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'Book Recommendations: From The Experts'

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'Book Recommendations: From The Experts'

George McKillop – ‘The Marriage Portrait’

I recently read ‘The Marriage Portrait’ by Maggie O’Farrell and I genuinely could not recommend it more.
The novel itself is an interesting blend of historical and speculative fiction which takes its influence from the story of The Duke of Ferrara who purportedly killed his young wife, Lucrezia. The narrative both takes and adapts Robert Browning’s dramatic monologue, ‘My Last Duchess’. O’Farrell uses this intricate blend of poetry and art forms within her novel to depict not only a dark reimagining of the tale but imbues the legend with fantastical elements to illustrate the thoughts, feelings and emotions of the Duchess as her impending death looms over her fragile existence.
Even if you haven’t read much historical fiction before (which I must admit I have not), I would strongly recommend a read. I'd also recommend 'Hamnet' which is also by Maggie O'Farrell which is a similar blend of historical fiction based on the life of Shakespeare's son.

Fran Allenby – ‘Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes’

I whole-heartedly recommend ‘Don’t Sleep, There are Snakes’ by Daniel Everett. It’s about a Christian missionary who goes to live with the Piraha tribe in the Amazon. He’s sent there to learn their language so he can then translate and teach the Bible to them, but he discovers that their language is incomparable to any other. He realises this is because the tribe deals only in the present – they have no way of communicating ideas that are hypothetical or that do not exist in their present surroundings. Thus, they cannot grasp the concept of a God. I was so fascinated I think I read it in a day. The titular phrase ‘Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes’ is how they wish each other good night.

Mia Fulford – ‘Western Lane’

I recently read 'Western Lane' by Chetna Maroo and it's really stayed with me. It's a very moving and tender depiction of the narrator's grief stricken adolescence after the death of her mother. The style is quite sparse and restrained, lots is left unsaid, but I find myself still thinking about it!

Kathryn Owen – ‘Orbital’

My favourite book is usually the latest one I have read as it brings a new perspective. That couldn't be more true of 'Orbital' by Samantha Harvey which probes the thoughts and experiences of a group of astronauts in the International Space Station as they circle the Earth 90 times a day from a height of 250 miles. The story is framed around the astronauts' helpless, quiet observation of the growth of a devastating typhoon, but within this slight frame, Harvey somehow manages to capture the evolution and future path of humanity. Not bad for 144 pages!

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