This month, we feature Canan Marasligil, Project Manager, Benelux region.

Dickens by Michael Slater – At 668 pages this is a hefty tome. Not one for the bus or tube, but the perfect read for the sofa when you are snowed in during the kind of British winter we associate with Dickensian times. Slater is very good at analysing Dickens’ writing – he shows us clearly how the initial sketch-writing talents displayed by Boz developed into the emotional realism of Our Mutual Friend via David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations et al. He also helps us to understand Dickens’ enormous energy and drive, showing just how much he fitted into each day. He indicates that Dickens’ prodigious championing of victims arose from his own feelings of victimhood caused by parental rejection in his early years but on the whole Dickens’ emotional hinterland is not the subject of this book which is rooted in the oeuvre and covers this ground with depth and acuity. Susie Nicklin

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – One of Dickens best known novels, Great Expectations begins dramatically on Christmas Eve, as the young protagonist and narrator Pip encounters a desperate convict in an eerie graveyard. We follow Pip’s journey to adulthood, bound to his benefactor in ways that shape the course of his life. The book explores social class and what it means to be a gentleman, guilt, crime and the city and the country. Written in the latter half of his career, critics have suggested that Great Expectations may have been autobiographical, with echoes of Dickens’s life in the increased wealth and social stature of Pip and unrequited love for the cold-hearted Estella being ascribed to his complex and mysterious relationship with Ellen Ternan. Pip’s feelings of anguished guilt and shame infuse the narrative voice and has led to comments on Dickens’s more reflective state in later life, looking back on his life’s trajectory with sombre contemplation. Kate Arthurs and Julia Ziemer

Any Human Heart by William Boyd – This is the autobiography of the fictional writer Logan Mountstuart. Logan’s journals span the 20th century and feature major global events and many well-known figures. Boyd interweaves fiction with fact and the ordinary with the extraordinary to create a compelling and moving read. Karen Brodie

Snowdrops by A. D. Miller – An interesting fiction debut from Andrew D Miller who is more famously the ‘Britain Editor’ of the Economist. Clearly drawing on his own experiences of living in Moscow, this is the tale of a young English lawyer who travels to the Russian capital to broker huge deals between banks, oil companies and property developers. This is not a traditional crime novel, but there is a sense of mystery unfolding, as the main protagonist seeks to make sense of the murky world around him and that which he left behind. My only complaint would be that the protagonist peppers the book with annoying asides in the form of a confession back to his UK girlfriend, but all in all it’s a well-written and absorbing story – I’m keen to see what Miller produces next. Rachel Stevens

A Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell – Another excellent book by David Mitchell, one of the most exciting British authors writing today, in which he tells the gripping story of a young Dutch clerk who arrives in Japan via Batavia (today’s Indonesia) in 1799, a time when Japan is isolated from the rest of the world. Although on the surface the narrative is much more straightforward than books like Cloud Atlas in which David experiments with form, A Thousand Autumns is uses some complex techniques if you look closely enough. A fascinating read. Sinead Russell

Boxer Beetle by Ned Beauman – This is an ambitious debut novel that tackles strong themes; a murder scene, a 1930s boxing circle and a chat-room collector suffering from a disease that smells like rotting fish are all threads in a story about eugenics, obsession and 1930s fascism. The book is absurd but the writing is startlingly original in places and quietly endearing. Shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. Sophie Wardell

The City and the City by China Mieville – Mieville has created a very inventive and interesting concept. He presents two cities existing almost on top of each other, overlapping and in sight of one another, but which for the inhabitants of one it is forbidden to acknowledge the other which is enforced by an unknown, unseen, independent police. This update of the Orwellian Big Brother concept makes you examine the segregated way that society exists in today’s world and how people force and condition themselves not to even think about it. Nick Chapman

One Day by David Nicholls – A hilarious, moving and very human account of a changing and challenging relationship between two university students who keep in touch as their lives take different courses. The story unravels year by year on the same day that the couple originally met and provides interesting twists and turns throughout. An easy read, but highly enjoyable. Justyna Kwasniewski

Ethel and Ernest. A True Story by Raymond Briggs – Ethel and Ernest is a wonderfully moving graphic novel by English author and illustrator Raymond Briggs. It tells the story of Briggs’ parents from their first meeting in 1928 to their deaths in 1971, painting a personal picture of British history that many readers will be able to relate to. Through the lives of Ethel and Ernest, we experience the Great Depression, the advent of television and the first washing machines into British homes, the rise of Hitler and the beginning of WWII.

Although illustrating London working class life and concerns during some of the most momentous social and political developments of the 20th century, Ethel and Ernest would touch any reader in any part of the world because of the beauty of the love that binds them and the way they deal with sometimes painful moments in history. Being a strong believer in the very specific narrative power of the comic book medium, I felt the graphic narrative made the emotional attachment of the reader to the characters even stronger and I would urge you, even if you’re not into comic books (but maybe you will be after this one!), to read this story. – Canan Marasligil

Leave a Reply