12 novels to offer for the holidays

12 novels to offer for the holidays

Posted Dec 13 2022 at 8:30 am

Epics, sagas, tales, political and poetic novels, a bit of autofiction too… enough to delight your loved ones on this holiday eve. What better gift than a book?

“The Gray Bees” and “The Ear of kyiv” by Andrei Kurkov

While the Russian-speaking Ukrainian writer received the foreign Medici prize for “The gray bees” (published in February), his new novel “The ear of kyiv” was released. Between the humanist fable which sees a beekeeper leaving his deserted village in the Donbass to lug his bees to Crimea and the detective novel which stages a young inhabitant of Kiev requisitioned in 2019 by the Soviets as a detective, difficult to choose… we can give both to those you love. Ph.C.

Both are translated from Russian by Paul Lequesne, Ed. Liana Levi, 432 p., 23 euros and 368 p., 22 euros.

“The Clandestine Life” by Monica Sabolo

Monica Sabolo questions a page of the French 20th century and the still current question of terrorism. From Italy to Japan via Germany, countries that experienced fascism have all seen the birth of far-left terrorist networks. France is no exception. And it is in this criminal mechanism that this fascinating tale plunges us, where burning history and intimate drama intertwine. “The Clandestine Life” questions the roots of a nation’s violence, this tortuous path that leads young people to take up arms and kill. He was awarded the Roman News PublicisDrugstore- Les Echos Week-End 2022 prize.

Editions Gallimard, 320 pages, 21 euros.

“The Disunited Kingdom” by Jonathan Coe

This is perhaps Jonathan Coe’s greatest book. With “The Disunited Kingdom” the English novelist offers us a staggering portrait of Great Britain, past and present, through incredibly close and lively human figures. Without Manichaeism, he sensitively deciphers the ambitions, (dis)hopes and moods of the members of a middle-class family in the Midlands. And thus shows the flaws of a country blinded by the illusion of its greatness, over the major dates of its history, from 1945 to the present day. God Save Jonathan Coe.

Translated from English by Marguerite Capelle. Gallimard, 496 pages, 23 euros.

“The Mage of the Kremlin” by Giuliano Da Empoli

This is a cold and burning novel at the same time. Like a shot of vodka. Its author, Giuliano Da Empoli, essayist and former adviser to Matteo Renzi, plunges us into the brilliantly tortuous psyche of a certain Vadim Baranov, fictional alter ego of Vladislav Surkov, Vladimir Putin’s spin doctor until 2021. A hot news item on the Putin system, “The Kremlin Mage” is also a splendid meditation on power. Intense and virtuoso. A great political novel, crowned by the French Academy.

Editions Gallimard, 288 p. 20 euros.

“GPS” by Lucie Rico

The prize for the most original novel of the fall goes to “GPS”, by Lucie Rico, half introspective thriller half contemporary reflection on our addiction to the virtual. During a short and hectic story, we follow the remote encounters of two characters only connected by a red dot on a geolocation screen. Disorientation guaranteed! After “The Song of Chicken Sous Vide”, the young author from Perpignan confirms her uniqueness. HE

POL, 224 p., 19 euros.

The Magician by Colm Tóibín

The Irish writer Colm Tóibín signs a masterful novel recounting the life of Nobel Prize winner Thomas Mann (1875-1955). A detailed and subtle book that transforms the reader into a traveling companion of the “Magician”, author of “Death in Venice” and “The Magic Mountain”. And which offers a striking summary of the dramatic history of Germany and the West in the first half of the 20th century. Between the love of his family, the love of men and the love of words, Thomas Mann appears as a singular hero, with magical inspiration and a tormented psyche, remarkable in his successes as in his defeats.

Translated by Anna Gibson. Editions Grasset, 608 pages, 26 euros.

“The City of Clouds and Birds” by Anthony Doerr

With “The City of Clouds and Birds”, the American writer (2015 Pulitzer Prize) has achieved a romantic tour de force. Combining ancient myths and science fiction, it takes the reader on board, without ever losing him, through space and time, in the footsteps of a mysterious utopian manuscript which gives hope to women and men. From Constantinople in the 15th century, to the United States today, then in a space capsule in the 22nd century, Anthony Doerr offers us a ticket for a fabulous journey, in the company of furiously endearing characters. Erudite, addictive, this ode to literature that borders on excess was logically awarded the Grand Prix for American Literature 2022.

Translated by Marina Doraso. Ed. Albin Michel, 694 p., 24.90 euros.

“His Favorite” by Sara Jollien-Fardel

She opened the ball for the literary prizes of the season. “Her Favorite”, a dazzling novel by the Swiss Sarah Jollien-Fardel received the FNAC 2022 novel prize. The story of a young mountain dweller from Valais who desperately seeks to rebuild herself, after being persecuted throughout her childhood – same title as his sister and his mother – by a monstrous, alcoholic, brutal and incestuous father. A manifesto without appeal against the violence and tyranny of men.

Sabine Wespieser Publisher, 205 p., 20 euros.

“The Inventor” by Miguel Bonnefoy

After “Black Sugar” and “Heritage”, in which distant and baroque universe was Miguel Bonnefoy going to take us? Surprise: his new opus, “The Inventor”, takes place in France in the 19th century and has all the appearance of a simple fictionalized biography. The young Franco-Venezuelan writer focused on the figure of an engineer now forgotten by the general public: Augustin Mouchot, pioneer of solar energy (1825-1912), but born too early. At that time, the planet swore only by coal and its solar machine met with only fleeting success. We take pleasure in tasting this real fake scholarly novel that looks like a tale, an ode to science and human genius.

Claudie Hunzinger photographed when she has just received the Prix Femina for her truant novel.

Claudie Hunzinger photographed when she has just received the Prix Femina for her truant novel.© TEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP

“A dog at my table” by Claudie Hunzinger

A writer, Sophie (double of the author), and her old companion, Grieg, live alone in a forest in the Vosges. One day, they take in a little dog martyred by her master. In “A dog at my table”, Claudie Hunzinger offers us the chronicle of the harsh and wonderful days of this misanthropic trio. Between Grieg’s room full of books and the Banned Woods surveyed over the seasons by Sophie, a small world as magical as it is fragile is revealed. This hymn to the earth, of a moving poetry, was quite rightly crowned with the Prix Femina 2022.

Grasset, 288 pages, 20.90 euros.

“Under the Roses” by Olivier Adam

Olivier Adam revisits his familiar theme of family clashes in “Dessous les roses”, a real fake play about siblings gathered for the paternal burial. By respecting the codes of classic plays – unity of place (a suburban house one hour from Paris by RER), action and time – the author of “Contrary Winds” weaves a fine drama of morals. And mischievously plays with his readers: rarely has he blurred the lines between fiction and autobiography so well.

Editions Flammarion, 250 pages, 21 euros.

“Walking the Night” by Leila Mottley

In an impressive first opus written at the age of 17, Leila Mottley denounces the sexual exploitation of young black girls by the Oakland police. Inspired by a news item, “Surrounding the night” is both a committed feminist and LGBTIQIA + manifesto and an ode to tenderness, written in a feverish and poetic language. The terrifying scenes of sex and violence are counterbalanced by beautiful glimpses, such as this portrait of the city as if sketched in charcoal – Oakland floating between asphalt, sea and sky. A great writer was born. The Festival America held last fall did not hesitate to award him its prize.

Translated by Pauline Loquin, Albin Michel, 400 p., 21.90 euros

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