Ghosts and Lightning by Trevor Byrne (2009)
A brilliant debut novel which tells the story of Dubliner Denny Cullen returning home after his mother’s death. Denny narrates in a full-on Dublin accent that takes a bit of getting used to, but the sheer energy of the language pushes the reader along. Highly recommended, except if you’re sensitive to the f-word.
The Stranger’s Child by Alan Hollinghurst (2011)
I have to admit, I have struggled in the past with Hollinghurst’s work, and this was no exception. About a third of the way through this sprawling novel, which covers almost a century, I realised that I didn’t much care what happened to any of the characters, nor could I face more descriptions of the grand houses they lived in. I plodded on, but even Hollinghurst’s usually beautiful prose seemed lacking to me. I’d be really interested to hear what others thought of this novel.
1Q84 Books 1 &2 by Haruki Murakami (2011)
I really, really like Murakami, but I so far I have preferred his short stories to his novels. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from this three-part monster of a novel. His style is definitely an acquired taste, and there is a meticulous precision to his both his characters and his prose which is quite different from the colourful, messy chaos that I normally prefer in fiction. But I did find myself being drawn into the mysterious, surreal story of the Little People who come out at night to build their air chrysalises, and the two long-separated protagonists whose lives are intertwining without them realising it. I’ve heard that Book Three is a bit of a disappointment, but I will have to find that out for myself, as I was definitely left wanting more.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (2009)
I downloaded this onto my Kindle thinking that it was the latest novel by an author whose work I have previously enjoyed. Turns out it is in fact a non-fiction book about exactly what it says on the tin. This book covers familiar ground; the devastating effects of factory farming on both the animals’ welfare and the environment, and the arguments for a vegetarian or vegan diet, but it is backed up by some impressive first hand research and manages, for the most part, to avoid being preachy. I did find it a hard read, simply because while I am affected in the moment by books and documentaries about the evils of meat eating, I know myself well enough to realise that I am probably not about to make any major lifestyle changes. And I don’t feel very proud of that. On a separate note, the extensive endnotes are not very Kindle-friendly.