The following three books are ones I have read and - trust me on this - if you are the type of reader that really relishes great suspenseful plotting, complicated characters who constantly surprise, and fictional worlds filled with delicious and slightly sinister secrets and lies, then these novels are the must-reads for you. These are the type of books you close with a satisfying thump, turn to no one in particular (or to the universe at large), and exclaim, "God, that was good!". I can't post detailed reviews before publication, so this will be more of a tease than anything else, but I urge you to put your library holds on now because these books are going to be big!
A.S Byatt will be receiving the prestigious 2009 Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix award at the Blue Met Literary Festival in Montreal next month, just in time to coincide with the release of her terrific new novel The Children's Book. This is easily one of my favourite books of the year and if you've been waiting for her to deliver a novel as enjoyable and gratifying as Possession, then here it is. In droves. The story follows several English families (and their German friends) from the late Victorian era, through the Edwardian period and ending with the First World War. One of the families is ruled by Olive Wellwood, a famous children's book author whose own kids grow up in the seemingly idyllic setting of their country home. However, as with most fairy tales and children's literature written during this period, there are definitely darker shadows lurking behind the magic. And as the Victorian repression of the parents collides with the freedoms of the new, modern century, the innocent world of childhood takes on completely new and tragic meanings. If you've ever read Peter Pan as an adult - I mean really read it - and been disturbed, then you will be fascinated by this novel. Also for fans of Pat Barker and Sebastian Faulks; the war scenes are pretty devastating. I loved, loved, loved this novel. It had better be on the Booker shortlist.
Iain Pears has also returned to form with a big, juicy, espionage thriller that starts in the Edwardian era and goes back in time, to the late and then mid 1800s. Despite its historical settings, Stone's Fall couldn't be more topical right now, taking place amidst the intrigues, corruption and political manoeuvrings of the money markets. There's greed, murder, sex and revenge, and the narrative pacing will leave you breathless. If you like the plot twists of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith, Pears' own An Instance of the Fingerpost, or Charles Palliser's Quincunx, you'll definitely enjoy this. As an aside, I'm amused by the subtle differences between the Canadian (on the left) and American (on the right) covers. Why is ours more bloody?
And speaking of Sarah Waters, she's back too with a wonderful old-fashioned ghost story. I'm a big fan of Waters and have always admired her for never writing the same book twice and continually experimenting with different genres. The Little Stranger is set in a small English village shortly after the Second World War and is the story of a doctor and his ever-increasing involvement with the isolated Ayres family (Bronte nod intentional), who live in an old and crumbling mansion. You will not find any cheap gimmicks here - Waters is far too fine a writer for that - but I guarantee the hair on the back of your neck is going to rise, not once but several times during the course of this novel. If you like Wilkie Collins, or particularly Daphne du Maurier, then this is right up your haunted hallway. I can't think of a better novel for a summer night - take a flashlight and read it under the covers.
Okay, and now for the fun part. I have up for grabs, one precious galley of each of these three novels. Pick the one out of these three that you'd most like to read and send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with the title of the novel in the subject line. Include your name and full work address in the e-mail. Only enter once please, and just pick one of the books, so that we can spread the goodies around. I will randomly draw the names from all entries received up until noon EST, Friday, April 3rd. Sorry, but this offer is only open to Canadian librarians, library staff and teacher-librarians at either public, school, or academic libraries.
NOTE: This contest has now closed. Winners have been notified.