Round-Up of February New Releases
Our head books buyer Martin Shaw looks at the new releases out this month.
There seems no other way to begin a wrap of February books without mentioning Graeme Simsion’s romantic comedy, The Rosie Project: ‘the feel-good novel of 2013’, according to Text, and already licensed by almost every publisher on the planet. Not bad for a debut! I find a couple of things particularly endearing about the whole phenomenon. Creating a Twitter account for the protagonist, @ProfDonTillman, is certainly a cute touch. And I also like one particular aspect of the back-story to publication (apart from the fact that the book started life as a screenplay). Namely that it was only on the urging of one particular judge on the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript that it came to the attention of the other jurors and went on to win the award. Of course, the rest is now history, but this just reinforces what a human business the book trade really is, in a world where all we often hear about is the impact of technology and market forces et cetera et cetera.
Incidentally, that same judge, Zoe Dattner, happens to be a publisher in her own right and, while perhaps lamenting the one that got away, is releasing this month a debut of her own. Inheritance, by Balli Kaur Jaswal, is a family drama set in that rather secretive city-state of Singapore. Our reviewer calls it ‘richly evocative’ and ‘tender and enlightening’. Another debut to watch out for is Lesley Jørgensen’s Cat & Fiddle, a comedy of manners set in contemporary Britain that is inviting comparisons with Pride and Prejudice, but as written by a Monica Ali or Zadie Smith.
In non-fiction, Jill Stark’s High Sobriety will be a sobering read for many, while Kate Richards’ Madness: A Memoir looks at the world from the view of a functioning individual prone to psychosis. William Dalrymple also has an epic history of the Anglo-Afghan War of 1839-42, a conflict that is still being played out to this day.
Finally, I’ll mention Joyful Strains, a fascinating anthology of essays celebrating the experiences of writers expatriating to Australia that, in the words of J.M. Coetzee, range ‘from the affectionate to the bitter to the hilariously funny to the probingly intelligent’. I’m happy to punt that this will lay claim to a few spots in Black Inc.’s Best Australian Essays 2013, and it’s to be hoped that it might also be a timely intervention in Australia’s noticeably fraying multicultural vision.
Martin Shaw is Readings’ Books Division Manager.
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