Home > Book Club > Book Club 2017-2018 : our selection

Book Club 2017-2018 : our selection

We have decided upon our list of 12 books for our next year’s Book Club. Since I’m a little lazy these days, I’ll copy paste the blurbs from Goodreads. *drum roll* Et voilà!

  • August 2017: Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. UK, 1862.

“This Victorian bestseller, along with Braddon’s other famous novel, Aurora Floyd, established her as the main rival of the master of the sensational novel, Wilkie Collins. A protest against the passive, insipid 19th-century heroine, Lady Audley was described by one critic of the time as “high-strung, full of passion, purpose, and movement.” Her crime (the secret of the title) is shown to threaten the apparently respectable middle-class world of Victorian England.”

I’m curious about sensational fiction and I’m glad we have this one on the list.

  • September 2017: Petit Piment by Alain Mabanckou Congo/France, 2015. (English title: Black Moses)

“It’s not easy being Tokumisa Nzambe po Mose yamoyindo abotami namboka ya Bakoko. There’s that long name of his for a start, which means, “Let us thank God, the black Moses is born on the lands of the ancestors.” Most people just call him Moses. Then there’s the orphanage where he lives, run by a malicious political stooge, Dieudonne Ngoulmoumako, and where he’s terrorized by two fellow orphans–the twins Songi-Songi and Tala-Tala.

But after Moses exacts revenge on the twins by lacing their food with hot pepper, the twins take Moses under their wing, escape the orphanage, and move to the bustling port town of Pointe-Noire, where they form a gang that survives on petty theft. What follows is a funny, moving, larger-than-life tale that chronicles Moses’s ultimately tragic journey through the Pointe-Noire underworld and the politically repressive world of Congo-Brazzaville in the 1970s and 80s.

Mabanckou’s vivid portrayal of Moses’s mental collapse echoes the work of Hugo, Dickens, and Brian DePalma’s Scarface, confirming Mabanckou’s status as one of our great storytellers. Black Moses is a vital new extension of his cycle of Pointe-Noire novels that stand out as one of the grandest, funniest, fictional projects of our time.”

I’m happy to read another novel by Mabanckou. I enjoyed Black Bazar a lot, it was such a vivid picture of Paris in popular neighbourhoods and of the African community in France. He’s a virtuoso of the French language, making it sing his own song.

  • October 2017 : Monsieur Proust by Céleste Albaret France, 1973.

Céleste Albaret was Marcel Proust’s housekeeper in his last years, when he retreated from the world to devote himself to In Search of Lost Time. She could imitate his voice to perfection, and Proust himself said to her, “You know everything about me.” Her reminiscences of her employer present an intimate picture of the daily life of a great writer who was also a deeply peculiar man, while Madame Albaret herself proves to be a shrewd and engaging companion. 

I’m curious to read about Proust seen by his own Françoise. I heard from another reader that the whole book has the charm of an outmoded way-of-life. It should be fascinating although I suspect she doesn’t speak about Proust’s less questionble habits but we’ll see.

  • November 2017: Tu, mio  by Erri de Luca Italy, 1998.

“The unnamed narrator of this slim, alluring novel recalls a summer spent at age sixteen on an idyllic Italian island off the coast of Naples in the 1950s, where he spends his days with Nicola, a local fisherman. The narrator falls in love with Caia, who shares with him that she’s Jewish, saved by Italian soldiers from the Nazis, who killed the rest of her Yugoslav family. The boy demands answers about the war from the adults around him, but is rebuffed by everyone but Nicola, who tells him of Italy’s complicity with the Nazis. His passion for Caia and his ardent patriotism lead him to a flamboyant, cataclysmic act of destruction that brings his tale to an end.”

It is always a pleasure to read Erri de Luca. I’ve already written a billet about his Three Horses. There’s something soothing in his prose, something coming from his own calm. I loved the humanity in his words and behind his words.

  • December 2017: They Were Counted by Miklós Bánffy Hungary, 1934. Transylvania Trilogy #1 (French title: Vos jours sont comptés.)

Painting an unrivalled portrait of the vanished world of pre-1914 Hungary, this story is told through the eyes of two young Transylvanian cousins, Count Balint Abády and Count László Gyeroffy. Shooting parties in great country houses, turbulent scenes in parliament, and the luxury of life in Budapest provide the backdrop for this gripping, prescient novel, forming a chilling indictment of upper-class frivolity and political folly, in which good manners cloak indifference and brutality. Abády becomes aware of the plight of a group of Romanian mountain peasants and champions their cause, while Gyeroffy dissipates his resources at the gaming tables, mirroring the decline of the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself.

This is the first volume of the famous Transylvania Trilogy. I expect to be swept away by it and brought back to this fascinating time in recent history.

  • January 2018 : The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver, USA, 2009. (French title: Un autre monde)

“In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. “The Lacuna” is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.”

I’ve enjoyed all the Kingsolvers I’ve read, most of them pre-blog. I’m looking forward to discovering this one too. I will also be reading her collection of short stories Homeland  and Other Stories soon.

 

  • February 2018 : Spada by Bogdan Teodorescu, Romania, 2009.

“A Borgen from the Balkans. A criminal is found dead in the streets of Bucarest. When another criminal and a another are murdered with the same weapon and in the same way, it becomes clear that a serial killer is on the loose in Romania’s capital city. The victims are all of the same type, they belong to the Roma community and have a criminal record.” 

I got this Romanian crime fiction novel at Quais du Polar, Lyon’s crime fiction festival. Crime fiction is often a non-touristy way of discovering a country, so I expect to see Romania differently. It’s not available in English.

  • March 2018 : The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett, UK, 1902

The Grand Babylon Hotel is an exclusive London establishment, and American millionaire Theodore Racksole, visiting the hotel with his spirited 23-year-old daughter Nella, decides to buy the place. What he hasn’t counted on is having to deal with a criminal conspiracy whose purposes are not at all clear, and events take an unexpected turn as Theodore and Nella play detective. Replete with evil villains, physical dangers, and secret passages, The Grand Babylon Hotel is a mesmerizing thriller that will be enjoyed by mystery lovers everywhere.

I sounds intriguing, don’t you think?

  • April 2018: Ce qui reste en forêt by Colin Niel. France, 2013. Not available in English.

I’ve already read Les hamacs de carton by Colin Niel and I enjoyed the investigation led by Capitane Anato. This crime fiction series is set in French Guyana, one of the French overseas territories. It is captivating to read about this place, so different from what we call France Métropolitaine, meaning the main part of France, here in Europe.

Niel gives us a good picture of French Guyana and helps us understand how the communities interact with each other. I hope Colin Niel gets translated.

 

  • May 2018: The Easter Parade by Richard Yates. USA, 1976

“In The Easter Parade, first published in 1976, we meet sisters Sarah and Emily Grimes when they are still the children of divorced parents. We observe the sisters over four decades, watching them grow into two very different women. Sarah is stable and stalwart, settling into an unhappy marriage. Emily is precocious and independent, struggling with one unsatisfactory love affair after another. Richard Yates’s classic novel is about how both women struggle to overcome their tarnished family’s past, and how both finally reach for some semblance of renewal.”

I’ve heard so many good things about Yates on other blogs that I’m really happy that we included The Easter Parade in our selection. (PS: I find this cover terrible)

  • June 2018: Petit Pays by Gaël Faye, France, 2016

In 1992, ten-years old Gabriel lived in Burindi with his French father, his Rwandan mother and his little sister Ana. Their house is in the rich neighborhood for expats. Gabriel spends his time with his friends, getting in a lot of trouble. It’s a quiet daily life, a smooth childhood that will be shattered at the same time as this “small African country” suddenly shaken up by history.

This book won the Prix Goncourt des Lycéens, the Goncourt prize given by high-school students. Usually, they make a good choice. We wanted to read more about Africa, this will contribute to it. It’s not available in English yet, but there’s a good chance it gets translated.

  • July 2018: The Dinner by Herman Koch, Netherlands, 2009

“An internationally bestselling phenomenon: the darkly suspenseful, highly controversial tale of two families struggling to make the hardest decision of their lives — all over the course of one meal. 

It’s a summer’s evening in Amsterdam, and two couples meet at a fashionable restaurant for dinner. Between mouthfuls of food and over the polite scrapings of cutlery, the conversation remains a gentle hum of polite discourse — the banality of work, the triviality of the holidays. But behind the empty words, terrible things need to be said, and with every forced smile and every new course, the knives are being sharpened”

I have heard good things about The Dinner and honestly, the setting is a great idea. According to the blurb and the reviews I’ve read, I think it’d make a great theatre play. We’ll see that next summer.

Well, what do you think about our selection? Have you read any of them? If yes, don’t hesitate to leave a message and a link to your review. As always, anyone can join us for a readalong. Happy reading!

Categories: Book Club Tags: ,
  1. July 10, 2017 at 4:41 pm

    Interesting list! I’d never heard of the Bennett but it sounds like fun!

    Like

    • July 10, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      Thanks. I’d never heard of Bennett but Tom from Wuthering Expectations brought him to my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. July 10, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Loved the Dinner and Lady Audley’s Secret.

    Like

    • July 10, 2017 at 5:12 pm

      I remember your reviews. That’s why these titles were on my virtual TBR, the one I used for suggestions!

      Like

      • July 10, 2017 at 5:57 pm

        I’ll be interested to see what you make of them.

        Like

        • July 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm

          First one will be ME Bradden in August. Stay tuned!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. July 10, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    How superb! Many books which we bought together or that I otherwise know. I am curious to hear what you think of them all! I’m planning to read Miklos Banffy too, so perhaps I’ll try to make it coincide with yours.

    Like

    • July 10, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      That would be lovely if you could join us for the Banffy.
      Did you read Spada? I know you got it at Quais du Polar too.

      Like

      • July 10, 2017 at 6:07 pm

        Yes, I did, I’m trying to shop it around for an English translation. But I think it may need some editing for the English market.

        Like

        • July 10, 2017 at 6:07 pm

          Ah yes, I remember that now.

          Like

  4. Jonathan
    July 10, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    The Easter Parade is superb and I enjoyed The Dinner; I keep meaning to read more by Koch. I’m back in a bit of a Proust mood at the moment (currently reading Jean Santeuil) so Monsieur Proust looks appealing. I read some Proust-related books after reading ISOLT but never got round to the Céleste Albaret book.

    Like

    • July 10, 2017 at 8:47 pm

      Another positive view on The Easter Parade and The Dinner. I really think they are good choices.

      Don’t hesitate to join us for Monsieur Proust. Just let me know when you review it, in case I’d miss your post.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. July 10, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    It’s always fascinating to see your book club choices for the year ahead – you’ve definitely got some excellent reading to look forward to there. (As a slight aside, I think my book group would balk at many of these as they tend to prefer more contemporary fiction, typically best sellers or books centred around a moral issue/dilemma. *Sigh*)

    As Jonathan has just said, The Easter Parade is superb. I’m pretty sure its Joan Didion’s favourite Yates, so you can’t go wrong with that. The Banffy is terrific too. It’s one of those stories that you can’t stop reading but never want to end – wonderful stuff.

    Like

    • July 10, 2017 at 8:52 pm

      Thanks Jacqui. We tried to mix the selection: different countries, different centuries, different genres (crime fiction, non-fiction, literary fiction)

      I remember your review of The Easter Parade, I’m looking forward to reading it. (Speaking of Didion, I couldn’t read The Year of Magical Thinking, it got to me)

      We have an expression in French for books like the Banffy: they’re called “roman-fleuves”, or “river-books” which is what you call “page-turner”. I like the image of the river of words, taking you away from your quotidian.

      Like

  6. July 11, 2017 at 12:58 am

    What a promising list.

    It is interesting to see that Bennett’s 1902 thriller is about the management of a fancy hotel. A chunk of the 1908 Bennett novel I read, which was definitely not a thriller, is also about the management of a hotel, a little Parisian pension, so, different, but still. Bennett got a lot of fiction out of how hotels are run!

    Like

    • July 11, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      Hotels are a great setting for fiction. I hope this Bennett is good, it sounds promising to me.

      Like

  7. July 11, 2017 at 4:43 pm

    Lots of variety on your list, always a good sign.

    For some reason I always mix up Koch’s book with that play / movie Carnage.

    I read the Albaret many years ago – it was my first NYRB I think. I remember it as being very charming, although it’s fair to say the loyal housekeeper is in serious denial about certain aspect’s of M. Proust’s life.

    And I will add my tuppence worth to the universal praise for Yates above. Hope you like it.

    So many of the others look appealing – thanks for sharing Emma.

    Like

    • July 11, 2017 at 9:49 pm

      I’m very curious about the Albaret.

      The Yates seems very good, I hope I won’t be disappointed.

      Like

  8. July 19, 2017 at 11:43 am

    That Easter Parade cover really is terrible, you’re quite right. Fantastic book though as others have said.

    I’m really looking forward to your thoughts on the Banffy which I’ve wanted to read for ages.

    My impression is that the recent Mabanckou is one of his weakest. If there’s an opportunity to substitute for another of his it might be worth going for…

    Like

    • July 21, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      I’m looking forward to the Yates and the Banffy. I expect something like War & Peace or The Leopard, you know one of these great books where we follow characters during troubled times. A grand “saga”.

      Thanks for the warning on the Mabanckou. I’ll raise that point, we might change the title.

      Like

  9. July 19, 2017 at 11:45 am

    Oh, and I agree with Kaggsy (that’s true most of the time to be fair). The Bennett does sound fun.

    Like

    • July 21, 2017 at 1:48 pm

      It does. I owe this one to Tom, I’d never heard of Bennett before he mentioned him.

      Like

  10. August 12, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    I enjoyed The Lacuna, well I enjoy everything by this author

    Like

  11. August 12, 2017 at 10:07 pm

    Good to know. I didn’t like The Poisonwood Bible as much as the others and I wondered about The Lacuna.

    Like

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