Most Anticipated Upcoming Books

I try to read a mixture of old and new books, and often find myself reading ‘new’ books some time after they come out, purely because I always have so many books I want to read that I rarely get to read things when they are really new. Often I just get to look at other reviews and wish I didn’t have so many books to read! There are several books that I am really excited about reading in the next few months – some new and some not-so-new. Here are the ones I’m most looking forward to…

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
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Sept 2016 Picador edition (image: goodreads.com)

I loved Room but somehow didn’t feel the need to pick up Frog Music; but now Emma Donoghue’s new novel The Wonder really appeals to me. I know from reading Room that she is a wonderful  writer, and this story is not like anything I have read before. Kim Forrester wrote a brilliant review of it here. Fingers crossed I’ll get to read it before Christmas!

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt
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May 2017 Tinder Press edition (image: goodreads.com)

This is coming out in May 2017 from Tinder Press, and I am really looking forward to it. It is a fictional take on the story of Lizzie Borden and the murder of her father and stepmother. She was acquitted of their murder but of course suspicion remains, and the story is fascinating. This looks like a really interesting and modern interpretation of the story, and I cannot wait to read it.

Labyrinths: Emma Jung, Her Marriage to Carl, and the Early Years of Psychoanalysis by Catrine Clay
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Nov 2016 Harper edition (image: goodreads.com)

I’ve always had a vague interest in psychology and psychoanalysis and the fact that this book focuses on Emma rather than Carl Jung really appeals to me. It just seems like another way of looking at a familiar story, and I hope it’ll be as interesting as it looks! It’s always a pleasure to read about wonderful women from history.

The Good People by Hannah Kent
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Feb 2017 Pan Macmillan edition (image: goodreads.com)

Like many other readers, I loved Hannah Kent’s first novel Burial Rites. It really stuck with me and as soon as I heard she had written a second novel I knew I had to read it. The premise really interests me and I think it will be a great multi-layered book.

Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life by Ruth Franklin
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Sept 2016 Liveright/Norton edition (image: goodreads.com)

I have read three of Jackson’s novels and have The Lottery and Other Stories on my shelf waiting to be read, so I just have to read this new biography of her. New PMC editions mean that Shirley Jackson is again popular, and I am so glad she is – her writing is some of the most beautiful and beguiling I have read in years. Luckily she also seems to have been a brilliant and intriguing person, so I’m really looking forward to this one.

I’d love to hear about books that you are looking forward to – there are always too many to read!

Reading and watching: Room by Emma Donoghue

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2010 Picador paperback edition

Room is one of those books that ’caused a stir’ when it came out, and everyone was talking about it. I always meant to read it, but never got round to it; and then the movie trailers came out. It was time to read the book before seeing the film!

I whizzed through the book in two or three days – partly because my copy has a pretty big font, but also because it is just gripping. Room is one of the most intense books I have ever read. Even when not much was happening, you could feel the tension.

I was worried it would be really grim, and there are some unpleasant moments and scenes; but overall it is not a depressing book. The first half, when Jack and Ma are still trapped, is very claustrophobic, and you can feel Ma’s despair. But once they get out, the  book is uplifting despite their difficulties, and it feels hopeful. At the end of the story they are able to take a big step towards closure, and you can see how things will be alright. Life will still be hard at times and imperfect, but they can get through it together.

I really admire Emma Donoghue, not only for the intense and vivid quality of her writing and her story, but also for her willingness to immerse herself in such a surreal and sometimes unpleasant world. I can imagine that the writing process was sometimes overwhelming, and certainly emotional – it is definitely those things for the reader. Her sheer commitment to Jack’s narrative voice deserves high praise. It is entirely believable, and it almost hurts when you can see that he doesn’t understand certain things, or why his Ma is sad.

It is one of those books that you don’t necessarily ‘enjoy’ because of the subject matter – rather you appreciate the skill of the writer and the complexity of the work, and are impressed by it. You are engaged by the story and compelled to keep reading. It is a story of deep human interest, from a position of concern and fear but also a degree of sensationalism and a desire for things to work out and end on a positive note – which, luckily, they do. I wouldn’t say to someone, “I really enjoyed this book”, I would say, “This is a really good book.” There is a subtle but distinct difference between the two.

As for the film, I was happy in the knowledge that Donoghue wrote the script, and so I knew it would be true to the book, and it was. Having read the book only a few days before seeing the film, it was all still fresh and real in my mind, and perhaps this is why I cried so much in the cinema. As Hannah of Ponderous Pieces says in her lovely review of the film here, “this is a film about love, motherhood and what it means to be free.” I think that’s why it feels so emotional.

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2016 movie poster. (image via wikipedia.org)

The idea of being constrained and trapped in every aspect of your life is just awful, and the intensity of Jack and Ma’s escape is palpable. As with the book, I held my breath as Jack escapes, and welled up when he saw the sky for the first time. The young actor who plays Jack, Jacob Tremblay, is simply wonderful. He conveys the simplicity of being a child coupled with the complicated nature of his situation and the confusing feelings he experiences. He is also ridiculously cute, and this makes you warm to him as Jack even more.

Brie Larson blew me away as Ma – her performance is a lesson in contained emotion, and she acts with her eyes more than anything else (if that makes sense). She was just as Ma is in the book, and I just felt all her sadness at once. Even though the film is told mostly from Jack’s perspective, like in the book, there are some excellent little moments when you see things more as Ma sees them, often without any words, and the scope of their situation suddenly feels all too real.

If you liked the book, I highly recommend you see the film, as you won’t be disappointed. And I’d recommend the film even if you haven’t read the book, because it is fantastic on its own. I went to see it with my mum, who hasn’t read the book, and she loved it too, and was very impressed by the depiction of Ma and her relationship with Jack.

It’s an emotional ride, but worth it in the end.

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Room was originally published by Picador (UK) in 2011. The film adaptation is in cinemas now. You can purchase a copy of Room from Foyles here.