The first of our season of celebrating The Exuberance of Youth in this the centenary year of the BBC, World Book Club talks to Irish writer Naoise Dolan about her dazzling novel Exciting Times. Psychologically astute and dryly funny, Exciting Times is a modern, intelligent dissection of youth, power and privilege set amongst the international circles of contemporary Hong Kong. Clever, young millennial Ava, an Irish graduate teaching English, is having an affair with rich cynical banker Julian. Then she meets Edith. Earnest, attentive and all the things Julian isn’t. A raw, intimate exploration of love and sexuality amongst millennials, Exciting Times charts the often transactional nature of relationships in our complicated modern world.
(Photo courtesy of Naoise Dolan.)
Monique Roffey: The Mermaid of Black Conch
Harriett Gilbert talks to the multi-award-winning Trinidadian-British author Monique Roffey about her enchanting novel The Mermaid of Black Conch, which won the 2020 Costa Book of the Year. Roffey spins the mesmerising tale of a cursed mermaid and the lonely fisherman who falls in love with her.
When American bounty-hunters capture Aycayia from the deep seas off the island of Black Conch, David rescues her and vows to win her trust. With Aycayia in hiding, their love grows as they navigate both the joys and dangers of life on shore. But on an island whose history reaches back to darker times nothing is straightforward as old jealousies and ancient grudges surface amongst the inhabitants.
(Photo: Monique Roffey.. Credit: Marcus Bastel.)
Burhan Sönmez: Istanbul, Istanbul
Continuing our month-long season to celebrate the English PEN centenary, World Book Club talks to multi-award-winning Turkish-Kurdish writer and activist Burhan Sönmez about his unforgettable novel Istanbul, Istanbul.
At once powerfully political and intensely personal, Istanbul, Istanbul is the story of four prisoners kept in underground cells beneath the city, who tell one another stories about their city to pass the time. There are two Istanbuls, one below ground and one above, yet in reality both are one and the same.
Sonmez worked as a lawyer in Istanbul and was a member of IHD, the Human Rights Society, and a founder of BirGün, a daily opposition newspaper. He was seriously injured following an assault by police in 1996 in Turkey and received treatment in Britain afterwards.
Here he discusses his novel, censorship and the tense political situation in Turkey, and the invaluable impact of English PEN and other such pressure groups with presenter Ritula Shah and readers from around the globe.
Istanbul, Istanbul was translated by Ümit Hussein.
(Picture: Burhan Sönmez. Photo credit: Roberto Gandola.)
This month, to kick off a mini-season to celebrate a very special centenary World Book Club talks, for a second time, to the Nobel Prize-winning giant of world literature, Professor Wole Soyinka, about one hundred years of the writers’ organisation English PEN. PEN is the influential pressure group which helps support and campaign for the release of writers held unlawfully in jail around the globe and which helped to secure Soyinka’s release in 1969, after 26 months of detention without trial by the military regime in Nigeria.
Guest presenter Ritula Shah also discusses Wole Soyinka’s first new novel in half a century with the author and his readers around the world: Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth is a bitingly witty whodunit, a scathing indictment of Nigeria’s ruling elite, and a powerful call to arms from one of the country’s most relentless political activists and world-famous writer.
(Picture: Wole Soyinka. Photo credit: Simone Padovani/Awakening/Getty Images.)
Maylis De Kerangal: Mend the Living
World Book Club this month talks to the award-winning French writer Maylis de Kerangal about her remarkable and haunting novel Mend the Living.
After a horrific car accident on the Normandy coast surfer Simon Limbeau is rushed to hospital where his devastated parents are later told that he is on life-support, but is brain-dead. His heart, however, is still beating perfectly and could be donated to save someone’s life. They are faced with an agonising choice.
Mend the Living is the story of Simon Limbeau’s heart – and the story of all the lives that are turned upside down in the 24 hours between the accident that cuts short his life and offers hope of new life to another.
(Picture: Maylis de Kerangal. Photo credit: Philippe Quaisse.)