to come up with some answers. After all, reputation is everything in this business. Personally, he’s not exactly upset that Ralph is gone, but as a high profile doctor to the stars, Marc can’t hide from the truth forever.

It all started the previous summer. Marc, his wife, and their two beautiful teenage daughters agreed to spend a week at the Meier’s extravagant summer home on the Mediterranean. Joined by Ralph and his striking wife Judith, her mother, film director Stanley Forbes and his much younger girlfriend, the large group settles in for days of sunshine, wine tasting, and trips to the beach. But when a violent incident disrupts the idyll, darker motivations are revealed, and suddenly no one can be trusted. As the ultimate holiday soon turns into a nightmare, the circumstances surrounding Ralph’s (later) death begin to reveal the disturbing reality behind that summer’s tragedy.

Featuring the razor-sharp humour and acute psychological insight that made The Dinner an international phenomenon, Summer House with Swimming Pool is a controversial, thought-provoking novel that showcases Herman Koch at his finest.

To read and extract of the book, click here

Herman Koch has a knack for asking the right simple questions that threaten to completely unhinge who we are and what holds us together. As in his previous novel, The Dinner, you’ll wonder how far you would go for your children, and again you’ll wonder what you might be capable of once the rules have been broken. But Summer House with Swimming Pool is more assured and complete and immersive. Viciously funny, tense, and disturbing, this is one vacation you won’t forget.
— David Vann

I was sent a review copy of Summer House with Swimming Pool by Text Publishing, but all opinions are my own. 

Extras

Review: The Guardian

ABC Books and Arts Daily

Review: Independent