The current slew of fresh paperbacks on offer covers an impressive spectrum all the way from fantasy set in the Dark Ages, courtesy of Kazuo Ishiguro, right through to honest modern life for women in Manhattan, complete with alcohol black-outs, from journalist Sarah Hepola.
Read on for five selections from
IBTimes UK for your paperback reading, primed and ready to slip into your bag, and looking much more impressive than a Kindle.
The Buried Giant (Paperback) by Kazuo Ishiguro; £8.99
Ishiguro ventures into Tolkien territory in a mythical novel about memory and forgetting
Ishiguro's latest novel seems to be set in England in the 6th century AD - "seems", because this is a fantasy, complete with dragons and ogres. Two elderly Britons, Axl and Beatrice, live in a village plagued by forgetfulness. They go on a journey to find their son, despite being unable to remember where he lives. Among their adventures en route is an encounter with Sir Gawain, King Arthur's nephew and the last of his knights. Superficially the novel could be seen as invading Tolkien territory, in its creation of fresh myth and legend from the lost history of the Dark Ages. But Ishiguro has adult themes in mind and the novel delves into the ways societies deal with uncomfortable memories, as well as focussing upon the fragile nature of personal identity. The result is powerfully moving.
Hitler's First Victims: And One Man's Race for Justice (Paperback) by Timothy W. Ryback; £9.99
A gripping account of a fight for justice after the Nazis set up their first concentration camp
In 1933, the Nazis set up their first concentration camp in Bavaria, at Dachau. SS guards tormented prisoners who included many Jews and communists. But the story Ryback tells is anything but predictable. Following four dubious fatal shootings – supposedly during escape attempts – a courageous local state attorney, Josef Hartinger, gathered evidence and attempted to prosecute the murderers. Back then, the Nazis' hold on power was shaky and it appeared he might succeed. Meanwhile, a hardline communist prisoner managed to make fools of his captors by escaping all the way to America and publicising the camp's horrors. Ryback unearthed the story from the Nuremburg archives and it is a strong reminder of human positivity, which remained intact even as one of the 20th century's blackest periods began.
The Last Illusion (Paperback) by Porochista Khakpour; £8.99
An Iranian boy is haunted by the aftermath of 9/11 in this reimagining of Persian legend
US novelists have long grappled with the issue of how to deal with 9/11. Khakpour is one of the most successful to date. Her allegorical treatment is based upon the Persian legend of Zal, an albino boy who is raised by a giant bird and grows up to become a warrior. In Khakpour's version, Zal is born in Iran to a mother who rejects him as a "White Demon" and imprisons him in a cage surrounded by birds. Fortunately an American scientist rescues him and takes him to New York. Once there Zal's teams up with a magician, who is busy developing an illusion to make the World Trade Center vanish. Khakpour has been compared to Salman Rushdie, but she is more of a realist than a magical realist, with the engaging acuity of her writing setting her apart.
Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (Paperback) by Sarah Hepola; £12.99
A young woman falls foul of an aspirational Sex And The City lifestyle in Manhattan
The peak of American journalist Sarah Hepola's drinking came during the early days of Sex And The City. Like many others, she viewed the series as a celebration of sisterhood, with alcohol as a tool for empowerment. Drinking caused her memory loss, but she was unwilling to give up – she sacked the therapist who urged her to stop. Hepola found herself waking in bed besides strangers. She began drinking alone at home, too frightened to risk venturing out. Then she set her apartment alight and began falling downstairs repeatedly. The book explains what happens to the brain during a blackout: when alcohol reaches a certain level the hippocampus, which is responsible for memory storage, shuts down. Eventually Hepola got her life back and wrote a memoir that is often poignant, but also frequently laugh-out-loud funny.
My Sunshine Away (Paperback) by Milton O'Neal Walsh, M. O. Walsh; £7.99
A disturbing slice of southern Gothic that has been compared to To Kill A Mockingbird
The story is set in the summer of 1989 and concerns the sexual assault of 15-year-old Lindy Simpson. Walsh's debut novel has been compared to Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird – perhaps inevitably, given the tale concerns a rape in the Deep South. Moreover, both novels have an older narrator looking back at events that took place in childhood and they share a theme of lost innocence. But Walsh has carved out an unsettling niche all of his own. His narrator is too edgy to be any kind of Scout Finch and there is no upstanding Atticus Finch among the adults, who range from neglectful parents to perverts. Walsh's evocation of time and place is assured, with a close-up of the sweltering torpor of Louisiana offered as a bonus in this generous helping of southern Gothic.