We catch up with 2022 Booker Prize winner The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka. Kate may have loved it, when she read it for our Booker Prize special episode, but what did the rest of her book club make of it?
And we catch up with two recent reads for Laura’s book group. The first is My Phantoms, the most recent novel from critics favourite Gwendoline Riley. What’s all the fuss about? And did Laura’s book club agree it was worth the read?
Next we consider Eight Months on Ghazzah Street, a lesser-known work from Hilary Mantel. The real question, it seems, when reading Hilary Mantel is ‘why would you ever read anyone else?’ Listen in to find out just what it was Laura’s group loved so much.
We also have a range of recommendations for follow-ons to try, or to read with your book club.
Listen via the media player above, or your favourite podcast app using this link.
Women and Power by Mary Beard ‘Britain’s best-known classicist Mary Beard, is also a committed and vocal feminist. With wry wit, she revisits the gender agenda and shows how history has treated powerful women. Her examples range from the classical world to the modern day, from Medusa and Athena to Theresa May and Hillary Clinton. Beard explores the cultural underpinnings of misogyny, considering the public voice of women, our cultural assumptions about women’s relationship with power, and how powerful women resist being packaged into a male template. A year on since the advent of #metoo, Beard looks at how the discussions have moved on during this time, and how that intersects with issues of rape and consent, and the stories men tell themselves to support their actions. In trademark Beardian style, using examples ancient and modern, Beard argues, ‘it’s time for change – and now!” Laura loved this, and thinks it would make a great counterpoint to Hilary Mantel’s Eight Months on Ghazza Street.
Very Cold People by Sarah Manguso ‘No-one is watching Ruth. She, however, watches everyone and everything, and waits, growing up on the outskirts of an affluent but threadbare New England township, on the outer edge of popularity. She doesn’t necessarily understand what she is seeing, but she records faithfully and with absolute clarity the unfurling of her awkward youth, under even more awkward parenting. As they alternately mock, ignore, undermine and discount their daughter, Ruth’s parents present now as damaged, now as inadequate, now as monstrous. All the while the Future comes towards them all, steadily, inexorably, for some of them fatally. And the fog of the Past and the abuses committed under it gathers, swirls, settles, intermittently clears.’ A beautifully written, coming-of-age story with a depth of observation and detail that would make it an excellent follow-on from Gwendolyn Riley’s My Phantoms, says Kate.
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy ‘At magic hour; when the sun has gone but the light has not, armies of flying foxes unhinge themselves from the Banyan trees in the old graveyard and drift across the city like smoke…’ So begins The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Arundhati Roy’s incredible follow-up to The God of Small Things. We meet Anjum, who used to be Aftab, who runs a guest-house in an Old Delhi graveyard and gathers around her the lost, the broken and the cast out. We meet Tilo, an architect, who although she is loved by three men, lives in a ‘country of her own skin’ . When Tilo claims an abandoned baby as her own, her destiny and that of Anjum become entangled as a tale that sweeps across the years and a teeming continent takes flight…’ Kate loved this sweeping epic that explores a powerful political story at the same time as being richly character driven. An interesting follow-on to The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida. If you’re intrigued to hear more we discussed The Ministry of Utmost Happiness in depth in episode #11.
Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au ‘A mother and daughter travel from abroad to meet in Tokyo: they walk along the canals through the autumn evenings, escape the typhoon rains, share meals in small cafés and restaurants, and visit galleries to see some of the city’s most radical modern art. All the while, they talk: about the weather, horoscopes, clothes, and objects, about family, distance, and memory. But uncertainties abound. Who is really speaking here – is it only the daughter? And what is the real reason behind this elliptical, perhaps even spectral journey? At once a careful reckoning and an elegy, Cold Enough for Snow questions whether any of us speak a common language, which dimensions can contain love, and what claim we have to truly know another’s inner world.’ Both Kate and Laura were fans of this elegant short novel that offers a tender and thought-provoking exploration of a mother daughter relationship. We discussed this one as part of our Fitzcarraldo episode.
A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam ‘It begins with a message: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother”s former care-giver, Rani, has died in unexpected circumstances, at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an activist he fell in love with four years earlier while living in Delhi, bringing with it the stirring of distant memories and desires. As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for the funeral, so begins a passage into the soul of an island devastated by violence. Written with precision and grace, A Passage North is a poignant memorial for the missing and the dead, and a luminous meditation on time, consciousness, and the lasting imprint of the connections we make with others.’ Laura loved this slow-paced but absorbing story set in present-day Colombo. A perfect companion read to The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.
The audiobook of The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is published by Bolinda Digital (P) Bolinda Publishing 2022, My Phantoms is published by Granta audio and Eight Months on Ghazza Street is published by W.F. Howes and all three are available via your preferred audiobook retailer or library app.
If you enjoyed this episode catch up with our original take on The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida when we discussed it as part of our Booker Prize special episode.
Let us know any thoughts you have on this episode, or books you would recommend to us.