The Lonely City, The Living and more
Eric and Naomi, two of our blog contributors, highlight the books you should be reading this month.
The Lonely City by Olivia Laing
Life can be an achingly lonely business. Whether surrounded by others at parties or spending long days in solitude, we can sometimes feel painfully mentally cut off from everyone else. Olivia Laing explores the socially taboo subject of loneliness in this highly personal and well-researched nonfiction book. Using an eclectic range of examples from the visual arts ranging from Edward Hopper to Andy Warhol to outrageous performer Klaus Nomi, the author probes how these artists’ work reflect different expressions of loneliness. Laing also draws upon psychological and sociological studies to make a compulsively readable and richly rewarding account that questions why we might feel so alone.
The book considers how these feelings have changed over time especially in an era where we’ve become so closely dependant and attached to the internet. Laing meaningfully focuses on how this condition manifests and arises out of “structural injustice” in our society which makes us feel different and isolated. Rather than seeing us all as brooding owls, she takes the position that “loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed, but simply that one is alive.” The overall uplifting message being that this is not an emotional state we experience as solitary beings, but as a community. We all inhabit this city.
The Lonely City is especially recommended for readers who loved Helen Macdonald’s H Is For Hawk.
Three very different novels out this month that I really loved:
Anjali Joseph’s third novel, The Living, tells the stories of two people connected only by their work. Claire, single mum to 16-year-old Jason, works in one of England’s remaining shoe factories, while Arun, a chappal maker in Kolhapur, struggles with aging and recalls his regrets over an affair and his alcoholism. Joseph juxtaposes the two stories showing us that life is life no matter where it’s lived.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh is a noir tale, set in New England, regarding events in the week before Christmas, 1964. A week in which 24-year-old Eileen Dunlop’s life will change so dramatically she’ll disappear at the end of it. Eileen lives with her alcoholic, ex-cop father in the house she grew up in and works as a secretary at a private juvenile correction facility. When glamorous Rebecca Saint John begins work as the prison director of education, Eileen thinks she’s met her kindred spirit. A dark, compelling tale.
Set in a Welsh village where it rains every day in August, Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin is the story of three women – mother, Violet; daughter, Cadi; sister-in-law, Lili – and the secrets linked to the death of Cadi’s sister, Blodeuwedd Isadora. Infused with magic and rooted in nature and family relationships, it’s beautifully told.
And two paperbacks published this month that made my books of the year list in 2015:
In Vigilante by Shelley Harris, 42-year-old, Jenny Pepper is sick of being an unappreciated mother and wife. When she dons a superhero costume for a party and ends up stopping a mugging, her life is changed.
The Ship by Antonia Honeywell imagines
A dazzling investigation into loneliness, art and the modern city from the critically acclaimed author of The Trip to Echo Spring
From the bestselling author of Richard and Judy pick JUBILEE, the rousing story of a mother who becomes a real-life hero.
'The Living is an exceptional, unexpected work' The Guardian