Paperbacks

 

Our pick of the latest releases

To the End of the Land

David Grossman

Vintage, £8.99

Ora welcomes her second son back from military service in war-torn Israel; he volunteers for a major offensive. By nature she is emotional and impulsive. Left on her own after the birth of her first child, she became pregnant by an old friend, her first love, but Ilan, the father of her first son, did return, and with him Ora has raised her two sons in a family. But that unit has collapsed, her husband has left again and her first son, Adam, is currently travelling with him. The Israeli writer David Grossman is both major artist and responsible commentator. This big novel is a mother’s vigil written by a grieving father. Ora’s dread, the loss of a soldier son, is Grossman’s reality. Nominated for the 2012 Impac, this is a dense, living, breathing narrative in which Ora sets off on a long walk, convinced that, as long as she hears no bad news, her son will survive. Eileen Battersby

Damage

Josephine Hart

Virago £7.99

“Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.” So goes the famous line from this dark, obsessive tale of love by the Irish-born author, who died in June. Damagewas an international bestseller when it was first published, in 1990. The story concerns a middle-aged parliamentarian who has become disillusioned with his lot and all the “right” decisions he has made: a beautiful wife, two children, a successful career and plenty of money. When he meets the magnetic Anna Barton, his son’s new girlfriend, life takes a dramatic turn and a dangerous course is set in motion. Narrated with a cool, sometimes shocking honesty, Damageis all passion and drama – a chilling examination of betrayal and the complexities of the human heart. Sorcha Hamilton

The Making of an Irish Communist Leader

Michael Quinn

Communist Party of Ireland, €8

Given the publisher, this pamphlet on Michael O’Riordan is hardly an impartial account. Nevertheless, it provides a fascinating insight into a little-known aspect of 20th-century Irish political history. And it draws deserved attention to the longest-serving Irish party leader so far. The pamphlet concentrates on the period from the 21-year-old O’Riordan’s return from the Spanish Civil War (or the “anti-fascist war”, as he preferred to call it) in 1938 to his move to Dublin in 1947. He was offered a commission in the Irish Army in 1938 but opted to return to the IRA and train its units in Cork. Interned in the Curragh (1939-43), he learned Irish and Russian, and the debates among internees led him and other left-wing republicans to leave the IRA and follow a communist path. On release, O’Riordan returned to Cork and was in the Labour Party for a short time before expulsion led to his forming the short-lived but relatively successful (in local electoral terms) Cork Socialist Party. His political evolution over these years is well traced. Brian Maye

City-Pick: New York

Edited by Heather Reyes

Oxygen Books, £9.99

City-Pickis a series of books collecting reams of snippets of writing about various great cities. The New York edition gathers excerpts from Updike, Bellow, Fitzgerald, Dos Passos, EL Doctorow and many less famous writers. The hubbub of clamouring voices covers the history of the city, the differences between the five boroughs, the architecture, the famous inhabitants, the experience of living in NYC and more. It’s an intriguing prospect, and the multitude of subjects and viewpoints gives a good impression of the heterogeneity and bustle of the great metropolis, and succeeds in painting it as a unique and thrilling place. The best pieces are the longer ones. Most of the extracts, however, are so short, and say so little, that they make the collection as a whole seem too much like an advertisement, striving to grab short attention spans with quick cuts and superficial glimpses. It’s a patchwork that doesn’t come together to make a quilt. Colm Farren

The Secret Life of Poems

Tom Paulin

Faber, €9.99

Poetry is such a subtle art that it perhaps takes a poet to explain how it all works. In this poetry primer, Tom Paulin (referencing William Empson) suggests ambiguity is at the root of poetry, providing room for alternative reactions to the same language, but while this is poetry’s personal power, its complexity can be problematic. Paulin creatively explores Donne to Keats, Dickinson to Hardy,and Larkin to Heaney, and explains how poetry can “talk” through the ages, with his love for unstinting but layered language framing his pursuit. He takes each poem, unfurling its sentiment, its context and, most pleasingly, its hidden history. This history finds Paulin describing the word “pace” from Larkin’s Cut Grassas bringing to mind “a faraway cricket match”, and he humorously writes that Kavanagh’s Kerr’s Ass possesses a “sinking squelchiness”. He describes the character in McKendrick’s Apotheosis as “heroic and slightly quixotic”, which in some way describes this magic lantern of a primer. Siobhán Kane