Asylum by Marcus Low

Set only a couple of years in the future, Asylum is a presentation of the journals of Barry Wilbert James, an inpatient at the Pearson quarantine facility for pulmonary nodulosis in the Great Karoo of the Republic of South Africa. These personal journals, begun two years after his incarceration at the Pearson are interspersed by a preface, notes and marginalia made by Barry and various academics who studied the archives at the Museum of the Plague in South Africa, a museum dedicated to the most serious outbreak of an infectious disease since the peak of the HIV epidemic. Continue reading Asylum by Marcus Low

Devilspel by Grigory Kanovich, trans by Yisrael Elliot Cohen

Devilspel tells the story of the inhabitants of a small rural town, Mishkine, in Lithuania in the early 1940s. Though not all of the characters that we follow are Jewish, the novel explores the shifts in attitude towards the local tailors, doctors, farmhands and gravediggers, as the incoming wave of anti semitism wipes the town’s Jewish population from the map.

This is part of the wider story of Lithuania’s Jewish population, a very personal story for Grigory Kanovich who is one of only 5% of 200,000 Lithuania Jews who survived the war. Continue reading Devilspel by Grigory Kanovich, trans by Yisrael Elliot Cohen

Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

Tariq is a teenager from Morocco who longs to travel to Paris. He knows his mother was born there, that one of her parents was French. He doesn’t know what happened to her and partly from a desire to learn more, and partly simply from the desire to escape the routine of his school life, he takes his passport and travels into France on the back of a lorry.

Hannah is American and just over thirty. She’s been in Paris before. It was there she met the man who broke her heart all those years ago. Returning now is a chance not only to generate new research for a history book being written by her professor back in the states about women’s lives during the occupation of Paris by the Germans, but also to confront that earlier version of herself, the more carefree Hannah who was open to new experiences and people, whose suffering forced the older Hannah to disconnect from the present and pursue a love of the people of the past. Continue reading Paris Echo by Sebastian Faulks

What Red Was by Rosie Price

Kate and Max become friends at university.

Kate comes from a single-parent home. Her mother suffered from depression and Kate’s journey to university is by no means a foregone conclusion, though she is smart.

Max has well-connected and rich parents and his mother is a famous film director.

Kate and Max build a close, platonic friendship whose limits are tested (spoiler alert) when Max’s cousin rapes Kate at a party. What this does to Kate, her ability to confront the experience, who she confides in, turns a fun coming of age comedy full of parties, drugs and alcohol, into something much more complex. Continue reading What Red Was by Rosie Price