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Monday, 24 February 2014

Novel set in London (and a bit about book sales)

It is a sobering thought that a lot of authors actually sell only a limited number of books, and as I read The Marrying of Chani Kaufman - long listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2013 - I reflected on the situation. At TripFiction we come across a phenomenal number of books that have massive merit in their own right, are beautifully written, tick so many boxes, yet just never make it to prime position in a bookshop. Talent and a bit of luck just don't seem to be enough these days.

India Knight in an article entitled Ambushed in the Old Sentimentality Shop in the Sunday Times of 11.11.12 was in part discussing the Booker Prize of October 2012. It emerged, she says, that sales figures for the shortlisted books, before the announcement of their inclusion on the list, were pitiful: Alison Moore's The Lighthouse, for example, had sold 283 copies, Jeet Thayil's Narcopolis 100 and Tan Twan Eng's The Garden of Evening Mists had had 174 buyers. Naturally sales went up after the shortlist was announced. 

Her sentiments were further echoed by Ian Rankin on Twitter 14.7.13, where he opined that a debut novelist, garnering good quotes from famed authors for the cover, plus good reviews, can still expect to sell only a few hundred copies. He was specifically referring to Robert Galbraith (who we now know to be J K Rowling). The Sunday Telegraph on 10.7.13 said that until the real author was revealed, that Galbraith had only sold 449 copies, according to Neilson Bookscan. 

What are we to make of this? Sales, whether in a bookshop or via the internet are how an author makes his/her living (just see author, Dan Smith's, recent piece entitled A Victimless Crime) so buy books. Another thing we can all do, as readers, is to write reviews, because reviews help garner new readers and new sales. There are plenty of places you can write your reviews - Goodreads, Amazon and of course here at TripFiction. And often processing thoughts and channelling them into a review is quite an interesting and rewarding exercise. Give it a go, you, too, can help authors get their works out there!

The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris set in Golders Green/HendonLondon

A tender, and at times frank peak behind the Scheitel (wig) culture of the Ultra-Orthodox community in the Golders Green/Hendon area of London.

It is a brave thing that a non-Haredi chooses to write about a culture that keeps its doors firmly closed to the outside world of modern Western culture. But I think the author has really achieved a good balance of insight, empathy and reality (as far as one can tell, of course), and for this she was rewarded by being included on the Man Booker Longlist of 2013. 

Chani, in her late teens, is waiting to be approached by the shadchan (the matchmaker) with a proposition from a potential husband, just to meet and spend a little time together. Her suitor is Baruch who espied her at a wild wedding celebration.

The story line is interwoven with the stories of others, all of whom have a connection to the couple, and through their eyes we glimpse a little of what life can be like in the Orthodox community. Like any of us, the individuals are trying to find their way through life, deflecting the bad, and embracing the good. There are a huge amount of strictures to observe in everyday life for those who aspire to be frum (religious/observant) - from food preparation, to interaction between the sexes, attire, you name it. There seems to be an overriding sense of monochrome 'colouring' their lives, a touch lacklustre, and a depressing lack of information when it comes to sex (so it was interesting to see such a brightly coloured cover on this book). But who are any of us to judge a choice of lifestyle, one which clearly becomes deeply ingrained in each new baby that arrives, and is clearly based on a very strong sense of community.

If you are not familiar with the ways of the Ultra Orthodox community, it will certainly be a revelation. It is beautifully written, well observed and for the most part sensitively written. 

And if you enjoyed this move, then we suggest Reva Mann's book The Rabbi's Daughter which will offer further insight.

Tina for the Tripfiction Team

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1 comment:

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