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Dubray Review

In this neglected classic of French literature, Michel Tournier beckons us inside the muddled mind of man-child Abel Tiffauges and it is a rare treat to stalk the blackened and begrimed passageways of this particular consciousness. For despite his humble origins, inadequate schooling and hardscrabble existence, Abel has an almost psychotic conviction that his life is of near-cosmic significance, ineluctably tied to the history of the world. He is also cursed with a wide array of strange preoccupations and with the protection of these ideals – specifically, an obsession with notions of purity and innocence. While as a civilian his nature labels him a monster-misfit, the outbreak of World War II grants him the opportunity to finally realise the heroic end he has always hoped for. If you read only one forgotten masterpiece this year, make it The Erl-King.

- Leon Hickey, Galway|NOTE: This set is out of stock at the publisher, and is unlikely to be reissued. We will not be able to fill any orders received for the time being.|Readers of Herman Koch’s The Dinner will have been fascinated, outraged and sickened in equal parts and this new novel may engender the very same response. Marc Schlosser is a doctor with a list of famous clients that includes Ralph Meier – an overweight, bombastic thespian with a roving eye and an Oliver Reed-like appetite for wine and whiskey. When Marc and his family are invited to Ralph’s summer house, events soon take a bizarre turn for the worse. Marc’s teenage daughter elicits inappropriate male attention while he himself becomes an object of lust for Ralph’s long-suffering wife. Similar also to Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, its amoral and sinister characters are portrayed with uncomfortable realism. As the novel careens to a disturbing climax, suspense drips off the page and the reader is kept gripped to the end of a thrilling and nasty tale.

- Nicola Kennedy, Bray
|A tea blend of lavender, mint and orange peel in a base of hibiscus; with sugar or with honey? Creating individually designed tea blends is just another day at the office for Kate, lead tea designer at The Tea Chest. The recent passing of Simone, her employer and founder of the business, has landed Kate a stake as equal owner of the company. She must now take some tough decisions for the shops to thrive – despite her partner’s determination to wind up the business and her husband’s reluctance to jeopardise their family’s financial security. Following Simone’s original business plan will involve expanding the boutique tea shops to a new location in London, where Kate will require staff who are as passionate as herself if this new venture is to succeed. This charming story is a treat for the senses.

- Sarah Burnham, Dun Laoghaire
|This is Annie: she lives in a small New England town with her husband and two daughters. Her days are filled with waking early to drive her daughters to swimming practice where she records their times, observes their mistakes and helps them increase their speed. This is the killer: he enjoys watching young girls swimming, seduced by their joy at winning as it's a much more satisfying experience when his victims are happy and contented, less aware. This is a psychological thriller like no other. Told with inventive and original prose, the reader becomes subsumed in the characters; the author makes the killer particularly captivating through her fine attention to detail. This riveting story of one parent dictating the fate of her daughters rather than leaving it in the hands of a killer will shake you to your very core. 

- Noelle Grace, Kilkenny
|Morgan McCarthy's first novel, The Other Half of Me, was so engaging that I couldn't wait to get my hands on her latest book and I wasn’t disappointed. It is a dark tale of three apparently unconnected women whose lives are nevertheless intertwined. Alice is a middle-aged homemaker who suspects her husband Jasper of having an affair. Vic lives in Madeira, managing a hotel that used to belong to her parents. She has remained close to her childhood friend, Michael, but is suspicious that his girlfriend is not all she seems. And there's Kaya, who has had a tough life with her alcoholic mother, having to defer her place at university due to lack of funds and work as a 'dancer' in order to save money for her course. This story of love and broken relationships was well worth the wait.

- Bobbie Ryan, Blackrock
|Ove is a stickler for doing things properly so, every morning at precisely 6am, he inspects his neighbourhood for any infraction of the Residents’ Association rules. It's a task he's conscientious about, despite being ousted as Chairman in what he regards as a vicious coup d'etat by his former best friend. When a somewhat scatty family moves in beside him, they disrupt his carefully laid plans, bringing chaos and joy in equal measure to his structured existence. Ove works his way into your heart by stealth – a little like the stray cat he grumpily adopts – as you discover the love and pain he has experienced throughout his long life. Both heart-warming and heart-breaking, this story ambushes you with laughter while leaving a lump in your throat. Perfect for fans of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

- Karina Clifford, Rathmines
|The blurred line between reality and imagination can be difficult to distinguish but this French novel manages to marry the two perfectly to create an engrossing and often heart-wrenching novel. Beginning with a fictionalised interpretation of her maternal grandmother’s life story, Delphine de Vigan weaves a portrait of a happy but chaotic family life that is full of wonder and hope and yet is interspersed with tragedy and pain. De Vigan introduces her mother, Lucile, as a young child model who holds strangers captive with her remarkable beauty while inwardly being haunted and afraid. The novel follows Lucile throughout her often fragile and tempestuous life, portraying the devastating effect of human fragility and mental instability. Although at times an unsettling read, this is an absorbing and powerful novel and, not surprisingly, has sold over half a million copies in France.

- Mairead Gallagher, Grafton St
|Little Lies is an enthralling read, full of momentum, social observations and a collection of characters that are familiar at every school gate. Jane cannot believe that her son, Ziggy – a peaceful and gentle child – has suddenly become the class bully, although something in her own past makes her question how much a child’s behaviour is decided by his genes. As battle commences in the school playground, Jane forges an alliance with Madeline and Celeste against the other parents who insist on condemning Ziggy before confirming what actually happened. The schoolyard politics turns sinister as rivalries deepen, public displays of family perfection start to unravel and disturbing home truths are revealed. Fans of Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret will not be disappointed as the author has once again created a story fraught with tested friendships and family loyalties. 

- Karen McKay, Stillorgan
|Have you ever poked yourself with your fork? Got dice stuck up your nose? Been attacked by a toothbrush snake? Is your pet cat actually a small tiger? Is your teacher really a vampire? If you answered ‘Yes’ or ‘Maybe’ to any of these questions, then this is the book for you! Danger is Everywhere is the latest guide to how to cope with the dangers you will encounter around every corner, written by the world’s most famous Dangerologist, Docter Noel Zone.

This brilliantly educational and helpful handbook will be an invaluable addition to every home – just be sure to watch out for the dreaded Page 9 Scorpion!

- Aoife Roantree, Blackrock
|The Sweet One (but not exclusively)

Belinda Jeffery’s Mix and Bake is an absolutely stunning book; and by far the most mouth-watering collection of cakes I have ever seen in one volume (sorry Nigella). Not only are the recipes accompanied by beautiful colour photographs, their range – from Chocolate and Potato Cake to Polenta, Cheese, and Chilli Muffins, from Sticky Sour Cream, Golden Syrup and Ginger Cake to Brie and Pear Tart, and from Lemonade Scones to Crunchy Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Biscuits – is exceptional. And if that were not enough, the recipes are easy to follow and Jeffers is a veritable encyclopedia of useful tips and tricks, making this book a must have for anyone looking to make their own, or simply expand their repertoire of cakes, bakes and breads.

- Veronica Hinterdorfer, Stillorgan

|Leningrad 1941: a city under siege.  Music conductor Karl Eliasberg remains in the city while his eminent colleagues are taken to safety.  The composer Shostakovich finally leaves, reluctant to abandon his city. The people starve as food supplies are cut off.  When the bombing starts, Eliasberg’s Radio Orchestra is ordered to perform Shostakovich’s latest work to boost morale in the city and on the frontlines and, in doing so, the conductor and his surviving musicians are pushed to the limits of their endurance.  Hope disappears as life becomes unbearable – a child is lost, friends and family die – but then a small piece of good news revives their spirits and these brave souls struggle on. Love, after all, is still possible in this world.  This is a tough, beautiful story and the characters linger long in your mind once you have finished the book.

- Olivia Clear, Stillorgan

Twelve year-old Peter gets the shock of his life when a German plane crash-lands into the field near his house.  Out of the corner of his eye, he glimpses a parachute descending towards the woods.  It is summer, 1941, rations are in place and Peter’s father is away fighting in the war.
A couple of days later, Peter’s new friend, Kim, dares him to accompany her searching for “souvenirs” from the crash.  At the edge of the woods, they discover the German parachutist – starving, injured and petrified for his life.
Believing the airman will be shot on capture, the children decide to hide him, slowly realising that the soldier they have befriended is not all that different from an English person.  But is helping a German the right thing to do?
I really enjoyed this captivating debut novel, which is as good as any book by Michael Morpurgo.  There were occasions in the story when my heart hammered in my chest with fear and excitement.  But among all the mines, incendiaries and bombs, this is a really brilliant story of friendship and family.  I highly recommend this book to boys and girls aged 9 and upwards.
- Vivienne Luke, Rathmines
Human Remains is both a chilling psychological drama and a heartbreaking portrayal of lives that have slipped between the cracks. Annabel is a police intelligence analyst who happens upon the badly decomposed body of a neighbour. Struck initially by the tragedy of a missing person having gone unnoticed for so long, Annabel becomes suspicious when other bodies are discovered in the area and she decides to investigate.   With the sudden death of her mother, Annabel is alone in the world and the well-intentioned concern of a caring stranger may not be all that it seems. Her life begins to unravel and she finds herself in the same vulnerable predicament as those souls who have gone before her, only to be brought back from the brink of desperate loneliness by Sam, a journalist with the local paper who also takes an interest in these cases.
- Nicola Kennedy, Bray
|French academic and ardent anti-Semite Paul-Jean Husson’s epistolary confession to a local SS officer is the basis of this novel. Having fallen for his son’s wife, Ilse, Paul-Jean feels compelled to outline the reasons for his subsequent actions that culminated in an act of betrayal so shocking that it leaves the reader stunned.  The combination of Paul-Jean’s self-justification, his increasing hatred of Jews and his burgeoning love for Ilse makes for compelling, if unsettling, reading. The suspense mounts as Paul-Jean continues with his confession, resulting in harrowing and heartbreaking scenes. Longlisted for the Prix Goncourt in 2011, the themes of Monsieur le Commandant may be familiar but the viewpoint from which it is told makes it chillingly unique. A powerful yet difficult read, this book is a reminder, if one were needed, of the devastating inhumanity and cruelty of the Second World War.

- Sally Kingston, Bray