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Notes in the Margin

A blog about books
C. J. Schuler is a freelance writer and journalist specialising in literature, travel and the arts. He has written regularly for The Independent, and has contributed to numerous other publications including the Financial Times, The Tablet and the New Statesman. He is currently Chairman of the Authors’ Club.

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Novels for June

Posted by C. J. Schuler
  • Monday, 1 June 2009 at 11:32 pm
It can’t be easy to hit on an alluring title for a novel, but Claire Kilroy has struck bullseye with her latest. All Names Have Been Changed (Faber & Faber) blends the promise of scandal with the hint of a roman a clef. Set in heroin-racked 1980s Dublin, it tells of a group of Trinity College students’ fascination for a brilliant but troubled writer. The acclaimed Irish novelist seems to be exploring each of the arts in turn. Her debut, All Summer, turns on a stolen painting, while her second, Tenderwire, deals with a concert violinist’s breakdown in New York. All Summer was hailed by The Times as “compelling ... a thriller, a confession and a love story framed by a meditation on the arts.” Let’s hope All Names … delivers on the promise of its title.

For anyone whose memory of Ulverton is still fresh, it is hard to believe that Adam Thorpe is about to publish his ninth novel. That ambitious debut spanned 350 years in the life of an English village in 12 connected narratives, each told in beautifully judged period language. This skilful and inventive novelist’s subsequent books have explored mainly 20th century history, from the First World War to les évènements of Paris in 1968. Now, with Hodd (Jonathan Cape), he returns to the distant past of rural England to re-examine the myth of Robin Hood.

Marc Fitten’s debut, Valeria's Last Stand (Bloomsbury), has been compared to Milan Kundera and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, although the publisher’s blurb makes it sound more like a Hungarian Last of the Summer Wine. The elderly regulars of the Nonstop Tavern in a sleepy village on the steppe pursue late-flowering romance while coming to terms with the encroachments of modern entrepreneurial capitalism.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes’s first novel, Tail of the Blue Bird (Jonathan Cape), also concerns a traditional village coming up against the realities of the modern world, only this time it’s set in Ghana. Parkes, who lives in Manchester, has already made his mark as a poet, and is one of the youngest living writers to be featured in the Poems on the Underground posters on the London tube.





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