The Gravity of Birds | Tracey Guzeman

 

The Gravity of Birds by Tracey Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds by Tracey Guzeman

The Gravity of Birds by Tracey Guzeman is a book about art, artists and families.

In this compelling debut novel, an art authenticator and an art historian are employed by a famous, reclusive painter to sell a never-before-seen portrait, leading them to discover devastating secrets two sisters have kept from each other, and from the artist who determined the course of their lives. How do you find someone who wants to be lost?

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative-and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters-a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.

Impresive, especially for a debut novel.

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The Spinning Heart | Donal Ryan

SpinningHearth RyanThe Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is a literary novel with the story told by several different characters.

“My father still lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down.”

 In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

 The Spinning Heart speaks for contemporary Ireland like no other novel. Wry, vulnerable, all-too human, it captures the language and spirit of rural Ireland and with uncanny perception articulates the words and thoughts of a generation. Technically daring and evocative of Patrick McCabe and J.M. Synge, this novel of small-town life is witty, dark and sweetly poignant.

 Donal Ryan’s brilliantly realized debut announces a stunning new voice in literary fiction.

This was lovely, but somewhat thin.

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The Age of Ice | J.M. Sidorova

Ice SidorovaThe Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova is a literary fantasy novel and you should totally read it.

An epic debut novel about a lovelorn eighteenth-century Russian noble, cursed with longevity and an immunity to cold, whose quest for the truth behind his condition spans two thrilling centuries and a stunning array of historical events. The Empress Anna Ioannovna has issued her latest eccentric order: construct a palace out of ice blocks. Inside its walls her slaves build a wedding chamber, a canopy bed on a dais, heavy drapes cascading to the floor-all made of ice. Sealed inside are a disgraced nobleman and a deformed female jester. On the empress’s command-for her entertainment-these two are to be married, the relationship consummated inside this frozen prison. In the morning, guards enter to find them half-dead. Nine months later, two boys are born.Surrounded by servants and animals, Prince Alexander Velitzyn and his twin brother, Andrei, have an idyllic childhood on the family’s large country estate. But as they approach manhood, stark differences coalesce. Andrei is daring and ambitious; Alexander is tentative and adrift. One frigid winter night on the road between St. Petersburg and Moscow, as he flees his army post, Alexander comes to a horrifying revelation: his body is immune to cold.

J. M. Sidorova’s boldly original and genrebending novel takes readers from the grisly fields of the Napoleonic Wars to the blazing heat of Afghanistan, from the outer reaches of Siberia to the cacophonous streets of nineteenth-century Paris. The adventures of its protagonist, Prince Alexander Velitzyn-on a lifelong quest for the truth behind his strange physiology-will span three continents and two centuries and bring him into contact with an incredible range of real historical figures, from Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, to the licentious Russian empress Elizaveta and Arctic explorer Joseph Billings.

The Age of Ice is one of the most enchanting and inventive debut novels of the year.

Ooooooh this book give me the happys.

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As She Left it | Catriona McPherson

As She Left It by Catriona McPherson is a novel about the secrets of childhood set in a Leeds council estate.

Untangling the shame and sorrow on Mote Street

At the age of twelve, Opal Jones escaped her mother’s endless drinking and her life in Leeds, England. Returning to the small cottage on Mote Street after her mum’s death is like going back in time. Nosey Mrs. Pickess is still polishing her windows to a sparkle (the better to spy) and Fishbo, Opal’s ancient music teacher, is still playing trumpet. Then, Opal learns about a tragedy the neighborhood has never recovered from: the disappearance of three-year-old Craig Southgate. The sweet, red-haired child Opal once knew was kidnapped — and never seen again.

At first, unraveling the decade-old mystery is a fine distraction from Opal’s own ugly past. But teasing out her neighbors’ dark secrets begins dredging up uncomfortable memories of her own childhood – and a growing suspicion about little Craig’s fate.

This is an astonishing work of fiction.

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The Heretics Daughter | Kathleen Kent

The Heretics Daughter by Kathleen Kent is a novel about the relationships between women set during the Witchcraft Trials of Salem.

Martha Carrier was hanged
on August 19th, 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, unyielding in her refusal
to admit to being a witch, going to her death rather than joining the
ranks of men and women who confessed and were thereby spared execution.
Like her mother, young Sarah Carrier is bright and wilful, openly
challenging the small, brutal world in which they live. In this
startling novel, she narrates the story of her early life in Andover,
near Salem. Her father is a farmer, English in origin, quietly stoical
but with a secret history. Her mother is a herbalist, tough but loving,
and above all a good mother. Often at odds with each other, Sarah and
her mother have a close but also cold relationship, yet it is clear that
Martha understands her daughter like no other. When Martha is accused
of witchcraft, and the whisperings in the community escalate, she makes
her daughter promise not to stand up for her if the case is taken to
court. As Sarah and her brothers are hauled into the prison themselves,
the vicious cruelty of the trials is apparent, as the Carrier family,
along with other innocents, are starved and deprived of any decency,
battling their way through the hysteria with the sheer willpower their
mother has taught them.

I picked this up because it was on sale, and I’m glad I did.

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The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones | Jack Wolf

The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones by Jack Wolf is a a literary historical.

Explosive, transgressive and wildly inventive, Jack Wolf’s novel THE TALE OF THE RAW HEAD AND BLOODY BONES (Penguin Original; March 26, 2013; 978-0-14-312382-8; $16.00; also available as an ebook) is arrestingly authentic. UK based author  Jack Wolf, who wrote the novel as a woman and has since transitioned to being a man, has fully embraced both the language and ideas of eighteenth-century England to create a beautiful and startling novel that contemplates questions of good and evil, faith and science,  that are still relevant today. Moreover, while it does not explicitly deal with issues of gender identity, Wolf’s experience of transitioning from female to male is reflected in the writing, in particular in its focus on identity and what it feels like to be uncomfortable in one’s own skin.

I can see why the way it’s written -using period spelling and capitalisation (though fortunately not the most extreme versions) could put an unaware or unexperienced person off. But I strongly advise you to try to get through it, like I advise people to try with Wuthering Heights (if you can get through that you can get through this. At least this isn’t in dialect).

Provided for free by Penguin Group through NetGalley.

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The Blind Assassin | Margaret Atwood

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a story about love and regret told over a period of several years.

“Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge”

More than fifty years on, Iris Chase is remembering Laura’s mysterious death. And so begins an extraordinary and compelling story of two sisters and their secrets. Set against a panoramic backdrop of twentieth-century history, The Blind Assassin is an epic tale of memory, intrigue and betrayal…

I can see how a book like this could be divisive. I can see how Margaret Atwood as a writer could cause a wild variety of opinions. But I can’t help it – I love her, and her writing.

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