Hermione Lee’s Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life (Chatto) is a revelation, brilliantly demonstrating the undemure existence of this widely admired novelist: a louche Irish husband, debt, a poverty-stricken life on sinking barges and council flats lie behind a facade of mild English eccentricity and powerfully original (often very un-English) work. It reads like a Fitzgerald novel.
I was dazzled by Javier Marias’s The Infatuations (Hamish Hamilton): nobody else writes so hypnotically of obsession, suspicion and the murky areas of love and crime.
Similar themes characterise Edna O’Brien’s short stories in The Love Object (Faber), each one a masterclass in her quintessential qualities of delicacy and toughness.
Lucy Riall’s Under the Volcano: Revolution in a Sicilian Town (Oxford) tells the story of an 1860 peasant revolt on an English-owned Sicilian property: a classic of microhistory, raising large issues of landlordism, violent history and mutual incomprehension, with distinct Irish echoes.
The poems that meant most to me in 2013 were Seamus Heaney’s, read with a revived intensity after his loss. But of new publications, I was deeply impressed by Martin Dyar’s Maiden Names (Arlen House): funny, astute, marvellously judged, and a genuinely new voice.
[Roy Foster is Carroll professor of Irish history at Hertford College, Oxford]
The Irish Times, November 30, 2013
PW’s Top 10 Authors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2013
Marra’s pick: The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Knopf)
“Sometimes the book you’ve been looking for, without even knowing it, finds its way into your hands, and for me, this year, that book was The Infatuations. It’s billed as a metaphysical murder mystery—imagine if Proust had a murder instead of a madeleine and you begin to get a sense of the stylistic synthesis on display. Rather than the forward momentum of plot, Marías relies on a downward drop into psychology; instead of hurtling through events, the reader plunges through the thick strata of contradictions, deceptions, and unvarnished need lining the hearts of the novel’s fully realized characters. It’s the best and truest kind of mystery—one of enduring questions rather than delayed answers. But what makes The Infatuations the most personally moving novel of the year for me are its asides, digressions, and tangents, which are so integral you almost get the sense that Marías constructed his suspense story to scaffold his riffs. He ruminates on the loss of a loved one in what are the most unsentimental, clear-eyed, and honest passages on either loss or love I’ve read in some time. The book finds hope, or at least consolation, in the ceaseless mutability of the human psyche. Someone you once couldn’t live without becomes someone you now can’t live with at all, to paraphrase Marías, and the person you were when you were in love becomes a ghost you simply move away from. And while ghosts do populate the novel, its ultimate power comes in letting them dissolve.”
Publishers Weekly, December 6, 2013
– 2013 must have been a very busy year for you. But did you have time to read other 2013 books? Any you especially enjoyed or would recommend?
It’s been an amazing year for fiction, but four I particularly enjoyed are “The Infatuations” by Javier Marias, “We Need New Names” by NoViolet Bulawayo, “A Marker to Measure Drift” by Alexander Maksik, and “The Woman Who Lost Her Soul” by Bob Shacochis.
CS Monitor, December 4 ,2013