What We're Reading 

Hidden gems, hot favourites, slow burners and the odd guest columnist.

June 2016

 - Wednesday, June 01, 2016
Jack: The Violet Hour by Katie Roiphe Death is enjoying a resurgence. The Violet Hour traces the lives of five writers who became immortal—then died: ‘I wouldn’t want that moment to pass unnoticed’, observes one immortal. This book is a fine tribute to noticing, and highly recommended for mortals. I also recommend The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion—Meghan Daum’s latest collection of personal essays. Go straight to page 149 and encounter ‘The Joni Mitchell Problem’. Think about it. And wonder why you haven’t before.

Scott V: The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss—Not many people know about Thomas Alexandre Dumas, father of the author Alexandre Dumas. After reading Tom Reiss’ account of his extraordinary life, I was astounded at the oversight. Thomas was born into slavery in the French Caribbean and rose to become a General in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Armies. It was all made possible by revolutionary ideas of equality (male), which were briefly in fashion. Thomas’ swashbuckling exploits would become an inspiration for The Count of Monte Christo and The Three Musketeers. A wonderful, adventurous read about an extraordinary human being.

Jonathon: Florence Gordon by Brian Morton. ‘Meet Florence Gordon, a blunt, brilliant feminist. At seventy-five, Florence wants to be left alone to write her memoir and shape her legacy. But when her son and his family come to visit, they embroil Florence in their dramas, threatening her coveted solitude’. This is a non-standard family drama. Themes around feminism and the new left are threaded through, with cameos from real-life activists. The crisp, economic writing drew me in.

Viki: I’ve just finished a new ‘scandi noir’ I’m Travelling Alone—a Norwegian outing by Samuel Björk—the pen name of novelist, playwright and singer/songwriter Frode Sander Iien. The body of a young girl is found hanging from a tree with an airline tag around her neck which reads ‘I’m travelling alone’. There’s a number 1 carved on her fingernail, implying there are more dead girls to come. In steps on the spectrum policeman Holger Munch and his hastily reassembled special homicide unit—including savant and suicidal investigator Mia Krüger. The race to stop the killer unearths the paedophile leader of an evangelist church who is fleecing old people of their money along the way. One can’t help wondering about the proliferation of extremely well-funded genius psychopaths in Scandinavian fiction—but as always, once started, impossible to put down until the last page is turned.