Orna Mulcahy selects six books for May …
It’s possible to jump into THE CANDY HOUSE (Corsair, €23.66) Jennifer Egan’s sequel to her 2010 Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, with no prior knowledge of the characters. Readers will probably be drawn back, though, once they’ve read this mind-bending book full of techies and artists and savvy entrepreneurs catching various waves as the action moves from the late 1960s to the 2030s. There’s no central character which allows you to pick your own – for me it’s the single mom anthropologist whose work on patterns of affinity lays the groundwork for Bix Bouton’s (a black Mark Zuckerberg figure, only nicer) invention, Own Your Consciousness, that allows users access to their memory bank and those of others. Just as you’re in deep with one story, another unfolds in what is a true box of candy of a book.
Fans of Emilie Pine’s hit book of essays Notes To Self can look forward to her first novel, RUTH & PEN (Hamish Hamilton, €17.73) which follows two people around Dublin in a single day. Written in lockdown, much of it when Pine was confined to a 2km limit, it’s a love letter to Dublin with its streets and landmarks becoming part of the lightly intersecting stories. Ruth’s marriage to Aiden is on the rocks after their struggles with infertility and Ruth considers if he has already left her and if not, should she leave him? Meanwhile, teenager Pen has a surprise for her friend Alice but their day doesn’t go according to plan. Delicate feelings meet harsh physical realities in this very beautiful book.
It’s a difficult time to be a young woman ricocheting in social media’s hall of mirrors. Louise O’Neill’s new novel IDOL (Bantam Press, €17.73) sees emotional health guru Samantha Miller at the height of her powers, with three million Instagram followers and young women flocking to her live events to bask in her presence. But the past is about to catch up with her and her legions of fans start to turn angry just when she needs them most in this chilling, slightly hysterical story.
ANNA THE BIOGRAPHY by Amy Odell (Allen & Unwin, €23.66) tells the galloping success story of Vogue’s Anna Wintour, famous for her outsize sunglasses and chilly demeanour, who for decades has sat atop the fashion world. Fashion journalist Odell delves into her childhood in a household consumed with the news – her father Charles an editor of whom it was said that “when he walked by a workstation he was so frightening that people would bend like a field of wheat under a wind”. Wintour has a similar effect, according to Odell, staff flattening themselves against walls as she passes, but the book majors on Wintour’s superb sense of timing and business acumen that, at 73, keeps her very much in the game.
Speaking of doyennes, Tina Brown’s THE PALACE PAPERS (Century, €23.66) picks over royal gossip of the last 25 years with heavy emphasis on Megxit and Prince Andrew. The blurb promises “powerful revelations, nuanced details and searing insight”. Brown, a one-time Vanity Fair editor has good sources so expect top-notch gossip if that’s your thing.
Martina Devlin has written a charm of a novel based on the life of Edith Somerville, an Irish writer of the turn of the 20th century whose Oirish characters made the Somerville and Ross series she co-wrote with her cousin bestsellers. EDITH (Lilliput Press, €16) opens in the days of Anglo Irish Treaty negotiations when Republicans roam the land, eager to burn out Ascendancy families. Edith manages to keep the family home, Drishane in Castletownshend, safe but lonely for the old life she increasingly seeks comfort in transcendental moments when she converses with her cousin and their most popular creation, Flurry Knox.
Follow Orna on Twitter @OrnaMulcahy
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