The cult author of Fight Club is back, while Jacqueline Wilson’s new children’s book features a gay love story… Here are 5 great books to read this week.
In Red Pill, Hari Kunzru expands upon the themes of cultural appropriation and privilege explored in his previous work, White Tears. Its title is a nod to the choice of realities offered by the mysterious Morpheus in The Matrix, while the novel charts an unnamed writer’s descent into madness, as his paranoid obsession with the alt-right movement accelerates following a chance encounter with a cynical showrunner in Berlin. The mid-life New York intellectual has crippling writer’s block, despite undertaking a residency at a cultural institute in the German capital, where conditions designed to foster creativity instead send him spiralling down a rabbit hole of despair. Intense, intelligent and framed against a background of Donald Trump’s march to the White House in 2016, Red Pill is a tour de force about one man’s struggle to deal with how power is seized and retained, today.
(Review by James Cann)
The Fight Club author returns to the underground in The Invention Of Sound, which is something of a murder mystery. In an uncanny version of the Hollywood Hills, the grieving Foster Gates harbours dreams about vigilante justice, desperately scouring the dark web for child abusers to take down. This is interwoven with the tale of famed sound recordist Mitzi Ives, celebrated for her harrowingly realistic scream effects. But Mitzi has a dark secret: she commits acts in a narcotic haze that only the spiritually enlightened Dr Adamah can help her atone for. Or can he? Typically of Palahniuk, it’s not a book for the weak of stomach, not least because of the laboured syntax throughout Mitzi’s narrative. While the book has a relentless pace towards its grisly conclusion, it’s a shame the mystery itself is a little underwhelming.
(Review by Rachel Farrow)
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Ayad Akhtar appears to be making an attempt on the Great American Novel in Homeland Elegies. The sprawling story follows episodes in the life of Akhtar, taking in his parents – who move to the US from Afghanistan – Partition, 9/11 and his father’s involvement with Donald Trump. Even though the author shares similarities with the main character, a note at the start stresses it is not an autobiography. Taking stylistic tips from Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers in its excitable, lengthy sentences and intermittent footnotes, Homeland Elegies remains immensely readable despite the fragmented structure. It wrestles with questions of belonging, home and family – with descriptions of the narrator’s conversations with his dying mother among the most moving parts.
(Review by Laura Paterson)
A baby is condemned to death by British judges. A homeowner who defends his property from burglars somehow ends up being the one facing prison. An illegal immigrant cannot be deported by his pet cat. These stories seem familiar – but they are all untrue. The Secret Barrister is back, and this time he is here to reveal the malice and incompetence behind some of the biggest legal stories of recent years. It is a much-needed book that looks at some of the biggest myths behind the legal system. Fans of the Secret Barrister will be pleased with the latest instalment, which offers well-written insight, making difficult-to-understand laws clearer with interesting and current case studies.
(Review by Megan Baynes)
Children’s book of the week
The legendary Jacqueline Wilson, former children’s laureate and author of over 100 kids’ and YA books, breaks new ground in Love Frankie with her first ever gay romance. The book follows the fortunes of a 14-year-old girl called Frankie, who lives with her single-parent mum and two sisters. Frankie’s dad walked out shortly after her mum was diagnosed with MS. If that wasn’t tough enough, Frankie is having a hard time at school with a group of mean girls like Sally. So far, so familiar, but when Sally starts being nice to her, Frankie starts to look at her in a whole new way. Love Frankie is a moving and powerful depiction of first love, showing it’s okay to be different and own your feelings, and not to feel pressured to fall for the stereotypical ‘Prince Charming’. With believable characters, a poignant storyline and robust life lessons, Wilson certainly hasn’t lost her touch, and by her standards, you’re in for a surprisingly upbeat ending.
(Review by Isla Brotzel)
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