It was my birthday last month, which means that my shelves are happily groaning under the weight of yet more books to read. As such, I once again have a themeless reading month – it’s my aim to get my to-be-read shelf down to a manageable size before I buy anything new, although given the rate at which exciting new translations are appearing on my radar, this is anything but easy.
I don’t really hold with seasonal summer reading, so my core list has been chosen for no particular reason other than that I’m really excited about all these titles. After the runaway success of The Cut Out Girl, which I read and loved earlier this year, I’m keen to see if the latest winner of the Costa Book Awards, The Volunteer, can also cut the mustard. In terms of translation, this month will mark my first time reading a book by a Syrian author: Dima Wannous’ The Frightened Ones, which I first heard about on the brilliant Bulaq podcast – the address when it comes to finding out about contemporary writing from the Middle East and North Africa, an area of literature I intend to explore more in the future.
In July I will be reading and reviewing:
The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (Jonathan Cape)
What the publisher says: ‘Surging out of the sea, the Bass Rock has for centuries watched over the lives that pass under its shadow on the Scottish mainland. And across the centuries the fates of three women are linked: to this place, to each other. [. . .] Each woman’s choices are circumscribed, in ways big and small, by the men in their lives. But in sisterhood there is the hope of survival and new life. Intricately crafted and compulsively readable, The Bass Rock burns bright with anger and love.’
The Volunteer by Jack Fairweather (WH Allen)
What the publisher says: ‘In the Summer of 1940, after the Nazi occupation of Poland, an underground operative called Witold Pilecki accepted a mission to uncover the fate of thousands of people being interned at a new concentration camp on the border of the Reich. [. . .] This is the first major account to draw on unpublished family papers, newly released archival documents and exclusive interviews with surviving resistance fighters to show how he brought the fight to the Nazis at the heart of their evil designs. The result is an enthralling story of resistance and heroism against the most horrific circumstances, and one man’s attempt to change the course of history.’
The Frightened Ones by Dima Wannous, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Harvill Secker)
What the publisher says: ‘A timely and haunting novel from an exciting new voice in international literature, set in present-day Syria. The Frightened Ones is a boundary-blurring, radical examination of the effects of oppression on one’s sense of identity, the effects of collective trauma, and a moving window into life inside Assad’s Syria.’
Patience by Toby Litt (Galley Beggar Press)
What the publisher says: ‘Elliott is something of a genius. He is hugely intelligent. He’s an incredible observer. He is able to memorise and categorise in astonishing detail. He has a beautiful and unusual imagination. To know him is to adore him. But few people do know Elliott, properly. Because Elliott is also stuck. He lives in a wheelchair in an orphanage. It’s 1979. [. . .] Patience is a remarkable story of love and friendship, courage and adventure – and finding joy in the most unlikely of settings.’