And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

Unlike his other novels, affamed for their heartbreaking and tellingly brutal tales, And the Mountains Echoed forges a story of another kind of sadness.

Staying true to his customary theme of Afghanistan, Hosseini begins his novel following the lives of two twins, bound inseparable in their first years but subject like so many to the inescapable whims of poverty and survival.

It is from their stories that a series of other interlinking narratives unfold, following the tales of characters spanning the world over, each with some part of their life ever relating them back to Afghanistan.

Interestingly, this means that a significant portion of the novel features a wealthier, Western living, not the usual hardships of Taliban rule and oppresiveness so featured in his other novels. And the Mountains Echoed approaches the violence and oppresiveness Afghanistan experienced from a much more detached nature. Rather than delve directly into such hardship, it instead remains poised at its very edge looking in, much as the many thousands of luckier and more privileged souls do throughout their lives.

Hosseini’s message, told in his encapsulating prose, is one of family and home. That no matter how far you may go, how different a life you may forge, the past is ever a part of you which you cannot simply shed. We all have a calling to our birthplace and home, it is up to us whether we answer it, or forever shut it away.

Length: 463 (Bloomsbury)

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

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Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami

Set during the late 1960s, Norwegian Wood is a heartfelt ode to adolescence, filled with both the mindless and mindful meanderings of the young soul struggling along the path to maturity.

Murakami’s artful prose captures the pure essence of this age, reaching out to the unanswerable questions of life and love, as well as the transitory struggles for meaning in the adult world. It is from the tale of the stoic and utterly sincere Watanabe that these themes are laid bare.

Norwegian Wood is filled with vivid characters, each desperate to find meaning and explore their emotions. Through a variety of intricate and somewhat random acts, conversations and occurrences, Murakami tells the tale of youthful heartache. Much apart from his other novels,

Norwegian Wood was Murakami’s first seemingly conventional work, straying from the wonderful and fictional imaginings of his others. Despite this, it is also one of his most famous, raising his readership to the millions, and one which every young person should hold in their repertoire.

Length: 389 (Vintage)

Overall Rating: 5 stars

Imperium, by Robert Harris

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Politics, corruption, power – Imperium.

Imperium is told from the perspective of a highly able and literate slave, Tiro, following the story of his master Marcius Tullius Cicero, a great orator, lawyer and above all politician. The pair bear witness to the classic strive to ultimate power within the great Roman Republic, highlighting the dark deals, bribery and sheer ingenuity required to make it to the top. This is certainly in likeness to a Roman ‘House of Cards’, bearing the same dramatic trials and tribulations which make for highly compelling drama.

In the final decades of the Republic, Harris tracks this demise through a detailed narrative of its orcastrators. Legendary historical figures such as Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar are characterised in their glorious nature, but also in what was likely their true selves: ambitious, dangerous and entirely unstoppable.

Harris has an absorbing writing style, placing his reader in the heart of Roman life. Great events remembered throughout history are delved into more deeply, unearthing the corruption and strifes necessary for their accomplishment.

With a wealth of historical knowledge, and the use of Cicero’s own recorded speeches and letters, Harris captures real historical fact within the compelling compound of literature. Imperium is a thrilling narrative, which will have you following the exhilarating political manoeuvres from over two thousand years ago as attentively as if they were occuring today.

Length: 403 (BCA)

Overall Rating: 5 stars

The Incorruptibles, by John Hornor Jacobs 

25246213In a land built on steampunk contraptions and demonic beings, The Incorruptibles mixes the dangerous ingenuity and extravagance of ancient Rome, with the hard corruption of the wild west. Along with a dash of fantasy, this cross-genre novel harbours both ingenuity and intrigue.

‘The Hardscrabble Territories’ are an unforgiving land, filled with all manner of terrors, where roughened men seek solace for their sins in the fiery depths of the bottle. Damnation is not only rife, but physically apparent, as demon spawn and hell fire fuel mankind’s greed. Jacobs’ gritty western dialect and fluid description creates a harsh yet vivid world of ever-present hardship.

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The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden, By Jonas Jonasson

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Exotically imaginative and audaciously funny, The Girl Who Saved The King Of Sweden is another wonderful example of Jonasson’s witty and entertaining writing style. Following on from the success of his debut novel, once again Jonasson spins an irreverent and impossible narrative, born from small beginnings surging ever on towards the large and the great.

 

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Carrie, by Stephen King

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​From the skilled hands of its world famous author, Carrie spins a dark tale of youthful cruelty and sorrowful revenge. Bearing a simple yet effective premise for a horror novel, known now by many from its multiple film interpretations, this is a short and entertaining classic.

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Carrie centres around its namesake, a teenage girl who after a lifetime of bullying and trauma is brought to her limits in the run up to her senior prom. As the novel progresses, the supernatural gradually becomes all too frightening and real, and a terrifying retribution soon unfolds upon a small town in Maine America.

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Whilst a little cliché at times, the same can largely be said of all teenagers. King soon moves beyond the realms of youthful stereotype however, drawing upon much darker themes. Carrie engages the brutally honest inner emotions of its characters, offering their raw, primitive thoughts throughout. The effect of this is an intrinsically human perspective on a savage, wounded time for a young damaged girl.

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The general style of the novel is rather different to a typical horror novel. It is certainly interesting to consistently remind the reader of the novel’s end for example, a typical cardinal sin in most narratives. By frequenting numerous article segments and scientific considerations concerning the ‘Carrie phenomena’ throughout however, King adds a sense of impeding and inescapable doom. In this way, the slightest actions are therefore emphasised with a constant sense of inevitable consequence.

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Carrie is the classic tale of youthful hardship and woes, escalated beyond proportion by a horrorful nature that seeks retribution for all the sorry young wronged.

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Length: 242 (BCA)

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders

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In his debut novel, once more Saunders’ irreverent, sporadic and moving style is put masterfully to use to capture a powerful narrative. Composed of dozens of voices, from which history merges with fiction in a mesmerising whole, Lincoln in the Bardo is an entirely singular novel, certainly the first of its kind, and one which will long be remembered.

 

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