What We’ve Been Reading Here at Dulwich Books
Here is a glimpse at a few of the books we’ve been reading lately. Come in to the shop to ask us about any of these books, or to tell us what you’ve been reading.
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
This is a breathtakingly assured debut. Shocking, powerful, with vivid descriptions of nature and violence, it features Turtle Alveston, a fourteen-year-old heroine who uses guns, her fists and her emotional strength to combat her father, whose overwhelming passion for her goes beyond controlling into criminal. The Mendocino valley is the setting for this disturbing, brilliant tale of incest and bravery that has drawn praise from many of the USA’s greatest contemporary writers.
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
I am really enjoying this fabulous tale set in Peru in 1860. Merrick Tremayne has, despite a gammy leg, been sent by the East Indian Trading Company on a perilous trip to Peru to obtain cuttings from the native cinchona trees to provide a quinine cure for their employees’ malaria. However a powerful monopoly ensures that no one who attempts to extract the trees from Peru will survive. We encounter beaches of glass, lamps made of pollen, statues that spring to life, a trio of religions and languages, and a rip-roaring tale from the author of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street.
I enjoyed The Dark Circle by Linda Grant. Shortlisted for the Baileys Womens Prize for fiction, it is set in a tuberculosis hospital just after the war. With a lively and well-drawn cast of characters, the book gives us a fascinating insight into the murky and often barbaric treatment of the disease, often with tragic consequences, it is also a social history of the beginnings of the NHS. A moving testament to human courage and the will to live.
Prompted by the release of the new 25th anniversary edition, I am reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt. It is instantly gripping, with believably flawed characters and a thrilling tension, much like The Goldfinch. Plus, with the beginning of autumn approaching, it feels appropriate to be reading about dark and pretentious academia in Vermont.
As ever, more than one book to report. Currently reading Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves, a beautifully written novel successfully utilising the natural world, time shifts, and narrative mystery. Secondly, The Unreals Malaparte: One House, One Thousand Architectures by Cherubino Gambardella, about experiments in architecture made by the author and based on the enigmatic house highlighted in Godard’s Le Mpris.
This month I am getting my teeth into Robert Webb’s part memoir, part unexpected feminist manifesto, How Not to Be a Boy. In evincing the struggle he had to conform with the image of masculinity proffered by contemporary society, it does the important job of convincing men that patriarchal elements of our society directly cause them pain – and as a consequence, that having a feminist outlook can ameliorate the lives of all of us. Unsurprisingly it is funny, but also touching and frank, with anecdotal recollections of the last days with his mother before she dies and he is left with his alcoholic father. The later discussions of his move into comedy and onto television will be hugely popular among those who count Peep Show as a modern classic of the form. For those and any who follow the writings of Laura Bates, Grayson Perry, et al., this book comes strongly recommended.