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On Exit West

Mohsin Hamid's fourth novel, Exit West, is superbly written and filled with surprises.  The biggest is Hamid's tone of insistent optimism.  The novel concerns mass migration from places in the South or East blasted by unstable and volatile politics or environmental decay to places of seeming stability in the West.

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All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

 

Jami Attenberg's (The Middlesteins) short sharp novel of a woman about to turn 40 is funny and smart.  Her protagonist, Andrea Bern, is single, childless, not in any sort of sustaining love relationship, and works at a job that she doesn't much like but is good at. Over twenty time-skipping chapters we learn the many layers of life experience that have shaped Andrea from childhood to the present.

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Lessons in Shakespeare or "Will in the Bard-O"

There are new books this Spring focusing on three of Shakespeare's greatest creations: Sir John Falstaff, here principally observed through the lens of Henry IV, Parts 1 & 2; Hamlet, in this case both the character and the play, and Rosalind, the heroine of As You Like It.  All three books are hugely entertaining and deeply knowledgeable.  Collectively they serve as a great whistle wetter for the coming APT season. (There, you see what happens when writing about Shakespeare?  A delirious giddiness takes over and it seems perfectly apt to say "whistle wetters")


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Ali Smith's Autumn

In Ali Smith's wonderful book Artful (2013), based on a series of lectures she gave at Oxford, which combines fiction and the essay form in an astonishing and complex discussion of art and storytelling, she writes the following

 Books need time to dawn on us, it takes time to understand what makes them, structurally, in thematic resonance, in afterthought, and always in correspondence with the books which came before them, because books are produced by books more than by writers; they're a result of all the books that went before them.

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