Staff Picks

The Devil I Know by Claire Kilroy

Book cover imageThere was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile. He made a crooked deal and he blew a crooked pile. He dug a crooked hole And he sank the crooked isle. And they all went to hell in a stew of crooked bile. .The Devil I Know is a thrilling novel of greed and hubris, set against the backdrop of a brewing international debt crisis. Told by Tristram, in the form of a mysterious testimony, it recounts his return home after a self-imposed exile only to find himself trapped as a middle man played on both sides - by a grotesque builder he's known since childhood on the one hand, and a shadowy businessman he's never met on the other. Caught between them, as an overblown property development begins in his home town of Howth, it follows Tristram's dawning realisation that all is not well. From a writer unafraid to take risks, The Devil I Know is a bold, brilliant and disturbing piece of storytelling.

 

 

 

 

 

The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín

Book cover imageFrom the author of Brooklyn comes a short, powerful novel about one of the most famous mothers in history. In a voice that is both tender and filled with rage, The Testament of Mary tells the story of a cataclysmic event which led to an overpowering grief. For Mary, her son has been lost to the world, and now, living in exile and in fear, she tries to piece together the memories of the events that led to her son's brutal death. To her he was a vulnerable figure, surrounded by men who could not be trusted, living in a time of turmoil and change. As her life and her suffering begin to acquire the resonance of myth, Mary struggles to break the silence surrounding what she knows to have happened. In her effort to tell the truth in all its gnarled complexity, she slowly emerges as a figure of immense moral stature as well as a woman from history rendered now as fully human.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawthorn & Child by Keith Ridgway

 Book cover imageHawthorn and Child are mid-ranking detectives tasked with finding significance in the scattered facts. They appear and disappear in the fragments of this book along with a ghost car, a crime boss, a pick-pocket, a dead racing driver and a pack of wolves. The mysteries are everywhere, but the biggest of all is our mysterious compulsion to solve them. In Hawthorn & Child, the only certainty is that we've all misunderstood everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie

 Book cover imageOn 14 February 1989, Valentine's Day, Salman Rushdie was telephoned by a BBC journalist and told that he had been 'sentenced to death' by the Ayatollah Khomeini. For the first time he heard the word fatwa. His crime? To have written a novel called The Satanic Verses, which was accused of being 'against Islam, the Prophet and the Quran'. So begins the extraordinary story of how a writer was forced underground, moving from house to house, with the constant presence of an armed police protection team. He was asked to choose an alias that the police could call him by. He thought of writers he loved and combinations of their names; then it came to him: Conrad and Chekhov - Joseph Anton. How do a writer and his family live with the threat of murder for over nine years? How does he go on working? How does he fall in and out of love? How does despair shape his thoughts and actions, how and why does he stumble, how does he learn to fight back? In this remarkable memoir Rushdie tells that story for the first time; the story of one of the crucial battles, in our time, for freedom of speech. He talks about the sometimes grim, sometimes comic realities of living with armed policemen, and of the close bonds he formed with his protectors; of his struggle for support and understanding from governments, intelligence chiefs, publishers, journalists, and fellow writers; and of how he regained his freedom. It is a book of exceptional frankness and honesty, compelling, provocative, moving, and of vital importance. Because what happened to Salman Rushdie was the first act of a drama that is still unfolding somewhere in the world every day.

 

 

 

Silver Threads of Hope edited by Sinéad Gleason

 Book cover imageA new collection of short stories from the cream of Irish writers including ` Kevin Barry, Greg Baxter, Dermot Bolger, John Boyne, Declan Burke, John Butler, Trevor Byrne, Emma Donoghue, Roddy Doyle, Dermot Healy, Christine-Dwyer Hickey, Declan Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann

Book cover imageNick and her cousin, Helena, have grown up sharing sultry summers at Tiger House, the glorious old family estate on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. As World War II ends they are on the cusp of adulthood, the world seeming to offer itself up to them. Helena is leaving for Hollywood and a new marriage, while Nick is to be reunited with her young husband Hughes, due to return from London and the war. Everything is about to change. Neither quite finds the life she had imagined, and as the years pass, the trips to Tiger House take on a new complexity. Then, on the brink of the 1960s, Nick’s daughter Daisy and Helena’s son Ed make a sinister discovery. It plunges the island’s bright heat into private shadow and sends a depth-charge to the heart of the family. Magnificently told from five perspectives, Tigers in Red Weather is an unforgettable debut: a simmering novel of passion, betrayal and secret violence beneath a polished and fragile facade.

 

 

 

 

 

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

Book cover imageOne Sunday nine-year-old Jess Hall watches in horror as his autistic brother is smothered during a healing service in the mountains of North Carolina. Wiley Cash uses this haunting image - inspired by a horrific true event - to spin us into a spellbinding, heartbreaking story about cruelty and innocence, and the failure of faith and family to protect a child. This is a novel thick with stories and characters connected by faith, infidelity, and a sense of hope that is both tragic and unforgettable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Book cover imageThere's only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that's her uncle, the renowned painter, Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her once inseparable older sister, June can only be herself in Finn's company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies far too young of a mysterious illness that June’s mother can barely bring herself to discuss, June's world is turned upside down. At the funeral, she notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd, and a few days later, June receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn's apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realises she's not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he might just be the one she needs the most. Tell the Wolves I'm Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

 

 

 

 

 

Canada by Richard Ford

Book cover imageIn 1956, Dell Parsons' family came to a stop in Great Falls, Montana, the way many military families did following the war. His father, Bev, was a talkative, plank-shouldered man, an airman from Alabama with an optimistic and easy-scheming nature. Dell and his twin sister, Berner, could easily see why their mother might have been attracted to him. But their mother Neeva - from an educated, immigrant, Jewish family - was shy, artistic and alienated from their father's small-town world of money scrapes and living on-the-fly. It was more bad instincts and bad luck that Dell's parents decided to rob the bank. They weren't reckless people. In the days following the arrest, Dell is saved before the authorities think to arrive. Driving across the Montana border into Saskatchewan his life hurtles towards the unknown, towards a hotel in a deserted town, towards the violent and enigmatic American Arthur Remlinger, and towards Canada itself - a landscape of rescue and abandonment. But as Dell discovers, in this new world of secrets and upheaval, he is not the only one whose own past lies on the other side of a border. In Canada , Richard Ford has created a masterpiece. A visionary novel of vast landscapes, complex identities and fragile humanity. It questions the fine line between the normal and the extraordinary, and the moments that haunt our settled view of the world.

 

 

 

 

HHhH by Laurent Binet

Book cover imageTwo men have been enlisted to kill the head of the Gestapo. This is Operation Anthropoid, Prague, 1942: two Czechoslovakian parachutists sent on a daring mission by London to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich - chief of the Nazi secret services, 'the hangman of Prague', 'the blond beast', 'the most dangerous man in the Third Reich'.

His boss is Heinrich Himmler but everyone in the SS says 'Himmler's brain is called Heydrich', which in German spells HHhH. All the characters in HHhH are real. All the events depicted are true. But alongside the nerve-shredding preparations for the attack runs another story: when you are a novelist writing about real people, how do you resist the temptation to make things up? HHhH is a panorama of the Third Reich told through the life of one outstandingly brutal man, a story of unbearable heroism and loyalty, revenge and betrayal. It is improbably entertaining and electrifyingly modern, a moving and shattering work of fiction.

 

 

 

 

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

 Book cover imageNineteen-year-old Billy Lynn is home from war. Back in Texas, he has become a national celebrity. A Fox News crew filmed Billy and the rest of Bravo squad defeating Iraqi insurgents in a ferocious firefight. Now Billy is a decorated soldier and Bravo's three minutes of extreme bravery under fire is a YouTube sensation. Seizing on this PR gift, the Bush administration has sent the surviving members of Bravo on a nationwide 'Victory Tour' to reassure the folks at home. Today, during the final hours of the tour, they arrive at Texas Stadium, guests of honour as the Dallas Cowboys take on the Chicago Bears in a nationally broadcast Thanksgiving Day game. The story follows Billy and his fellow Bravos through a climactic afternoon, as they mix with the rich and powerful, endure the politics and affections of their fellow citizens, aspire to sex and marriage with the famous Cowboys cheerleaders, share centre stage with Destiny's Child during the halftime extravaganza and attempt to close a movie deal with the help of a veteran Hollywood producer. They will learn hard truths about love and death, family and friendship, duty and honour. Tomorrow, they must go back to war. Tender and full of humanity, this is a wickedly funny and urgent novel about a young man, the citizens who sent him to war, the family he left behind and the era that let it happen. In Billy Lynn, Ben Fountain has created a new American hero for our times.

 

 

 

 

Home by Toni Morrison

Book cover imageAn angry and self-loathing veteran of the Korean War, Frank Money finds himself back in racist America after enduring trauma on the front lines that left him with more than just physical scars. His home - and himself in it - may no longer be as he remembers it, but Frank is shocked out of his crippling apathy by the need to rescue his medically abused younger sister and take her back to the small Georgia town they come from, which he's hated all his life. As Frank revisits the memories from childhood and the war that leave him questioning his sense of self, he discovers a profound courage he thought he could never possess again. Toni Morrison's deeply moving novel reveals an apparently defeated man finding his manhood - and, finally, his home. This is a stunning new novel, by the author of Beloved .

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

 Book cover imageSerena Frome, the beautiful daughter of an Anglican bishop, has a brief affair with an older man during her final year at Cambridge, and finds herself being groomed for the intelligence services. The year is 1972. Britain, confronting economic disaster, is being torn apart by industrial unrest and terrorism and faces its fifth state of emergency. The Cold War has entered a moribund phase, but the fight goes on, especially in the cultural sphere. Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is sent on a 'secret mission' which brings her into the literary world of Tom Haley, a promising young writer. First she loves his stories, then she begins to love the man. Can she maintain the fiction of her undercover life? And who is inventing whom? To answer these questions, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage- trust no one. McEwan's mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love, and the invented self.

 

 

 

 

 

The Yellow Bird by Kevin Powers

Book cover imageAn unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war, by a young Iraq veteran and poet, The Yellow Birds is already being hailed as a modern classic. Everywhere John looks, he sees Murph. He flinches when cars drive past. His fingers clasp around the rifle he hasn't held for months. Wide-eyed strangers praise him as a hero, but he can feel himself disappearing. Back home after a year in Iraq, memories swarm around him: bodies burning in the crisp morning air. Sunlight falling through branches; bullets kicking up dust; ripples on a pond wavering like plucked strings. The promise he made, to a young man's mother, that her son would be brought home safely. Poet and veteran Kevin Powers has composed an unforgettable account of friendship and loss which vividly captures the desperation and brutality of war, and its terrible after-effects. But it is also a story of love, of great courage, and of extraordinary human survival. Written with profound emotional insight, especially into the effects of a hidden war on families at home, The Yellow Birds is one of the most haunting, true and powerful novels of our time.

 

 

 

 

 

The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

 Book cover imagePa`nop´ti`con ( noun). A circular prison with cells so constructed that the prisoners can be observed at all times. [Greek panoptos 'seen by all'] Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais's school uniform. Smart, funny and fierce, Anais is a counter-culture outlaw, a bohemian philosopher in sailor shorts and a pillbox hat. She is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. The residents of the Panopticon form intense bonds, heightened by their place on the periphery, and Anais finds herself part of an ad hoc family there. Much more suspicious are the social workers, especially Helen, who is about to leave her job for an elephant sanctuary in India but is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth before she goes. Looking up at the watchtower that looms over the residents, Anais knows her fate: she is part of an experiment, she always was, it's a given, a liberty - a fact. And the experiment is closing in. In language dazzling, energetic and pure, The Panopticon introduces us to a heartbreaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction.

 

 

 

 

In the Orchard, the Swallows by Peter Hobbs

Book cover imageIn the foothills of a mountain range in northern Pakistan is a beautiful orchard. Swallows wheel and dive silently over the branches, and the scent of jasmine threads through the air. Pomegranates hang heavy, their skins darkening to a deep crimson. Neglected now, the trees are beginning to grow wild, their fruit left to spoil on the branches. Many miles away, a frail young man is flung out of prison gates. Looking up, scanning the horizon for swallows in flight, he stumbles and collapses in the roadside dust. His ravaged body tells the story of fifteen years of brutality. Just one image has held and sustained him through the dark times – the thought of the young girl who had left him dumbstruck with wonder all those years ago, whose eyes were lit up with life. A tale of tenderness in the face of great and corrupt power, In The Orchard, The Swallows is a heartbreaking novel written in prose of exquisite stillness and beauty.

 

 

 

 

 

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson

 Book cover imageRobert Grainer is a day labourer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century-an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Shipped by train in 1893 unto the woods of the Idaho panhandle, he grows up, works on logging gangs, falls in love, and loses his wife and baby daughter to a particularly pernicious wildfire. Derailed by the loss of his family, Grainer struggles to make sense of this strange new world. As his story unfolds, we witness both his shocking personal defeats and the radical changes that transform America in his lifetime. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West Train Dreams captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Apartment by Greg Baxter

 Book cover imageOne snowy morning in an old European capital, a man wakes in a hotel room. A young local woman he has befriended calls to the hotel, and the two of them head out into the snow to find the man an apartment to rent. Greg Baxter's astonishing first novel tells the story of these two people on this day - and the old stories that brought them to where they are. Its magically subtle and intense narrative takes them across the frozen city and into the past that the man is hoping to escape, and leaves them at the doorstep of an uncertain future. The Apartment is a book about war, the relationship between America and the rest of the world, and the brittle foundations of Western culture; but above all it is a book about the mysteries and alchemies of friendship - truthful, moving and brilliant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar by Suzanne Joinson

 Book cover imageIt is 1923 and Evangeline English, keen lady cyclist, arrives with her sister Lizzie at the ancient Silk Route city of Kashgar to help establish a Christian mission. Lizzie is in thrall to their forceful and unyielding leader Millicent, but Eva's motivations for leaving her bourgeois life back at home are less clear-cut. As they attempt to navigate their new home and are met with resistance and calamity, Eva commences work on her book, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar... In present-day London another story is beginning. Frieda, a young woman adrift in her own life, opens her front door one night to find a man sleeping on the landing. In the morning he is gone, leaving on the wall an exquisite drawing of a long-tailed bird and a line of Arabic script. Tayeb, who has fled to England from Yemen, has arrived on Frieda's doorstep just as she learns that she is the next-of-kin to a dead woman she has never heard of: a woman whose abandoned flat contains many surprises - among them an ill-tempered owl. The two wanderers begin an unlikely friendship as their worlds collide, and they embark on a journey that is as great, and as unexpected, as Eva's. A stunning debut peopled by unforgettable characters, A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar is an extraordinary story of inheritance and the search for belonging in a fractured and globalised world.