Judges of The Folio Prize 2015 have announced the eight titles on the much anticipated shortlist:
'10:04' by Ben Lerner (Granta)
'All My Puny Sorrows' by Miriam Toews (Faber)
'Dept. of Speculation' by Jenny Offill (Granta)
'Dust' by Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor (Granta)
'Family Life' by Akhil Sharma (Faber)
'How to Be Both' by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)
'Nora Webster' by Colm Tóibín (Viking)
'Outline' by Rachel Cusk (Faber)
Sponsored by The Folio Society, celebrated publisher of beautiful editions of the world’s greatest books, the prize recognises the best English-language fiction from around the world, regardless of form, genre or the author’s country of origin. Rich and varied, with writers originating from North America, the UK, Ireland, Kenya and India, the shortlist comprises a wide range of international voices. Familiar prize-winning names - Ali Smith and Colm Tóibín - are joined by critically-acclaimed newer voices such as Ben Lerner and Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor.
Independent publishers make a strong showing, with Faber and Granta representing three titles each, while the world's largest English language publisher, Penguin Random House, represents the remaining two places on the list. A number of these books are explicitly engaged with the process of writing itself, with each in its own way triumphantly affirming the unique role storytelling plays in making sense of our complex world.
Shortlisted authors are now in the running for the £40,000 overall prize, which will be awarded at a special ceremony at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel on Monday 23 March.
For over 65 years The Folio Society has been publishing beautiful illustrated editions of the world's greatest books. With specially commissioned illustrations, many editions are further enhanced with introductions written by leading figures in their fields: novelists, journalists, academics, scientists and artists. There are hundreds of Folio Society editions currently in print covering fiction, biography, history, science, philosophy, children's literature, humour, myths and legends and more. Exceptional in content and craftsmanship and maintaining the very highest standards of fine book production, Folio Society editions are created to last for generations. Folio Society titles can be bought from www.foliosociety.com, by telephone on 0207 400 4200, by visiting The Folio Society Bookshop, 44 Eagle Street, London, WC1R 4FS, or from selected retail partners.
by Rana Asfour
Qúnzi for skirt
kùzi for trousers
wàzi for socks
George Saunders was last night announced as the winner of The Folio Prize 2014 for Tenth of December, published by Bloomsbury.
MacArthur Fellowship winner George Saunders is an award-winning writer of short stories, essays, novellas and children’s books. Selected from a ‘hugely impressive shortlist’ (David Sexton, Evening Standard) Tenth of December is a dazzling and disturbing collection of short stories that illuminate human experience and explore figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations.
The Folio Prize 2014, worth £40,000, aims to recognise and celebrate the best English-language fiction from around the world, published in the UK during a given year, regardless of form, genre or the author’s country of origin. It is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from all over the world. This is the inaugural year. The Folio Prize is sponsored by The Folio Society, the celebrated publisher of beautiful editions of the world’s greatest books. (Source: thefolioprize.com)
I received a request to read/review 'Beyond Belief' by Helen Smith around Christmas holidays last year. As of January 28th the book has become available in paperback, audio and ebook editions and I am happy to write in that this latest addition to the Emily Castles Mystery series, is just as light-hearted and engaging as ever.
This time, Emily Castles lands a gig with the Royal Society for the Exploration of Science and Culture to attend their annual conference being held in Torquay entitled 'Belief and Beyond'. The society will have for the first time in its history, extended the invitation to mediums, hypnotists and psychics. Emily's mission? Hired by the society's current president Gerald Ayode, she is there to investigate the possible threat to the conference's main attraction and 'super star' Edmund Zenon who is offering a £50,000 reward to anyone who can prove the existence of the paranormal. A well-known rationalist, he is not only a TV celebrity hoping to plug his book at the conference but his tour is aptly entitled 'Don't Believe the Hype'. Quite an inflammatory title at a conference that specialises in nothing but the paranormal.
The setting for the novel is The Seaview Hotel in Torquay aptly named for its location. It is in the waters of Torquay that Zenon has promised his audience, who are gathering in this seaside village from near and far, the most amazing gig on Earth: he will walk on water. And so enter a wide range of amusing (the colonel) and the not so amusing (Madame Nova) and even sinister characters who are all hoping to witness the moment Zenon delivers on his promise.
By now readers of Helen Smith will be expecting a diverse list of eccentric characters and she does not fail to deliver. There is never a dull moment as the characters battle each other for attention. There is murder, fortune-telling, a prophecy, and a very memorable baptism scene. And, of course, there is philosophy professor, Dr. Muriel Crowther, who is like the 'Watson' to our female 'Sherlock'.
Helen Smith's 'Beyond Belief', a whodunnit in all sense of the word, touches upon sensitive, humane issues such as ordinary people's need for the paranormal and the reason people feed into the hype of fortune tellers, psychics, and mediums. It also highlights how wrong it could all go and how easily some take advantage to prey and exploit people's vulnerabilities at a time of loss, bereavement and loneliness. It highlights how people's fears, anxieties, hopes and dreams are feeding an industry, whether authentic in its claims or not, that is constantly expanding and that is proving hard to ignore.
Finally, let me tell you why I like Helen Smith and why you should read her books. It's simple: Helen Smith is an author who listens to her readers. When those readers loved Emily Castles from the word go and asked to know more about her, Helen Smith was listening. In 'Beyond Belief' she creates settings that allow her main character the opportunity to connect with the reader. We glimpse a more intimate, possibly romantic side to Emily that was lacking in the previous book. I do believe she has a lot of growing up to do as a character and I do think there is more to her than the author is letting on. And best of all? Emily's a South London girl. Enough said!
To know more about Helen Smith, click HERE.
Great news: I have a new book to rave about and recommend off the tip of my tongue as soon as someone suggests a title to read. Last year was 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn (click HERE to read the BookFabulous review). Less than a week into this new year and I'm already excited about Liane Moriarty's latest book 'The Husband's Secret'.
The novel, set in Australia, is about a woman, Cecilia Fitzpatrick, who is living the perfect life. She is in love with and married to the town's handsome much-loved and highly-respected member of the community, Jean Paul, who happens to come from a well-to-do family as well. Together they have three beautiful high achieving young daughters. Chairman of the school's PTA, Cecilia has also recently launched a new very successful career involving Tupperware. In short, the woman has it all.
One day, while searching for a souvenir in the attic - a piece of the original Berlin Wall as it happens - to give to her teenage daughter who is currently obsessed with that story having moved on from her obsession with the Titanic, she accidentally stumbles upon a sealed enveloped addressed in her name. Recognising the writing as that of Jean Paul she cannot open it as it has clear instructions that Cecilia is only to ever read the letter in the event of his death.
And here the dilemma starts. Does she open it knowing full well that if she told any one of her friends about it, nearly every one of them would urge her to do just that? Or should she return it to where she found it and pretend it didn't even exist? But it does exist she reasons and starts to obsess about finding answers to questions like why it was there in the attic and not filed away with all of Jean Paul's other legal work? and why had he not given it to their solicitor to keep in the first place?
Her decision? Of course, she opens the letter - (I am not spoiling this for you as the title of the book kind of gives it away) but when she does, it is only to discover that in her hand she holds something akin to a Pandora's box (who by the way Moriarty begins and ends her novel with) that now unleashed unto Cecilia's universe has set in motion a string of events that will change the lives of those closest and dearest.
What Moriarty does with this novel is very clever. She brings a group of ordinary people leading ordinary lives and strings them together in the most extraordinary way. Yet in spite of the novel switching from one character's life to the other, there is an order to the madness and it flows beautifully. However, the reader will run out of guessing options as to the content of the letter and then as to where on earth Moriarty is leading us all. And by us, I mean the readers. For once that letter is opened the reader is no longer an impartial entity but remains challenged throughout. It's like Moriarty defies you to act any differently to her characters when faced with the same situations. It is a novel that will force you to address who you are at your core and what you would do when your values, beliefs, and everything you know about wrong and right are put to the test.
The plot is very believable, so much so that it will have book club members shouting over each other to be heard and most likely at each other. And that in my opinion makes it well worth reading and ultimately gives depth and credibility to the writing. It is a novel about redemption, love, and closure. It is a story about regrets, guilt, and many many secrets.
My best friend and I are still at lock horns with her unbudging attitude that Cecilia should not have opened the letter in the first place. My argument? why write a letter with a secret if you don't want to be found out? Which one of us is right? We'd like you to be the judge of that so come on, go and read/download the book now. A friendship could be at stake here :)
Maravan Vilasam is a Tamil with a passion for food. The youngest of four, he is raised by his great aunt Nangay in Jaffna after his parents burn to their death during the 1983 pogroms in Colombo; the same year that Sri Lanka is plunged into a brutal civil war that will last for over 27 years. With an early interest in cooking instigated by helping Nangay cook meals to sell at the market stall in Jaffna, he quickly learns from his mother's sister all the secrets to Tamil cooking and most importantly to Ayurvedic cuisine.
The novel opens with Maravan as a low-paid refugee-seeker in Zurich, living amongst Switzerland's Tamil diaspora. The civil war in Sri Lanka has reached its pinnacle as Maravan desperately tries to make enough money to send back to his ailing aunt Nangay who is suffering from a vicious type of Diabetes. The year is 2008, one of Switzerland's largest banks has had to write down a further US$19 billion and Lehman Brothers have gone into insolvency. Europe is officially in recession.
Things are tough on everyone in Switzerland but particularly so for Maravan who is working as kitchen help in one of Zurich's finest restaurants 'Chez Huwyler'. With N-authorisation status, which allows asylum seekers such as himself, to only work in specific catering jobs for low wages, there is minimal chance of advancement in his job. In spite of that, he continues to nurture his dream of one day owning a turmeric yellow van with 'Maravan Catering' on the side and to open 'Maravan's' which will be 'the place for avant-garde subcontinental cuisine, paying homage to the aromas, tastes and textures of Southern India and Sri Lanka'. Until then, with his meagre wage and what is left of it after he sends some money home, he continues to experiment with cooking at his home keeping him busy and mostly out of pocket.
At Huwyler, Maravan meets Andrea, a beautiful waitress who has trouble holding a job for more than a few months. After an altercation between the head chef and Maravan, she ends up inviting herself to Maravan's house for dinner. Wanting to impress her, Maravan 'borrows' a kitchen equipment to use for preparing Andrea's meal, the Love Menu. Although the meal goes partly as planned, the same cannot be said of Maravan's plans to return the machine without being noticed. He is fired, goes on the dole and understandably struggles to find another job.
That is, until Andrea comes up with an ingenuous idea to set up the 'Love Food' a private catering company which offers ancient Ayurvedic aphrodisiac recipes to a certain clientele. It all starts off simple and easy but with the business struggling to take off in the dire economic times and Maravan's obligations to his family and his amounting debts, the business takes a whole new turn. The company finds itself immersed in the world of shady dealings with shady people. Maravan's beliefs and values are tested and re-tested time and time again as he struggles to get to grips with 'the dirty stuff' side of the business. Maravan's life, as he knows it, is never the same again.
It is beyond a doubt that 'The Chef' has a lot going for it judging by its ratings - it is a bestseller in Europe. However, in my opinion, its main flaw lies first and foremost with its cover in which a woman's foot is suggestively riding up a man's trouser leg in an outdoor cafe. It is a cover that does not do justice to the story line, but in plain fact devalues it. This is a beautiful story with a very intelligent plot and in no need for such a gimmick. The book's cover is an unfortunate choice and misleading and seems to suggest a saucy read between its covers which is not only disappointing to the reader expecting them but in effect is as far from the reality of the book as possible. This is in fact a story where passion is compromised time and time again be it in Maravan's true passion for what he would like his cooking to do, or Andrea's passion for the call girl Makeda, and even business man Dalmann, with his accumulation of money and power, seems to lack the ability to experience passion. It seems that Martin Suter, whether purposefully or inadvertently, is trying to drive the point that in these times it seems that passion is a romantic notion consigned to the past to be ignored in these tough economic times. We do what we do to survive for if we don't do that, then others will.
There is a lot going on behind the scenes of this novel. 'The Chef' is a multi layered book, one of which is offering a glimpse into a segment of Swiss society rarely highlighted; that of the Tamil population. According to statics from 2008, the number of Tamils in Switzerland alone has reached 55,000. Although they have integrated to their full potential in the business sector, they remain a closed knit society holding on to its traditions, language and culture allowing very little, if any, influence to infiltrate from the hosting country. That is why it is quite refreshing to read the parts about Maravan's rituals upon entering his house, the Tamil festivals that he caters for and his relationship with the community of the diaspora particularly his relationship with Sandana, a first generation Swiss Tamil.
It is evident from the start that Maravan does not share the views of The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelan (LTTE) which makes Maravan's existence within the diaspora both difficult and suspicious. The LTTE are a powerful lot and it is apparent the amount of control they exert on people's lives and livelihoods, even resorting to blackmail in the case of Maravan, to secure the funds necessary for their fight against the Sri Lankan army in their homeland. Their path is not one Maravan believes in particularly with the knowledge of the LTTE 's recruitment of child soldiers. A fate he worries might be destined for his young 14-year-old nephew, Ulagu.
I did, on the whole, enjoy 'The Chef' although it did take a bit of a while to warm up to the characters. I cannot promise all of you will like it but one thing I can promise is this: if you are into cooking, as I am, then you are in for a gastronomic delight. The sections with Maravan preparing his magical dishes are mouth-watering. Although I have yet to try any of the recipes in the book that is not to say I am ruling out the possibility. Will keep you updated on that one!
For more on the author Martin Suter, click HERE
For more on the translator Jamie Bulloch, click HERE
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