I’m kicking off my review of my 2018 reading year by sharing a few of the authors I discovered for the first time and now want to read much more of.
Others have praised this author for years and I truly don’t know why I resisted reading him. I finally picked up Our Souls at Night (reviewed here), not realising until after I’d read it that this was his last book. (You can read his obituary in the New York Times here.)
This tale of two lonely widowed neighbours finding love again and trying to grow old together gracefully was just beautifully written, and I cried too. He has an understated style that is without ornament, simply chronicling the lives of ordinary people, often in the setting of Holt, a fictional town based on several of those he lived in over the years.
I’m so glad that I have his back catalogue to read, and I already have Plainsong on my shelves.
Like Haruf, I’ve read so much about Gale’s novels, and heard him often on the radio, but again resisted reading him. This year I devoured his latest novel, Take Nothing With You (reviewed here), which mixes the coming of age a few decades ago of a boy who knows he is different with a love of music, and a contemporary timeline for his protagonist too.
What I hadn’t expected was the humour in Gale’s writing, which endeared me to him immediately, even if emotions will be put through the wringer later. It was also a pleasure to read about Eustace’s cello playing written by someone who plays themselves – he caught the focus and intensity that musicians can bring to their playing perfectly.
Gale has a super back-list for me to explore – any suggestions? I’ll also be looking out for whatever he writes next.
Hayes wrote just a handful of novels, but having read My Face for the World to See (reviewed here), I’ll have to read the rest. This novella tells the story of a doomed romance between Hollywood scriptwriter and the young woman he saves from committing suicide.
Intriguingly, Hayes never gives names to either of them: are they not worth naming? Rather, naming would set their character for us, and they would then play a role for the reader. Remaining unnamed, the truth of this doomed romance is laid bare on the page. Hayes’s narrator is brutally honest with his thoughts, sometimes they tumble out of him in long paragraphs of internal dialogue with lots of colons. This novella certainly has the power to shock and at just over 130 pages, it can be read in one session, although you may need a breather from its intensity. It’s also claustrophobic, mostly taking part in the protagonist’s apartments with only short forays out elsewhere.
This is accomplished writing, or ‘writhing’ as David Thomson tells us Hayes called it. A starkly beautiful novella of the hard truth about relationships.