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LBL Book Reviews

Title: LUCKY BREAK

Author: ESTER FREUD


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Lucky Break is an insightful and witty book, which charts the lives, loves and varying fortunes, of a group of acting students who meet at drama school. These are the plump and insecure Nell, long-legged beauty Charlie, the fiery Jemma and the serious and ambitious Dan.

Freud's great skill is in making us really care about this self-absorbed bunch of thespians, from their acting successes to the disappointments of bad auditions, botched sex scenes and restaurant jobs.

Married to an actor and having attended drama school, Freud, with her seventh novel, delivers an informed exploration of the claustrophobic and fascinating world of acting in this engaging novel, rich with humour and pathos.

Chapter 2: LBL Book Reviews

Title: NORWEGIAN WOOD

Author: HARUKI MURKAMI


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In Haruki Murakami’s 1987 internationally bestselling novel and upcoming film, the narrator hears the eponymous Beatles’s song on an international flight and is transported back to his student days in late 1960s Tokyo. Murakami skilfully captures the young character’s struggle with powerful emotions and evolving ideas about life, death, freedom, sexuality and responsibility, in this poignant coming of age story.

Title: THE CRIMSON PETAL AND WHITE

Author: MICHAEL FABER


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Faber's version of a 19th Century English novel, and BBC adaptation, is a heady and intoxicating read in which, Sugar, a clever and devious prostitute is taken up by a wealthy client in a rich and evocative Victorian London. It is a detailed, colourful novel with an irresistible narrative energy.

Title: Room

Author: Emma Donoghue


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Emma Donoghue’s novel, nominated for the Orange Prize 2011, is loosely based on the Josef Fritzl case. This compelling tale follows five-year-old Jack and his mother who are locked in a small room they call home. This is a captivating and beautifully crafted study of parental love, child development and the power of words and storytelling.

Title: WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

Author: SARAH GRUEN


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Gruen’s fast-paced novel, also an upcoming film, is an atmospheric, gritty, and compelling romance, set mainly in the circus world during the Depression-era years in America. This is a tender love story told with rich characterization and vivid, lively description.

Title: NEVER LET ME GO

Author: KAZUO ISHIGURO


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Ishiguro’s novel, shortlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize and made into a film, is a futuristic story about human cloning and more obliquely, civil rights; which begins in a seemingly thriving boarding school in an idyllic English countryside. It is a deeply affecting story of love, loss and hidden truths and a meditation on mortality and hopelessness.

Title: THE TIGER’S WIFE

Author: THÉA OBREHT


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Obreht’s acclaimed debut and 2011 Orange Prize nominated novel, set in the former Yugoslavia, follows Natalia who is determined to uncover the truth behind her grandfather’s mysterious death. She meets the ‘Tiger’s wife’ along the way and is taken on an intriguing journey, in this elegantly woven story told with vivid and evocative language.

Title: Great House

Author: Nicole Krauss


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Krauss’s Orange Prize 2011 nominated novel contains three intertwining narratives spanning different generations and countries focussing around one central item: a large desk with a rich history. Great House is a clever, engaging novel written in a subtle and fractured style, a dark, beautiful and haunting meditation on loss and memory.

Title: A GAME OF THRONES

Author: GEORGE R. R. MARTIN


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A Game of Thrones is the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of acclaimed epic fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin and a major new HBO series. It’s an epic tale of honour and betrayal, of love and revenge set in a world of never-ending summers and long winters.

Title: FREEDOM

Author: JONATHON FRANZEN


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Franzen’s long awaited follow up to The Corrections, has been hailed as a masterpiece of American fiction. It is an intricately woven narrative set during the Bush years, with a sweeping epic feel while chronicling the complex and troubled lives of several members of an American family.

Title: THE PALE KING

Author: DAVID FOSTER WALLACE


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David Foster Wallace's posthumous unfinished novel centres on the life and world of an IRS agent in his tedious and repetitive job. The acclaimed book is deeply compelling and satisfying as it grapples with the universal questions of life’s meaning, work and societal value.

Title: PIGEON ENGLISH

Author: STEPHN KELMAN


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Kelman's debut is a sympathetic portrait of the troubled youths behind London’s gangs told from the perspective of an 11-year old new arrival to London. Despite the great sadness and violence in the book, Pigeon English is full of energy, humour and some optimism.

Title: ONE DAY

Author: DAVID NICHOLLS


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David Nicholls’s very British novel and upcoming film is a hilariously funny, perceptive and, at times, achingly sad novel which follows Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley who first meet on 15 July 1988, their last night at Edinburgh university. The yearly updates of their lives and complicated friendship is charted in Nicholls’s hugely entertaining page-turner and word of mouth bestseller.

Title: THE LONG STORY

Author: ANDREA LEVY


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Levy’s novel, longlisted for Man Booker Prize 2010, tells the life story of July, a slave girl living on a sugar plantation in 1830s Jamaica, as slavery is coming to an end. It is a beautifully written work with much incident and humour; intricately plotted, illuminating and heartbreaking.

Title: THE LACUNA

Author: BARBARA KINGSOLVER


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Kingsolver's first novel since the bestselling The Poisonwood Bible, follows the epic journey of Harrison William Shepherd, the son of a Mexican mother and American father; his life is told through diaries, letters and newspapers cuttings. In this tender, tragic, optimistic and compelling novel, Kingsolver, shows her skills as an outstanding storyteller with a lyrical command of language.

Title: SUPER SAD TRUE LOVE STORY

Author: GARY SHTEYNGART


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The novel chronicles a dysfunctional love affair between Lenny Abramov, an overweight Russian-American salesman with a big heart, and Eunice Park, a young consumerist daughter of Korean immigrants. Shyteyngart’s novel is set in a dystopian future America and is a fascinating satire of contemporary American values and trends, from changing political values to the increasing obsession with social networking.

Title: THE FINKLER QUESTION

Author: HOWARD JACOBSON


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The Man Booker Prize 2010 winning novel follows the story of Julian Treslove and his two, recently widowed, old friends. After being the victim of an attack Julian begins to question the meaning of his life, friendships and love. With humour and insight Jacobson explores the human condition and what it means to be Jewish.

Title: THE SLAP

Author: CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS


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Christos Tsiolkas's 2010 Man Booker-longlisted novel, The Slap, opens with high drama when a man at a Melbourne suburban barbecue hits another parent's child. Tsiolkas’s novel chronicles the subsequent fraught friend and family relationships with breathless energy in this compelling story and vivid exploration of modern Australian middle-class multicultural society.

Title: THIS BLEEDING CITY

Author: ALEX PRESTON


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Preston’s magnetic debut chronicles the credit crunch years in this human tale of city trader Charles Wales. This exploration of love, obsession and excess captures the spirit of London at this time perfectly with insight and intensity.

Title: THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO (MILLENIUM TRILOGY)

Author: STIEGG LARSSON


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Posthumous best-seller and the first book in this publishing sensation, centres around two compelling characters Mikael Blomkvist, a campaigning financial journalist, and Lisbeth Salander a computer hacker with a dark, troubled past. It is an intelligent, ingeniously plotted, gripping crime thriller with insights into the worlds of Scandinavian journalism, business and society.