Swimming Lessons Paperback Published in US

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The paperback of Swimming Lessons is published in the US today. My publisher, Tin House, has created a beautiful version of the hardback jacket using darker tones. And this version has book club questions in the back. If you do read it for your book club remember to take a picture of your group with the book and I’ll post the best to my Instagram account.

UK readers will have to wait a little longer for the paperback to be released.

The pictures above were taken and posted by some wonderful bookstagrammers, and if you’re on Instagram, I’d highly recommend following them all, not only for some wonderful bookish features, but lots of friendly bookish chat and reading suggestions.

Click to read more about Swimming Lessons.

Thanks to: @theloudlibrarylady @gracerajendran @bkInbooks @booksforyears @booksonherbrain @dlgillis20 @les_livres_ jennicapps15 @lblovesbooks for the pictures.

Claire’s and Tim’s Top 10 Books of 2017

i2017 Top 10 books

It’s that time again when Tim and I debate our top 10 books of the year. This can include any book we read and finished in 2017, no matter when it was published. If you like counting you may have noticed that in the picture we’re both only holding nine books. That’s because Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout was also one of my favourites, and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent was also one of Tim’s. This year we’ve read less of each other’s than in previous years: I’ve only read two more from Tim’s list (Alice, and A Separation), both of which I loved, but didn’t quite make my ten. And Tim read Life Drawing this year, and Housekeeping a long time ago.

Click on the years if you’re interested in what we rated in 2016, and 2015.

I read 83 books this year. Below are more details about my top 10, starting with my top three (in no order). Click on the title for my full review on Goodreads:

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My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. This is an amazing debut. Difficult subject, but wonderful writing.

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. I read Home a while ago, and didn’t love it, but picked this up on a recommendation, and wow! It was the penultimate book I read in 2017, and still made it into my top three.

Good Behaviour by Molly Keane. Another oldie, reminiscent of Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift, and a lot of William Trevor novels.

Dadland by Keggie Carew. This won the Costa Biography Prize in 2016. I was lucky enough to hear Keggie speak at a festival in France. I have to admit I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did, but it made me laugh and it made me cry.

Life Drawing by Robin Black. This had sat on my shelves for a while, and I finally picked it up this year, and loved it.

The Story of Lucy Gault by William Trevor. I read all of Trevor’s short stories this year, and two of his novels. This is the book that came out on top.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. When I signed copies of Swimming Lessons in New York in February, in nearly every bookshop Saunders has just been in before me, signing his. This won the Man Booker Prize this year, and deservedly so.

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. Olive Kitteridge made my top ten books last year, and this was every bit as good.

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing. I also read To The River by Laing this year, and it was a close thing between that and this book.

The Sparsholt Affair by Alan Hollinghurst. I haven’t read a dud Hollinghurst yet, I loved this.

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And, as always, Tim doesn’t write reviews, but here are his, with links to Goodreads, starting with his top three (in no order):

To the Back of Beyond by Peter Stamm translated by Michael Hofmann

Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

Alice by Judith Hermann translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo

Both Ways is the Only Way I Want it by Maile Meloy

Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin

Marlena by Julie Buntin

A Separation by Katie Kitamura

Driftless by David Rhodes

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

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Have you read any of the books on our lists? I’d love to know whether you agree or disagree. Let me know in the comments below.

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The paperback of my second novel, Swimming Lessons will be published on 9th of January in the US, and on 1st February in the UK.

 

 

 

Flash Fiction: Creeper

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At first, the changes were subtle: a framed photograph moved to a different shelf, a favourite pair of socks missing, the coffee finished when we thought we had another packet. It was always when we were sleeping, and we slept deeply.

One morning the cat was hiding under the sofa, the orange juice was gone, and the cupboard door was ajar when we were sure we’d closed it. It was a mess in there, but eventually we found the loose board behind the top shelf. We stared into the dark tunnel beyond; neither of us prepared to go first.

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This is a 100-word story inspired by the photograph above, this week supplied by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields who also looks after all of us Friday Fictioneers. Click here to join in or here to read stories by other writers.

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If you’re thinking about Christmas, I have an offer you might be interested in: Buy a copy of either Our Endless Numbered Days or Swimming Lessons for someone (or yourself) and I’ll post you a personalised card for free. Click here for more information.

Flash Fiction: 318a South Dubuque Street

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At 3:17am August 12, firefighters responded to a fire at Barney’s Pub and Grill. The crew gained entry to the apartment above and rescued one adult male, one adult female and a child. They were transported to Iowa Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.

The fire was extinguished after thirty minutes. Sixteen fire department personnel were on scene. The cause remains under investigation.

She kept the clipping in her purse amongst the bills and receipts for years, like some keep photographs of their loved ones. Eventually she lost the wallet and the piece of paper with it. Then, she mourned.

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This is a 100-word piece of flash fiction inspired by the photo above (this week supplied by J. Hardy Carroll). Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to join in, or here to read more stories by other writers.

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If you’re already thinking about Christmas, I have an offer you might be interested in. If you buy a copy of either of my books for someone (or yourself), I’ll send you a personalised card for free. Click here for more information.

Personalised cards for Christmas

Picture by Malilauzie on Instagram - approved to use

I can’t start thinking about Christmas until two family birthdays are out of the way, which means it is all a bit of a rush during the second half of December. But if you’re a Christmas planner you might like to know about a little free gift I’m offering to people who buy one or more of my books for Christmas.

Emphemera 1If you buy a copy of Swimming Lessons, or Our Endless Numbered Days for someone this Christmas drop me a message, and I’ll post you a personalised and signed card for you to include with the book. And if you’re buying Swimming Lessons, since it’s about things that people leave behind in books, I’ll also send you a piece of ephemera to include as well.

This offer is available worldwide, and won’t cost you thing (apart from the cost of the book of course, which you will need to buy yourself either online or from your local book shop). I’m happy to include cards for each book you buy, and of course, you can buy it for yourself.

So if you’d like me to post you a signed card, contact me here with which book, or books you’re buying, the name of the recipient, and your postal address.

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Flash Fiction: The North Face

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‘Four seconds. It’s quick, man. Four seconds and you bleed out. All over.’

But he doesn’t think about that, doesn’t think about anything. An empty head, and being the right amount of psyched. No rope, just a bag of chalk. His only thought: the next move of foot or hand. He’s traversing into a parallel crack system across a flat exposed plane when his foot slips, his fingers clutch and for a moment he hangs. And then he’s in the void, arms spread to greet the trees two thousand feet below.

‘Four seconds, man. It’s a lifetime.’

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This is a 100-word flash fiction story inspired by the picture above (this week supplied by Marie Gail Stafford). Click here to read pieces by other writers, and here to join in. I did quite a bit of research on climbing free solo and Alex Honnold for this piece. Frightening stuff. I’m definitely not a climber.

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If any readers happen to be in Hong Kong this weekend, I’ll be at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival on Saturday 11th November at 1pm, speaking about Swimming Lessons. It would be great to see you there.

 

Flash Fiction: Minky

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They make quite a collection when they’re together on the mantelpiece. I dust them every day, very carefully; I don’t want any more accidents. One little nudge, and whoops, china and ash all over the carpet. It’s the devil to vacuum out. Happened to my brother Alastair just the other day. But I never could stand him. Sometimes I like to rearrange them: Dad beside Jeremy – couldn’t abide each other in life, or Agnes next to Peggy. I wonder who will tire first of that incessant chatter? But little Minky, my darling pussy cat, she’s always at the front.  Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Water

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I told them I saw her, under the water, hair swaying, eyes blinking. They brought the horse and cart, and Lewin stood on the back with a pitchfork, stabbing the lake, while all the village watched. It made me laugh, to see how they believed my joke. But the nag reared up and Lewin fell. There was screaming but no one jumped in to save him. We was all too afeared.

After that they wouldn’t use the water. Not even warmed. There was terrible thirst and then hunger. They ate the nag. Soon I think, they will eat me too.  

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This is a Friday Fictioneer story, inspired by the picture above, this week provided by Roger Bultot. FF is hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, who posts a picture online every week, and writer around the world write a 100-word story inspired by it. Click here to read stories by other writers, or here to join in.

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Click here to read a bit more about me and my books.

Flash Fiction: Graft

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Her mother told Mary she wasn’t hers just before she died. Blurted out the words like some sort of confession. Learning it though, suddenly made her whole life – all those sixty-five years – make sense.

Her grandson posted information on a few adoption search websites, but she knew it was hopeless, searching for birth parents who would be in their nineties, if they were even alive.

A few months later she received a newspaper cutting through the post. Anonymous, no note. Creased and faded as though kept for years: Police Still Searching for Child Abducted from Playground.

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This is a Friday Fictioneers story. Write a 100-word story inspired by the picture above (this week supplied by Sandra Crook) and share. Click here to read more or join in.

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It’s been a few months since I’ve written a Friday Fictioneer story, but I have been writing. My third book, Bitter Orange, will be published in early 2019. Click here to read more.

Third Novel: Bitter Orange

The Grange

I’m delighted that my third novel, Bitter Orange, will be published in 2018, by Fig Tree / Penguin (August) in the UK and Commonwealth, Tin House (October) in the US, and House of Anansi (October) in Canada.

Here’s a little taster of what it’s about:

Frances Jellico is dying and remembering when, in the summer of 1969 she was commissioned to survey the follies in the garden of Lyntons – a decrepit and almost derelict country house. There, living in the attic for a month or so, she meets Cara and Peter who are staying in the rooms below hers. As Frances falls under her new friends’ spell and she learns their stories, the house offers up its own secrets, until her life is changed forever.

Lyntons is inspired by The Grange (the house in the picture above), in Hampshire, a fascinating Greek Revival style house, managed by English Heritage.