Title: Conversations with Friends

Author: Sally Rooney

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa ask each other endless questions. As their relationships unfold, in person and online, they discuss sex and friendship, art and literature, politics and gender, and, of course, one another. Twenty-one-year-old Frances is at the heart of it all, bringing us this tale of a complex ménage-à-quatre and her affair with Nick, an older married man. You can read Conversations with Friends as a romantic comedy, or you can read it as a feminist text. You can read it as a book about infidelity, about the pleasures and difficulties of intimacy, or about how our minds think about our bodies. However you choose to read it, it is an unforgettable novel about the possibility of love.

The Review

I have read Sally Rooney’s writing out of sync. I started with Normal People – which I enjoyed but thought was a bit of a victim of its own hype. I decided to read Conversations with Friends recently and now I think I get it.

Sally Rooney really does have a writing voice that exudes her talent with every single word. She manages to show the awkwardness of relationships – platonic, familial, and sexual. She frustrates you by the things that she doesn’t say and yet makes you feel compelled to read more.

The story of Frances and her relationships with the people around her are tumultuous and confusing. We watch her grow and develop but never quite being on the same level as her counterparts – whether this is due to age, experience, or social class is left for you to determine but you cannot but help root for her. You want things to end well or her even though you are distinctly aware that Conversations with Friends is not that kind of book.

My one issue with Conversations with Friends is the same issue that I had with Normal People. It is the stylistic choice to flout rules about speech marks. I prefer my books to have them. However, if that is the only complaint to find about a book then I guess that it is worthy of the highest praise.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney is available now.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.

Title: Hang the DJ – An Alternative Book of Music Lists

Author: Angus Cargill

Pages: 336 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

In the hearts of all music lovers there are lists – from the best break-up songs, to the best drinking songs; the perfect mix-tape to the dream set-list; Dylan’s dirtiest songs, to Tom Waits’ saddest.

Hang the DJ compiles the sort of thing you might once have scribbled in the back of your school book: musical loves and hates, dreams and nightmares. With contributions from novelists (Ali Smith, David Peace, Jonathan Lethem, Michel Faber), musicians (Kathryn Williams, Willy Vlautin, Jeb Loy Nichols, Tom McRae) and music writers (Nick Kent, Laura Barton, Simon Reynolds, Jon Savage) this is a collection that will inspire and provoke and send you back to your music collection, to old favourites and guilty pleasures alike.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Hang the DJ is a great little compendium made up by music aficionados who give their top ten lists of music. This may not be their top ten favourite songs but songs that they deserve to be put in a list (a personal favourite was Top Ten songs that Feature Stuttering).

I will admit that Hang the DJ does hit a bit of a lull in the middle and it really is a book for hardcore music fans – it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to everyday pop. However, it did get me thinking about my top ten lists o music and it helped me create a few new playlists on my iPod.

Hang the DJ also served to remind me just how much I love music.

Hang the DJ – An Alternative Book of Music Lists by Angus Cargill is available now.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.

 

Title: Lanny

Author: Max Porter

Pages: 224 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

Not far from London, there is a village.

This village belongs to the people who live in it and to those who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present.

It belongs to Mad Pete, the grizzled artist. To ancient Peggy, gossiping at her gate. To families dead for generations, and to those who have only recently moved here.

But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort who has woken from his slumber in the woods. Dead Papa Toothwort, who is listening to them all.

Chimerical, audacious, strange and wonderful – a song to difference and imagination, to friendship, youth and love, Lanny is the globally anticipated new novel from Max Porter.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Lanny is the story of unusual friendships, a missing child, and the fear of the “other”.

Lanny is a young boy who is best described as someone who bangs to the beat of their own drum. He doesn’t quite fit in but he is in no way ostracised. He just is. Lanny is encouraged by his mother to befriend a local artist known as ‘Mad Pete’ because of his interest in art and creating things. Equally, Mad Pete is encouraged by Lanny’s mum.

Max Porter uses this poetic novella to discuss how a seemingly normal village will fall apart in the face of adversity and terror. Porter uses his lyrical style which becomes much more intense as the story progresses to show how prejudices are exposed.

Max Porter has a way of packing a whole lot into very little. He is economical with his word choice and should be applauded for the stories that he tells.

Lanny by Max Porter is available now.

For more information regarding Max Porter (@maxjohnporter) please visit www.maxporter.co.uk.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@faberbooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.

Title: Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.

This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.

The Review

For anyone who loves reading it has been near impossible to ignore the hype surrounding Sally Rooney. I was curious to find out if her writing was worth all the fuss.

I would say that the fuss is about 90% accurate.

Normal People is the story of Connell and Marianne, two young adults who are inextricably linked by a class division. They both go to the same school, at times matriculate in the same circles and both live in the same area. The difference is that Connell’s mum works for Marianne’s family. It is a Pretty in Pink class reversal that first leads to the awkwardness between the two characters.

Over the course of 288 pages we see both characters inexplicably enter and leave each others’ lives and whilst in stories of a similar ilk – for example, One Day by David Nicholls – I did not find myself screaming at the pages for the two characters to be together. They were both self-destructive and their union would never end well.

What Rooney does successfully is speak without speaking. She never over explains the characters feelings; she allows the reader find their own way. I just wish I could control her characters more.

Normal People by Sally Rooney is available now.

For more information regarding Sally Rooney (@sallyrooney) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.

Title: Long Way Down

Author: Jason Reynolds

Pages: 336 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

AND THEN THERE WERE SHOTS
Everybody
ran,
ducked,
hid, tucked
themselves tight.

Pressed our lips to the
pavement and prayed
the boom, followed by
the buzz of a bullet,
didn’t meet us.

After Will’s brother is shot in a gang crime, he knows the next steps. Don’t cry. Don’t snitch. Get revenge. So he gets in the lift with Shawn’s gun, determined to follow The Rules. Only when the lift door opens, Buck walks in, Will’s friend who died years ago. And Dani, who was shot years before that. As more people from his past arrive, Will has to ask himself if he really knows what he’s doing.

This haunting, lyrical, powerful verse novel will blow you away.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I genuinely believe that YA fiction is opening up conversations about difficult topics to an age group who are on the cusp of forming their own opinions about society. When I was younger, the YA fiction was soft; it skirted around issues and acted like teenagers were too delicate or were unable to discuss difficult topics. Not anymore; the world of literature is a better place for it.

Jason Reynolds discusses knife crime in the book Long Way Down. It is the story of Will who has just seen his brother shot and killed due to gang crime. It is time for him to take his brother’s place on the street. He knows it. He also knows who has killed his brother and he is out for vengeance.

Told entirely in verse, we track Will as he goes to avenge his brother’s murder. We watch as people try to talk him out of his actions. We watch as those people – who are not who you would expect – reveal how gun and gang crime have impacted their own lives.

Long Way Down is hard hitting but it needs to be. It doesn’t paint a happy picture; it is gritty and it is realistic. Long Way Down is, for want of a better word, brilliant.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds is available now.

For more information regarding Jason Reynolds (@JasonRenolds83) please visit www.jasonwritesbooks.com.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.