Book Club - Fargate from the Madding Crown

Anna Caig
Anna Caig
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Fargate From The Madding Crowd is the new book club from the Sheffield Telegraph, and you’re all invited to join. From Don Valley Quixote to The Picture Of Dorian Greystones, A Deepcar Named Desire to Anne Of High Green Gables, I want to know what Sheffield is reading.

Each fortnight I’ll pick a new book, telling you what I think of it and asking you to submit your reviews. We’ll publish the best of these the following fortnight.

I’m also running the UK’s first literary problem page. Tell me your dilemmas and I will prescribe the perfect read to help.

Get in touch on twitter to @AnnaCaig or email copydesk.southyorks@jpress.co.uk

Read of the fortnight:

A Brief History Of Seven Killings, Marlon James

The literary world is in full Booker swing. The 2016 shortlist has been announced and speculation is ramping up on which title will grab the prize this year.

Last year’s winner begins in 1976, and tells the story of an assassination attempt on Bob Marley, who is referred to throughout as The Singer. The story is told in the first person, and from so many perspectives that it can be dizzying. Inevitably, some of the voices are more engaging than others, but wthey work to pull you deep into this incredibly ambitious book.

The book is one of the best examples I can think of to illustrate that George RR Martin quote: “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.”

I am a white English lady who lives in a village in the green and pleasant Hope Valley (where crime is so rare that there is uproar if someone draws graffiti on a bus shelter). But when I read this book I was a Jamaican gangster living in the ghetto hooked on heroin who would do anything, including kill, for my next fix.

I could feel the hot sun and the tension, smell the guns, hear the Singer’s music… I would look up from the pages (only when I absolutely had to) and have a moment of genuine “Where am I?” disorientation looking at the green, leafy world around me.

James’s mastery of language, including several different Jamaican dialects, is impressive. He is interested not only in the variations between how people of different classes, and from different places, speak, but also how these dialects change over the decades we follow the story. His characters talk about language a lot too: what the way you speak says about you in the different echelons of Jamaican society. Much of his writing is dense and luxurious; it’s not always easy to read, but is reminiscent of Hilary Mantel in some sections where you just dive in and swim around in the words.

As a whole it reminded me of The Wire in that you see the perspectives of the ‘good’, the ‘bad’, the powerful, the disenfranchised – the bigger picture and the tiny detail.

It is wonderful. And a much cheaper way to live a whole different life than buying plane tickets to Jamaica, a gun and lots of heroin.

And three more ..............

The Summer That Melted Everything, Tiffany McDaniel

McDaniel does hot, tense summer atmosphere in The Summer That Melted Everything better than any book since To Kill A Mockingbird. This is the story of the summer the devil comes to stay with our narrator Fielding and his family. It kicks off with a sense of foreboding, which only grows over the course of the book.

It’s a terrifying indictment of the dark side of human nature and the evil people are capable of if they become ‘severed from themselves’.

Wild Boy, Rob Lloyd-Jones

This is an adventure story for adults and children alike. Boys and girls from age eight, as well as the big kid in all of us, will love this book. It goes from zero-100 mph in one page flat.

It’s Sherlock Holmes meets Frankenstein, with some good old-fashioned gore thrown in.

The characters are great, and there are some real surprises as the plot twists and turns towards its final conclusion.

The Many, Wyl Menmuir

Longlisted for the Booker prize 2016, this impressive debut novel is told in a gentle, understated style.

The writing is beautiful, and Menmuir succeeds spectacularly well in endowing everything with several levels of meaning.

On the surface, this is the story of a newcomer to an excessively insular seaside community.

But everyone who reads this book seems to come away with something slightly different.