Recent novels


A few contemporary novels I’ve read recently that I liked, with rough descriptions.

1. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
This short book is so well-written, it’s all but perfect. The plot is a little weird, and it’s kind of about plot, so I can’t give anything away; but the writing is so clean and fluid. When I read this, I thought it was so easy to read that it was “nothing,” like drinking water, but I keep coming back to it because I enjoyed that smooth writing so much.

2. The Dogs Stars by Peter Heller
One of the best books I’ve read in years. The writing is awesome– something very fragmented/ecriture feminine/poetic about it and at the same time very masculine, in terms of expectations of how an experimental male writer might right, it’s this weird gender-bending prose. This book is about grief and what happens after grief, which is that things change, but there’s still grief. If you’re in the mood for some easy-but-not-too-easy contemporary fiction, I can’t recommend this highly enough.

3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
When I read this, I found it somewhat annoying, but I keep thinking of its images. See also the documentary Man on Wire (on Netflix streaming).

4. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
I found this book kind of annoying when I was reading it, but I made myself finish it. Like Let the Great World Spin, I now come back to its images, especially a particular birth scene. After I read it, I tried to read The Book Thief because I thought it would be similar and perhaps even better, but I found it completely intolerable. People of the Book is like The Book Thief for people who enjoy reading, but what you probably also want to read is Everything is Illuminated.

5. The Dinner by Hermann Koch
I have very mixed feelings about this creepy book. It’s well-done– the drama is centered during one dinner party, like one of Ingmar Bergman’s chamber films. It’s fast-paced but the characters are extremely well-developed and the narrator is deliciously unreliable (Cf my love for Lolita). But some of the implications about the mental states of the main character and his son are sketchy.

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About Jessica Smith

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