Books to Look Out For in 2024 with Chloe Blades
by Murray Crane
Until August by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Penguin, March 2024)
Booksellers are not, I’m sure, supposed to have a favourite book, but Nobel prize winning writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is mine. What an absolute treat it is then that a ‘lost’ novel of his is to be published this March. Marquez’s sons said of Until August that they’ve given their blessing for it to be published a decade after their father’s death, because it captures “his capacity for invention, his poetic language, his captivating storytelling, his understanding of humankind and his affection for our experiences and misadventures, especially in love…”. It's been kept hidden in an archive at the University of Texas until now. Every year, Ana Magdalena Bach travels to the island her mother is buried on and sits across from a blue lagoon watching the men at the hotel bar. Although she isn't unhappy in her marriage, or as a mother, she’s got desires, regrets and a sense of profound freedom to explore outside of it. The Guardian said this last novel of his “stands in tribute to his defiance of dementia,” which he suffered through while writing this novel. It’s certainly not to be missed if you enjoy the sensual, other-worldly style of Marquez’s writing.
End of Story by A J Finn (Harper Collins, March 2024)Shelved next to Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, The Woman in the Window by A J Finn was to me just another book by another crime writer with a title so indistinctive that all up they sounded like one big parody. But a friend recently showed me a New Yorker article on Dan Mallory, the writer using the pseudonym A J Finn, which exposes him as a disturbing Tom Ripley-esque, self-aggrandising character who has a history of astounding deception that spans major universities, publishing houses, family members and friends worldwide. For some reason, this drew me to want to read his forthcoming crime novel End of Story. It’s about a renowned crime novelist, Sebastian Trapp, who’s invited a friend to write the story about the disappearance of his first wife and son, seeing as he’ll be dead in three months anyway. From his San Franciscan mansion, he relives the tale in front of his current wife and daughter as bodies literally resurface, begging the question in this “pulsating page-turner” if Trapp’s indeed a murderer, or not. It’s not that I particularly care for the plot, rather the twisted real-life games of its author and the parallels to the books synopsis, is the master of mystery playing a deadly game? And his own humble comparison between hisself and the literary icon Patricia Highsmith, and how “through some alchemy, she persuades us to root for sociopaths”.
The Garden Against Time by Olivia Laing (PanMacmillan, May 2024)
Olivia Laing walked the 129 mile length of the River Ouse, where Virginia Wolf killed herself, and wrote about it in To the River. She explored alcoholism in The Trip to Echo Spring, solitude in The Lonely City and the relevance of art in Funny Weather. Now, in The Garden Against Time, Laing writes about restoring her 18th century walled garden on the grounds of her Suffolk house. It’s intriguingly a space haunted by its former owner, landscape designer and writer, Mark Rumary. His imprint on the garden is so great, having created an overgrown Eden of unusual plants, that it even includes two fig trees that he grew from cuttings taken from Vita Sackville-West’s garden at Sissinghurst Castle. Laing’s garden, then, isn’t any ordinary garden, and this isn’t any ordinary garden book. It is an exploration on the idea of a garden as a paradise, looking at it in Milton’s Paradise Lost and at a wartime sanctuary in Italy, for example, to probe “important questions about land ownership and exclusion and the human drive to create paradise on earth”. Named as one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2024 by The Observer, Irish Times, and The Guardian, this book also asks a question I never knew I cared to know the answer to: who gets to live in paradise, and how can we share it while there’s still time?
Politics On the Edge by Rory Stewart (Jonathan Cape, $60) - Political Memoir
The first thought I had when reading Stewart’s memoir was about that recent online trend of asking men, how often do you think about the Roman Empire? “I too had admired Achilles, who wanted to ‘die young and far from home, to be the best among the best, now and in perpetuity’”. That’s great if you too think about the Romans as much he does, but I persisted because I enjoyed his 2002 book The Places in Between. From 2010-2019 he was the MP for Penrith and The Border, and he has an OBE for his work in Iraq having governed an Iraqi province after the US-UK led invasion. Politics On the Edge is aptly timed, as Luke Harding says for The Guardian - it’s a “blistering insider portrait of a nation in decline”. There are many anecdotes about the biggest names in recent British politics that confirm them as the inadequate morons they are - Truss prized “power and manipulation” over “truth and reason”. In Iraq, “Boris didn’t ask many questions” and looked (unsurprisingly) dishevelled. In Kabul, David Cameron “came across like a host at a pheasant shoot, rented for the day, courteously presiding”. It’s a scandalous expose spanning a decade in politics, one he admits will piss off many of his colleagues, but he believes that “government of, by, and for the people should be exposed properly to the public eye”.