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Bookclub Books of the Year 2021

At our December 2021 Bookclub, our members were able to share some of the favourite books they have read over the last year. We’ve amalgamated all of these into one place for you to peruse.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behaviour of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass in the street outside. She remains hopeful a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change for ever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans. In Klara and the Sun, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in Literature, Kazuo Ishiguro looks at our rapidly-changing modern world through the eyes of an unforgettable narrator to explore a fundamental question: what does it mean to love?

In Our Mad and Furious City by Guy Gunaratne

For Selvon, Ardan and Yusuf, growing up under the towers of Stones Estate, summer means what it does anywhere: football, music and freedom. But now, after the killing of a British soldier, riots are spreading across the city, and nowhere is safe.

While the fury swirls around them, Selvon and Ardan remain focused on their own obsessions, girls and grime. Their friend Yusuf is caught up in a different tide, a wave of radicalism surging through his local mosque, threatening to carry his troubled brother, Irfan, with it.

Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald

Austerlitz is W. G. Sebald’s haunting novel of post-war Europe.

In 1939, five-year-old Jacques Austerlitz is sent to England on a Kindertransport and placed with foster parents. This childless couple promptly erase from the boy all knowledge of his identity and he grows up ignorant of his past. Later in life, after a career as an architectural historian, Austerlitz – having avoided all clues that might point to his origin – finds the past returning to haunt him and he is forced to explore what happened fifty years before.

Austerlitz is W.G. Sebald’s melancholic masterpiece.

Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones

Bougainville, 1991. A small village on a lush tropical island in the South Pacific.

Eighty-six days have passed since Matilda’s last day of school as, quietly, war is encroaching from the other end of the island. When the villagers’ safe, predictable lives come to a halt, Bougainville’s children are surprised to find the island’s only white man, a recluse, re-opening the school. Pop Eye, aka Mr Watts, explains he will introduce the children to Mr Dickens.

Matilda and the others think a foreigner is coming to the island and prepare a list of much needed items. They are shocked to discover their acquaintance with Mr Dickens will be through Mr Watts’ inspiring reading of Great Expectations. But on an island at war, the power of fiction has dangerous consequences.

Imagination and beliefs are challenged by guns. Mister Pip is an unforgettable tale of survival by story; a dazzling piece of writing that lives long in the mind after the last page is finished.

Hand Me Down World by Lloyd Jones

Sometimes a person passes through your world and you don’t forget them. She is like that. She is crossing continents, searching for her missing child.

Everyone she comes into contact with has a tale to tell: the truck driver who mistook her for a prostitute, the hunters who almost shot her, the Frenchman who loved her, the blind man and the lodger. This is her story.

Actress by Anne Enright

From the Booker-winning Irish author, a brilliant and moving novel about fame, sexual power, and a daughter’s search to understand her mother’s hidden truths. This is the story of Irish theatre legend Katherine O’Dell, as told by her daughter Norah. It tells of early stardom in Hollywood, of highs and lows on the stages of Dublin and London’s West End.

Katherine’s life is a grand performance, with young Norah watching from the wings. But this romance between mother and daughter cannot survive Katherine’s past, or the world’s damage. As Norah uncovers her mother’s secrets, she acquires a few of her own.

Then, fame turns to infamy when Katherine decides to commit a bizarre crime. Actress is about a daughter’s search for the truth: the dark secret in the bright star, and what drove Katherine finally mad…

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

It is 1981. Glasgow is dying and good families must grift to survive. Agnes Bain has always expected more from life, dreaming of greater things. But Agnes is abandoned by her philandering husband, and as she descends deeper into drink, the children try their best to save her, yet one by one they must abandon her to save themselves. It is her son Shuggie who holds out hope the longest. Shuggie is different, he is clearly no’ right.

But Shuggie believes that if he tries his hardest, he can be normal like the other boys and help his mother escape this hopeless place. Shuggie Bain lays bare the ruthlessness of poverty, the limits of love, and the hollowness of pride. For readers of Hanya Yanagihara, Emma Donoghue, Alan Hollinghurst and Frank McCourt, it is a heartbreaking novel by a brilliant writer with a powerful and important story to tell.

Bewilderment by Richard Powers

Theo Byrne is a promising young scientist who has found a way to search for life on other planets dozens of light years away. He is also the widowed father of a most unusual nine-year-old.

His son Robin is funny, loving and filled with plans. He thinks and feels deeply, adores animals and can spend hours painting elaborate pictures. He is also on the verge of being expelled from school for smashing his friend’s face with a thermos.

What can a father do, when the only solution offered to his rare and troubled boy is to put him on psychoactive drugs? What can he say when his boy comes to him wanting an explanation for a world that is clearly in love with its own destruction? The only thing for it is to take the boy to other planets, all while fostering his son’s desperate attempt to save this one. At the heart of Bewilderment lies the question: How can we tell our children the truth about this beautiful, imperiled planet?

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