What We're Reading - 15 October 2021

Lucy Nathan
Opinion - Books Friday, 15th October 2021

The BookBrunch team reveals what's on their bedside tables

Lucy Nathan
I was sent a proof of To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara (out with Picador on 11 January) and loved it. I haven't read A Little Life - too many people have told me gleefully about how traumatic it is - but I may have to, considering just how brilliant her writing is. To Paradise is split into three sections, set in 1893, 1993, and 2093, in versions of New York that are subtly - and not so subtly - different. Each section has characters with the same names - David, Charles, Nathaniel, Edward, Eden - and each explores themes like sickness, family and loneliness. Part of me initially wondered what exactly the novel was about, why these stories were placed side by side, but I have come to the conclusion that there isn't an exact answer. More importantly, this novel stayed with me when I had to put it down, I'm still thinking and wondering about it and about its worlds and characters, and I am so, so impatient for it to come out in January so I can discuss it with more people. It's a really remarkable work of art, and I'm looking forward to rereading it.

David Roche
Trio (Penguin) by William Boyd is the story of three people on a film set in Brighton in the late 1960s. The trio of the title are the female lead - a Hollywood star, who is having a fling with the much younger, up and coming actor; the producer who is not at all convinced about the validity of the film he is making; and the director's wife, who is a successful author but now has writer's block and endlessly obsesses about her next book on the last day of Virginia Wolff. These backstories are weaved together, and characters from the past interlinked, in skilled fashion. Pleasing reading but not Boyd at his absolute stellar best.

Jo Henry
I'm obviously in a mood for classics, as in addition last week's reading choice I am listening to the audio book of Little Dorrit. Dickens was in the full flow of his genius here; the book was serialised between 1855 and 1857 and comes in at a chunky 339,484 words (although that only makes it the fourth longest of his novels!). With an astonishingly extensive cast of characters, and with whole chapters devoted to minor sub-plots, I would have lost my way by now if it were not for the truly extraordinary job that Juliet Stevenson has done in making each of the characters completely distinct. The eponymous heroine, Amy Dorrit, born in the Marshalsea (where of course Dickens' father was imprisoned), is the moral centre of the novel, which moves from London to - when her father is released from prison having come into an inheritance - Venice and Rome. It's also intriguingly current, opening with travellers quarantining in Marseilles, having travelled back to Europe through plague areas, and satirising the state of British bureaucracy which is struggling under the masterful (in)action of the rich and (en)titled Barnacle family.