I love Foyles. Foyles is a magical wonderland. So when I recently found myself at a loose end in Covent Garden, I thought I would wonder up Charing Cross Road to their flagship store, and take the time to really work my way through the fiction section. (Side note, I also popped into Any Amount of Books on my where there, which is a lovely second hand bookshop, but didn’t spot anything I fancied. If you’re ever in the area, they always have a surprising amount of new releases and proof copies.) The thing I love about Foyles is that they always have books that I’ve never seen anywhere else, so I always end up buying things that I’ve never heard of but look exciting.
Orlando by Virginia Woolf
So this one I had heard of, and I’ve been intending to pick it up for a while. I’m also slightly obsessed with these Vintage Classics editions, I have the Brontës and I desperately, desperately want the Russian Classics series. As far as I know, the character of Orlando starts out as an Elizabethan courtier, and ends up as a woman in the twenties. It’s supposed to be a classic of feminism and gender studies, and I picked it up for a couple of reasons. Firstly, my friend Laura and I had a conversation about gender identity maybe three or four years ago which has stayed with me, and she mentioned this as an expression of gender which she felt really rang true. Secondly, I have been meaning to read Virginia Woolf F O R E V E R and I was recently watching a Sophie Carlon video where she was talking about The Waves, which sounds incredible but she mentioned that she would say Orlando was a better starting point with Woolf.
Closely Watched Trains by Bohumil Hrabal
This is one of those books I was talking about, that I come across in Foyles and buy even though I’ve never heard of them. There was a whole shelf of Bohumil Hrabal, who I have never heard of at all, so I figured I would pick up the shortest one to see if I like his writing. He’s Czech, and after reading Spaceman of Bohemia I’m really intrigued by Czech culture and history. It’s about a railway apprentice during the Second World War, and it looks at themes of heroism and humanity, I believe, although I don’t know too much about it.
Certainty by Madeleine Thien
I recently raved about Do Not Say We Have Nothing, so I was definitely interested to look into Thien’s back catalogue. This seems to have similiar themes of friendship, dislocation, and the impact of one generation on those that follow. It’s also been beautifully republished to match the new B-format paperback of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, which I tragically have in the previous large paperback so they don’t match.
Trumpet by Jackie Kay
I have been meaning to buy this for ages, but I’ve never actually seen it in a shop. I thought I was going to have to get it online, but Foyles came to my rescue. It’s about a trumpeter named Joss Moody, and what happens when after his death it is discovered that he has female genitals. They read this on Banging Book Club last year, and Leena has been talking about it on her channel for a long time, so I snapped it up.
Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo
This is another one that I’ve been intending to read, but have never spotted in a bookshop, this time based on a recommendation from Simon of Savidge Reads. It’s about an Antiguan man in his seventies living in Hackney. His wife knows that he’s having an affair, but what she doesn’t realise is that the affair is with his lifelong best friend, Morris. It’s about sexuality and prejudice, and a look at the older Caribbean community in the UK. I’m so, so excited to read this.
The House in Smyrna bt Tatiana Salem Levy
This is another one that I had never heard of, about a Brazilian woman of Turkish origin who is suffering from a mysterious illness, and whose grandfather gives her the key to his childhood home in Smyrna in Turkey, and challenges her to open the door with it. She embarks on a pilgrimage, and this somehow sets off the telling of various stories: her grandfather’s emigration to Brazil, her parents’ exile in Lisbon and her own romantic history. It sounds intriguing, and I don’t know that I have ever read a Brazilian novel.