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Book Bites: 21 February 2016

A Little LifeA Little Life
Hanya Yanagihara (Picador)
*****
Shortlisted for the 2015 Man Booker prize, this is described as the queer novel of the decade. The 720-page tome is a psychological exhumation of the effects of abuse. It poses the question, is one ever able to overcome trauma? It’s centred on Jude, who is described as the Postman: “Post-sexual, post-racial, post-identity, post-past … the post-man.” Yanagihara’s chillingly dry descriptions will frustrate those unscarred by life’s abuses, but those who are more empathetic will stay with the novel, attempting to unravel what will surely become core to the US literary canon. — Russell Clarke @russrussy

BeastkeeperBeastkeeper
Cat Hellisen (Henry Holt)
****
Hellisen transfixes the reader with magic in her imaginative reinvention of a fairytale. Set in a forest far, far away, the tale is, however, peppered with hints of South African flavour. On an icy winter night, 12-year-old Sarah overhears her parents’ final argument. Her mother leaves, never to return. Afterwards, her father starts to change, physically and spiritually, and he drops her off at her mysterious grandparents’ castle in the forest. Sarah befriends a beastkeeper named Alan who promises to help her find her mother and lift the family curse. Beastkeeper is a triumph and readers of all ages will get lost between the pages. — Annetjie van Wynegaard @Annetjievw

Fates and FuriesFates and Furies
Lauren Groff (Penguin Random House)
***
How well do you really know your partner? Just how is a marriage held together? Groff’s novel explores, from differing perspectives, the 24-year relationship of Lotto and Mathilde, a glamorous couple devoted to each other. He’s a narcissistic, failed actor, weathered by family tragedy, who becomes a famous playwright, and she is a damaged, determined woman who recreates herself in order to survive. Perspective, memory and choice are all explored, sometimes exhaustively, but it’s a fairly interesting read. — Nikki Temkin @NikkiTemkin

Humans of New YorkHumans of New York: Stories
Brandon Stanton (St Martin’s Press)
*****
The Humans of New York blog has more than a million followers – for good reason. Brandon Stanton’s portraits of New York locals are arresting, surprising and beautiful to look at. The only thing missing has been the stories behind the photos, which led to this book. It’s a compendium of lives told through the lens of a single story, a personal, often heartbreaking story people felt they could share with a stranger on the street. That, as much as the stories themselves, is what makes this such a fascinating read. The perfect coffee-table book to dip into at will. — Bridget McNulty @bridgetmcnulty

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