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Jenny’s Reads: Books on My Radar


I love this time of year. I love the plane trees just beginning to turn gold, with the promise of autumn ahead. I love getting a scruffy garden into the last of summer shape. I love my vegetable garden with plants straining to produce their fruit before the sun holds no warmth and they are forced to rest. I also love the après summer holiday frantic flurry by publishers as they gear up for the long book year ahead.

Places that serve decent coffee are the meeting places where publicists pull out their books for the next five months (July is the cut-off date. After that, it’s really Christmas…) Catalogues exchange hands and, if you’re lucky, there will be a modest pile of books to take away.

No-one knows better than a publishing house how important it is to get the word out about their books. So I’m looking today at books that publicists have highlighted even though they have not necessarily been read by my colleagues and I. Some of them are not yet on the Exclusive Books shelves. But they’re coming and they’re marvellous.

The Hum of the SunKwela is the publishing house behind what I think may turn out to be a surprise best seller. There are no murders, no earth shaking events, just a love story as tender and delicate as they come.

Why you’ll enjoy it:
I’d go so far as to say once you have, reluctantly, closed the pages on this novel you’ll feel a sense of loss. I was entranced by Kirsten Miller’s prose, her exquisite descriptions of the South African countryside through a frosty winter and into a tenuous Spring. Here’s a story of a poverty-stricken but dignified family. A mother, two boys and a fragile little girl. They live a little inland from the coast where, in summer, holiday makers flock, make their mark and then leave as decisively as they arrived. The two boys set off one day to walk to the city in search of their elusive father. They walk along beaches, they sleep beneath stars so bright they could almost hear their thrumming. When it’s cold they shiver beneath their tarpaulin, when it’s hot they plunge into rivers and the sea. Always, they journey towards the city, where they face an uncertain future. Tipped to be one of my best books of 2018.
The Hum of the Sun by Kirsten Miller (Kwela) Release date: 20 April 2018

CivilisationsRemember Sir Kenneth Clarke’s patrician television series, Civilisation? It rose and fell in the West, with the Renaissance taking centre stage and all else flowing from it. Now, there is a new 10 part BBC TV series coming our way in March, Civilisations, fronted by the erudite professor of classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, Mary Beard. Alongside her is historian David Olusoga (The Kaiser’s Holocaust, Black and British: A Forgotten History, etc). This is an ambitious BBC re-make, embracing global civilisations and exploring different themes in the universal histories of art and culture. A modest series of books bolsters the TV series.

Why you’ll enjoy it:
Olusoga investigates what happened to art in the great Age of Discovery when civilisations came face to face with each other for the first time. Hidden within the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age, 18th century Japanese prints and the art of the late Mughal Indians are strands of artistic and cultural DNA drawn from other cultures. In the Cult of Progress, he examines the explosion of change caused by the Industrial Revolution. Artists struggled to depict the changing world and the fate of peoples and cultures that were radically altered. I can’t wait to get my hand on both contributors’ books and they will be well displayed at Exclusive Books. Mine, all mine!
Civilisations by Mary Beard and David Olusoga (Profile Books) Release date: March 2018

The Woman in the WindowThe Woman in the Window is, to put it mildly ‘the most exciting debut thriller of the year.’ It’s been sold in 35 territories worldwide and is already in development as a major motion picture from Fox. It’s been described as ‘a taut and twisty Hitchcockian thriller in the vein of Rear Window’.

Why you’ll enjoy it:
What’s all the fuss about? It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Her lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see…
The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn (Harper Collins) Release date: January 2018

Michael KNthikeng Mohlele is one of our most exciting young novelists. His previous books have won him significant honours and his literary journey is attracting attention not only in South Africa but expanding his reach elsewhere on the continent. With this novel, he has to make his mark abroad.

Why you’ll enjoy it:
One of J.M. Coetzee’s seminal novels was Waiting for the Barbarians. Another was Life & Times of Michael K. He was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003. So to take on our second Nobel Literature Laureate is no small thing. Nthikeng Mohlele does exactly that in what is being described as a brilliant take of J.M. Coetzee’s classic that explored the weight of history and of conscience. Just to refresh you: Michael K was a gardener in apartheid Cape Town, caught in the midst of a seemingly endless struggle. Imprisoned because of the pass laws, battered by life, he emerges towards the end of Coetzee’s story as a man of nobility, even though the reader never really gets to know the inner man. What is Nthikeng Mohlele going to do with this Coetzee masterpiece?
Michael K by Nthikeng Mohlele (Picador Africa) Release date: 1 March 2018


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