Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich

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Virtuoso by Yelena Moskovich

Published By Serpent’s Tail

Available from all good Bookshops and Online

What They Say

Zorka. She had eyebrows like her name.

1980s Prague. For Jana, childhood means ration queues and the smell of boiled potatoes on the grey winter air. But just before Jana’s seventh birthday, a new family moves in to their building: a bird-eyed mamka in a fox-fur coat, a stubble-faced papka – and a raven-haired girl named Zorka.

As the first cracks begin to appear in the communist regime, Zorka teaches Jana to look beyond their building, beyond Prague, beyond Czechoslovakia … and then, Zorka just disappears. Jana, now an interpreter in Paris for a Czech medical supply company, hasn’t seen her in a decade.

As Jana and Zorka’s stories slowly circle across the surreal fluctuations of the past and present, the streets of 1980s Prague, the suburbs of 1990s Wisconsin and the lesbian bars of present-day Paris, they lead inexorably to a mysterious door on the Rue de Prague …

Written with the dramatic tension of Euripidean tragedy and the dreamlike quality of a David Lynch film, Virtuoso is an audacious, mesmerising novel of love in the post-communist diaspora.

What I Say

From the beautiful cover, through to the very last page, Virtuoso is a lyrical and ethereal novel, unlike any I have read before. I initially thought it was simply about the relationship between two girls, Zorka and Jana. I was ready to learn about their childhood in Prague, and the subsequent paths their adult lives would take.

Virtuoso is just that, but so much more too. It is a startling commentary on life under the Communist Regime in Prague, a novel about what family is to us, how we search for our identities throughout our lives, and what it means to find our place in the world.

The novel starts with a young woman discovering the body of her wife in their hotel room, and immediately you are pulled into their world as you have no idea why this woman has passed away, or indeed who any of the characters are. It serves to draw you in immediately to the plot, and I was intrigued by it. As the novel moves forward, we are observers to the lives of Jana, Zorka and Aimee, all of whom have their stories to tell, and slowly their lives start to come together as we understand how inextricably linked their lives are.

Jana is a respectful and quiet young girl, who lives a fairly unremarkable existence with her mother and father, until one day Zorka and her family move in to her neighbourhood. From the first time they meet, Jana and Zorka have an immediate connection, a sense that their meeting was pre-destined, and Jana seems to be in awe of this fiery and outspoken girl who is absolutely aware of her self and the innate power she possesses. Zorka seems to be someone who refuses to be categorized or tamed, she is determined to live her life how she wants, and Jana can only stand by and watch. What happens from that point on, is that these two women are entwined forever in a relationship neither can adequately describe.

Right from the start of the novel, you are aware of the confines and restrictions placed on women during this time. They are defined by their roles of wife and mother, whilst living in a world of unspoken subservience and fear. You do not know who to trust, and what you can say, and as mothers sit with each other and swap secrets, the playground benches are apparently the safest place to do so. This is why Zorka is such a revelation to Jana and her family. Although initially Zorka seems to be this problematic child, who pushes everyone to their limits, we as readers learn the troubling relationship she has with her mother, and this defiance is a distraction technique so her mother won’t physically assault her.

Little by little, Zorka realises the only way she can survive her childhood is to escape from it, leaving Jana behind, bewildered and shattered at the loss of this young woman who she had come to depend on. What Yelena captures so perfectly is the intensity of friendship between girls, how they mean everything to you at the time, the shared secrets, the confessions and discussions about your hopes and dreams. To have that taken away from you without explanation can be devastating, and for Jana, she now has to work out how to carry on living alone in the very place that Zorka has deserted.

Aimee is living with her father after her parents divorce and is working for his company, however she seems to be unsettled and searching for someone to love. Her memories of her life with her father come out as a stream of remembrances, but this works as it gives the reader an insight into her thoughts and dreams. Eventually she meets and falls in love with Dominique, an actress. Initially their relationship seems idyllic and gives Aimee everything she thought she wanted, but little by little, she comes to realise that Dominque has issues of her own, and she will again fall into a role of caring and supporting someone at the expense of her own hopes and desires.

The novel as it progresses, seems more fractured in terms of the narrative, and is at times almost dreamlike in its telling. There are short, distinct chapters, a nightmarish scene outside a club where Jana is brutally attacked by strange and disturbing children and the ever present blue smoke that seeps into different chapters and permeates the narrative.

Virtuoso is also an exploration of self and sexuality, and the visble and real relationships between Jana and Zorka and Aimee and Dominique are offset by a relationship carried out in the confines of a chatroom. A thread of a conversation between an American teenager called Amy and an Eastern European housewife whose username is Dominxxika_N39 who is effectively kept prisoner by her husband are presented to us without context. Their conversations reveal that Amy is a pupil known to Zorka, but Amy is determined to travel to this woman and rescue her, which as casual observers on their chat is unsettling for the reader, and we are simply bystanders who are unable to intervene to save Amy from her fate.

As the novel draws to its conclusion, it becomes more surreal and is far from a straightforward narrative that many of us are comfortable with. Did I ‘get’ all of it – no. However, it is impossible to not be drawn into Jana, Zorka and Aimee’s lives, to see how they try to define themselves and their place in the world even when the world doesn’t seem to make sense to us.

In Virtuoso, Yelena has written a brave and uncompromising novel, which has interesting and defiant women at its core. It serves only to remind us that fiction can be whatever it wants to be, as long as readers are open to recognising that not everything can be explained neatly and completely.

Thank you very much to Midas PR and to the Dylan Thomas Prize for my copy of Virtuoso in exchange for an honest review.

I’m one of 66 Bloggers taking part in the Dylan Thomas Prize Blog Tour – do follow Midas PR and The Dylan Thomas Prize to see what my fellow bloggers have to say…

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

 

 Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Published by OneWorld Publications

Available from all good Bookshops and Online

 

What They Say.

A breathtaking tale of family secrets, from the international bestselling author of An American Marriage

‘My father, James Witherspoon, is a bigamist.’

This is the story of a man’s deception, a family’s complicity, and the two teenage girls caught in the middle. James Witherspoon has two families, one public, the other a closely guarded secret. But when his daughters meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows the truth. Theirs is a relationship destined to explode.

 

What I Say

”Silver’ is what I called girls who were natural beauties but who also smoother on a layer of pretty from a jar. It wasn’t just how they looked, it was how they were.’

When I was offered the opportunity to read and review Silver Sparrow, as soon as I read the synopsis, I knew that this novel would be controversial as it deals with the issue of bigamy.  However, what you cannot determine from a synopsis is the emotional and personal stories that are part of the story too, and for me, how the bigamist, James Witherspoon is far from any preconceived notions I may have had as to what a bigamist is actually like.

Silver Sparrow may be about a man who is a bigamist, but do not for one minute think that he is the main focus of this story.  James Witherspoon is the link between the two families, but this novel for me is absolutely about the women in his life.  He is married to Laverne, and they have a daughter called Chaurisse, and his other wife is Gwen, and their daughter is Dana.

The novel is split into two parts – the first tells the story of Dana and her mother, the second is Chaurisse’s and Laverne’s story.  What worked so well for me was that the narrative brings you close to each family in turn, and in hearing Gwen and Dana’s story first, you understand from the start that Dana and Gwen are aware of his other family – but Laverne and Chaurisse have no clue that James has another wife and daughter. In separating the two narratives and slowly bringing them together, you also form attachments to all the characters, and see the reality of what being involved with a bigamist is truly like on a day to day level.

What permeates Dana’s story right from the start is not only her deep love for her parents, but her heartfelt frustration that she and her mother are only half living their lives.  James’ visits to them are sporadic, secretive and Dana cannot really experience the father daughter relationship she desperately craves – because in theory she and her mother do not exist. She and her mother are often referred to as the ‘outside’ family, and Dana feels that deeply.

Gwen is acutely aware of her daughter’s feelings and is determined to ensure that James fulfills his financial responsibilities to his daughter, and that she in turn provides the stability and support Dana deserves.  The situation is complicated by the fact that both families live in the same school area, and as Dana and Chaurisse are close in age that they will cross paths one day. Sure enough, when Dana attends a science event, she notices an upset girl who has forgotten part of her project, and also happens to be wearing the exact same coat James gave her, and realises it is her half sister Chaurisse. As Chaurisse’s mother arrives with the missing papers, there is a devastating moment when Laverne and Dana see each other for the first time and realise who they are.

It is a poignant and understated moment, but for me, Tayari’s sublime writing of that encounter was a perfect snapshot of everything that both families are going through. They exist, but they cannot acknowledge each other, and each daughter and wife brings with them a history with James that the other has no understanding of. James may be the link between the two families, but it is their reality and lives he is unwittingly playing with.  The other interesting point for me, was that James is a character who just seems to have fallen into the role of bigamist – he is not a cold and calculating man who is scheming to hurt his wives, he just seems to love them both for what they bring to his life, and he can’t make a definitive choice. I am not for one minute condoning what he does, but Tayari has written a character where you can’t help but feel for him and this chaos he has created of his own volition.

James’ best friend Raleigh is the stoic and sensible character, who although not related to James, is like a brother to him.  He provides the stability for both the families, and cannot help but become linked to both.  Raleigh is named as Dana’s father on her birth certificate, and it is clear through the novel that he loves Gwen, even though she turns down his marriage proposal as Dana does not want anyone to replace James in her life.

In telling both Gwen and Laverne’s story too, we understand the cultural and societal expectations placed on women at that time, and in hearing Laverne’s story we see how a naive sexual encounter resulted in her pregancy and marriage- at the age of fourteen. She had to marry James, give up school – although James carried on and Laverne lost the baby, but from that moment on Laverne’s destiny is set in stone. She is now James’ wife and is expected to act accordingly. 

As Dana and Chaurisse grow up, they become friends, and all the time, Dana is totally aware of who Chaurisse is, while Chaurisse is just happy to have a friend who she can spend time with and forge a friendship with.  The novel is filled with heartbreaking moments, where we as readers, like Dana, have true understanding of the reality of the situation while Chaurisse is blissfully unaware. When Chaurisse invites Dana to her house – which her Mum also works from as a beauty salon, Laverne is horrified to see this girl in her home, but Dana is desperate to see her father’s other home. As she moves from room to room, and asks Chaurisse numerous questions about her father, we can see that Dana is trying to understand exactly what her father does when he is there, and how this other family exists so openly while she and her mother have to be part of his secret.

The skill in Tayari’s writing is that with each character, you form an emotional connection to them. Their sadness and joy, hope and despair are keenly felt because they are real, truthful and resilient women whose lives are determined by the actions of the one man whom they all love.

Finally, the two families are brought together when Dana and Chaurisse have a flat tyre on a night out together and Chaurisse rings her dad to come and help them, and Dana has phoned her mother.  From that point on, their lives will never be the same again, and everything Chaurisse and Laverne believed they knew about James Witherspoon are about to be shattered. These revelations are even more devastating because Laverne has just been convinced to have a Twentieth Wedding Anniversary Party, and she realises she knows nothing about this man who is also someone else’s husband.

How do these two families ever recover from this? Well, you will need to read Silver Sparrow to find out!

In this novel, Tayari Jones has written about James Witherspoon, and the families who are in his world, but Silver Sparrow is so much more. It is a novel about wanting to belong, about finding your way in the world when you have been forced through no fault of your own to live in the shadows and the truth that family is everything to so many of us, no matter what that looks like to everyone else.

It is an emotional and truthful novel, that delves deep into the heart of marriage and all the complications it brings in this situation. Tayari Jones has taken a subject that could have been sensationalised and derided, and instead has completely ensured that we as readers absolutely understand what it means when the man you love turns your world upside down and the earth shattering devastation it brings to the women involved.

Thank you very much to Oneworld Publications for my copy in exchange for an honest review and a chance to take part in the Blog Tour.

Exquisite Cadavers by Meena Kandasamy

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Exquisite Cadavers by Meena Kandasamy

Published By Atlantic Books

Available from all good Bookshops and Online

What They Say:

Karim and Maya:
[x] share a home
[x] worry about money
[x] binge-watch films
[x] argue all the time

Karim, a young film-maker, carries with him the starry-eyed dreams of the Arab Revolution. Maya carries her own pressing concerns: an errant father, an unstable job, a chain-smoking habit, a sudden pregnancy. When Karim’s brother disappears in Tunis, and Karim wants to go after him, Maya must choose between her partner and her home city, her future and her history…

In a conversation between forms, fictions and truths, Exquisite Cadavers is a novel about a young couple navigating love in London, and a literary hall of mirrors about an author navigating the inspirations behind her work.

What I Say:

I had read and loved When I Hit You, which was the first novel Meena had written. It was an honest and brutal exploration of a woman in an abusive marriage, and one that I thought about often after reading it.

For Exquisite Cadavers, right from the very first page, you are aware that this novel is one that will push the boundaries not only of conventional literature, but will also ask the reader to be much more involved and aware of the form of the novel than ever before. This novel is not a passive experience for the reader, and if you are looking for a book that conforms to a standard straightforward narrative, then this is perhaps not the novel for you.

I am going to be honest and tell you that initially on reading it, I had no clue as to how I could possibly articulate a review.

The novel is short, impactful, and filled with so much information and knowledge that it feels much longer. The format is like nothing I have ever read before. It has one narrative down the middle of the pages – that of Maya and Karim, whilst in the margins, Meena has written copious notes of her personal life, creative process and what is going on for her in her world as she constructs the novel.

The ingenuity of all this in my opinion is how you choose to read it. Do you read the main narrative and refer to the notes in the margins as you go along, or do you read the margin notes first, or the main narrative first? This is a process that made me stop and think – initially I read the main narrative and notes as I went along, but it was too disjointed for me, so I decided to read Maya and Karim’s story first, and then Meena’s notes. The interesting thing I found, was that I was completely immersed in both stories as I read them separately, but also felt a slight disconnection from Maya and Karim as I read Meena’s notes. I was very aware of how they were constructs of Meena’s imagination, and the influences she had imbued them with as she created them – because they are just that – creations of her imagination.

Maya and Karim are young, married and in love, he is a film maker and his attempts to try and document the world he wants to show are frustrated at every turn. His narrative is slowly edited by the tutors around him so that he works on what they believe he should talk about – no matter how contrived or stereotypical it might be, at the risk of him losing his place on the course. Maya works on a newspaper, but she is acutely aware of the domestic world she is now part of, and is energised by the freedom she has, but is also and Karim both have difficult relationships with their fathers too, and have been increasingly getting frustrated with each other as the day to day reality of marriage becomes more prevalent.

As the novel progresses, Meena’s voice also becomes clearer and informs Maya and Karim’s narrative too. When she feels she cannot relate to Maya, she decides that she will make her pregnant- just as she is in real life. I thought this was a very incisive device to ensure that the reader is aware that everything we read in Maya and Karim’s story is a construct of what Meena wants us to read. As Maya and Karim’s story moves on, we learn that Karim has his own way of viewing his wife – his knowledge as a filmmaker imbues the way in which he views her too.

I felt that throughout this novel , the notion of home and belonging was a strong theme throughout- both in Maya and Karim’s story, but also in Meena’s notations too. She references both her own journey to where she has settled today, but also talks about the reality for those family and friends who are in other parts of the world too. There are also lots of references to cultural and political events which, due to my lack of knowledge meant that I had to stop and research them before returning to the text and rereading them – but this time with a sense of awareness.

When Karim decides to return to Tunis to support his brother who has been wrongfully arrested, Maya stands at a threshold where she can stay at home and watch from afar, or she can make a life changing decision to follow her husband, breaking out of the domestic and social confines they have constructed. What I thought was really interesting was that Meena’s notes stop suddenly, bringing the reader immediately back to Karim and Maya’s story, and the stark reality of the decisions they have to make,

Without a doubt, Exquisite Cadavers was a novel at first I was intimidated by. I have to think why that was. I believe it was because it so pushed me out of my comfort zone that my first reaction was to stop. However, isn’t that what literature and reading is all about? To read things that bring new worlds and ideas to us, to challenge our preconceived ideas and to show us the world beyond our comfortable own?

Now I have had time to reflect on it, I think it is an extremely intelligent and thoughtful novel that makes us as a reader really engage with the words on the page, and think about the writer behind them too. The story of Maya and Karim may be the one we are immediately drawn to, as it is what our eye searches for as soon as we open the novel, but for me, the creative process and education I received by taking the time to read Meena’s notes in the margins, are what added the important and brilliant dimension to this work.

Exquisite Cadavers is a novel that demands your full attention at all times. It is breathtaking in its scope, and ambitious in its demands of the reader, but it is impossible to put down. In reading Maya and Karim’s story, we are also gaining a rare and intimate insight into the world of a writer, and for Meena to articulate that so openly and honestly means that we as readers are witness to a world we are all so often blissfully unaware of too.

Thank you very much to Midas PR and the Dylan Thomas Prize for asking me to take part on this Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review.

There are 65 other Bloggers taking part on this amazing Blog Tour for the Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist – why don’t you check out what they are saying too..

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The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka

The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka

Published by Doubleday Books on 27th February

Available from All Good Bookshops and Online

 

What They Say

Narrated by the spirit of an enslaved African, this is a searing debut about hope, redemption and the scars of history.

Over two hundred years ago in Africa, a woman tosses her young son to safety as she is hauled off by slavers. After a brutal sea passage, her second child is snatched away. Although the woman doesn’t know it yet, her spirit is destined to roam the earth in search of her lost children.

It will make its way to 1980s Brixton, where she watches teenage Michael attempt to stay out of trouble as riots spit and boil onthe streets; and to a poor village in Nigeria, where Ngozi struggles to better her life..

As the invisible threads that draw these two together are pulled ever tighter, The Book of Echoes asks: how can we overcome the traumas of the past when they are woven so inextricably with the present? Humming with horror and beauty, Rosanna Amaka’s remarkable debut marks her as a vibrant new voice in fiction.

What I Say 

‘Unknowingly being passed down a baton of scars because their job was to survive, to hand on the baton in the hope of a better tomorrow, for the next generation to make it better than it was’.

Hand on heart, I had seen this novel, and I thought it wasn’t for me. I am trying to be more responsible and only request proofs I know I am going to read and review, because I don’t feel it’s right to ask for them if they are just going to sit on my shelf.

When Tabitha from Doubleday asked me if I would be interesting in reading and reviewing My Book of Echoes, I read the blurb again, and thought the dual narrative, and the notion of two seemingly disparate lives tentatively connected was one I would like to explore.

Twenty pages in, I sent Tabitha a DM:

‘Tabitha! The Book of Echoes! Oh My Goodness!!’

That’s quite a statement for a book I wasn’t sure about, but I mean every word – and even more so when I tell you that this book is going on my #MostSelfishReads2020 List.

The novel starts with an unnamed pregnant female narrator arriving at the West India Docks in London in 1803 after having been stowed away in the ship with many other people, suffering inhumane conditions. Wind, a sailor and former slave, pulls the Narrator out of the ship where she is forced to leave and gives birth to a child who is taken from her immediately. She then appears as a spirit that is present throughout the pages, as she weaves her way through the world as an all seeing presence.

The Book of Echoes is also the story of Ngozi and Michael. Ngozi is a young woman in Nigeria, who knows that the only way she will find a better way of life is to leave her family behind, and provide for them from afar.  She is a valuable commodity, an object that can be bought and sold, but her mother does this reluctantly. Ngozi has to leave in order for her family to survive, and to be perceived as a good daughter she has to acquiesce to what they need.

When an horrific tragedy befalls the first family she is sent to, Ngozi is left to fend for herself, and she ends up with the Osindu family where she is targetted by both the mother and father in equally awful and extremely distressing ways.

As Ngozi gets older, she realises that her body and sexuality which has been used by others to get what they want from her, is now the very thing she can use against them to get what she wants.

Michael lives miles away from Ngozi, in Brixton, where he, his mother and his sister Marcia are existing as a family unit. That is until one day, Michael’s mother is murdered at their home, and his whole world is turned upside down.  He and Marcia have to go and live with their aunt and uncle, and suddenly everything they ever knew is turned on its head.  Michael is determined to care for his younger sister, but he needs to earn money and fast. After seeing his school friend Devon, who is doing really well for himself he decides that working as a courier for Devon’s boss Tom, is the way to ensure he can pacify the social services and give him the income he needs in order that he is able to care for his sister.

Set against the backdrop of the Brixton riots, and the racial tension which seeps through the pages of Michael’s story, there is always the sense in Rosanna’s writing that Michael’s journey is about to get a lot more complicated. When Devon is accused of not delivering the packages (which it transpires should have contained drugs), Michael is caught up in the ensuing fight and Devon is killed.  Michael is found guilty of his murder and is sent to prison for three years.  He emerges a changed man, weary of the world and unable to see his place in it, which drives him to his lowest point until his sister Marcia helps him see that life really is worth living.

Ngozi meanwhile is learning exactly how to get what she wants by flirting with the business men who come to the bank where she is an assistant.  They are enchanted by this beautiful woman who is quick witted, beautiful and intelligent, while Ngozi is absolutely aware that by using this, she can escape the world she is desperate to leave behind.  When she meets Ben McDonald, a businessman from Scotland, they embark on a relationship which gives Ngozi a home and a social standing of sorts, but she and Ben are still seen as outsiders and are regarded with suspicion and excluded from the social world around them.

Ben regularly returns to Scotland, and refuses to tell her why. It is only when Ngozi discovers that she is pregnant does Ben reveal the truth about his life to her. Convinced she can get him to stay with her, she decides to go to Ben’s home and confront his wife, which results in Ngozi losing the baby and realising she is totally alone. Ngozi is ostracised again, and finds herself in London, alone and looking for work.

Ngozi and Michael, in spite of the experiences they have both been through are resilient and determined that they will ensure that from now on their lives will be very different. Ngozi finds success in designing successful software, and Michael’s talents lie in renovating and selling houses.

Little by little, in tantalising steps, Rosanna brings Ngozi and Michael closer, until they meet, and their life together pulls the novel even futher through history as we see what happens to them. What was also interesting for me, was the character of Marcia, Michael’s sister, who has had to deal with witnessing her Mum’s murder, the imprisonment of her brother, and the estrangement from her other brother too.

However, her intelligence and drive means that from a very early age Marcia is determined to make sure she is the force for change in her family, and she has to learn to suppress the enormity of what she has seen in order to function. Until one day, when it all becomes too much, and she now has to rely on the family to help her – and they realise exactly what Marcia has endured. For me, Marcia was a really interesting character, she has so much quiet presence and determination, and was a woman who you felt really had dealt with so much with dignity and perseverance.

As a reader, it is impossible not to be swept along with the scope and ambition of the plot. Having the nameless narrator as the link through the book just works so beautifully, because it brings the reader right into the narrative – I felt that I was there with her, as an observer on Ngozi and Michael’s world. The prose and descriptions are perfect, as you feel totally immersed in the landscape and history, and it also taught me so much about lives I had no experience of.

The Book of Echoes is a raw, brutal and tender story which is uncompromising in its portrayal of the realities of life for Ngozi and Michael. It is unflinching and heartbreaking, told without compromise, but at the heart of it, are the souls of Michael and Ngozi, whose seemingly disparate lives fit together so seamlessly, that there could only ever have been one ending.

I absolutely loved it.

Thank you so much to Tabitha Pelly for my gifted copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

 

 

Recipe for A Perfect Wife By Karma Brown

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Karma Brown – Recipe For A Perfect Wife

Published By – Legend Press

Available From All Good Bookshops and Online.

What They Say

When Alice Hale leaves a career to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in the basement, she becomes captivated by its previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the pages Nellie left clues about her life.

Soon Alice learns that while a Baked Alaska may seem harmless, Nellie’s secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister, even dangerous, side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own.

What I Say

When I heard about Karma Brown’s novel from Legend Press, it had me at Perfect Wife. Increasingly in a world today where your worth is judged by likes and retweets of an image you can filter and edit until it fits in with the image you want to present, I am endlessly intrigued by the notion of perfection, and how society decides what that is.

In this novel, we are presented with two women, Nellie and Alice, who although they live decades apart in America – Nellie in the 1950s, Alice in the present time, you are aware right from the very start how little has actually changed, in spite of our claims of equality for women.

Alice and her husband Nate buy a house in the suburbs – which turns out to be Nellie’s former marital home. As soon as Alice steps inside the house, she is aware of something in the atmosphere that she can’t explain, and a house that seems to be an untouched shrine to the woman who previously lived there.

For Nellie, as a young married woman, she is expected to maintain the house, behave appropriately, and to ensure her husband Richard is happy at all times – whatever the cost. The world that Nellie has grown up in has very strict beliefs about women and their place in the world, and their worth is measured not only by their ability to keep house, their husband’s happiness, but more importantly by their fertility and child bearing ability. Her increasingly fractured and at times violent relationship with her husband Richard, means that she seeks solace in her garden, and by cooking her way through a cookbook, putting her unhappiness and isolation into paying meticulous attention to every single recipe.

It was interesting to see how in the present day, Alice has given up work and reluctantly moved to this house, seemingly to help renovate it and to write a novel. As soon as she has agreed to move in, her husband Nate sees it as an opportunity for them to start trying for children – a decision he makes without consulting Alice, and one he expects her to embrace wholeheartedly. I thought it was a clever plot device that saw Alice trapped in a house she didn’t particularly want, and now her life seemed to be just as constricted as Nellie’s. The assumption is made that as she was now ‘just’ a housewife, that the next logical step is to have a child, irrespective of her own dreams and ambitions.

The novel shifts seamlessly between the present day and the 1950’s, and I loved the detail that Karma has put into the descriptions of the lifestyle and fashion of the time. As a reader, you really feel part of Nellie’s world, and the ‘advice’ from manuals at the start of each chapter absolutely makes you aware of just how limited expectations of women were at that time. Nellie is only free from the increasingly violent and controlling behaviour of her husband when she is pregnant. Yet Richard’s care and concern seemed to stem more from his need to prove to those around him his virility and facade as a seemingly perfect father to be and husband, than a man in love with his wife.

When Alice is looking around her new home, she finds a couple of boxes which contain magazines, clothes, and the recipe book that Nellie used. As Alice starts to read through this cookbook, she starts to become more and more involved with the house and Nellie’s story. Nate starts to enjoy the fact his wife is at home, and they seem to slip into the traditional roles as Richard and Nellie did before them. At the same time, we as readers can see how this is only making Alice feel more claustrophobic and resentful towards her husband. Her choices seem to be constrained by the very fact that she is now falling into the role of a perfect wife, and all the unspoken societal norms that we still face as modern women.

As the novel progresses, these seemingly unconnected women, are in fact becoming more and more alike, and by learning more about Nellie, Alice soon realises she too is increasingly finding herself trapped by the expectations of those around her. As Nellie faces a life married to a man who sees her as nothing more than a baby making machine and someone who he can take all his frustrations out on, she realises the answer to a new life lie within the pages of her recipe book. When Alice realises that too, the novel deliciously takes on a whole new layer of dark brilliance.

Karma Brown has written a novel which is sharp, incisive and a joy to read. I really related to both Nellie and Alice, both of whom are really engaging, and articulate many of the frustrations felt by women. What for me, completely elevates Recipe For A Perfect Wife as a novel, is the brilliant plotting and unexpected sense of menace which permeates the later chapters. To know how Nellie managed to exist within her far from perfect marriage, and for us to understand exactly how Alice will ensure she gets the life she wants, is an unsettling and perfect ending to a novel which could so easily in the hands of a less atuned writer have been a straightforward narrative novel of two women living decades apart.

Recipe For A Perfect Wife is a clever and thought provoking novel, that articulates perfectly the frustrations and limits placed on women by others, whilst at the same time showing us that we are ultimately in control of our own destiny – if we are prepared to ultimately challenge and confront the very people that have put them there in the first place.

About Karma Brown…

Karma is the bestselling author of four novels and is a National Magazine Award winning journalist. Karma lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband, daughter, and a labradoodle named Fred.

Twitter: @KarmaKBrown

Instagram: @KarmaKBrown

Thank you very much to Lucy Chamberlain at Legend Press for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review as part of the Blog Tour.

Please do check out these other Bloggers to see what they are saying about Recipe For a A Perfect Wife.

Recipe for a Perfect Wife Blog Tour

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

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Saving Missy by Beth Morrey

Published By Harper Collins

Available from all good Bookshops and Online from 6th February

What They Say.

Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

What I Say.

“But I still felt it somewhere – that spark. The beginning of something. Or the end. Who knows?”

There is as always, a bit of a back story to my choosing Saving Missy to review (not a long one I promise!). Some of you will see me frequently talk about LoveReading on my Twitter and Instagram feeds, and wonder what they are. In the simplest terms, if you sign up to them, you get the chance to read and review the latest releases in return for posting a review. I should also say that this is not an ad for them, and that all they have done so far is to supply me with fabulous books! Anyway, the always fabulous Liz Robinson of LoveReading sent me a copy of Saving Missy last year, and of course I am not going to spoil the ending, but let me tell you, there were quite a few DMs exchanged between us as to how wonderful Saving Missy is.

Why? I am going to go out on a limb here, and tell you that Saving Missy is already going to be on My Most Selfish Reads of 2020 – because it’s that brilliant.

How to tell you about Saving Missy without saying too much is difficult, but this is what you need to know about the story. Missy Carmichael is a 79 year old woman, her husband Leo is no longer at home, and her children Alistair and Mel have grown up and moved out.

The thing is, Missy now rattles around a large house in Stoke Newington, and just exists in a constant state of following the same routines she always has, often not speaking to anyone from day to day. One day, on a trip to the park, she encounters Angela and Otis, a Mum and son who have come to watch the fish being moved out of the park’s pond. After Missy has a fall, and people rush around her to help, she fades into the background once again. Except she keeps meeting Angela and this time, Angela needs her help to look after a dog called Bobby that she has inherited.

Little by little, Missy finds herself in a situation where she has to start to let people in to her life, to understand that by making connections with the outside world she will start to live the life she really deserves. That may sound melodramatic, but to simply say that Saving Missy is a light hearted feel good novel does no service to the novel or to Beth Morrey.

Saving Missy is a novel that totally resonated with me on so many levels. The notion of Missy always as Leo’s wife, Ali and Mel’s Mum, means that her identity has been shaped by the needs and demands of those around her. Little by little, she has lost herself along the way, and all her hopes and dreams had to be put to one side as she focussed on helping her family thrive. I thought it was interesting to see how in her marriage, her intelligence and passion for learning had to be quashed in order to ensure that her husband is the head of the household. I know so many women who have done the same thing, and the level of frustration and invisibility they feel is more and more evident.

As Beth Morrey goes backwards and forwards in time so you can unravel Missy’s story, it helps to underline how frustrating and unheard so many women were. They had to make a choice, family or career, and those who chose the latter were seen as having made an unnatural choice. This device added an extra layer to the novel, as you were really able to see Missy completely, and how the choices she made and those she was pressured to make, made her the woman she is now.

I thought it was also really interesting to see how Missy’s house is always the ever present place at the heart of everything. First a place to be with her husband, then as a family home, and finally as almost a place where she can escape to when the world gets too much, but it’s also a claustrophobic and lonely place too sometimes. It is only by having the courage to step outside it, and to let people in that she can really start to live again.

In lesser hands, the character of Missy could have been a stereotypical lonely old lady, which would have grated and meant that I didn’t engage with the story at all. Beth Morrey is so adept at making Missy a real, relatable and interesting woman, that you can’t help but absolutely feel you need to see what happens. I loved Angela too, she is such a fabulously unapologetic character, who is doing the best she can, and I wish that authors would do this more often – we need to see people who are not Instaperfect mothers, and who are simply happy that their kids make it through each day!

As Missy gets more and more involved with the world around her, she starts to finally open up to them, and as a result, Missy becomes part of their world as much as they become part of hers. The story moves at a perfect pace, and to say too much would give it a way, but Beth writes so perfectly that the plot is seamless, and it’s simply one of those novels that you lose yourself in.

Saving Missy is quite simply a novel you need to read – especially in a world where at times everything at the moment seems so bleak. It is a perfectly pitched and executed novel about a woman who has almost given up on the world around her, but the kindness of the people who live so close by bring her back to life. It is a book that tackles huge issues such as illness, grief, loneliness, love and sexuality, but not for one moment do you feel like you are being preached to.

It is a glorious, kind, loving and special novel that will resonate with so many readers, and makes us think how the smallest actions we take, can have the biggest impact on those who feel they are invisible and unloved in the world around us.

I absolutely loved it – and I hope you do too.

Thank you as always to Liz Robinson and Charlotte Walker at LoveReadingUK for my gifted copy.

I’m Just Going to Leave This Here..

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I don’t know what it is about January – maybe it’s the fact that it seems to go on for 456 days, that Christmas seems a distant memory, or perhaps it’s because it’s a New Year, you think it’s time to just get everything out so you can start the year with a clean slate.

I hope you know me well enough by now to understand that part of my whole ethos is to be upfront with you all, and talk about things I think we are all experiencing or not understanding as part of the Blogging world – be it on Twitter or Instagram.

Over the past few weeks, well, actually, for quite a while now, there have been lots of conversations going on  – and I have taken part in them too, about how this whole book blogging world works.

Years of Reading has been running since 2017 (I know!), and I love every thing about it. I cannot tell you the joy it brings me to talk to all of you about books and reading, to discover books and authors that I would never have dreamed of picking up in a bookshop, and to share my love of books with you all every single day.

However, there are still a number of things I get asked about, and I don’t know the answer.  So, if you are feeling like this whole blogging malarkey is confusing, I am going to tell you a few things, hopefully so you can see that you are not on your own.

Some days, I have had enough of Book Blogging and I have to step away because it drives me mad.

Truly, there are days when I don’t want to read, I feel like a book reading machine, and I don’t get replies from people I have contacted. I have to put my phone down, and do something else because I need to remind myself that this is not a paid job.  I am doing it because I want to.

The best thing for me is to talk to someone who has no involvement with the Book Blogging world, and for them to tell me it doesn’t matter and they don’t get why you need to read a certain book.

I need to want to pick up a book, and sometimes I lose that and have to step away.

I get frustrated when I see people getting books I would have loved to review.

I think we can all admit this has happened to us.  It drives me crazy, and honestly, I used to try and comment on the tweet in the vain hope that someone would take pity on me and send it.  I mean, when you step back and look at that statement – that’s not healthy is it?

It’s really hard, but at the end of the day, how many books do we have sitting on our bookshelves, that we could pick up and review?

It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype of needing to have the latest books, and I am guilty of that, and I need to get better at accepting that I am not entitled to them, and new releases are not everything.

I can’t find the words to write my reviews and I think they all sound the same.

How many times can you say ‘I love this book and you need to read it’!  Now I have written quite a lot of blog posts, although I am happier with the format they are going to take, I still worry that they all sound the same and they are not doing the books the justice they deserve.

My Blog Posts do not get lots of views.

For a book review, if I get 50 views, I have done really well.  Posts about Bookish Things like this, tend to do a lot better.  Funnily enough, since I started doing video reviews on Twitter and Instagram, they do a lot better and I get many more views of those.  Why do I do them? Honestly, because I like communicating in different ways, and sometimes a video review is like chatting to you all, and I think it’s much more natural.

I have less than 250 followers on my Blog.

When I see people celebrating that they now have 1000 followers on their blog, I am mystified! How do they do this? Is there some site I should be posting my blog on to get more followers – why does it matter how many followers I have? What does it mean to have so many followers? Does it mean that my blog isn’t as good as theirs?

This used to really bother me, now it doesn’t, because I am amazed I’ve stuck at blogging for this long!  I went through phases of different hobbies for years, and this is the one I have stuck at!

I do not know how to make people visit my Blog.

I mean, I post everything on Twitter and Instagram, and Instagram stories, and retweet during the day, but I can’t MAKE people read my posts!

I know realise that as long I have done everything I have promised, and tagged everyone I said I would -it’s kind of out of my hands!

Why aren’t people retweeting my Blog Post tweets?

Is it because they follow too many people? Is the book I am talking about not one they are interested in? Do they not enjoy my Blog Posts?

This one really used to drive me mad. Especially when you have poured your heart and soul into it, tagged the author, publisher and publicist – and nothing. Not even a like, let alone a retweet. I now post at 10 am, retweet at 2pm and 6pm, and leave it at that. I know that I have written the best I can, so you have to learn to accept it and let it be!

It takes a HUGE amount of time to keep everything going across all your social media.

You honestly could spend all day, tweeting, retweeting, taking pictures of books, posting on Instagram, Instagram stories, Instagram TV, posting on your blog and don’t forget Facebook, Amazon and goodreads.

So pick what works for you and do what you can when you want. I don’t have Facebook or use goodreads, and I also have a husband, two boys, a dog and a whole lot of things I have to do during the day.

Just remember, that Bookish People are genuinely so grateful and appreciative for whatever you do, and that sharing your love of books is the most important thing always.

Also, I don’t know about you, but I’m doing all this because I absolutely love it, and am not getting paid any money. For that reason,  I do what I can, when I can. If it’s too much, stop, and do what you want – your blog and social media, your rules.

I still do not understand how proof mailings work.

Sometimes publicists (who by the way are genuinely, the kindest, and most supportive people you can ever encounter) ask if Bloggers would like a proof.  You ask, and you might get one, or you might be too late. That’s fine, and we all absolutely understand that.

What is a million times more difficult to understand is when you see a Blogger/Bookstagrammer with a proof that you would have sold your children for to read.  How is that mailing list created? Is it that the publicists look at follower numbers or engagement levels? Do they have a list of trusted bloggers that they use? How do I get on that list? Who do I ask to get on the list?

Why can’t I just relax and realise it doesn’t matter?

Honestly, because it is a HUGE fear of missing out. You know that you would have done everything you should have – taken a picture, thanked and tagged the appropriate people, featured it across all your social media, and reviewed it, again making sure your review is posted everywhere too.

Thanks to the alway fabulous Bookish Chat, she gave me the perspective I needed. We talked about it and realised it does really get under our skin, but also, it takes the pressure off, because we can get our own copy, and review it IF WE WANT TO!

Imagine if you pleaded for a proof, were lucky enough to get one, and then didn’t like it. How do you deal with that when faced with writing a review?

That’s one thing I would absolutely say. Before you request a proof – bearing in mind especially for the small presses that budget is a huge issue, do your research to decide whether you really want it.

If I read the blurb and it’s not for me, I don’t ask for it, or I politely decline it. My reasoning is that it’s not fair to take a copy if it’s going to sit on my shelf and I am not going to review it.  There is always someone who would love that book and give it the attention it deserves, and so for that reason, have the courage to say no thank you.

Learning to do that is one of the best things ever, and also stops you asking for everything, and means that you are being true to yourself as a blogger.

You can’t read and review all the books, life is too short to read books you don’t love, and I promise you, making that decision is one of the best things ever! I now go by the rule that if I wouldn’t pick it up in a bookshop, I don’t ask for it. Trust me, it really does work!

No one asked me to write this Blog Post, and I don’t know if anyone will read it. I just think that being honest about the realities of Book Blogging and this fabulous world we all choose to be part of is very important to me. You might not agree with what I say, or that you have twenty more things you think too. All I know is that I love books and reading with all my heart, that starting Years of Reading was the best decision I ever made, and part of that is being honest about all of it with all of you – always.

Love,

Clare xxx

Isabelle in the Afternoon by Douglas Kennedy

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Douglas Kennedy – Isabelle in the Afternoon

Published by Hutchinson Books on 9th January

Available from All Good Bookshops and Online

What They Say:

Before Isabelle I knew nothing of sex.
Before Isabelle I knew nothing of freedom.
Before Isabelle I knew nothing of life.

Paris in the early Seventies. Sam, an American student, meets a woman in a bookshop. Isabelle is enigmatic, beautiful, older and, unlike Sam, experienced in love’s many contradictions. Sam is instantly smitten – but wary of the wedding ring on her finger.

What begins as a regular arrangement in Isabelle’s tiny Parisian apartment transforms into a true affair of the heart, and one which lasts for decades to come.

Isabelle in the Afternoon is a novel that questions what we seek, what we find, what we settle for – and shows how love, when not lived day in, day out, can become the passion of a lifetime.

What I Say:

“Love when declared after a desperate misstep – it’s the hardest love to embrace”.

I think it is always important to be honest about the books I choose to review on Years of Reading. First of all, this is the first Douglas Kennedy novel I have read (don’t @ me!), and I wanted to read it because I thought the cover looked beautiful. I mean, that is not really the way a book blogger should choose their next novel is it?

Anyway, Isabelle at ed.pr contacted me to ask if I would like a copy, and I can tell you what is inside the novel is just as wonderful as the outside.

Isabelle in the Afternoon is a novel about love, expectation and societal expectations, and I could not put it down.

Sam is an American student who finds himself in Paris before he starts the next chapter of his life at Harvard University.  His mother has passed away, and his father is emotionally distant, who seems almost relieved at the fact that he won’t have to deal with his son over the summer. As Sam navigates Paris alone, he starts to tire of the endless days he has to fill, and finds himself at a Bookshop where he meets Isabelle.

The attraction is instant, and Sam seems slightly overwhelmed at the thought that this elegant woman could possibly find him of any interest.  What is so refreshing about this novel is that right from the start, it is Isabelle that sets the parameters of the relationship.

Isabelle tells Sam that they will only meet at her apartment in Paris between the hours of five and seven in the afternoon.  They will never be seen out in public, and this is all that Isabelle will give to Sam. If he cannot comply with the rules of their relationship, it is over.  The arrangement is complicated by the fact that Isabelle is married, and she will not leave her husband Charles. She is absolutely aware of what is expected of her in Parisian society, and that to veer from that in any way would be catastrophic to the reputation of her husband and herself.

Sam at first accepts this arrangement, and is in the thrall of his older and more experienced lover.  As he settles into the affair, and is seemingly happy with their relationship, he also realises he is falling in love with her, and naively cannot understand why she cannot be with him and leave her husband.  It is interesting to see how Isabelle is unwavering in the rules she has created for their affair, in spite of her passionate relationship with Sam, she refuses to give in to his increasingly desperate demands.

To say that Isabelle is an unfeeling and stoic character, incapable of compassion, would be misleading.  She is in a claustrophobic and cloying marriage, where she has to appear to be the collected and contented wife, in order to comply with what is expected of her in the world she inhabits. Isabelle is very aware that her husband is also far from faithful, and it emerges that both partners seem to be resigned to keeping the marriage intact. It  is only when she is with Sam, that she can be free to express her feelings, desire and sexuality.

Unfortunately, the summer has to come to an end, and Sam has to return to the United States, and Isabelle has to seamlessly move back into her role of wife.  What I loved about this novel, is the way in which the two central characters have to continue the route their lives are expected to follow, whilst at the same time they are suppressing what they really want and feel.

For Sam, he studies, becomes a successful laywer, and meets Rebecca, a woman who in love with him, but you always get the sense that Sam is not absolutely in love with her.  Rebecca, to everyone else is perfect for him, but as the reader you see that she will never emotionally fulfill him.  In Paris, Isabelle is a devoted wife and mother, but similarly, you feel that her heart is always with Sam in America. Both Sam and Isabelle attempt to forget about each other, by conforming to what they are supposed to do, but you know that their lives are only being half lived, and this is what makes their stories so absorbing.

They cannot break the bond, and as their lives go on, the connection between them is constantly tested but never fades.  Sam and Isabelle are characters you feel empathic towards, because they have faults and foibles.  They are not always likeable, in fact at times you feel increasingly frustrated with both of them. However, the skill that Douglas Kennedy has as a writer means that you really do engage with them and want to find out what happens.

The plot moves along at the perfect pace, I always felt that the story was natural and spent enough time engaging with both characters.  The whole premise of the novel, that these two people who are meant to be together, but can’t be, is absorbing and believable.  The novel also addresses many different themes sensitively and effectively, I found the portrayal of Sam’s son’s issues were realistic and affecting, and Rebecca’s mental health  was handled by Douglas in such a way that you really felt for what Rebecca was going through, and the effect that this has on her relationship with Sam and everyone around her.

The twist and turns of Sam and Isabelle’s relationship is played across the decades, and the notion that these two people so obviously in love with each other but cannot completely be together is a delicious one for me.  They spend time together in Paris and America over the years, but the reality is that they are always playing at being a couple, they cannot absolutely commit to each other. The lives of Isabelle and Sam play out, and neither of them can let go of the other, however hard they try.  Do they finally reconcile? You are just going to have to read it to find out.

Isabelle in the Afternoon is a thoughtful and passionate novel, epic in its scope and ambition, and it is a bold move to ask readers to engage with two characters for such a long period of time – especially when they are seemingly thwarted at every turn.  The reason it works so well for me, is that Douglas Kennedy has created a novel where you are absorbed by the characters, their world, and the choices they make.  They matter to you, and as you see how passionate and complete their relationship is, I really wanted Sam and Isabelle to have the life they both desperately wanted. That for me is the sign of an amazing novel, and the mark of a novelist who understands the importance of the reader connecting with their characters.

I loved it.

Thank you so much to Isabelle at ed.pr for my gifted copy, and I decided to write a review simply because I loved it so much! 

 

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha

 

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Steph Cha – Your House Will Pay 

Published By Faber and Faber on 16th January

Available from all good Bookshops and Online

What They Say:

Grace Park and Shawn Mathews share a city – Los Angeles – but seemingly little else. Coming from different generations and very different communities, their paths wouldn’t normally cross at all. As Grace battles confusion over her elder sister’s estrangement from their Korean-immigrant parents, Shawn tries to help his cousin Ray readjust to city life after years spent in prison.

But something in their past links these two families. As the city around them threatens to erupt into violence, echoing the worst days of the early 1990s, the lives of Grace and Shawn are set to collide in ways which will change them all forever.

Beautifully written, and marked by its aching humanity as much as its growing sense of dread, Your House Will Pay is a powerful and urgent novel for today.

What I Say:

“Yet it came with a heightened awareness of all that had brought them here, the past clinging to them in thin, sticky layers”.

To try and review Your House Will Pay is a difficult task, not because of the novel itself, which is filled with the tension and pain that permeated 1990’s Los Angeles and its aftermath, but because it is impossible to adequately convey the passion and emotion that Steph Cha has poured into her work.  It examines hugely emotive issues such as race, violence, family and retribution, but does so in a way that never feels didactic.

On the surface, this story of two families in Los Angeles seems at the start to be disconnected.  Why are we learning about what Shawn Matthews and Grace Park are going through, what could possibly link these two seemingly incredibly disparate families? What happened in the 1990’s that could possibly bring them together? The timeline runs between 2019 and the 1990’s and by moving back and forth, we start to understand the realities for Korean and black families living in Los Angeles at that time. It was also an education for me, and I spent some time reading about what happened to try and appreciate more what life at that time was like.

Grace’s Korean family now run a pharmacy, and are apparently settled in their ways and lifestyle, while Shawn who comes from a black family have a chaotic and chequered past which has resulted in him and his cousin Ray spending a lot of time in prison, and his sister has passed away.

Although these two families seemingly have nothing in common, as a reader, you initially feel that slightly disorientated by the switch in focus and storyline.  The absolute skill that Steph has, is that she takes away any pre-conceptions or stereotypes you may expect, and brings the families down to the most basic level. They are simply people who are there for us to see with all their flaws and faults. The issues that the families are going through are set against the backdrop of a world where there are constant tensions between different cultures, and the Korean and black communities are at odds with each other.

In both worlds there is prejudice and inequality – there is a sense that the tensions that are always present in the everyday world are ready to explode at any moment, and you feel it in every page you read. You know that events of the 1990’s Los Angeles has had wide ranging and life changing effects for these families, but you don’t know what they were.  The ever present and all consuming city of Los Angeles is the one constant in this mesmerising and absorbing novel. As the narrative switches between Shawn and Grace, you not only feel that you are slowly starting to understand the very different families, but that there is a constant sense of something seismic about to happen.

Grace is an educated and intelligent woman, who lives at home with her parents, seemingly stuck between trying to please them and be a good daughter, whilst at the same time being aware that there is so much more to the world if she would only have the courage to embrace it.  Her sister Mariam, has been estranged from her parents for a while and lives with her elder boyfriend free from their expectations.

Shawn on the other hand, has become almost a surrogate father to his cousin’s children, and looks after Ray’s family as almost a penance for the life he lived before.  He had a troubled childhood as he attempted to fit in with a world of gangs and crime, and his loyalty to his friends and their beliefs meant that he ended up in prison.  Since his release, he has been determined to ensure he doesn’t make the same mistakes, and is trying to educate Ray’s children so they too can make the correct choices.

For me, what I really enjoyed about Your House Will Pay was the immersive way you are drawn into Grace and Shawn’s world. It addresses the realities of being a young person in a world where you don’t quite fit, and that others expectations mean the choices you make can have a huge impact on not only your world, but those who live in it with you too.  They are people you really believe in, and the way in which we follow their lives serves to underline not only the huge differences between them, but also how similar their beliefs and concerns are.

To try and review this novel is a complicated task, because it is so many things in one book.  When the devastating connection between the family is revealed, trust me, it is one of those jaw-dropping chapters you dream of as a reader! It is thrilling, unexpected and almost like a crime novel as you try and work out who could have done what and when.  However, for me, always at the heart of this book is the notion of family, of belonging.  The secrets they hide in order to protect others, the unspoken bonds that mean it comes before everything, and how your world can be turned upside down by the people you thought you knew the best.

From the moment where we find out how the two families are known to each other, it is a compelling novel that has you turning the pages trying to decide what possible resolution there could be.  I loved the balance between the 1990’s and the modern day, the fact that as a reader you are looking for clues, any little thing you can ascertain that will bring you closer to understanding what has happened and why.

The characterisations are always well rounded and serve to bring you closer to the novel because you really feel invested in what happens to all of them, irrespective of what they have done. There are so many touching familial scenes, acutely and perfectly observed, cut through with reality and humour, with nuances and in jokes that every family has.  This is also what helps to drive the story forward, as you really care what has happened and will happen to the Matthews and Parks.

Your House Will Pay is a timely and devastating novel, that works so well because Steph Cha has created a world where your connection to the characters and the plot mean you only want the best outcome for the Parks and Matthews family.  Who are we to judge the mistakes made by those closest to us when we are far from innocent ourselves? Surely, in times of crisis, the true notion of family and belonging is knowing that by forgiving and protecting those closest to us, we can truly be free. Your House Will Pay makes you stop and think, and want to understand why and what happened to these families. For me, that is truly a sign of a novel that has made a profound impact and changes and educates you as to your view of a world you naively thought you understood.

 

Many Thanks to Lauren Nicoll from Faber and Faber for a gifted copy of this book and for inviting me to take part in this Blog Tour in exchange for an honest review.

Have a look at what my fellow bloggers below are saying about Your House Will Pay..

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I’ll Tell You What I Want What I Really Really Want… To Read in 2020…

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Now that the Christmas decorations have been packed away, the last Quality Street and Roses have been eaten, and life is settling back into a routine again, it’s that time of year.

As always, already on Bookish Twitter and Instagram, people are talking about the books they are most looking forward to in 2020.  I would be lying to you all if I didn’t admit there are a LOT of books I am very excited about reading this year, but would any of you be interested in hearing it?

Then I thought, well why not – we all need something bookish to look forward to this year!

So grab a cuppa, make sure you have a pen and paper handy, and lets talk 2020 books!

JANUARY

Motherwell by Deborah Orr from W & N Books – Published on January 16th.

What They Say:

Just shy of 18, Deborah Orr left Motherwell – the town she both loved and hated – to go to university. It was a decision her mother railed against from the moment the idea was raised. Win had very little agency in the world, every choice was determined by the men in her life. And strangely, she wanted the same for her daughter. Attending university wasn’t for the likes of the Orr family. Worse still, it would mean leaving Win behind – and Win wanted Deborah with her at all times, rather like she wanted her arm with her at all times. But while she managed to escape, Deborah’s severing from her family was only superficial. She continued to travel back to Motherwell, fantasizing about the day that Win might come to accept her as good enough. Though of course it was never meant to be.

MOTHERWELL is a sharp, candid and often humorous memoir about the long shadow that can be cast when the core relationship in your life compromises every effort you make to become an individual. It is about what we inherit – the good and the very bad – and how a deeper understanding of the place and people you have come from can bring you towards redemption.

What I Say:

I heard a lot about this memoir on Bookish Twitter, and followed Deborah Orr before she sadly passed away. In that time, and from other people’s recollections of her, I knew that Motherwell would be a emotional and compelling read. Quite simply, I wanted to read it, and have already pre-ordered it.

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur from Chatto – published 16 January.

What They Say:

Every time I fail to become more like my mother, I become more like me.

On a hot August night on Cape Cod, when Adrienne was 14, her mother Malabar woke her at midnight with five simple words that would set the course of both of their lives for years to come: Ben Souther just kissed me.

Adrienne instantly became her mother’s confidante and helpmate, blossoming in the sudden light of her attention; from then on, Malabar came to rely on her daughter to help orchestrate what would become an epic affair with her husband’s closest friend. The affair would have calamitous consequences for everyone involved, impacting Adrienne’s life in profound ways, driving her into a doomed marriage of her own, and then into a deep depression. Only years later will she find the strength to embrace her life — and her mother — on her own terms.

This is a book about how the people close to us can break our hearts simply because they have access to them. It’s about the lies we tell in order to justify the choices we make. It’s about mothers and daughters and the nature of family. And ultimately, it’s a story of resilience, a reminder that we need not be the parents our parents were to us; that moving forward is possible.

What I Say:

I heard about Wild Game last year, and was immediately intrigued by the notion of a shift in a traditional mother daughter relationship. The fact that Adrienne’s book is based on her life only made me want to read it more.  Definitely one I will be seeking out this year.

Little Bandaged Days by Kyra Wilder from Picador Books – published 23 January.

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What They Say:

A mother moves to Geneva with her husband and their two young children. In their beautiful new rented apartment, surrounded by their rented furniture, and several Swiss instructions to maintain quiet, she finds herself totally isolated. Her husband’s job means he is almost never present, and her entire world is caring for her children – making sure they are happy, and fed and comfortable, and that they can be seen as the happy, well-fed, comfortable family they should be. Everything is perfect.

But, of course, it’s not. The isolation, the sleeplessness, the demands of two people under two, are getting to Erika. She has never been so alone, and once the children are asleep, there are just too many hours to fill until morning…

Kyra Wilder’s Little Bandaged Days is a beautifully written, painfully claustrophobic story about a woman’s descent into madness. Unpredictable, frighteningly compelling and brutally honest, it grapples with the harsh conditions of motherhood and this mother’s own identity, and as the novel continues, we begin to wonder just what exactly Erika might be driven to do.

What I Say:

I was lucky enough to be sent a proof by Alice from Picador last year, and I have to tell you, it is simply mesmerising!  It is a compelling and unsettling study of motherhood, about what happens when a Mother is left in sole charge of her children for a long time, in a country she has just moved to, with a husband who is consumed by his new job.

It is a brilliant novel because Erika slowly and gently starts to blur the boundaries between reality and her madness.  It is a little line here, a phrase there that has you checking and re-reading just to make sure you read it correctly.  I think this is an important novel which raises many questions about the pressures of motherhood, and the fact we are all working so hard to be insta-perfect, that we lose ourselves and our sense of reality along the way.

I absolutely loved it, and recommend it constantly.

Pine by Francine Toon from Doubleday – published 23rd January.

What They Say:

Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by pine forest. When a woman stumbles out onto the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her back to their house in his pickup. In the morning, she’s gone.

In a community where daughters rebel, men quietly rage, and drinking is a means of forgetting, mysteries like these are not out of the ordinary. The trapper found hanging with the dead animals for two weeks. Locked doors and stone circles. The disappearance of Lauren’s mother a decade ago.

Lauren looks for answers in her tarot cards, hoping she might one day be able to read her father’s turbulent mind. Neighbours know more than they let on, but when local teenager Ann-Marie goes missing it’s no longer clear who she can trust.

In the shadow of the Highland forest, Francine Toon captures the wildness of rural childhood and the intensity of small-town claustrophobia. In a place that can feel like the edge of the word, she unites the chill of the modern gothic with the pulse of a thriller. It is the perfect novel for our haunted times.

What I Say:

This is a bit of a sneaky one, because I was lucky to receive a copy of Pine from Antonia at Doubleday. The reason I have added it on this blog post, is that I think it is a book so many of you will love. The writing is so absorbing, and Francine perfectly balances the isolation and wildness of the Highlands, with the claustrophobia and tensions that often run deep in a close knit community.  You absolutely need to read Pine.

FEBRUARY

The Foundling by Stacey Halls from Zaffre Books- published 6th February.

What They Say:

London, 1754. Six years after leaving her illegitimate daughter Clara at London’s Foundling Hospital, Bess Bright returns to reclaim the child she has never known. Dreading the worst, that Clara has died in care, she is astonished when she is told she has already claimed her. Her life is turned upside down as she tries to find out who has taken her little girl – and why.

Less than a mile from Bess’s lodgings in the city, in a quiet, gloomy townhouse on the edge of London, a young widow has not left the house in a decade. When her close friend – an ambitious young doctor at the Foundling Hospital – persuades her to hire a nursemaid for her daughter, she is hesitant to welcome someone new into her home and her life. But her past is threatening to catch up with her and tear her carefully constructed world apart.

From the bestselling author of The Familiars comes this captivating story of mothers and daughters, class and power, and love against the greatest of odds . . .

What I Say:

I read and loved The Familiars, Stacey’s first novel, and I have to say this one sounds just as fascinating.  My mum was adopted, and I have a familial connection to the Foundling Hospital, in that my nephew was adopted from the Coram charity, which is part of what the Foundling Hospital now is.  I also visited the Foundling Hospital last year, and it is such an emotional and thought provoking place, that I think this novel will resonate with me on so many levels.

Saving Missy by Beth Morrey from Harper Collins – Published on 6th February.

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What They Say:

Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

What I Say:

Now, I was very lucky that the fabulous LoveReading (if you don’t know about them, you really should!) sent me an early copy of this one.  It is quite simply, the book we are all going to need to read this year.  It is charming, kind, filled with hope, and it is one of those novels you simply can’t forget.  If you don’t love Missy by the end, well you must have a black pebble where your heart should be!

House of Trelawney by Hannah Rothschild from Bloomsbury Books – 6th February.

What They Say:

The seat of the Trelawney family for over 800 years, Trelawney Castle was once the jewel of the Cornish coast. Each successive Earl spent with abandon, turning the house and grounds into a sprawling, extravagant palimpsest of wings, turrets and follies.

But recent generations have been better at spending than making money. Now living in isolated penury, unable to communicate with each other or the rest of the world, the family are running out of options. Three unexpected events will hasten their demise: the sudden appearance of a new relation, an illegitimate, headstrong, beautiful girl; an unscrupulous American hedge fund manager determined to exact revenge; and the crash of 2008.

A love story and social satire set in the parallel and seemingly unconnected worlds of the British aristocracy and high finance, House of Trelawney is also the story of lost and found friendships between three women. One of them will die; another will discover her vocation; and the third will find love.

What I Say:

I absolutely loved Hannah’s first novel, The Improbability of Love, and was so excited to hear she has a new novel coming out in 2020. A novel all about a family, their wealth (or lack of it), and social satire? This is my perfect novel!

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes from Michael Joseph – Published on 6th February.

What They Say:

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys.

Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together – birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it.

Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .

Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara, gets concussion and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, starts Cara spilling out all their secrets.

In the subsequent unravelling, every one of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s time – finally – to grow up?

What I Say:

Oh Marian Keyes – how do you put into words what an amazing author and fabulous person she really is!  Water Melon was my first Marian Keyes novel, and with every new book, you just love her more. Marian’s skill is writing the ordinary in a way that makes it extraordinary, and her perception and wit make this novel one I will just want to sink in to for as long as it takes to read it.

Actress by Anne Enright from Jonathan Cape – Published on 20 February.

What They Say:

This is the story of Irish theatre legend Katherine O’Dell, as told by her daughter Norah. It tells of early stardom in Hollywood, of highs and lows on the stages of Dublin and London’s West End. Katherine’s life is a grand performance, with young Norah watching from the wings.

But this romance between mother and daughter cannot survive Katherine’s past, or the world’s damage. As Norah uncovers her mother’s secrets, she acquires a few of her own. Then, fame turns to infamy when Katherine decides to commit a bizarre crime.

Actress is about a daughter’s search for the truth: the dark secret in the bright star, and what drove Katherine finally mad.

Brilliantly capturing the glamour of post-war America and the shabbiness of 1970s Dublin, Actress is an intensely moving, disturbing novel about mothers and daughters and the men in their lives. A scintillating examination of the corrosive nature of celebrity, it is also a sad and triumphant tale of freedom from bad love, and from the avid gaze of the crowd.

What I Say:

I heard about Actress very recently, but again, I knew as soon as I heard about it, it was absolutely going to be on this blog post.  For me, novels about relationships between mothers and daughters are endlessly fascinating, and I am always fascinated by the notion of celebrity and all the issues that surround it.

MARCH

The Weight of Love by Hilary Fannin from Doubleday Ireland – Published 19 March. 

 

What They Say:

London, 1996. Robin and Ruth meet in the staff room of an East London school. Robin, desperate for a real connection, instantly falls in love. Ruth, recently bereaved and fragile, is tentative.

When Robin introduces Ruth to his childhood friend, Joseph, a tortured and talented artist, their attraction is instant. Powerless, Robin watches on as the girl he loves and his best friend begin a passionate and turbulent affair.

Dublin 2017. Robin and Ruth are married and have a son, Sid, who is about to emigrate to Berlin. Theirs is a marriage haunted by the ghost of Joseph and as the distance between them grows, Robin makes a choice that could have potentially devastating consequences.

The Weight of Love is a beautiful exploration of how we manage life when the notes and beats of our existence, so carefully arranged, begin to slip off the stave. An intimate and moving account of the intricacies of marriage and the myriad ways in which we can love and be loved.

What I Say:

I love novels about relationships and marriages, and this novel from Hilary Fannin, which looks at what happens when the past starts to come in between a couple sounds like a story I want to read.  I think it’s one that might not be on your radar, but really should be.

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell from Tinder Press – Published on 31 March.

What They Say:

On a summer’s day in 1596, a young girl in Stratford-upon-Avon takes to her bed with a fever. Her twin brother, Hamnet, searches everywhere for help. Why is nobody at home?

Their mother, Agnes, is over a mile away, in the garden where she grows medicinal herbs. Their father is working in London. Neither parent knows that one of the children will not survive the week.

Hamnet is a novel inspired by the son of a famous playwright. It is a story of the bond between twins, and of a marriage pushed to the brink by grief. It is also the story of a kestrel and its mistress; flea that boards a ship in Alexandria; and a glovemaker’s son who flouts convention in pursuit of the woman he loves. Above all, it is a tender and unforgettable reimagining of a boy whose life has been all but forgotten, but whose name was given to one of the most celebrated plays ever written.

What I Say:

I am sure you have seen Hamnet EVERYWHERE already.  A new Maggie O’Farrell novel is always a huge event in the literary calendar, and for good reason.  Her novels are beyond compare, and the writing is just sublime. Do we even need to talk about the beautiful cover?  I just cannot wait to read this, and am absolutely adding it to my list!

APRIL

The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves from Century – Published on 2 April.

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What They Say:

Frank hasn’t spoken to his wife Maggie for six months.

For weeks they have lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed and eaten at the same table – all without words.

Maggie has plenty of ideas as to why her husband has gone quiet.

But it will take another heartbreaking turn of events before Frank finally starts to unravel the secrets that have silenced him.

Is this where their story ends?
Or is it where it begins?

What I Say:

I love the idea of a novel where you have no clue where it will take you, or what will happen next. The notion that a couple haven’t been talking for six months? How can you possibly not want to know why!  The Silent Treatment has already received lots of praise, and I am really excited about finding out why Frank and Maggie are not talking!

As You Were by Elaine Feeney from Harvill Secker – Published on 16th April.

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What They Say:

Sinéad Hynes is a tough, driven, funny young property developer with a terrifying secret.

No-one knows it: not her fellow patients in a failing hospital, and certainly not her family. She has confided only in Google and a shiny magpie.

But she can’t go on like this, tirelessly trying to outstrip her past and in mortal fear of her future. Across the ward, Margaret Rose is running her chaotic family from her rose-gold Nokia. In the neighboring bed, Jane, rarely but piercingly lucid, is searching for a decent bra and for someone to listen. Sinéad needs them both.

As You Were is about intimate histories, institutional failures, the kindness of strangers, and the darkly present past of modern Ireland. It is about women’s stories and women’s struggles. It is about seizing the moment to be free.

Wildly funny, desperately tragic, inventive and irrepressible, As You Were introduces a brilliant voice in Irish fiction with a book that is absolutely of our times.

What I Say:

As soon as I heard about As You Were, it sounded like a novel that was both timely and necessary.  I think this is a novel which will raise a lot of discussion, but will also be a brilliant read, and I can’t wait to start it.

Death In Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh from Penguin published on 23 April.

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What They Say:

While on her normal daily walk with her dog in the nearby forest woods, our protagonist comes across a note, handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with a frame of stones. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body. Our narrator is deeply shaken; she has no idea what to make of this. She is new to this area, having moved here from her longtime home after the death of her husband, and she knows very few people. And she’s a little shaky even on her best days. Her brooding about this note quickly grows into a full-blown obsession, and she begins to devote herself to exploring the possibilities of her conjectures about who this woman was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and with mounting excitement and dread, the fog of mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But as we follow her in her investigation, strange dissonances start to accrue, and our faith in her grip on reality weakens, until finally, just as she seems to be facing some of the darkness in her own past with her late husband, we are forced to face the prospect that there is either a more innocent explanation for all this or a much more sinister one–one that strikes closer to home.

A triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, Death in Her Hands asks us to consider how the stories we tell ourselves both guide us closer to the truth and keep us at bay from it. Once again, we are in the hands of a narrator whose unreliability is well earned, only this time the stakes have never been higher.

What I Say:

My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh is one of my favourite novels.  I have nothing more to say except that as soon as I heard this was being released this year, I knew I needed to read it! Her writing is always pitch perfect, and the whole premise for this novel sounds intriguing!

MAY

What Have I Done by Laura Dockrill from Square Peg – Published on 7th May.

What They Say:

Laura Dockrill had an idyllic pregnancy and couldn’t wait to meet her new baby. But as she went into labour things began to go wrong and Laura started to struggle. A traumatic birth, anxiety about the baby, sleep deprivation, a slow recovery – all these things piled up until Laura (like any new mum) felt overwhelmed.

As many as 8 out of 10 new mums struggle in the weeks after birth. In Laura’s case these feelings escalated scarily quickly into post-partum psychosis. She became paranoid and delusional and had to be institutionalised for a fortnight without her baby. Throughout this time she was haunted by a sense of: ‘What have I done?’, at first as she wondered if she could cope with her baby, and later because she was trying to grasp at reality as she slipped into nightmarish delusion.

Laura’s experience was devastating but this is a hopeful book. Not only has Laura slowly recovered she has come out the other side stronger and more assured about parenting on her own terms. Now she is determined to break the silence around post-natal mental health and with her story tell new parents: you are not alone.

What I Say:

I think this is such an important book. Too often we are focussed on the Insta-perfect side of Motherhood, without being honest about the reality of it.  I struggled after having both my sons, and no one ever talked to me about it, or asked me how I was doing. I absolutely think Laura’s book is must read for 2020.

JUNE

The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig from Little Brown UK  -published on 4th June.

What They Say:

When Hannah is invited into the First-Class carriage of the London to Penzance train by Jinni, she walks into a spider’s web. Now a poor young single mother, Hannah once escaped Cornwall to go to university. But once she married Jake and had his child, her dreams were crushed into bitter disillusion. Her husband has left her for Eve, rich and childless, and Hannah has been surviving by becoming a cleaner in London. Jinni is equally angry and bitter, and in the course of their journey the two women agree to murder each other’s husbands. After all, they are strangers on a train – who could possibly connect them?

But when Hannah goes to Jinni’s husband’s home the next night, she finds Stan, a huge, hairy, ugly drunk who has his own problems – not least the care of a half-ruined house and garden. He claims Jinni is a very different person to the one who has persuaded Hannah to commit a terrible crime. Who is telling the truth – and who is the real victim?

What I Say:

Have you read the synopsis?! I just think it sounds like a novel you wouldn’t want to miss, and I am always attracted to novels where your viewpoints change as you turn the pages.  Amanda’s last novel The Lie of the Land was brilliant, unsettling and I think The Golden Rule is going to be just as brilliant.

Olive by Emma Gannon from Harper Collins  – published on 11th June.

What They Say:

OLIVE is many things.

Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
Knows her own mind.

It’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made, boxes to tick and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. And when her best friends’ lives start to branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, Olive starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.

Moving, memorable and a mirror for every woman at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

What I Say:

I am always fascinated by stories of women who choose to find their own path – especially in the face of society’s expectations and all the pressures that bring.  I think Olive’s story is going to be an interesting and absorbing one, and I can’t wait to read it.

JULY

Sisters by Daisy Johnson from Jonathan Cape – published on 2nd July.

What They Say:

Something unspeakable has happened to sisters July and September.

Desperate for a fresh start, their mother Sheela moves them across the country to an old family house that has a troubled life of its own. Noises come from behind the walls. Lights flicker of their own accord. The dank basement, where July and September once made a blood promise to each other, is deeply disquieting.

In their new, unsettling surroundings, July finds that the fierce bond she’s always had with September is beginning to change in ways she cannot understand.

Taut, transfixing and profoundly moving, Sisters explodes with the fury and joy of adolescence. It is a story of sibling love and sibling envy to rival Shirley Jackson and Stephen King. With Sisters, Daisy Johnson confirms her standing among the most inventive and exciting young writers at work today.

What I Say:

I loved Everything Under, and now to find out that Daisy Johnson has a new novel coming out this year – well, of course I would want to read it! I love the idea of troubled sisters and a troubled house, and together – I think this is going to be one of the must reads of the Summer.

OCTOBER

Earthlings by Sayaka Murata from Granta – published on 1st October.

What They Say:

Natsuki isn’t like the other girls. She has a wand and a transformation mirror. She might be a witch, or an alien from another planet. Together with her cousin Yuu, Natsuki spends her summers in the wild mountains of Nagano, dreaming of other worlds. When a terrible sequence of events threatens to part the two children forever, they make a promise: survive, no matter what. Now Natsuki is grown. She lives a quiet life with her asexual husband, surviving as best she can by pretending to be normal. But the demands of Natsuki’s family are increasing, her friends wonder why she’s still not pregnant, and dark shadows from Natsuki’s childhood are pursuing her. Fleeing the suburbs for the mountains of her childhood, Natsuki prepares herself with a reunion with Yuu. Will he still remember their promise? And will he help her keep it?

What I Say:

One of my aims this year is to read more translated fiction, and I loved Convenience Store Woman, so am really looking forward to Earthlings.  I like stories that are slightly quirky and unexpected, and I think this will fit the bill perfectly.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton from Fig Tree – published on 15th October.

What They Say:

32-year-old Nina Dean is a successful food writer with a loyal online following, but a life that is falling apart. When she uses dating apps for the first time, she becomes a victim of ghosting, and by the most beguiling of men. Her beloved dad is vanishing in slow motion into dementia, and she’s starting to think about ageing and the gendered double-standard of the biological clock. On top of this she has to deal with her mother’s desire for a mid-life makeover and the fact that all her friends seem to be slipping away from her . . .

Dolly Alderton’s debut novel is funny, tender and painfully relatable, filled with whip-smart observations about relationships and the way we live today.

What I Say:

If you haven’t read Everything I Know About Love, then that is another book you need to add to your reading pile straight away. Dolly writes so perfectly about love and relationships, and as a 49 year old woman, I am probably far from her target audience, but I know that Ghosts will be another slice of sublime writing, and I cannot wait to dive in.

Summer Water by Sarah Moss from Picador Books – published in October.

What They Say:

The novel, a multi-voice narrative set in a Scottish holiday park over the course of one fateful rainy summer’s day, is being hailed by Picador as its standout literary publication for autumn 2020.

Described as “swift, sharp and dark”, the book follows a group of residents and their growing animosity to a noisy outsider family staying at the park, with tension mounting to a devastating climax.

What I Say:

The reason I can’t tell you more about this, is that this is all I know (thank you The Bookseller website!)!

I can tell you I loved Ghost Wall, and that there has been a lot of brilliant reviews already, and I couldn’t imagine writing a post like this and not including it!

 

I know this is a HUGE post, and this is just a fraction of the books that are being published this year, but these are the ones so far that I want to read and put on your radar in January!

I hope you found a book or two you like the look of, and hopefully ten more you absolutely need to read!

2020 is already shaping up to be a stellar year for new books, and here’s to lots of bookish conversations and sharing lots of booklove too!

Love

Clare xx