His versatility is remarkable — historical novels, shrewd forays into contemporary life.
And now a thriller, Flight Vintage. It zips from the Middle East to the Outer Hebrides — brilliant plotting, a mesmerising read. Never a man to take a straight line where a diversion was possible, Patrick Leigh Fermor spent almost 50 years not-quite-finishing the final book of his trilogy describing his walk across Europe in the s. I opened it expecting disappointment — how could it be as good as its sibling volumes? I read Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries Granta three times in my capacity as Man Booker judge, and each time round it yielded new riches. It is a vastly complex novel about investment and return, gift and theft, value and worth, which — in performance of its own ethics — gives far more than it appears to possess.
Finally, in minimalist contrast to Catton's maximalist novel, I loved Wolfhou by Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton, another exquisitely produced pamphlet of place-poetry from Corbel Stone Press, who work out of a cottage in the western Lake District. But perhaps a book of the year should be a mirror of the times? Bankrupt of morals and bankrupt of style, it is a nonpareil of peevishness, and self-delusion shines from it like a Christmas star. Adelle Waldman's first novel The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P William Heinemann is memorable for its Austen-like wit, humour, social astuteness and scarily accurate insights into men.
Lucy Hughes-Hallett adopts a similar strategy in her terrific biography of the poet, seducer and fascist Gabriele D'Annunzio, The Pike.
Inside the Rainbow Redstone Press , edited by Julian Rothenstein and Olga Budashevskaya, is a survey of Russian children's literature from , and the subtitle tells us what to expect: "Beautiful books, terrible times". But brilliantly clever, seditious, amusing, brave and delightful books as well; their illustrations and jackets are all reproduced here to wonderful effect. And a reminder that Morgan is one of the most original poets around.
It is one of the most satisfying biographies I have ever read. Sylvia Plath: Drawings Faber , lovingly compiled by her daughter Frieda Hughes, shows Plath's observation of everyday things — a thistle, a horse chestnut, the willows near Grantchester. Alan Rusbridger's Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible is a wonderful account of trying to learn a complex piano piece while running the Guardian at the time of WikiLeaks and phone hacking.
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A parallel story of how newspapers can move forward in the digital age runs along the narrative. I am always curious about people's daily lives and their curiosities. This book gives both in abundance. A woman has the chance to live life over and over again in often surprising ways. No Booker listing: no justice.
Louise Doughty's Apple Tree Yard Faber is ostensibly a courtroom drama that asks how its sensible, intelligent middle-class heroine ended up in the dock in a murder case — beguilingly written, steely and plausible and occasionally shocking. Let the Games Begin Canongate is a wild ride with the fevered quality of Pynchon and Vonnegut as a party to end all parties sees the various characters vying to survive a grotesque uprising.
- Observations of Intelligent Life on Other Planets: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Galaxy.
- A Grieving Tourist's Guide to the City of Love — pioneertown.!
- Potty Training Boys in Under 2 weeks.
It's a satire on contemporary culture, Italian politics and the writing profession itself. Funny, sharp, and really quite rude. In a similar vein, John Niven's Straight White Male William Heinemann is the story of a hugely successful Irish screenwriter and his gloriously incorrect behaviour.
- Nanomaterials and Nanosystems for Biomedical Applications?
- The Marvel Family #35.
- Wounded Souls?
There are laughs aplenty, but Niven adds growing poignancy as his hero becomes self-aware. My choice isn't a new book, but it was reissued this year. I was stunned by it, it's so good. And yet very little happens in it except joy and pain and sorrow in the American midwest, love and passion and the mistakes everyone makes. Great writing, great setting, beautifully rendered characters. Totally engrossing. It's a great study as well in the possibly? You keep puzzling over whether this woman is completely off her head. Hermione Lee's fascinating biography of Penelope Fitzgerald charts a life that travelled the full degrees on the wheel of fortune — from early promise and privilege down to dramatic middle-aged doldrums then back up to a late-blooming two decades of literary productivity and success.
I'm now reading Fitzgerald's last four novels, which are every bit as breathtaking as Lee's concluding chapters describe. Admired by Chekhov, Gorky and Tolstoy, these stories seethe with picaresque unpredictability, outlandish but touching monologues and recklessly impulsive characters like the country girl turned femme fatale in Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District.
This is the time of year when I try in vain to remember what I was reading up to 12 months ago, and end up choosing three books I've enjoyed in the last 12 weeks. Titian: His Life by Sheila Hale HarperPress manages an intimate and careful study of Titian's body of work, plus an intricate knowledge of politics and art in 16th-century Venice and in the Europe from which Titian received his commissions. Then He will say to him: Did I not bring you wealth?
And he will say: Yes. Then He will say: Did I not send to you a messenger?
And he will look to his right and will see nothing but Hell-fire, then he will look to his left and will see nothing but Hell-fire, so let each of you protect himself against Hell-fire, be it with even half a date - and if he finds it not, then with a kind word. It was related by al-Bukhari.
Allah glorified and exalted be He has supernumerary angels who rove about seeking out gatherings in which Allah's name is being invoked: they sit with them and fold their wings round each other, filling that which is between them and between the lowest heaven. When [the people in the gathering] depart, [the angels] ascend and rise up to heaven.
And they say: We have come from some servants of Yours on Earth: they were glorifying You Subhana llah , exalting you Allahu akbar , witnessing that there is no god but You La ilaha illa llah , praising You Al-Hamdu lillah , and asking [favours] of You. He says: And what do they ask of Me? They say: They ask of You Your Paradise.
He says: And have they seen My Paradise?
They say: No, O Lord. He says: And how would it be were they to have seen My Paradise! They say: And they ask protection of You. He says: From what do they ask protection of Me? He says: And have they seen My Hell-fire? They say: NO. It was related by Muslim also by al-Bukhari, at-Tirmidhi, and an-Nasa'i. Allah the Almighty said: I am as My servant thinks I am 1.
I am with him when he makes mention of Me. If he makes mention of Me to himself, I make mention of him to Myself; and if he makes mention of Me in an assembly, I make mention of him in an assembly better than it. And if he draws near to Me an arm's length, I draw near to him a cubit, and if he draws near to Me a cubit, I draw near to him a fathom.
And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed. The meaning is that forgiveness and acceptance of repentance by the Almighty is subject to His servant truly believing that He is forgiving and merciful. However, not to accompany such belief with right action would be to mock the Almighty. Allah has written down the good deeds and the bad ones.
Then He explained it [by saying that] he who has intended a good deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as from ten good deeds to seven hundred times, or many times over. But if he has intended a bad deed and has not done it, Allah writes it down with Himself as a full good deed, but if he has intended it and has done it, Allah writes it down as one bad deed.
It was related by al-Bukhari and Muslim. O My servants, I have forbidden oppression for Myself and have made it forbidden amongst you, so do not oppress one another. O My servants, all of you are astray except for those I have guided, so seek guidance of Me and I shall guide you, O My servants, all of you are hungry except for those I have fed, so seek food of Me and I shall feed you. O My servants, all of you are naked except for those I have clothed, so seek clothing of Me and I shall clothe you. O My servants, you sin by night and by day, and I forgive all sins, so seek forgiveness of Me and I shall forgive you.
O My servants, you will not attain harming Me so as to harm Me, and will not attain benefitting Me so as to benefit Me. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as pious as the most pious heart of any one man of you, that would not increase My kingdom in anything. O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to be as wicked as the most wicked heart of any one man of you, that would not decrease My kingdom in anything.
O My servants, were the first of you and the last of you, the human of you and the jinn of you to rise up in one place and make a request of Me, and were I to give everyone what he requested, that would not decrease what I have, any more that a needle decreases the sea if put into it. O My servants, it is but your deeds that I reckon up for you and then recompense you for, so let him who finds good, praise Allah, and let him who finds other than that, blame no one but himself.
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It was related by Muslim also by at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah. He will say: Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him?