The Fires of Autumn by Irène Némirovsky – review

The fires of AutumnJust arrived is The Fires of Autumn by Irène Némirovsky. It  was written in the last two years of Irène Némirovsky’s life, after she fled Paris in 1940. The prequel to her masterpiece, ‘Suite Française’, (we haven’t got it, but it’s on order) it’s a panoramic exploration of French life and a witness to the greatest horrors of the twentieth century.

After four years of bloody warfare Bernard Jacquelain returns from the trenches a changed man. No more the naïve hopes and dreams of the teenager who went to war. Attracted by the lure of money and success, Bernard embarks on a life of luxuriant delinquency supported by suspect financial dealings and easy virtue.

Yet when his lover throws him off, he turns to a wholesome childhood friend for comfort. For ten years he lives the good bourgeois life, but as another war threatens everything Bernard had clung to starts to crumble, and the future for his marriage and for France looks terribly uncertain.

“First published posthumously in France in 1957, The Fires of Autumn is a coruscating, tragic evocation of the reality of war and its dirty aftermath, and the ugly colour it can turn a man’s soul.” The Independent

Costa Book Awards shortlist announced

Chop chop

The 2014 Costa Book Awards have been announced and this year the awards received a record number of entries- 640. The awards honour books published in the last year in five categories –

  • First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry, Children’s Book

Two of the novel shortlist (Lives of Others and How to be Both) were shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. The judges are author Elizabeth Buchan, writer Bernardine Evaristo and Foyles’ head of buying Jasper Sutcliffe

Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of OthersHouse of Ashes

Ali Smith’s How to be Both

Monique Roffey for House of Ashes

Colm Tóibín for Nora Webster

The Costa First Novel Award shortlist features former Mormon Carys Bray for A Song for Issy Bradley gets a 5* from Leeds readers

Mary Costello for Academy Street, Emma Healey for Elizabeth is Missing and former chef Simon Wroe for Chop Chop

This award is judged by Joanne Finney, books editor at Good Housekeeping; Joe Haddow, producer at Radio 2 Book Club; and writer Maggie O’Farrell.

The Costa site has some great reviews and full information about the shortlists

#FF Poem of the week

Sylvia PlathWinter Trees by Sylvia Plath

 The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.

On their blotter of fog the trees

Seem a botanical drawing–

Memories growning, ring on ring,

A series of weddings.


Knowing neither abortions nor bitchery,

Truer than women,

They seed so effortlessly!

Tasting the winds, that are footless,

Waisting-deep in history–


Full of wings, otherworldliness.

In this, they are Ledas.

O mother of leaves and sweetness

Who are these peitas?

The shadows of ringdoves chanting, but easing nothing.



Congratulations to @PhilKlay, winner of the National Book Award

RedeploymentPhil Klay has won the National Book Award for fiction for his debut short story collection,Redeployment.” He served as a Marine in Iraq and his experiences have helped him capture the terror, boredom and occasionally the humorous side of war.

He described returning from the war and being treated as if he were unstable, and being asked by children if he had killed anyone.

“I came back not knowing what to think,” he said. “What do you do when you’re trying to explain in words, to the father of a fallen Marine, exactly what that Marine meant to you?”

He said writing fiction about his experiences helped him to process it. “I can’t think of a more important conversation to be having,” he said. “War is too strange to be processed alone.”

Some of the stories take place in Anbar Province, while others are set in the United States as soldiers struggle to readjust to civilian life.

Spectator’s Books of the Year

NagasakiFrom the Spectator’s Books of the Year, based on recommendations by their regular reviewers, we’ve just picked out half a dozen.

 The Broken by Tamar Cohen – a novel about best friends and the disintegration of a middle class marriage.

 The tell-tale heart by Jill Dawson – Patrick, a 50-year-old professor of American Studies, drinker and womaniser, has a heart transplant and the life of the donor — a rebellious, Fen teenager — becomes relevant in bewildering ways.

Nagasaki by Eric Faye –  In a house on a suburban street in Nagasaki, meteorologist Shimura Kobo lives quietly on his own. Or so he believes. Food begins to go missing. Perturbed by this threat to his orderly life, Shimura sets up a webcam to monitor his home. But though eager to identify his intruder, is Shimura really prepared for what the camera will reveal?

AmericanahAmericanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – From the award-winning author of ‘Half a Yellow Sun, a powerful story of love, race and identity. Ifemelu and Obinze, teens in Lagos, fall in love. Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are fleeing the country if they can. The self-assured Ifemelu departs for America. There she suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race

Inside the dream palace: the life and times of New York’s legendary Chelsea Hotel by Sherill Tippins The place where icons of American culture hung out from Jack Kerouac, Janis Joplin to Leonard Cohen & Sid Vicious - the glamorously seedy Chelsea Hotel in New York. Not just a biography of a building, it amounts to an alternative history of 20th-century culture.


Ten Cities that made an Empire - by Tristram Hunt. ‘A stylish history of the British empire, told through its cities in sunny, civilised prose. He begins with the bungling of the American colonies and ends with Britain’s bewilderment as its own cities in turn become ‘colonised’

NOS4R2: a novel by Joe Hill – review

NOS4R2: a novelHorror fans, you’ll love this:  NOS4R2: a novel by Joe Hill, best selling author of Horns and Heart shaped box 8 paperbacks just arriving

The Sunday Times called it ‘enthrallingly petrifying and creepily engrossing’

Summer. Massachusetts. An old Silver Wraith with a frightening history. A story about one serial killer and his lingering, unfinished business. Anyone could be next. We’re going to Christmasland. ‘NOS4R2′ is an old-fashioned horror novel in the best sense. Claustrophobic, gripping and terrifying, this is a story that will have you on the edge of the seat while you read, and leaving the lights on while you sleep

Light of the World by James Burke – review

Light of the worldJames Burke’s Light of the World arrives in paperback this week and it’s been so well rated by Leeds Readers, (9 reviews all 5*) it’s highly recommended if you missed it when it first came out last year.

‘New York Times bestselling author and “America’s best novelist” (The Denver Post) James Lee Burke is back with the twentieth mystery in the masterful Dave Robicheaux series’ “Over the years, he’s grown more messianic, his books more biblical”.  Light of the World is certainly full of fire and brimstone ….

When Detective Dave Robicheaux’s daughter, Alafair, declares her intention to interview a convicted serial killer called Asa Surrette in his Kansas prison cell, he does all he can to dissuade her. Dave has always encouraged her ambitions as a writer, but as a father he doesn’t want her to be exposed to a man so nakedly evil. And his fears seem well founded when Alafair is visibly shocked by the encounter. Two years later, the horror Surrette evoked is all but forgotten, as Dave, his wife Molly and Alafair are vacationing amidst the natural beauty of Montana. But evil, it seems, has followed them into this wild paradise.

Wayfaring strangerIf you enjoy it, why not read Burke’s latest novel  Wayfaring stranger, also arriving this week.

West Texas in 1934,  a fateful encounter between the narrator, Weldon Avery Holland, and the notorious Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker – a meeting which ends with the 16-year-old Holland putting a bullet through the windscreen of Clyde’s stolen automobile. Weldon’s education in the evils that men – and women – are capable of continues as we move to the Ardennes Forest and the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, where Second Lieutenant Weldon Holland saves his sergeant, Hershel Pine, from death by suffocation when he is buried alive in his foxhole under the treads of a Waffen SS Tiger tank.