Monday, December 10, 2007


History, politics, music, business, biography, memoir, letters and fiction. There is something for everyone in this round-up of the year's best books. Nice to see a number of Antipodean titles featured.


By Alexis Wright. Giramondo Press; 519 pages; A$29.95.

To be published in Britain by Constable & Robinson in March
A sweeping novel that will be published in Britain next year (though not in America) about the unhappy relations between the white majority and indigenous aboriginals, by a notable Australian narrator. A voice to remember.
On Chesil Beach
By Ian McEwan. Nan A. Talese; 208 pages; $22. Jonathan Cape; £12.99
This coolly written, bestselling account of the lasting effects of a marriage night in the 1950s that turned disastrously wrong has struck a chord, reminding perhaps too many readers of their first sexual experience. The author of “Atonement” has done it again.
The Scandal of the Season
By Sophie Gee. Scribner; 352 pages; $25. Chatto & Windus; £12.99
A young Australian professor of English at Princeton University imagines Alexander Pope, a country poet and a hunchback, coming to London in 1711 to observe the illicit love affair between Arabella Fermor and Robert, Lord Petre. Sophie Gee's handsome and wilful heroes plunge headlong into a whirl of hedonism and heady politics in a rollicking imagined prequel to Pope's most famous poem, “The Rape of the Lock”. A novel of lust and luck.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
By J.K. Rowling. Scholastic; 784 pages; $34.99. Bloomsbury; £17.99
Books written as part of a series that start well almost invariably fall off in quality. Not so the seventh and last HP, the end of the decade's most successful morality tale, which shows J.K. Rowling at the height of her magical imaginative powers.
The Septembers of Shiraz
By Dalia Sofer. HarperCollins; 352 pages; $24.95. Picador; £14.99
A successful jeweller and gem merchant, patronised by the Tehran aristocracy and the wife of the shah, is arrested by two armed Revolutionary Guards. His wife searches frantically for him, while in prison he asks himself how he can survive. A powerful depiction of a prosperous Jewish family in Iran shortly after the revolution.
Mister Pip
By Lloyd Jones. Dial Press; 272 pages; $20. John Murray; £12.99
A young girl finds escape through the pages of Charles Dickens's “Great Expectations”, thanks to the efforts of a new teacher who is drafted into the local village school during the 1990 blockade of the Melanesian island of Bougainville. The cadences of Pacific vernacular make spare, moving prose.
Other Country
By Stephen Scourfield. Allen & Unwin; 228 pages; A$29.95
Set in the Australian Outback and written in a taut poetic style perfectly suited to the hardened characters who inhabit it, “Other Country” is unusual for the language of its landscape. Perfect for those who liked Cormac McCarthy's “All the Pretty Horses”, this novel richly deserves to be published in Britain and America.
The Ghost
By Robert Harris. Simon & Schuster; 352 pages; $26. Hutchinson; £18.99
A racy political thriller that has earned its high sales in Britain, “The Ghost” is the tangled story of a former British prime minister, a strong supporter of the war in Iraq, and his wife and political adviser. Brilliantly persuasive, right up to the last page of its astonishing and unpredictable conclusion.
The Uncommon Reader
By Alan Bennett. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 128 pages; $15. Faber & Faber/Profile Books;

Witty and urbane, physically tiny and charming, this account of Queen Elizabeth II discovering the work of J.R. Ackerley, Jean Genet, Ivy Compton-Burnett and other writers is a Swiftian tirade against stupidity and philistinism, and a passionate argument for the civilising power of art.

A perfect stocking filler.

For titles in other genres in The Economist's list click here.

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