Fiction set in USA and EUROPE: the life of Maria Callas
New books that are strong on location – August 2021
27th July 2021
Here are our three top recommendations for books to be published in August 2021
The Country of Others by Leila Slimani – set in Morocco
Alsace, 1944. Mathilde finds herself falling deeply in love with Amine Belhaj, a Moroccan soldier billeted in her town fighting for the French. After the Liberation, Mathilde leaves her country to follow her new husband to Morocco. But life here is unrecognisable to this brave and passionate young woman.
Suffocated by the heat of the Moroccan climate, by her loneliness on the farm, by the mistrust she inspires as a foreigner and by their lack of money, Mathilde grows restless.
As violence broods and Morocco’s own struggle for independence grows daily, Mathilde and Amine’s refusal to take sides sees them and their family at odds with their own desire for freedom.
How can Mathilde – a woman whose life is dominated by the decisions of men – hold her family together in a world that is being torn apart?
What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad – set in The Mediterranean
More bodies have washed up on the shores of a small island. Another overfilled, ill-equipped, dilapidated ship has sunk under the weight of its too many passengers: Syrians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Lebanese, Palestinians, all of them desperate to escape untenable lives back in their homelands. But miraculously, someone has survived the passage: nine-year-old Amir, a Syrian boy who is soon rescued by Vänna. Vänna is a teenage girl, who, despite being native to the island, experiences her own sense of homelessness in a place and among people she has come to disdain. And though Vänna and Amir are complete strangers, though they don’t speak a common language, Vänna is determined to do whatever it takes to save the boy.
In alternating chapters, we learn about Amir’s life and how he came to be on the boat, and we follow him and the girl as they make their way toward safety. What Strange Paradise is the story of two children finding their way through a hostile world. But it is also a story of empathy and indifference, of hope and despair–and about the way each of those things can blind us to reality..
Waiting for the Waters to Rise by Maryse Condé – set in Haiti
Babakar is an African doctor living alone until the child Anaïs comes into his life. Forced to abandon his solitude, he takes her to Haiti in search of her family. In May 2020, we published The Wondrous and Tragic Life of Ivan and Ivana by Maryse Conde; one of our most high-profile publications to date. Here’s a selection of the most brilliant reviews: “Condé is at her signature best: offering complex, polyphonic and ultimately shattering stories whose provocations linger long after [the] final pages. The book is a reflection on the dangers of binary thinking…One is never on steady ground with Condé; she is not an ideologue, and hers is not the kind of liberal, safe, down-the-line morality that leaves the reader unimplicated.
Other August books, strong on location, that you might like…
A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins – set in London
‘What is wrong with you?’
Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.
Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?
Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.
Look what you started.
All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days by Rebecca Donner – set in Berlin
Born and raised in America, Mildred Harnack was twenty-six when she enrolled in a PhD programme in Germany and witnessed the meteoric rise of the Nazi party. In 1932, she began holding secret meetings in her apartment-a small band of political activists that by 1940 had grown into the largest underground resistance group in Berlin.
She recruited Germans into the resistance, helped Jews escape, plotted acts of sabotage and collaborated in writing leaflets that denounced Hitler and called for revolution. Her co-conspirators circulated through Berlin under the cover of night, slipping the leaflets into mailboxes, public restrooms, phone booths. When the first shots of the Second World War were fired she became a spy, couriering top-secret intelligence to the Allies. On the eve of her escape to Sweden, she was ambushed by the Gestapo. During a hastily convened trial at the Reichskriegsgericht – the Reich Court-Martial – a panel of five judges sentenced her to six years at a prison camp, but Hitler overruled the decision and ordered her execution. On 16 February 1943, she was strapped to a guillotine and beheaded.
Harnack’s great-great-niece Rebecca Donner draws on extensive archival research and newly discovered documents in her family archives in this astonishing work of nonfiction. Fusing elements of biography, political thriller and scholarly detective story, Donner brilliantly interweaves letters, diary entries, notes smuggled out of a Berlin prison, survivors’ testimony, and a trove of declassified intelligence documents into a powerful, epic story, reconstructing the moral courage of an enigmatic woman nearly erased by history.
Damnation Spring by Ash Davidson – set in Oregon
For generations, Rich Gundersen’s family has made a living felling giant redwoods on California’s rugged coast. It’s treacherous work, and though his son, Chub, wants nothing more than to step into his father’s boots, Rich longs for a bigger future for him.
Colleen just wants a brother or sister for Chub, but she’s losing hope. There is so much that she and Rich don’t talk about these days - including her suspicions that there is something very wrong at the heart of the forest on which their community is built.
When Rich is offered the opportunity to buy a plot of timber which borders Damnation Grove, he leaps at the chance – without telling Colleen. Soon the Gundersens find themselves on opposite sides of a battle that threatens to rip their town apart. Can they find a way to emerge from this together?
Silent Winds, Dry Seas by Vinod Busjeet – set in Mauritius
In the 1950s, Vishnu Bhushan is a young boy yet to learn the truth beyond the rumors of his family’s fractured histories–an alliance, as his mother says, of two bankrupt families. In evocative chapters, the first two decades of Vishnu’s life in Mauritius unfolds with heart wrenching closeness as he battles to experience the world beyond, and the cultural, political, and familial turmoil that hold on to him.
Through gorgeous and precise language, Silent Winds, Dry Seas conjures the spirit and rich life of Mauritius, even as its diverse peoples live under colonial rule. Weaving the soaring hopes, fierce love, and heart-breaking tragedies of Vishnu’s proud Mauritian family together with his country’s turbulent path to gain independence, Busjeet masterfully evokes the epic sweep of history in the intimate moments of a boy’s life.
Silent Winds, Dry Seas is a poetic, powerful, and universal novel of identity and place, of the legacies of colonialism, of tradition, modernity, and emigration, and of what a family will sacrifice for its children to thrive.
Enjoy your August reading!
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