|Dimensions||222 × 144 × 28 mm|
Anna, Molly, Ming, Caroline, Helen: the Old Friends.
Since adopting their official name aged eleven, they have seen each other through careers, children, illnesses, marriage, divorce, addiction, fame, fall outs.
But now, Anna – fiercely loved mother and friend, and the Old Friends’ glue – is diagnosed with cancer again, and this time, tired of recoveries and relapses, pitying looks and exhausting regimes, she simply says: no more.
As her health declines, the politics of the still lived-in world merge with memories of the past while each Old Friend tries to accept the truth of what is happening: they are losing someone they cannot imagine life without.
Before Everything is a celebration of friendship and love between a group of wonderful women.
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J SS Bach is the story of three generations of women from either side of Germany’s 20th Century horror story – one side, a Jewish family from Vienna, the other linked to a ranking Nazi official at Dachau concentration camp – who suffer the consequences of what men do.
Fast forward to 1990s California, and two survivors from the families meet. Rosa is a young Australian musicologist; Otto is a world-famous composer and cellist. Music and history link them. A novel of music, the Holocaust, love, and a dog.
John-John wants to escape his past. But the legacy of brutality left by his bare-knuckle boxer father, King of the Gypsies, Mac Wisdom, overshadows his life. His new job as an ice cream man should offer freedom, but instead pulls him into the dark recesses of a northern town where his family name is mud. When he attempts to trade prejudice, parole officers and local gangs for his green cathedral’ – the rural landscape in which he seeks solace – Mac’s rise and bloody downfall threatens to engulf John-John’s present. Pig Iron is the story of a traveller who hasn’t travelled; a young man fighting for his surname and his very survival.
Gabriela Babnik’s novel Dry Season breaks the mould of what we usually expect from a writer from a small, Central European nation. With a global perspective, Babnik takes on the themes of racism, the role of women in modern society and the loneliness of the human condition. Dry Season is a record of an unusual love affair. Anna is a 62-year-old designer from Slovenia and Ismael is a 27-year-old from Burkina Faso who was brought up on the street, where he was often the victim of abuse. What unites them is the loneliness of their bodies, a tragic childhood and the dry hamartan season, during which neither nature nor love is able to flourish. She soon realizes that the emptiness between them is not really caused by their skin colour and age difference, but predominantly by her belonging to the Western culture in which she has lost or abandoned all the preordained roles of daughter, wife and mother. Sex does not outstrip the loneliness and repressed secrets from the past surface into a world she sees as much crueller and, at the same time, more innocent than her own. Cleverly written as an alternating narrative of both sides in the relationship, the novel is interlaced with magic realism.
Gabriel Bell is a grumpy 44-year-old web journalist irritated by the accumulating disappointments of life. He and his girlfriend Ellie want to start a family but Gabriel has so few sperm he can name them and knit them flippers. So it’s IVF, which is expensive. If losing his job was bad enough getting run over and waking up to find himself in a therapy group run by Angels just beneath heaven really annoys him. And it doesn’t do much for Ellie either. Gabriel is joined therapy by Kevin a professional killer, Yvonne, Kevin’s last victim, a rarely sober but successful businesswoman and Julie, an art teacher who was driving the car that put Gabriel in a coma. In a rural therapeutic community set in an eternal September the group struggles with the therapy. If they do well they may be allowed to go back to earth to finish their lives, or pass into heaven. If they don’t it’s Hell or worse: lots more therapy.
GABRIEL’S ANGEL was the Guardian readers’ book of the year 2011.