Photo courtesy of waterstones.com
The eleven debut authors pictured above were chosen in 2013 to be part of The Waterstones Eleven, debut books that showed tremendous promise. Previous Waterstones Eleven members have included Rachel Joyce, whose debut novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was 2012’s best selling debut overall, and was even long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in the same year. It is also one of my favourite books of all time. The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen was part of the Richard and Judy Bookclub and also went on to win the Desmond Elliott prize.
As a result, I had quite high hopes for this group of authors and was looking forward to reading their work. For all my reviews on The Waterstones Eleven of 2013, please see my previous post HERE.
Instead of going through each of the books in turn, I’ve thought up some quick and snappy questions that will hopefully summarise all of the books in this challenge and how I felt about them.
Favourite book on list? Why?
It’s a choice between two. Y by Marjorie Celona and Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. The first book was written so beautifully I didn’t want it to end but was also quite harrowing and insightful at points. Burial Rites is based on a true story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. Again, some fantastic writing and a story that stays with you long after you’ve finished the book. I visited Iceland recently and was pleased to confirm that the author did a perfect job in describing the country and the sense of desolation in some parts, like you are the only person in the world.
Least favourite book on list? Why?
I think it would have to be Ballistics by D.W. Wilson. I just didn’t get on with this book at all and made myself finish it for the sake of this challenge. The writing is excellent and I can see why the author is part of the Waterstones Eleven, but unfortunately it wasn’t my kind of book.
Book that surprised me the most? Why?
I’m going to go for The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan purely because of the style of writing and all the connections between the characters which definitely deserves a second read if only to join up all the dots. It is told in 21 short chapters, each chapter being a different voice in a small Irish community yet no voice is repeated. It wasn’t what I was expecting when I began the novel, (in a good way!) and completely deserved its long-listing for the Man Booker Prize last year.
Strangest book on list? Why?
The award for the strangest book on the list has to be Pigs Foot by Carlos Acosta. For a debut novel, it was very accomplished and I can see what the author was trying to do. Overall, I enjoyed it, but some of the fantastical elements were a bit difficult to get through. However, I loved reading about the history of Cuba and thought the author presented it very well.
Author I would be willing to “give another go?” Why?
Without a doubt it would be author of The Fields – Kevin Maher. I thought that the story in this book was immensely powerful and enjoyed the style of writing but was slightly disappointed by the ending which seemed to go off on a sort of tangent. I was also lucky enough to listen to Kevin in person being interviewed at the Hay Festival in 2013, and he came across as very likeable and talented. I will definitely be watching out for his next book.
Author with the most promise? Why?
Again, it is between two books the first being Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi. The writing in this book was extraordinary, poetic and beautiful and she is definitely one to watch out for in the future – a potential Man Booker winner perhaps? The second is the author of The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence. A brilliant, unique story that just begs for a sequel.
Book that had a lasting effect on me? Why?
The Son by Michel Rostain is a powerful and moving novel about a man’s grief when his son dies. It was even more powerful to think that this novel was based on what had actually happened to the author himself. It was emotional to read and I still think of it occasionally months later.
I really enjoyed taking the Waterstones Eleven challenge, and found some great books and new authors. Hopefully you now feel inspired to check some of them out yourself!