Books you might have missed in July
Given the sizeable number of new releases that arrive in store each month, here are notes from the Readings editorial office on books you might have missed in July.
Skylight by José Saramago
Jose Saramago first submitted Skylight to a publisher in 1953, but the manuscript was lost in the publishers’ offices in Lisbon for decades, and is only recently being published in English. A Nobel Prize-winner, Saramago was in his fifties before he was recognised for his fiction, gaining an international audience with the publication of his novels Blindness and Baltasar and Blimunda. Skylight opens in Lisbon, in the late-1940s. The inhabitants of an old apartment block are struggling to make ends meet. There’s the elderly shoemaker and his wife who take in a solitary young lodger; the woman who sells herself for money, clothes and jewellery; the cultivated family come down in the world, who live only for each other and for music; and the beautiful typist whose boss can’t keep his eyes off her.
The critic James Wood has written of Saramago’s writing style: ‘Some of the more significant writing of the past thirty years has taken delight in the long, lawless sentence – think of Thomas Bernhard, Bohumil Hrabal, W. G. Sebald, Roberto Bolaño – but no one sounds quite like Saramago. He has an ability to seem wise and ignorant at the same time, as if he were not really narrating the stories he narrates. Often, he uses what could be called unidentified free indirect style – his fictions sound as if they were being told not by an author but by, say, a group of wise and somewhat garrulous old men, sitting down by the harbor in Lisbon, having a smoke, one of whom is the writer himself.’
Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey
Catherine Lacey’s short stories and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly, The Believer, The Atlantic, Granta and The Paris Review Daily. She also co-owns and operates a co-operative B&B in Brooklyn, New York. As Lacey wrote in an article for the New York Times, opening a B&B afforded her time and income to ‘persue the low-to-zer-pay project’ that eventually became her debut novel, Nobody is Ever Missing (you can read the full article here.) Lacey’s book follows Elyria, who, without telling her family, takes a one-way flight to New Zealand, abruptly leaving her stable but unfulfilling life in Manhattan. As her husband scrambles to figure out what happened to her, Elyria hurtles into the unknown, testing fate by hitchhiking, tacitly being swept into the lives of strangers, and sleeping in fields, forests, and public parks.
Slate writes this of Lacey’s work: ‘Lacey adroitly treads the line between the poignant and the comic, and evokes beautifully the weird intrusiveness of memory, its suddenness and randomness … In the course of one passage, she can flit from disaffection and despond to absurdity and tenderness and back again … Wise and dazzling.’
The Fever by Megan Abbott
It might feel like there are more thrillers than not released with a Gone Girl comparison from the publisher, but Megan Abbott has come out with an endorsement from Gillian Flynn herself for her new novel, The Fever – Flynn describes Abbott’s book as ‘dark, disturbing, strangely beautiful and utterly unshakeable’.
The Fever follows the close-knit Nash family. Tom is a popular teacher, father to two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie’s best friend, Lise, is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure during class. Rumours of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community. As hysteria swells and more girls succumb, a series of tightly held secrets emerge, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town’s fragile idea of security.
With one of our staff promising that ‘Abbott’s writing will absorb you wholly and set your skin to prickling’, The Fever is highly recommended.
Belle Place is the editor of Readings Monthly.