Book choice for November 2010

The Wasp Factory [suggested by Anita Galasso]

front cover

Meet Frank Cauldhame. Just sixteen, and unconventional to say the least:

Two years after I killed Blyth I murdered my young brother Paul, for quite different and more fundamental reasons than I'd disposed of Blyth, and then a year after that I did for my young cousin Esmerelda, more or less on a whim.

That's my score to date. Three. I haven't killed anybody for years, and don't intend to ever again.

It was just a stage I was going through.

The Wasp Factory was the first novel by Scottish writer Iain Banks. It was published in 1984.

For a powerful book that's been around for 25 years, it's not surprising there are many online resources. As well as the usual Wikipedia page you can find a discussion of the work on this Guardian book club page and a section on the author's own website.

About the Author

Iain [Menzies] Banks was born in Fife in 1954, and was educated at Stirling University, where he studied English Literature, Philosophy and Psychology.

Banks came to widespread and controversial public notice with the publication of his first novel, The Wasp Factory, in 1984.

His first science fiction novel, Consider Phlebas, was published in 1987. He has continued to write both mainstream fiction (as Iain Banks) and science fiction (as Iain M. Banks).

He is now acclaimed as one of the most powerful, innovative and exciting writers of his generation: The Guardian has called him "the standard by which the rest of SF is judged". William Gibson, the New York Times-bestselling author of Spook Country describes Banks as a "phenomenon".

Iain M. Banks lives in Fife, Scotland

The above taken from this fan site, Banks also has a Wikipedia entry.

 

Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. This month, Anita's other suggestions were:

The Help

The Help

What perfect timing for this optimistic, uplifting debut novel (and maiden publication of Amy Einhorn's new imprint) set during the nascent civil rights movement in Jackson, Miss., where black women were trusted to raise white children but not to polish the household silver. Eugenia Skeeter Phelan is just home from college in 1962, and, anxious to become a writer, is advised to hone her chops by writing about what disturbs you. The budding social activist begins to collect the stories of the black women on whom the country club sets relies and mistrusts enlisting the help of Aibileen, a maid who's raised 17 children, and Aibileen's best friend Minny, who's found herself unemployed more than a few times after mouthing off to her white employers. The book Skeeter puts together based on their stories is scathing and shocking, bringing pride and hope to the black community, while giving Skeeter the courage to break down her personal boundaries and pursue her dreams. Assured and layered, full of heart and history, this one has bestseller written all over it.
From Publishers Weekly - Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

There's also a Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Kathryn Stockett has not been around long as an author and consequently online resources are limited.

She was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and Creative Writing, she moved to New York City where she worked in magazine publishing and marketing for nine years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter. The Help is her first novel.

The above is taken from her website and naturally she also has a Wikipedia entry.

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

The novel is set in 1946 and is in the form of letters, mainly to and from the central character, Juliet Ashton, a successful writer who becomes, wholly coincidentally, involved with a group of people on Guernsey who lived through the wartime German Occupation. The characters are thoroughly engaging and Mary Ann Shaffer (although born in the USA) manages to capture the English voice of the time beautifully: the prose is a pleasure to read.

It is very hard to summarise any of the developing stories without giving away more than I'd have wanted to know in advance, so I won't try, but the book has something to say about all kinds of things. Among them are friendship, suffering, forgiveness, goodness and wickedness, the resilience of humanity in desperate circumstances, how reading may influence us and the history of the Channel Islanders during the war. All this makes it sound a bit worthy and turgid, but it's neither - anything but, in fact. I never felt that I was being lectured, the history forms a really interesting and beautifully evoked backdrop to a thoroughly involving story and the observations on other things are either implicit in the doings of characters I really cared about or made directly with wit and flair. And there's a really tense will-they-won't-they love story which Jane Austen would have been proud of and which kept me in nail-biting suspense right up to the last page. [abridged from an "Amazon Vine" review]

The novel has many online reviews (Google them for yourselves) but no dedicated page, or Wikipedia entry.

About the Author

Mary Ann Shaffer was born in Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1934. Her career included libraries, bookstores, and publishing, but her life-long dream was to "write a book that someone would like enough to publish." Though she did not live to see it, this dream has been realized in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

She became interested in Guernsey while visiting London in 1980. On a whim, she decided to fly to Guernsey but became stranded there when a thick fog descended and all boats and planes were forbidden to leave the island. As she waited for the fog to lift, warming herself by the heat of the hand-dryer in the men's restroom, she read all the books in the Guernsey airport bookstore, including Jersey under the Jack-Boot. Thus began her fascination with the German Occupation of the Channel Islands.

Many years later, when goaded by her book club to write a novel, Mary Ann naturally thought of Guernsey. She chose to write in the epistolary form because, "for some bizarre reason, I thought it would be easier." Several years of work yielded The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was greeted with avid enthusiasm, first by her family, then by her writing group, and finally by publishers around the world.

Sadly, Mary Ann's health began to decline shortly thereafter, and she asked her niece, Annie Barrows (author of the Ivy and Bean series for children, as well as The Magic Half), to help her finish the book. Mary Ann died in February 2008, knowing that her novel was to be published in English and in translation in many languages throughout the world. [from bookbrowse.com]

There is (as yet) no dedicated Wikipedia page, or website, although her niece (who finished the book on her behalf) does have one.

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

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