Top 3 books recommended by Kate Atkinson
The book I read and loved this year was Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk by Ben Fountain. A wonderful book, both uplifting and heartwrenching which takes the simplest structure – a day in the life of one individual and packs it with the Dallas Cowboys, Beyonce, the war in Iraq and the death of the American dream. All in one novel.
A finalist for the National Book Award! A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at "the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal"three minutes and forty-three seconds of intense warfare caught on tape by an embedded Fox News crewhas transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America's most sought-after heroes. For the past two weeks, the Bush administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide Victory Tour to reinvigorate public support for the war. Now, on this chilly and rainy Thanksgiving, the Bravos are guests of America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, slated to be part of the halftime show alongside the superstar pop group Destiny's Child. Among the Bravos is the Silver Starwinning hero of Al-Ansakar Canal, Specialist William Lynn, a nineteen-year-old Texas native. Amid clamoring patriots sporting flag pins on their lapels and Support Our Troops bumper stickers on their cars, the Bravos are thrust into the company of the Cowboys' hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Among these faces Billy sees those of his familyhis worried sisters and broken fatherand Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy's mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar. Over the course of this day, Billy will begin to understand difficult truths about himself, his country, his struggling family, and his brothers-in-armssoldiers both dead and alive. In the final few hours before returning to Iraq, Billy will drink and brawl, yearn for home and mourn those missing, face a heart-wrenching decision, and discover pure love and a bitter wisdom far beyond his years. Poignant, riotously funny, and exquisitely heartbreaking, Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is a devastating portrait of our time, a searing and powerful novel that cements Ben Fountain's reputation as one of the finest writers of his generation.
My second choice is a close-runner up to the above, Philipp Meyer's The Son an epic tour-de force which also examines what it means to be American. There are scenes in this book that you’ll never forget.
From the author of the highly acclaimed American Rust comes his eagerly awaited second novel, an extraordinary multi-generational Texan epic Part epic of Texas, part classic coming-of-age story, part unflinching portrait of the bloody price of power, The Son is an utterly transporting novel that maps the legacy of violence in the American West through the lives of the McCulloughs, an ambitious family as resilient and dangerous as the land they claim. Love, honour, children are sacrificed in the name of ambition, as the family becomes one of the richest powers in Texas, a dynasty of unsurpassed wealth and privilege. Yet, like all empires, the McCulloughs must eventually face the consequences of their choices. 'Stunning ... a book that for once really does deserve to be called a masterpiece' Kate Atkinson 'Magnificent ... McCarthy's Border Trilogy is a point of reference, as is There Will Be Blood, but it is not fanciful to be reminded of certain passages from Moby-Dick -- it's that good' The Times 'Brilliant ... a wonderful novel' Lionel Shriver, Financial Times 'Its viscerality and boundless capacity for storytelling puts it on par with the classic of the genre, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian' SundayTelegraph
Finally, a young adult novel that I’ve just read in proof, published next year, called Half Bad by Sally Green. A book about witches with no owls and not a pair of round spectacles in sight. The new Hunger Games, I suspect.
Highly entertaining and dangerously addictive Time magazine A bewitching new thriller. The Wall Street Journal In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and sixteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathans father is the worlds most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his seventeenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witchor else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trustnot even family, not even the girl he loves? In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.