We’re Currently Reading . . .

It’s time once again for us to let you know what we are reading. Be sure to keep us posted with what you are currently reading and let us know what you think of the books we are currently enjoying.

Nicola

Station Eleven Cover ArtStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Not so long ago I attended a talk in Crystal Palace, during which Emily St. John Mandel read a section of her novel, Station Eleven. I was sold from the moment she started reading.

This novel is centred around the Travelling Symphony, years after an incurable disease decimates most of the population. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d hear similar stories before. But what makes this novel unique is a novel use of Shakespeare, whose plays the Travelling Symphony enact as they travel between the scattered townships that survived.

Shakespeare’s writing does not take a back seat in the novel. It is front and centre, rendered lively and engaging through this new setting, and a strong understanding of the old words – and of how they should be acted out. Emily is a thorough writer, making every fact and quote feel solid and unshakeable, yet this does not bog down the writing. The jumps in time are well-placed and every one brings a new revelation that reveals just that little bit more – but not too much, oh no, you, my friend, need to keep reading. I’m half way through, but so far I have not been disappointed. This novel is well worth the read.

Station Eleven is published by Picador, and you can buy it for £5.99 from Waterstones.

Camille cover artAndrew

I loved Pierre Lemaitre’s Alex and Irène, they were both brilliant books. So I was very excited about this year’s Camille from MacLehose Press.

I was even more excited when I snagged an ARC and I have to say so far it doesn’t disappoint.

Stylstically it is slightly different from the previous two novels but this is no bad thing. It is refreshing and Lemaitre’s brilliant writing grips you from the very first page. So far it is also less ‘gory’ than Alex and Irène, but again this is no bad thing, the author has done this, as well as anyone if you ask me, and so it is nice to see him take a slight step away and try something new.

I would recommend picking up Camille when it is published on March 5th, whether you are a fan of Pierre Lamaitre’s previous work or not.

Jo

The Martian Cover ArtWhat I’m actually reading is some of the 73 submissions that have been languishing, awaiting my return from the Vale of Death (no, not Veil, as in one of said 73 submissions) . . . but that’s not what this blog is about, as Mr Turner told me sternly, so instead I’m going to cheat slightly and mention the author who kept me sane during the Time of the Big Cough and then move onto the next book on my Pile.

Everyone has a go-to author in times of stress – for @LitAgentDrury it’s George McDonald Fraser (and let’s face it, who could fail to be transported away from misery and despair by the antics of the irrepressible Flashman?). One of mine is the wonderful Georgette Heyer. If I were not so honest I’d have claimed this line as mine, but though I might not have coined it I absolutely agree that ‘Georgette Heyer is just about the best fun it is possible to have between soft covers: romantic, funny, zippy . . .’ She was legendary for her research, her historical accuracy (which is not always the case with the Regency romance genre), and for her extraordinary characterisation and plots, often writing about, strong, feisty, empowered women long before that became popular (The Grand Sophy and Venetia are among my absolute favourites). And it appears I am not alone; she includes A.S. Byatt and Her Britannic Majesty Queen Elizabeth II amongst her millions of fans. Nice to know I’m in such exalted company.

But now I’m better, the Heyers are back on the shelf for the time being and I am looking forward to The Martian by Andy Weir, not least because Mr Drury said he enjoyed it so much he didn’t even skip the sciency bits – now there’s an encomium for you! The author is apparently a computer scientist, the son of a scientist, and has revealed that he researched the book to be as realistic as possible based on existing technology. After the traditional slew of rejections from literary agents, he self-published to enormous acclaim (and pretty impressive sales), before being picked up and published in print by Crown in the US and Del Rey in the UK. It’s been described as a cross between Apollo 13 and Castaway.

I’ll tell you what I think next time. And if I don’t like it, there are another 32 of Heyer’s Regencies, not to mention six historical, four contemporary and twelve detective novels – and also not to mention my submissions pile (which is now up to 79 manuscripts whilst I’ve been writing this . . .)

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