Linguistically acrobatic

Atonement, Ian McEwan

The Electric Michaelangelo, Sarah Hall. This is the kind of book where you spend half the time doubling back and rereading phrases, sentences and paragraphs over and over again because they’re so beautifully rendered you just have to try to examine how they work. Of course, most of the time you can’t figure out how, you can just marvel. A crushingly sad story about an Irish boy who becomes a tattoo artist (hence the title) and moves to New York, where he meets a mysterious circus performer who asks him to tattoo her whole body with eyes. – yasmine

Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller. I just love the voice of the narrator of this story, whom Judi Dench portrayed perfectly in the film. Unsociable, lonely and utterly delusional, yet so captivating. Her withering command of the language and aristocratic tone of voice in the first person point of view is such a chilling vehicle for the madness that unfolds. – yasmine

Saturday, Ian McEwan

The Sea, John Banville. A man returns to a decaying beach resort where he used to spend summers as a boy, in an attempt to confront his grief for a dead wife. Delicious descriptions of the people he encounters alternate with his memories of an event that occurred decades before that he thinks is pivotal to his life. You can’t read this expecting much plot – just relish the beautiful passages, let them wash over you like the heart-wrenching poetry that it is. Mr Banville writes like someone who’s sold his soul to the devil for a pen. – yasmine

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