Richard Ford's latest novel in a series of bestselling novels, Let Me Be Frank With You, is a page turner that will keep you hooked this Winter. Ford's now-famous literary chronicler, Frank Bascombe, is one of the most provocative and anticipated characters in modern American literature.
In Let Me Be Frank With You, Ford returns with four deftly linked Christmas stories narrated by the iconic Bascombe. Now sixty-eight, Frank resides again in the New Jersey suburb of Haddam, and has thrived – seemingly but not utterly – amidst the devastations of Hurricane Sandy. The desolations of Sandy, which left houses, shorelines and countless lives unmoored and flattened, are the perfect backdrop and touchstone for Ford – and Bascombe. With a flawless comedic sensibility and unblinking intelligence, these stories range over the full complement of universal subjects: ageing, race, loss, faith, marriage, the real estate debacle – the tumult of the world we live in.
(Bloomsbury, £17.09 ebook, £5.23)
Frank first appeared in Ford’s brilliant The Sportswriter and has since starred in two more award-laden novels. Now 68 and retired, Frank remains as unsparing and laconically funny as ever in his refusal to accept received wisdoms, or indeed to pretend anything at all. “Not that much is happening,” he tells us early on, “except on the medical front.” Later, he explains that, “I don’t remember some things that well, owing to the fact that I don’t care all that much.”
Luckily, though, Frank has enough material to bring us four loosely related episodes from Christmas 2012, after Hurricane Sandy has hit New Jersey near where he lives, reminding him of the essential fragility of life (not that he needed much reminding). He also casts a typically beady eye on his fellow oldsters, including one friend whose facelifts have left him looking “weird as hell”. Frank’s own remedy to the same problem is rather simpler: “I don’t look in mirrors anymore. It’s cheaper than surgery.”
James writes and presents the BBC Radio 4 literary quiz The Write Stuff.
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