Cicerone Fiction, with a Sense of Place

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WINNER:
Little Faith by Nickolas Butler

Lyle Hovde is at the onset of his golden years, living a mostly content life in rural Wisconsin with his wife, Peg, daughter, Shiloh, and five-year-old grandson, Isaac. After a troubled adolescence and subsequent estrangement from her parents, Shiloh has finally come home. But, while away, she became deeply involved with an extremist church, and the devout pastor courting her is convinced Isaac has the spiritual ability to heal the sick.

Reckoning with his own faith – or lack thereof – Lyle soon finds himself torn between his unease about the church and the growing threat it poses to keeping his daughter and grandson in his life.

Set over the course of one year and beautifully evoking the change of seasons, Little Faith is a powerful and deeply affecting novel about family and community, the ways in which belief is both formed and shaken, and the lengths we go to protect our own.

SHORTLIST:
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann, translated by Jen Calleja

When Gilbert wakes one day from a dream that his wife has cheated on him, he flees - immediately and inexplicably - for Tokyo, where he meets a fellow lost soul: Yosa, a young Japanese student clutching a copy of The Complete Manual of Suicide. Together, Gilbert and Yosa set off on a pilgrimage to see the pine islands of Matsushima, one looking for the perfect end to his life, the other for a fresh start. 

Playful and profound, The Pine Islands is a beautiful tale of friendship, transformation and acceptance in modern Japan.

Snegurochka by Judith Heneghan

‘Something terrible is happening here. Something terrible has already happened.’

Kiev 1992. Rachel, a troubled young English mother, joins her journalist husband on his first foreign posting in the city. Terrified of the apartment's balcony, she develops obsessive rituals to keep their baby safe. Her difficulties expose her to a disturbing endgame between the elderly caretaker and a local racketeer who sends a gift that surely comes with a price. Rachel is isolated yet culpable with her secrets and estrangements. As consequences bear down she seeks out Zoya, her husband's fixer, and the boy from upstairs who watches them all.

Home is uncertain, betrayal is everywhere, but in the end there are many ways to be a mother.

The Parisian by Isabella Hammad

Midhat Kamal navigates his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong.

Through Midhat's eyes we see the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. Told in rich and sumptuous detail, The Parisian asks profound questions about cultural identity, politics, love, and how we retain our humanity in a deeply conflicted world.

Love in No Man's Land by Duo Ji Zhuo Ga

The Changthang Plateau lies in the centre of Tibet. A vast, rolling grassland stippled with azure-blue lakes and ringed by snow peaks, it is home to seven-year-old Gongzha and his family who live, as their ancestors have done for centuries, by herding and hunting. But it is 1967 and the Cultural Revolution is seeping across China.

 

As the Red Guard systematically loot and destroy Tibet's monasteries, Gongzha will be taken far from home. He will lose love and find it. He will battle wolves, bears, outlaws and his own self, as legend and history are interwoven in the story of a young man's quest to find happiness in a time of uncertainty and unrest.

Bangkok Wakes To Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad

A missionary begs to be sent home. 

A jazz pianist is hired to perform for ghosts. 

An army colonel smells the food of home for the last time.

A girl designs herself a new face. 

An old woman uploads her consciousness. 

 

Bangkok Wakes to Rain is an intricately plotted novel where characters and stories are linked by place, not time. As the novel builds to a futuristic crescendo, moments of intimacy serve to remind us that no matter what the ebb of time may change, we humans persevere.

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© 2019 Edward Stanford Limited