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.)
To mark the bicentenary of the birth of the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky World Book Club revisits Crime and Punishment in an edition recorded at the elegant Pushkin House, London’s Russian cultural hub, in 2016.
To help us explore Dostoyevsky’s haunting classic thriller Harriett Gilbert was joined by acclaimed Russian writer Boris Akunin and Russian scholar Dr Sarah Young.
Consumed by the idea of his own special destiny, Rashkolnikov is drawn to commit a terrible crime. In the aftermath, he is dogged by madness, guilt and a calculating detective, and a feverish cat-and-mouse game unfolds.
(Photo credit: Alexander Aksakov/Getty Images.)
World Book Club this month talks to the world-renowned Australian author Jane Harper at her home in Melbourne, Australia, about her internationally garlanded thriller, The Dry.
Amid the worst drought to ravage Australia in a century, tensions in a small town community become unbearable when the Hadler family are found brutally murdered. Everyone thinks Luke Hadler’s guilty, committing suicide after slaughtering his wife and son.
But policeman Aaron Falk returns to the town of his youth for the funeral of his best friend and is reluctantly drawn into the investigation. As he probes deeper into the killings, secrets from the past bubble to the surface and he questions the truth of his friend's crime.
A chilling story set under a sweltering sun dealing with issues of climate change, alcoholism and a community on the brink of breaking down.
(Picture: Jane Harper. Photo credit: Katsnapp Photography.)
Serious Men tells the intertwined stories of wily Ayyan Mani - who tries to pass off his son as a mathematical genius - and life at the Institute of Theory and Research in Mumbai, where Ayyan works, and where veteran scientists battle over their pet theories about how life began on Earth.
Serious Men won the Hindu Best Fiction Award in 2010 and the 2011 PEN Open Book Award and was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. It’s an unsettling comedy about inequalities in Indian society; it’s a portrait of a man doing his best for his family with unorthodox methods and unexpected results, and it’s a look at the romance and frustrations of scientific research.
Manu Joseph is a novelist and columnist.
(Picture: Manu Joseph. Photo credit: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images.)
This month World Book Club talks to acclaimed Canadian writer Louise Penny about the very first in her astonishingly successful series of Inspector Gamache crime novels.
When a much-loved inhabitant of the village of Three Pines in the Eastern Townships of Quebec is found dead in the woods during Thanksgiving, the locals are certain that it was just a tragic hunting accident.
But Chief Inspector Armand Gamache from Montreal suspects foul play and won’t rest until he’s rootled out the darkness at the heart of this seemingly peaceable and bucolic community. His always courteous but also insistent sleuthing gradually brings to light the family secrets and long-held grudges seething under its apparently serene surface.
(Picture: Louise Penny. Photo credit: Jean-Francois Berube.)
Spanning much of the twentieth century and told with an elegant simplicity which belies the harshness of the tale it tells, Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life is the story of one man's relationship with an ancient landscape.
Andreas Egger knows every nook and cranny of the Alpine mountain valley that is his home and from which vantage point he witnesses the arrival of the modern world, in all its many and daunting forms.
A stark yet tender book about love, loss and endurance, and about finding dignity and beauty in solitude A Whole Life has already touched many thousands of readers with its message of solace and truth.
(Picture: Robert Seethaler. Photo credit: UrbanZintel.)
A modern classic in the African literary canon and voted in the Top Ten of Africa's 100 Best Books of the 20th Century, Nervous Conditions is the coming-of-age story of two Shona girls, Tambudzai and Nyasha, both trying to find their place in contemporary Zimbabwe.
Whilst Nyasha has been to England and questions the effect of that Westernisation on her family, Tambudzai is from a more traditional branch of the family and is awed by her cousin’s seeming sophistication.
Through its exploration of race, class, gender and the nature of friendship, the novel dramatizes the 'nervousness' of the 'postcolonial' condition that vexes us still.
(Picture:Tsitsi Dangarembga. Photo credit: Hannah Mentz.)
This month World Book Club discusses Bill Bryson’s hugely acclaimed travelogue Notes from a Small Island with the author and his readers around the world.
After two decades as a resident of the United Kingdom, Bryson took what he thought might be a last affectionate trip around his adoptive country before returning to live in his native America. Notes from a Small Island is the irreverent and hilarious account of this meandering journey through his beloved island nation. From Dover to Downing Street, from Giggleswick to Loch Ness by way of Titsey and Nether Wallop, Bryson rejoices in Britain’s inimitable placenames and much else of more substance besides, his very own State of the Nation address, as it were.
A huge number-one bestseller when it was first published, Notes from a Small Island has become that nation's most loved book about Britain.
(Picture: Bill Bryson. Photo credit: Catherine Williams.)
On this month’s World Book Club, Icelandic literary superstar Sjón will be answering questions from readers around the world about his novel Moonstone: The Boy Who Never Was.
Set in Reykjavik in 1918, it’s the story of sixteen year old Mani, whose life is completely changed by the arrival of the Spanish flu in the city.
It’s a fascinating novel about human resilience and connections, a love letter to cinema and a portrait of a place at a very particular moment in its history.
Moonstone won The Icelandic Literary Prize in 2013.
Sjón is one of Iceland’s leading novelists and his work has been translated into 30 languages. He’s also a poet and librettist and was Oscar nominated for his lyrics for the film Dancer In The Dark.
Presented by Harriett Gilbert.
(Picture: Sjón. Courtesy of Sjón.)
A novel of breathtaking sweep revealing the devastating impact of slavery through history.
This month World Book Club discusses the multi-prize-winning debut novel Homegoing with its acclaimed Ghanaian author Yaa Gyasi and her fans around the world.
The story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a white slave-trader, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history. A novel of remarkable sweep and power, with each character’s life indelibly drawn, Homegoing reveals the devastating legacy of slavery and the resilience of the human spirit.
(Picture: Yaa Gyasi. Photo credit: Peter Hurley/Vilcek Foundation.)
Life or death choices in a bid to survive the horrors of 1970s Communist China
This month in the penultimate edition of a year celebrating the globe’s greatest women writers World Book Club talks to acclaimed Chinese author Yiyun Li about her harrowing debut novel The Vagrants.
Winner of the Guardian First Book Award The Vagrants is based on real events which took place in China in 1979 during the era that ultimately led to the fateful Tiannanmen Square uprising.
In the provincial town of Muddy Waters a young woman, Gu Shan, is sentenced to death for her loss of faith in Communism. The citizens stage a protest after her execution and, over the following six weeks, the novel charts the hopes and fears of the leaders of the protest and the pain of Gu Shan’s parents and friends, as everyone in the town is caught up in the remorseless turn of events.
(Picture: Yiyun Li. Photo credit: Roger Turesson.)
A fast-moving, passionate, genre-bending work of art that both dazzles and entertains.
This month, World Book Club discusses the much garlanded novel How to Be Both with its acclaimed British author Ali Smith and her fans around the world. Still not able to gather together in a studio, presenter Harriett Gilbert and Ali Smith will be talking remotely to international listeners via all manner of means - phonelines, emails, Skype calls, and social media.
In this playfully ambitious novel, a 15th-century artist, Francesco del Cossa, travels through time and space to discover a grieving sixteen-year-old girl in contemporary England taking comfort in a painting he (or is it she?) created. Or is it all the other way around? And whose story comes first?
(Picture: Ali Smith. Photo credit: Sarah Wood.)
This month’s World Book Club is the ninth in our series celebrating the greatest women writers at work across the globe. Harriett Gilbert and listeners from around the world talk to the world-renowned American author Elizabeth Strout at her home in New Brunswick, Maine, in the USA.
The novel under discussion is her internationally-garlanded Olive Kitteridge: a novel made up of 13 luminous short stories set in small-town Maine and bound together by one larger-than-life character, the flawed and fascinating Olive Kitteridge.
Retired school teacher and long-time wife of the long-suffering Henry, Olive struggles to make sense of the changes in her life and the lives of those around her. Her travails, at once parochial but also universal, make readers laugh, nod in recognition, as well as wince in pain.
(Picture: Elizabeth Strout. Photo credit: Leonard Cendamo.)
The Australian writer Helen Garner joins Harriett Gilbert as World Book Club continues its celebration of women writers.
She’ll be talking about her 2008 novel The Spare Room. It’s the story of two women: Nicola, who has cancer, and Helen who looks after her for three challenging weeks. Helen has her doubts about the unconventional clinic where Nicola has sought out treatment, but she nonetheless throws herself into the role of nurse, finding some comfort in the practical demands of the job.
Based on real events, The Spare Room is an unflinching, fierce look at friendship, illness and caring which finds humour in the darkest of places. The book is as spare and as lean as its title, yet manages to encompass big ideas about life and death.
(Image: Helen Garner. Photo credit: Darren James.)
This month, for the seventh World Book Club edition celebrating International Women writers, Harriett Gilbert is joined by the remarkable British writer Bernardine Evaristo from her home in east London to talk about her Booker-Prize-winning novel Girl, Woman, Other. Although still unable to gather an audience together in a studio, we take questions from listeners from all around the world via phonelines, tweets and emails to once again create a truly global event.
Girl, Woman, Other charts the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, mostly black and British, it tells the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and down the ages. A dazzling mixture of history and contemporary story-telling, Girl, Woman, Other crackles with energy and teems with life, offering an unforgettable insight into life in today’s multi-cultural Britain.
(Picture: Bernardine Evaristo. Photo credit: Jennie Scott.)
This month World Book Club talks to acclaimed British author Deborah Levy about her Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel Hot Milk. In this era of coronavirus we are sadly not able to gather together in a studio but we will be talking remotely to international listeners via phonelines, emails, skype calls, social media – you name it!
In Levy’s hypnotic tale of female sexuality two women arrive in a village on the Spanish coast. Rose is suffering from a strange illness and her doctors are mystified. Her daughter Sofia has brought her here to find a cure with the celebrated and controversial Dr Gomez.
Through the opposing figures of mother and daughter, Levy explores the strange and beguiling nature of womanhood and desire. Dreamlike and compelling, Hot Milk is a delirious, timeless fable of feminine potency.
This month World Book Club marks the recent worldwide publication of The Mirror and The Light by treating you to a repeat of our memorable edition of the programme with the double-Booker prize-winning British writer Hilary Mantel.
Recorded two years ago at the Man Booker 50 Festival at the South Bank Centre, which was celebrating the 50th anniversary of the renowned prize, Hilary Mantel discusses the second volume in her acclaimed series of novels about Thomas Cromwell. Bring Up the Bodies delves into the heart of Tudor history and the downfall of Queen Anne Boleyn whom King Henry VIII had battled for seven years to marry.
Join writer Hilary Mantel, presenter Harriett Gilbert and readers at the South Bank Centre and around the globe for a World Book Club for an hour during which the words Corona or Virus are not mentioned even once.
Long-listed for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction, Bhutto’s lyrical debut novel unfolds over the course of one morning in Mir Ali, a small town in Pakistan's Tribal Areas close to the Afghan border.
Set during the American invasion of Afghanistan, it chronicles the lives of five young people trying to live and love in a world on fire. On a day seemingly like any other, three brothers meet for breakfast before going their separate ways. Three hours later their day will end in devastating circumstances.
(Photo: Fatima Bhutto)
French-Moroccan writer Leïla Slimani joins Harriett Gilbert in the Radio Theatre at the BBC and readers from around the world to talk about her novel Lullaby, the devastating story of a nanny, Louise, who kills two children in her care.
The book – an international bestseller – opens with this horrific crime then travels back in time to discover why an apparently perfect nanny turned into a cold blooded murderer. Through the lives of Louise and her employers, Slimani explores Paris’s economy and society, depicting a city where poverty and wealth live side by side and people know little about one another.
The third programme in World Book Club’s year celebrating international women’s writing, this novel raises urgent questions about women’s lives and maternal instincts, and what is expected of them.
(Photo: Leïla Slimani. Photo credit: Catherine Hélie/Editions Gallimard.)
Harriett Gilbert is joined by Zimbabwean novelist Petina Gappah for this month’s edition of World Book Club, continuing 2020’s celebration of women’s writing.
Petina will be answering questions from readers around the world about her novel The Book Of Memory. It’s narrated by Memory, an albino woman convicted of murdering her wealthy white guardian, who took her away from life in the townships when she was a child. In this testimony, written from her prison cell, Memory looks back over her life and confronts the events that led to this conviction.
(Photo: Petina Gappah. Credit: Marina Cavazza)