October 2022 books

What’s new and good to read this month? Jessica Bloom has a look at what’s on offer and chooses Lucy by the Sea, The Romantic, and Liberation Day.

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

‘It is a gift in this life that we do not know what awaits us’

In March 2020 Lucy’s ex-husband William pleads with her to leave New York and escape to a coastal house he has rented in Maine. Lucy reluctantly agrees, leaving the washing-up in the sink, expecting to be back in a week or two. Weeks turn into months, and it’s just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the sea.

Rich with empathy and a searing clarity, Lucy by the Sea evokes the fragility and uncertainty of the recent past, as well as the possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this miraculous novel are the deep human connections that sustain us, even as the world seems to be falling apart.

Images above: Lucy by the Sea front cover, author Elizabeth Strout

The Romantic by William Boyd

‘Soldier. Farmer. Felon. Writer. Father. Lover.
One man, many lives.’

Born in 1799, Cashel Greville Ross experiences myriad lives: joyous and devastating, years of luck and unexpected loss. Moving from County Cork to London, from Waterloo to Zanzibar, Cashel seeks his fortune across continents in war and in peace. He faces a terrible moral choice in a village in Sri Lanka as part of the East Indian Army. He enters the world of the Romantic Poets in Pisa. In Ravenna he meets a woman who will live in his heart for the rest of his days. As he travels the world as a soldier, a farmer, a felon, a writer, a father, a lover, he experiences all the vicissitudes of life and, through the accelerating turbulence of the nineteenth century, he discovers who he truly is. This is the romance of life itself, and the beating heart of The Romantic.

From one of Britain’s best-loved and bestselling writers comes an intimate yet panoramic novel set across the nineteenth century.

Images above: The Romantic front cover, author William Boyd

Liberation Day by George Saunders

The “best short-story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose—wickedly funny, unsentimental, and exquisitely tuned—Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: Here is a collection of prismatic, resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.

“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the (not too distant, all too believable) future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and one another. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his reality. In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. In “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed, his memory “scraped”—a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters. And “My House”—in a mere seven pages—comes to terms with the haunting nature of unfulfilled dreams and the inevitability of decay.

Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.

Images above: Liberation Day front cover, author George Saunders

Jessica Bloom

Jessica Bloom is a bookseller at her family bookshop, ‘Bookcase London’, an independent bookshop open in Chiswick since 1993.

See Jessica’s and Anna Klerfalk’s book choices from previous months here.

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