Here was the first series of Not The TV Book Group’s books…
From his village in post-war France, Brodeck makes his solitary journeys into the mountains to collect data on the natural environment. Day by day he also reconstructs his own life, all but lost in the years he spent in a camp during the war. No-one had expected to see him again. One day, a flamboyant stranger rides into the village, upsetting the fragile balance of everyday life. Soon he is named the Anderer, ‘the other’, and tensions rise until, one night, the newcomer is murdered. Brodeck is instructed to write an account of the events leading to his death, but his report delivers much more than the bare facts: it becomes the story of a community coming to terms with the legacy of enemy occupation. In a powerful narrative of exceptional fascination, Brodeck’s Report explores the very limits of humanity.
February 21st 2010
The Girl with the Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
(Atlantic Books, 2010)
Hosted by me on here (well on the main page)
Strange things are happening on the remote and snowbound archipelago of St Hauda’s Land. Unusual winged creatures flit around icy bogland; albino animals hide themselves in the snow-glazed woods; jellyfish glow in the ocean’s depths…And Ida MacLaird is slowly turning into glass. A mysterious and frightening alchemical metamorphosis has befallen Ida Maclaird – she is slowly turning into glass, from the feet up. She returns to St Hauda’s Land, where she believes the glass first took hold, in search of a cure. Midas Crook is a young loner, who has lived on the islands his entire life. When he meets Ida, something about her sad, defiant spirit pierces his emotional defenses. As Midas helps Ida come to terms with her affliction, she gradually unpicks the knots of his heart, and they begin to fall in love…What they need most is time – and time is slipping away fast. Will they find a way to stave off the spread of the glass? “The Girl with Glass Feet” is a dazzlingly imaginative and gripping first novel, a love story to treasure.
March 7th 2010
Vanessa and Virginia by Susan Sellers
(Two Ravens Press, 2008)
Hosted by Kirsty at Other Stories
In a gloomy house in Hyde Park Gate, two young girls are raised to be perfect ladies. But from the beginning Vanessa Bell and her sister Virginia Woolf pursue different dreams, and in their Bloomsbury household they create a ferment of free thinking and even freer living. Devoted to each other, yet fiercely competitive, both sisters fight to realise their artistic vision amidst a chaos of desire, scandal, illness and war. Traced with lyrical intensity, their intertwined lives gradually reveal an underlying pattern. Only at the end of this fascinating work does the real nature of the relationship between Virginia and Vanessa become clear.Susan Sellers’ novel reveals a dramatic new interpretation of one of the most famous and iconic events in twentieth-century literature – Woolf’s suicide by drowning – as the two sisters’ life-long rivalry reaches its final crisis. An expert on Woolf’s life and work, Susan Sellers is inspired by Woolf’s own brilliant narrative technique – a sensuous, impressionistic, interior voice – to inhabit the mind of an artist at work, and recreate the tale of the two sisters as Vanessa might have told it. “Vanessa and Virginia” is a chronicle of love and revenge, madness, genius, and the compulsion to create beauty in the face of relentless difficulty and deep grief.
March 21st 2010
The Illusionist by Jennifer Johnston
(Headline Review, 2007)
Hosted by Kim at Reading Matters
When Stella first meets Martyn, he’s just a stranger on a train. She knows nothing at all about him. But very quickly she is won over by his charm and breathtaking illusions, and when he asks her to marry him, she agrees. However, as they begin their life together, Stella starts to feel uneasy. What exactly is the show-stopping illusion he claims to be working on, locked away in that room? Who are those men that visit the house at strange hours? And why are her questions never answered? As Stella realises that she barely knows the man she married, her thoughts turn to escape.
April 11th 2010
Skin Lane by Neil Bartlett
(Serpent’s Tail, 2008)
Hosted by me (again on the main page, not on this one)
At 47, Mr. F’s working life on London’s Skin Lane is one governed by calm, precision and routine. So, when he starts to have frightening, recurring nightmares, he does his best to ignore them. The images that appear in his dream are disturbing – Mr. F can’t for the life of him think where they have come from. After all, he’s a perfectly ordinary middle-aged man. As London’s crooked backstreets begin to swelter in the long, hot summer of 1967, Mr. F’s nightmare becomes an obsession. A chance encounter adds a face to the body that nightly haunts him, and the torments of his sweat-drenched nights lead him – and the reader – deeper into a terrifying labyrinth of rage, desire and shame. Part fairy-tale, part compelling evocation of a now-lost London, Nell Bartlett’s long-awaited third novel is his fiercest piece of writing yet: cruel, erotic, and tender.
April 25th 2010
The Boys in the Trees by Mary Swan
(Henry Holt & Company, 2008)
Hosted by Lynne at Dovegreyreader
Newly arrived to the countryside, William Heath, his wife, and two daughters appear the picture of a devoted family. But when accusations of embezzlement spur William to commit an unthinkable crime, those who witnessed this affectionate, attentive father go about his routine of work and family must reconcile action with character. A doctor who has cared for one daughter, encouraging her trust, examines the finer details of his brief interactions with William, searching for clues that might penetrate the mystery of his motivation. Meanwhile the other daughter’s teacher grapples with guilt over a moment when fate wove her into a succession of events that will haunt her dreams. A supreme literary achievement, The Boys in the Trees offers a chilling story that swells with acutely observed emotion and humanity.
May 9th 2010
A Short Gentleman by Jon Canter
Hosted by Kirsty at Other Stories
When Robert Purcell, aged eight, read his father’s entry in Who’s Who, he saw his own life unfolding before him. Like his father, he’d get a first in Law, then enjoy a distinguished career as a barrister and a judge. For a long time, everything went to plan. Then his life fell apart. He committed a crime. He went to prison. Now he’s out, his wife has told him to write an account of who he is and why he is who he is. What drove him to his crime?To an English gentleman who loathes the confessional culture such emotional striptease is torture. Nevertheless, “A Short Gentleman” is that confession. An intellectual giant but an emotional pygmy, Robert struggles to come to terms with the forces that brought him down: Elizabeth, the wife who wanted him to change, Judy Page, the ex-girlfriend who came back to haunt him, Pilkington, the childhood bully who grew into an adult bully, Mike Bell, the old friend Robert was always happy to patronise. Finally, there’s his father, who proved, at the end of his life, not to be the man Robert thought he was. Despite everything, Robert remains heroically determined to carry on being the same magnificently pompous and self-righteous man he always was, utterly resistant to therapy, change and the emotional demands of the opposite sex.
May 23rd 2010
Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler
Hosted by Kim of Reading Matters
Shori is a mystery. Found alone in the woods, she appears to be a little black girl with traumatic amnesia and near-fatal wounds. But Shori is a 53-year-old vampire with a ravenous hunger for blood, the lost child of an ancient species of near-immortals who live in dark symbiosis with humanity. Genetically modified to be able to walk in daylight, Shori now becomes the target of a vast plot to destroy her and her kind. And in the final apocalyptic battle, her survival will depend on whether all humans are bigots — or all bigots are human…
So there you have it, that was the first ever selection of the Not The TV Book Group!