Antonia Byatt’s personal account of the end of the Gods. Ragnarok [Edinburgh: Canongate, 2012] owes its origin to wartime reading by a clearly autobiographic ‘thin girl’ who poured over a copy of Asgard and the Gods using a torch under the blankets. That early reading and regular re-reading led the thin girl’s enquiring mind to read deeply and broadly about Norse and other myths on the origin of the world and, due to their limited capacity for reason and rational analysis, the end of the Gods.
Robert Lautner’s second novel, The Draughtsman [London: Borough Press, 2017] is beautifully written, as exciting as any thriller, profoundly moving and with a significant moral message. It is in contention for my Book of the Year.
Reading a novel by Philip Hensher is something to savour and The Emperor Waltz [London: Fourth Estate, 2014] is full of flavour and with plenty to chew on. The reader is offered several interwoven stories melding together more and more as the novel moves to its very satisfying conclusion.
No one, neither Robinson Crusoe on his desert island nor Captain Bligh on his 4,000 mile voyage to safety in an open boat, has had such a life threatening adventure as Mark Watney in Andrew Weir’s accomplished novel, The Martian [London: Del Rey, 2014]. Mostly told in the first person log of the man who was left for dead by his five astronaut fellow crew men when their mission to the red planet had to be swiftly aborted in a dust storm. They saw him go down, pierced by the spike of a radio antenna and knew he couldn’t survive. Amazingly, they made it off the planet and set off on their long return voyage to Earth.
If you like the idea of literary pastiche, then Val McDermid’s 21st century revision of Northanger Abbey [London: HarperCollins, 2014] could be for you. Distinguished crime writer and light of the British literary scene, McDermid has reimagined the story of Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney as young people of the present day, speaking a patois of their own and totally dependent on their smart phones and access to Twitter and Facebook.