New fiction at the Libraries, Dec 17

December 17, 2010 – 11:04 AM

The Ides of March by Valerio Massimo Manfredi
Translated from the Italian by Christina Feddersen-Manfredi.
PQ4873.A4776 I3513 2010

March, 44 BC. Rome, in all her glory, has expanded her territories beyond the wildest dreams of her citizens, led by Caius Julius Caesar – Pontifex Maximus, dictator perpetuo, invincible military leader and only fifty-six years old. He is a man in command of his destiny, who wields enormous power throughout the vast empire. However his god-given mission – to end the blood-splattered fratricidal wars, reconcile implacably hostile factions and preserve Roman civilization and world order – is teetering dangerously close to collapse…His power is draining away. None of his supporters can stop the inexorably evolving plot against him and prophecy will explode into truth on the “Ides of March” and the world will change forever. This is political thriller laced through with all the intrigue and action surrounding one of the most crucial turning points in the history of western civilization.

The Pages: A Novel by Murray Bail
PR9619.3.B25 P34 2010

Murray Bail’s first novel since Eucalyptus is a beguiling meditation on friendship and love, on men and women, on landscape and the difficulties of thought itself.

What are THE PAGES?

On a family sheep station in the interior of Australia, a brother and sister work the property while their reclusive brother Wesley Antill, spends years toiling away in one of the sheds, writing a philosophy. Now he has died.

Erica, a philosopher, is sent from Sydney to appraise his work. Accompanying her is Sophie who needs a distraction from a string of failed relationships. Her field is psychoanalysis. These two women, each with a different view of the world, meet a situation they have not experienced before, with surprising results.

Lara: “The Family Is Like Water” by Bernardine Evaristo
PR6055.V25 L37 2009

Lara is a powerful semi-autobiographical novel-in-verse based on Bernardine Evaristo’s own childhood and family history. The eponymous Lara is a mixed-race girl raised in Woolwich, a white suburb of London, during the 60s and 70s. Her father, Taiwo, is Nigerian, and her mother, Ellen, is white British. They marry in the 1950s, in spite of fierce opposition from Ellen’s family, and quickly produce eight children in ten years. Lara is their fourth child and we follow her journey from restricted childhood to conflicted early adulthood, and then from London to Nigeria to Brazil as she seeks to understand herself and her ancestry. The novel travels back over 150 years, seven generations and three continents of Lara’s ancestry. It is the story of Irish Catholics leaving generations of rural hardship behind and ascending to a rigid middle class in England; of German immigrants escaping poverty and seeking to build a new life in 19th century London; and of proud Yorubas enslaved in Brazil, free in colonial Nigeria and hopeful in post-war London. Lara explores the lives of those who leave one country in search of a better life elsewhere, but who end up struggling to be accepted even as they lay the foundations for their children and future generations. This is a new edition of Bernardine Evaristo’s first novel Lara, rewritten and expanded by a third since its first publication in 1997.

Storymen by Hannah Rachel Bell
PR9619.3.B453 Z48 2009

What do the artistic works of acclaimed author Tim Winton and eminent Ngarinyin lawman Bungal (David) Mowaljarlai have in common? According to Hannah Rachel Bell they both reflect sacred relationship with the natural world, the biological imperative of a male rite of passage, an emergent urban tribalism, and the fundamental role of story in the transmission of cultural knowledge. In Bell’s four decade friendship with Mowaljarlai, she had to confront the cultural assumptions that sculpted her way of seeing. The journey was life-changing. When she returned to teaching in 2001 Tim Winton’s novels featured in the curriculum. She recognised an eerie familiarity and thought Winton must have been influenced by traditional elders to express such an ‘indigenous’ perspective. She wrote to him. This resulted in 4 years of correspondence and an excavation of converging world views – exposed through personal memoir, letters, paintings and conversations and culminating in Storymen.

You Were Wrong: A Novel by Matthew Sharpe
PS3569.H3444 Y68 2010

It is 2008 in the suburban town of Seacrest, Long Island. Twenty-six-year-old high school math teacher Karl Floor has no parents, no friends, few prospects, is a dim bulb, and lives at home with Larchmont Jones, the aggressively loquacious widower of Karl’s mother. One fine afternoon, Karl returns to his house after work to discover a beautiful stranger in the upstairs hallway. She is Sylvia Vetch, and claims to be robbing him. She also asks for his protection, but won’t quite say from what or whom, and draws him into troubles she won’t elucidate.

No Sherlock Holmes, Karl still slowly begins to see and engage the complex forces that have been shaping his life: his parentage and inheritance, morality and law, the racial and economic geography of present-day New York City and the world at large.

Darkly funny and original, You Were Wrong is a surreal detective story told with heart, wit, and a singular voice.

The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost by Kim Sok-pom
Translated and with an introduction by Cindi L. Textor.
PL855.I528 M313 2010

The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost incorporates Korean folk tales, ghost stories, and myth into a phenomenal depiction of epic tragedy. Written by a zainichi, a permanent resident of Japan who is not of Japanese ancestry, the novel tells the story of Mandogi, a young priest living on the island of Cheju-do. Mandogi becomes unwittingly involved in the Four-Three Incident of 1948, in which the South Korean government brutally suppressed an armed peasant uprising and purged Cheju-do of communist sympathizers. Although Mandogi is sentenced to death for his part in the riot, he survives (in a sense) to take revenge on his enemies and fully commit himself to the resistance. Mandogi’s indeterminate, shapeshifting character is emblematic of Japanese colonialism’s outsized impact on both ruler and ruled. A central work of postwar Japanese fiction, The Curious Tale of Mandogi’s Ghost relates the trauma of a long-forgotten history and its indelible imprint on Japanese and Korean memory.

Meeks: A Novel by Julia Holmes
PS3608.O4943544 M44 2010

No woman will have Ben without a proper bachelor’s suit . . . and the tailor refuses to make him one. Back from war with a nameless enemy, Ben finds that his mother is dead and his family home has been reassigned by the state. As if that isn’t enough, he must now find a wife, or he’ll be made a civil servant and given a permanent spot in one of the city’s oppressive factories.

Meanwhile, Meeks, a foreigner who lives in the park and imagines he’s a member of the police, is hunted by the overzealous Brothers of Mercy. Meeks’ survival depends on his peculiar friendship with a police captain—but will that be enough to prevent his execution at the annual Independence Day celebration?

A dark satire rendered with the slapstick humor of a Buster Keaton film, Julia Holmes’ debut marries the existentialism of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground to the strange charm of a Haruki Murakami novel. Meeks portrays a world at once hilarious and disquieting, in which frustrated revolutionaries and hopeful youths suffer alongside the lost and the condemned, just for a chance at the permanent bliss of marriage and a slice of sugar-frosted Independence Day cake.

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed
PR6113.O364 B57 2010

For fans of Half of a Yellow Sun, a stunning novel set in 1930s Somalia spanning a decade of war and upheaval, all seen through the eyes of a small boy alone in the world. Aden,1935; a city vibrant, alive, and full of hidden dangers. And home to Jama, a ten year-old boy. But then his mother dies unexpectedly and he finds himself alone in the world. Jama is forced home to his native Somalia, the land of his nomadic ancestors. War is on the horizon and the fascist Italian forces who control parts of east Africa are preparing for battle. Yet Jama cannot rest until he discovers whether his father, who has been absent from his life since he was a baby, is alive somewhere. And so begins an epic journey which will take Jama north through Djibouti, war-torn Eritrea and Sudan, to Egypt. And from there, aboard a ship transporting Jewish refugees just released from German concentration camp, across the seas to Britain and freedom. This story of one boy’s long walk to freedom is also the story of how the Second World War affected Africa and its people; a story of displacement and family.

Serious Men by Manu Joseph
PR9499.4.J676 S47 2010

Ayyan Mani, one of the thousands of dalit (untouchable caste) men trapped in Mumbai’s slums, works in the Institute of Theory and Research as the lowly assistant to the director, a brilliant self-assured astronomer. Ever wily and ambitious, Ayyan weaves two plots, one involving his knowledge of an illicit romance between his married boss and the institute’s first female researcher, and another concerning his young son and his soap-opera-addicted wife. Ayyan quickly finds his deceptions growing intertwined, even as the Brahmin scientists wage war over the question of aliens in outer space. In his debut novel, Manu Joseph expertly picks apart the dynamics of this complex world, offering humorous takes on proselytizing nuns and chronicling the vanquished director serving as guru to his former colleagues. This is at once a moving portrait of love and its strange workings and a hilarious portrayal of men’s runaway egos and ambitions.

The German Wedding by Pieter Waterdrinker
Translated from the Dutch by Brian Doyle.
PT5881.33.A838 D8513 2009

The 1950s, a gaudily decorated provincial hotel in an old-fashioned Dutch seaside resort, the evening before a wedding: with lies, misdemeanors and an oompah band all hiding in the wings, everything looks set to spin utterly, riotously out of control. When Jacob and Maria roll out the red carpet to welcome their future family members, they spare no expense. Not to be outdone, Hans – the father of the bride – has brought his sausage factory’s thirty-strong oompah band, The Fleshtones, all the way from Germany. It’s shaping up to be the party of the century! But almost immediately the edifice begins to crumble.

Rajmahal by Kamalini Sengupta
PR9499.3.S259 T67 2010

Marriages, affairs, suicides, duplicitous relations, second chances, murder, madness, and true love—Rajmahal is a beautifully crafted tale of families brought together in an unusual Bengali house over a century of turbulent changes. Within the walls of this stately home, the melting pot of tenants, alive and dead, struggle to come to grips with the social, economic, and intellectual forces working in India as it moves from the British Raj to independence. Their intertwined fortunes and personal battles become a mirror of the struggle for possession of the country’s future.

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