It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
Meeting at Tony’s on Tuesday 27th June at 7:45pm
“It was astonishing. Utterly astonishing. Everyone of them seemed . . . entranced by him. When I told them that he schooled the Senate in how to catch catfish while drinking huge amounts of corn whiskey, and that he performed a hornpipe jig in front of the faculty at Yale, their admiration for him only increased.”
It’s 1935 and discontent is rife in America.
From the political margins appears Buzz Windrip, charismatic presidential candidate and ‘inspired guesser at what political doctrines the people would like’. Sweeping to power amid mass elation, he promises wealth for all and the dawn of a glorious new era.
Small-town newspaper editor Doremus Jessop is worried, especially when the new regime becomes increasingly authoritarian. But what can one individual do to fight an all-powerful state?
Originally published in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here was written against the sinister backdrop of the rise of European fascism and an uneasy national mood in the United States. Sinclair based Buzz on Huey Long, a populist, authoritarian governor of Louisiana, assassinated just before the book was published.
Now republished for a new readership, Sinclair Lewis’s terrifying cautionary tale pits liberal complacency against popular fascism and shows: yes, it really can happen here.
‘The novel that foreshadowed Donald Trump’s authoritarian appeal. – Salon
Book after that:
The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
Provisional meeting date of August 8th
WINNER OF THE COSTA BOOK OF THE YEAR 2013 WINNER OF THE SPECSAVERS POPULAR FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR 2014 WINNER OF THE BETTY TRASK PRIZE 2014 ‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’ There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night. There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real. There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days. The Shock of the Fall is all of these books. The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction. Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers ISBN: 9780007491452
and the one after that:
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
‘The Essex earth had bucked as if trying to shake off all its towns and villages; for twenty seconds, no more, a series of convulsions that paused once as if breath were being drawn and then began again.’
Now and again, books fall across our path that for even us as booksellers suddenly underline the sheer brilliance of just what a novel can achieve. The Essex Serpent is just such a book, effortlessly skipping between genres and written with astonishingly acute clarity. Reading copies suddenly became as gold dust between staff, the surest sign that Sarah Perry’s second novel was indeed something rather special.
Set in 1893 and firmly rooted in the author’s home county of Essex, the novel centres on the character of Cora Seaborne, a widow freed from a controlling, unhappy marriage. Retreating to the Essex countryside with her son, she hears the rumours surrounding the so-called ‘Essex Serpent’, a creature of folklore being blamed for a spate of deaths and disturbances and the cause of escalating panic in the local community. Her ensuing investigations bring her into contact with a clergyman, William Ransome, a man convinced of finding the answer to local hysteria in faith, just as Cora is on finding it in science. Despite their differing opinions, their lives become ever-more enmeshed, finding themselves bound to each other in ways neither could anticipate.
‘Fertile, open, vocal about its own origins and passions, crammed with incident, characters and plot… narrative and voice coil together until it is very difficult to stop reading.’ – M John Harrison, The Guardian