Fiction Addiction

Book news and reviews with Bronwyn Sell and Christine Sheehy

Fiction Addiction: The big winners of 2011

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Book cover of The Wine of Solitude. Photo / Supplied
Book cover of The Wine of Solitude. Photo / Supplied

1. Nordic crime writers

Want to write a thriller? Put an ø or an å in your name. Following the success of the late Swedish writer Stieg Larsson's Girl with a Dragon Tattoo trilogy, it seems that every publisher's monthly booklist this year has featured an icy thriller by a platinum blond with a fantastically unpronounceable name. Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö, Jo Nesbø, Arnaldur Indriðason, Henning Mankell, Yrsa Siguradottir... Random House has released three Jo Nesbø thrillers here in the last year alone, with another coming in February, ahead of a tour by the author in March. Some of the New Zealand covers of the Norwegian's books proclaim him "the next Stieg Larsson", which must surely grate when you consider that Nesbø had published at least seven novels by the time Larsson published his first, and has written about 16 novels to Larsson's three.

2. Kathleen MacMahon

Never heard of this Irish novelist? That's because she's never published anything. But that didn't stop UK publisher Little, Brown snapping up her début novel (and an unwritten follow-up) with a £600,000 (NZ$1.2m) advance - almost unheard of for an unknown first-time novelist.

MacMahon, a television journalist and mother of two, was apparently so awestruck that she neglected to ask what currency the advance was in. (Even if it had been in Indian rupees it'd still be a good deal for a first-timer.) The book, So This Is How It Ends, is a love story between an out-of-work American banker and his distant cousin, an out-of-work Irish architect. There's still a long time to wait until we see what all the fuss was about - it doesn't come out until mid-2012.

3. Lovers of the classics

I'm one of these luddites who stubbornly defends her right to flip paper pages and admire pretty cover art but I know in my heart I will one day own an e-reader. If for no other reason, this will be because it means a lifetime of downloading out-of-copyright classics for free. Amazon reckons that two million titles are now downloadable for free. The open-source project Openlibrary.org has almost one million titles. You really have to appreciate the enthusiasm of someone who is such an Austen fan that he or she will painstakingly scan and upload all 287-odd pages of Pride and Prejudice (especially when dozens of other copies are already online) for no other reason than the desire to share the book with others. And the cool thing about scanned text is that it looks like a real book, complete with dog-eared corners and pencilled notes in the margin. It's the next best thing to the real thing.

4. Whitcoulls

The biggest book chain in New Zealand could easy have slipped into a Loser list this year (along with Borders) but was saved from closure by a buy-out from the James Pascoe Group (alias rich listers Anne and David Norman). The buyout (for an undisclosed sum) saved the jobs of 900 staff and a brand that dates back to 1882. The Normans evidently believe there's a future in paper and ink, despite the rise of the e-book. Whitcoulls' book manager Joan Mackenzie has said she believes one reason book stores will survive is that Kiwis love pavement-pounding shopping (as opposed to the tapping-the-keyboard variety). I do hope she's right - but isn't that what they said about record stores? Which brings me to:

5. Online shoppers

Currently on the British website you could pick up a brand new copy of The Wine of Solitude by Irene Nemirovsky (one of our recommended reads for December) for $21.38, including shipping. Sure, you'll have to wait a week or two for delivery, but at Whitcoulls you'll pay $34.99. Good luck to you, Anne and David Norman.

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