HISTORICAL DRAMA GILLIAN SLOVO Ice Road
(Little. Brown €14.99) .0.
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You can't fault Gillian Slovo's ambition. In Ice Road she creates an epic saga of life in Leningrad during the early Stalinist years through to the horrors of the famous siege of the city by German forces during World War II. The fear and paranoia of Stalin‘s reign of terror Over the Soviet Union and the horrific conditions endured during the siege are certainly evoked with skill and precision. as is the bleak. frozen landscape of the city in winter.
Her large cast of characters are all firmly drawn and the effects on their personalities of the hardships they endure are portrayed believany and honestly. But for all that. Ice Road does meander at times. getting a little bogged down in its own wonhiness. A keener editing hand might have turned this interesting and expansive novel into a properly gripping read. (Doug Johnstone)
RELATIONSHIP DRAMA JUSTIN HAYTI-IE The Honeymoon (Picador £15.99)
Raised by his flighty and manipulative mother. Maureen, who is ostensibly writing an art guide to Europe. Gerdon Garrety's life is
dominated by her whims. That is until he meets. and swiftly marries. Annie. a down- to-earth London girl. Away from his mother, Gordon tries to live a normal life, but her influence has left him with no concept of what that is. After a year of going through the motions of domestic bliss. he and Annie take their long-delayed honeymoon to Venice. accompanied by Maureen and her new fiance. There. amid the oppressive atmosphere of the city. the carefully constructed facade of their marriage crumbles as Gordon's loyalties are put to a dramatic test. An outstanding debut novel from screenwriter Justin Haythe. The Honeymoon is a perfectly crafted combination of travelogue. romance. coming-of—age drama and art history. which draws y0u in with its subtle humour, precise observations and deceptive simplicity before delivering a genuinely shocking twist. (Kirsty Knaggs)
SOCIAL DRAMA THOMAS KENEALLY The Tyrant’s Novel (Sceptre £16.99) 0..
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Schindler 's Ark authOr Thomas Keneally's latest might seem to have missed the boat with Saddam Hussein's capture. But in its thinly veiled representation of a dictator's reluctant ghost writer exorcising guilt behind Guantanamo Bay-style walls. there remains a staggering degree of topicality. Arabic names and a jittery artistic community have been Westernised, yet American-led sanctions are biting, Iranians are On/vellian 'Others', and the narratives dark heart
104 THE LIST 10 Fel>—/1 Mar 2004
Love Me (Faber £10.99) 00.
No one who ever had the temerity to take pen to paper and call themselves a writer could fail to sympathise with Garrison Keillor’s Larry Wyler. A plodding Mr Average from Nowheresville, Minnesota, he dreams of making it big in fiction but there are just the teensy weensy stumbling blocks of a minute attention span and lack of inspiration to overcome. Not to mention a wife, Iris, who would rather sort out the world’s ills than recline on some New York balcony and count her hubby’s royalties. After studying How to Write Your Novel in 30 Days, Larry completes the slim potboiler Spacious Skies which, flukily enough, rockets to the top of the bestseller list, and leads its author through the hallowed portals of The New Yorker. It’s there, in the offices of the world’s most famous literary magazine, that our hero’s writer’s block really kicks in and, when his second novel proves a bomb with knobs on, Larry is reduced to writing advice columns under the pseudonym of
agony uncle Mr Blue.
Keillor gets laughs from another hapless protagonist
Short and pacy, Love Me is another sharp-eyed comedy from the author of the hilarious Lake Wobegon series, with much laugh- out-loud humour derived from Keillor’s hapless protagonist’s hastily cobbled together (and just as quickly discarded) book ideas. l-lis subject here is slight, yet Keillor is gentler than most satirists, thus allowing us to retain a large measure of sympathy for the self~absorbed and self-deceiving Larry as he struggles to find his voice, only for it to resound triumphantly from the depths of a trashy newspaper column. (Allan Radcliffe)
is presided over by Great Uncle. gassing enemies and dispatching his subjects with brutal charm. Recently widowed and charged with capturing the peeple‘s plight in a month or else. novelist Alan Sheriff's tale is recounted with a giddy exhilaration that occasionally overcomes Keneally as he strives to convey. yet never explain. tyranny. It's often heavy-fisted. but passany effective and the dictator is suitably evil as a vague. swarthy presence. Yet Sheriff aside. the characters seem little more than Western/Arabic ciphers which, with the blame proportioned around. might actually be the point. (Jay Richardson)
HOLLYWOOD COMEDY CARRIE FISHER The Best Awful (Simon & Schuster €14.99) 0..
Long before Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City poked gentle fun at the great and the glam sashaying around the Big Apple. Carrie Fisher
the best awful
was making much mOre acerbic capital from her tumultuous Hollywood upbringing in bestsellers such as Postcards from the Edge. Fifteen years on from that semi- autobiographical expose of the familial struggle between shameless Hollywood legend Doris Mann and her daughter Suzanne (failed actress/successful
addict) Fisher returns to ‘
mother-daughter relationships. focusing on Suzanne's blunderbuss efforts to bring up Honey after splitting from gay husband. Leland.
What follows is a series of episodes enlivened by cameos from the
herorne's outrage0us circle of friends that lead bipolar Suzanne through intermittent frenzied activity to the blackest despair. all of this invested with Fisher's characteristic humour and intelligence. But there's a detachment between Fisher and her creations that has the effect of making some of the different episodes in the novel rather less than involvmg.
NATURE TRAVELOOUE MARK OBMASCIK
The Big Year (Doubleday £12.99) 0...
Think twitcher, think anorak. Well, think
again. Mark Obmascik's story of ornithological obsession is an exciting road trip of a story following three men in their pursuit of da birds. The big year is an event in which people dedicate 365 days of their life to spotting birds. Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Obmascik is a self- confessed twitcher and his story feeds on the ferv0ured enthusiasm of this passion. He shows the pursuit of rare species as a sOquul guest which takes each person out of their everyday. repetitive lives: 'Gray gloom in the valley gave way to yellow warmth. and birds moved into the light. It was a magic hour.‘
This sense of thrilling liberation. forays into unchartered territories and an understanding of what drives these men is as much a part of the story as the quest itself. 'In pursuit' is where the characters feel most alive and free. I think I've found a new hobby. (Ruth Hedges)