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On this week's newsletter: what the critics are saying about the new novel from Tracy Chevalier and Fifty Shades of Feminism, win Edith Pearlman's short stories and find out what makes the Amish and Etonians go hot under their collars.

FICTION

      

THE LAST RUNAWAY by Tracy Chevalier
Friends in need
'By coming at the evils of slavery from the female angle, Chevalier is both in tune with the zeitgeist, and more subtle than films such as Django Unchained or Lincoln.' Amanda Craig, Independent VS '...The important themes of the book – slavery and the resistance movement – are, in spite of some moving encounters, unfortunately far less developed than the Quakers and quilting angle.' Carol Birch, Guardian

THE INFATUATIONS by Javier Marias
Crime of passion
 'This may be a literary and metaphysical fiction, but it's never boring. Marías plays with perception, memory and guilt like a toreador.' Robert McCrum, Observer VS ‘I try the reader’s patience on purpose,’ Marías has said. He’s not interested in narrative arcs or the suspension of disbelief...' Miranda France, Literary Review

HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA by Mohsin Hamid
The reluctant capitalist
'Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation’s most inventive and gifted writers.' Michiko Kakutani, New York Times VS 'An under-described, flavourless novel that strikes a condescending pose of empathy with the poor while only revealing Hamid’s lack of interest in them.' Nirpal Dhaliwal, Independent
(Listen to it on BBC Radio 4's Book at Bedtime)

Best of the rest: THE ACCURSED by Joyce Carol Oates, SECRECY by Rupert ThomsonA TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by Ruth Ozeki, GONE AGAIN by Doug Johnstone and MOTHERLAND by William Nicholson
 
Paperback picks: UNDER THE SAME STARS by Tim Lott, ANOTHER COUNTRY by Anjali Joseph, THE QUIDDITY OF WILL SELF by Sam Mills

NON-FICTION

   

FIFTY SHADES OF SHADES OF FEMINISM ed. Lisa Appignanesi, Susie Orbach, Rachel Holmes
I am woman
‘Sharp, intelligent and impressive … But boy, I wish they’d picked a better title’ Rosamund Urwin, Evening Standard VS ‘…it is serious, sincere and so straight it makes one rather long to be tied to a bed and spanked’ Lucy Kellaway, Financial Times

THE REAL IRON LADY by Gillian Shephard
Devil wears pearls
‘Shephard has an enormously valuable personal perspective ... Like Thatcher she was a provincial Tory who went from grammar school to Oxford, but encountered condescension and even ridicule from a male-dominated establishment when she aspired to a political career.’ Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times VS ‘It is clumsily written, shoddily edited, and often embarrassingly reverential … the best way to read this book is as a marked critique of the David Cameron premiership.’ Tristram Hunt, Guardian
‘Yes, she’s annoying … But her fundamental point is a good one. If women really want to have a meaningful stake in running the world, we need to stop making excuses and get on with it.’ Sarah Vine, The Times VS ‘…her conclusions are often comically infantilising ... This is not a book about how women can become more equal: this is a book about how women can become more like Sheryl Sandberg.’ Zoe Williams, Guardian 

Best of the rest: SERVANTS by Lucy Lethbridge, YOUNG TITAN: THE MAKING OF WINSTON CHURCHILL by Michael SheldenTO SAVE EVERYTHING, CLICK HERE by Evgeny Morozov, SELF PORTRAIT AS A YOUNG MAN by Roy Strong

Paperback picks: NEW WAYS TO KILL YOUR MOTHER by Colm Toibin, ALL THE KING'S MEN by Saul David, HEAVEN ON EARTH: A JOURNEY THROUGH SHARI'A LAW by Sadakat Kadri 
 

ORWELL PRIZE 2013


HATCHET JOB OF THE WEEK

Suzanne Moore in the Guardian on Frank Furedi's Moral Crusades in an Age of Mistrust: the Jimmy Savile Scandal:
 
‘The morality of using a scandal about the sexual abuse of children to épater le bourgeois and talk of a crisis of authority is fairly dubious. This book has little to tell us about Savile or the culture he thrived in, never mind the one we find ourselves in now. It's a Furedi fantasy, rehashed and overspun. As pure sociology it appears under-researched, with little evidence to support many of its grander claims. And there is something missing, as far as I could see – any empathy whatsoever with the powerless.'

Read the full review.

THE OMNIMETER

  Up: Green shoots
‘I wandered like a lonely…’ wrote William Wordsworth in 1804, before crossing it out and starting again. Remind yourself what spring is supposed to look like by reading the original manuscript of ‘Daffodils’ on the British Library website.

 Up: Armchairs
Philip Roth, who turned 80 this month, is full of gloom about the future of the novel. Of ‘serious’ novels, that is. Apparently, today’s readers ‘don’t have the antennae’ to appreciate them. It’s impossible, says Roth, ‘to find the concentration and the focus and the silence to spend two or three hours a night reading a serious novel.’ Happily, the Huffington Post has come to civilisation’s rescue with these handy suggestions for how to create a ‘reading nook’ at home.

 UpHey Jude the Obscure
Great novelist, underrated poet, but who knew Thomas Hardy fancied himself a bit of a croon
er? The sheet music for Hardy’s only known song, ‘O I won’t lead a homely life’, is up for auction. Judge for yourself whether he had the X-factor.

 Up: Bonnet rippers
Stash away your whips and chains, the hot new publishing trend across the pond is… Amish romance. But wait, get that image of Harrison Ford’s soapy chest out of your mind; these books are strictly U-certificate. According to the LA Review of Books, ‘Readers frequently express appreciation that Amish novels are “clean reads,” and that they can leave them lying around the house without worrying that one of their kids might pick them up.’ This line, from Cindy Woodsmall’s When the Heart Cries, is as erotic as it gets: ‘The longer he stood so close to her, the stronger the need to kiss her lips became. But he was afraid she might not appreciate that move.’

 Down: Eton mess
Is your adult reading list lacking class? Not to mention homoerotica, paedophilia, fagging, suicide and concentration camp subplots? Set at Eton during the glory days of Boris and Cameron mi, Alexander's Choice (sample quote: ‘his tongue explored the boy’s tender nipples and deliciously hairless armpits’) brings a new meaning to the term Young Adult fiction. OEs have been snapping up the self-published novel, anxious to see whether their teenage antics have made it into print. We look forward to 'Edmund Marlowe's' Bullingdon Club sequel.
 
Down: Hatchet Job
News of the Hatchet Job of the Year Award has finally made it Down Under, with an article in The Australian (‘Australia’s only broadsheet newspaper’). Sadly, the land that gave us such sharp-tongued critics as Germaine Greer and Clive James has not taken kindly to the prize. "Behold our brave new world where bile and cynicism and sneer and rage are given free rein as never before ... Take a new literary award in the UK which aptly reflects our sour-spirited age."

WIN BINOCULAR VISION BY EDITH PEARLMAN

With a career spanning over three decades and comparisons to Munro, Updike, Chekov and Pinter, you'd think Edith Pearlman would be a household name. Not so. In the Financial Times, Sam Leith admitted  'I'd never even heard of her. Had you? Well, you have now: and you should set about making up for lost time.'  Thanks to Pushkin Press her collected short stories are being published in the UK for the first time. 

Peter Kemp in the Sunday Times agreed. 'This generous spread of new and selected stories, written over a 35-year period, exhilaratingly exhibits Pearlman’s remarkable breadth of subject matter. Settings range from London during the Blitz to condominiums in New England today. Strikingly diverse locations, each atmospherically conjured up, include dusty little towns in Latin America, a riverside inn in the Hungarian countryside, ravaged postwar Paris, Cape Cod summer houses, television studios, hospital wards [and] an apartment block in Jerusalem.'

We have five copies of her Pulitzer-nominated collection BINOCULAR VISION to give away. To win, answer the following question: which Pulitzer-winning short story writer was also from Massachusetts?

Email answers to competitions@theomnivore.co.uk by Monday 1 April.

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