A treasure of Irish literary fiction set in DONEGAL
New books that are strong on location – March 2023
17th February 2023
Here are out top 3 new location based reads for March 2023:
Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry – Ireland
Recently retired policeman Tom Kettle is settling into the quiet of his new home, a lean-to annexed to a Victorian castle overlooking the Irish Sea. For months he has barely seen a soul, catching only glimpses of his eccentric landlord and a nervous young mother who has moved in next door. Occasionally, fond memories return, of his family, his beloved wife June and their two children.
But when two former colleagues turn up at his door with questions about a decades-old case, one which Tom never quite came to terms with, he finds himself pulled into the darkest currents of his past.
A beautiful, haunting novel, in which nothing is quite as it seems, Old God’s Time is about what we live through, what we live with, and what may survive of us.
Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery – New York
A wildly original debut novel about two young women navigating the complex worlds of Andy Warhol’s Factory, and coming of age in 1960s New York
New York City, 1966. Seventeen-year-old Mae lives in a run-down apartment with her alcoholic mother and her mother’s sometimes-boyfriend, Mikey. She is turned off by the petty girls at her high school, and the sleazy men she typically meets. When she drops out, she is presented with a job offer that will remake her world entirely: she is hired as a typist for the artist Andy Warhol.
Warhol is composing an unconventional novel by recording the conversations and experiences of his many famous and alluring friends. Tasked with transcribing these tapes alongside several other girls, Mae quickly befriends Shelley and the two of them embark on a surreal adventure at the fringes of the countercultural movement. Going to parties together, exploring their womanhood and sexuality, this should be the most enlivening experience of Mae’s life. But as she grows increasingly obsessed with the tapes and numb to her own reality, Mae must grapple with the thin line between art and voyeurism and determine how she can remain her own person as the tide of the sixties sweeps over her.
Nothing Special is a whip-smart coming-of-age story about friendship, independence and the construction of art and identity, bringing to life the experience of young women in this iconic and turbulent moment.
Cuddy by Benjamin Myers – North of England
The triumphant new novel from the Walter Scott Prize-winning author of The Gallows Pole and The Offing
Cuddy is a bold and experimental retelling of the story of the hermit St. Cuthbert, unofficial patron saint of the North of England.
Incorporating poetry, prose, play, diary and real historical accounts to create a novel like no other, Cuddy straddles historical eras – from the first Christian-slaying Viking invaders of the holy island of Lindisfarne in the 8th century to a contemporary England defined by class and austerity.
Along the way we meet brewers and masons, archers and academics, monks and labourers, their visionary voices and stories echoing through their ancestors and down the ages.
And all the while at the centre sits Durham Cathedral and the lives of those who live and work around this place of pilgrimage – their dreams, desires, connections and communities.
And here are a few more March location based new reads:
Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton – New Zealand
Five years ago, Mira Bunting founded a guerrilla gardening group: Birnam Wood. An undeclared, unregulated, sometimes-criminal, sometimes-philanthropic gathering of friends, this activist collective plants crops wherever no one will notice, on the sides of roads, in forgotten parks, and neglected backyards. For years, the group has struggled to break even. Then Mira stumbles on an answer, a way to finally set the group up for the long term: a landslide has closed the Korowai Pass, cutting off the town of Thorndike. Natural disaster has created an opportunity, a sizable farm seemingly abandoned.
But Mira is not the only one interested in Thorndike. Robert Lemoine, the enigmatic American billionaire, has snatched it up to build his end-times bunker – or so he tells Mira when he catches her on the property. Intrigued by Mira, Birnam Wood, and their entrepreneurial spirit, he suggests they work this land. But can they trust him? And, as their ideals and ideologies are tested, can they trust each other?
A gripping psychological thriller from the Booker Prize-winning author of The Luminaries, Birnam Wood is Shakespearean in its wit, drama and immersion in character. A brilliantly constructed consideration of intentions, actions, and consequences, it is an unflinching examination of the human impulse to ensure our own survival.
Old Babes in the Wood by Margaret Atwood – North America
Margaret Atwood is celebrated as one of the most gifted storytellers in the world. This new collection showcases her many talents — and the return of her beloved characters Nell & Tig
They explore the full warp and weft of experience, from two best friends disagreeing about their shared past, to the right way to stop someone from choking; from a daughter determining if her mother really is a witch, to what to do with inherited relics such as World War II parade swords.
They feature beloved cats, a confused snail, Martha Gellhorn, George Orwell, philosopher-astronomer-mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria, a cabal of elderly female academics, and an alien tasked with retelling human fairy tales.
At the heart of the collection is a stunning sequence that follows a married couple as they travel the road together, the moments big and small that make up a long life of love — and what comes after.
The glorious range of Atwood’s creativity and humanity is on full beam in these tales, which by turns delight, illuminate and quietly devastate.
Tomás Nevinson by Javier Marías, Margaret Jull Costa (translator) – Spain
‘The most subtle and gifted writer in contemporary Spanish literature’ Boston Globe
Spain in the 1990s is beset by a simmering campaign of terror from Basque separatists ETA, with periodic atrocities shattering an illusory calm. Against this backdrop, retired British Secret Service member Tomás Nevinson – now living a quiet life in his hometown Madrid – is approached by his sinister former handler, Bertram Tupra, with an offer to bring him back in from the cold, for one last assignment: a favour for Tupra, for old times’ sake, which is also a favour for a powerful Spanish friend.
His mission: to go back undercover, in a small Spanish town, to find out which of three women who moved there a decade ago is in fact an ETA terrorist, on loan from the IRA, now on the run and living there incognito.
Everything about the assignment is shadowy – from who exactly Nevinson will be working for to the question of what ‘justice’ he may need to mete out if he is somehow able to unmask one of the three women. But, still in his forties and lured by the appeal of once again being on the inside, he accepts the job.
As he gets closer to the three women, his task becomes ever harder. How – or who – to choose between these three? Intimately involved with each of them, as lover, colleague or friend, he can find no firm clue to resolve the question. But under increasing pressure from his paymasters, choose – and act – he apparently must . . .
Charting a world where right and wrong, and good and evil, are irreparably blurred, Javier Marías takes us on a journey of rare and unforgettable suspense in this, the final novel written before his untimely passing in 2022.
Enjoy your location based March reading!
Tony for the TripFiction team
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