Thursday, 28 May 2015

New Books

There was a brief window between finishing my PhD and getting properly stuck into the first draft of novel 2 when I had time to read and enjoy some of the proofs I had been sent. Here are some brand-spanking new books that you'll be sure to enjoy when they are published in the coming weeks.

If you like suspenseful, frightening novels, you'll love Ruth Ware's In a Dark Dark Wood. Nora hasn't seen Clare for ten years. Consequently, she is surprised to be invited to Clare's hen-do. It's clear from the outset that something is not quite right. Perhaps there's something strange about needy Flo, perhaps the feelings of discomfort are all in Nora's head or perhaps it's Clare, the bride to be, who isn't quite what she seems. This novel is set in a dark, snowy wood, in an isolated house, inhabited by a group of friends who can hurt each other in myriad ways - it has all the perfect ingredients for a scary read. In a Dark Dark Wood is less of a who-dunnit, than a why-and-how-dunnit, and Ware will keep you guessing and grasping at straws until the grisly and gratifying conclusion. 

Sarah Jasmon's debut The Summer of Secrets is an evocative and atmospheric coming-of-age story. Set in idyllic countryside, this novel is a meticulous rendering of young friendship. Helen’s summer is set to be boring and lonely, but then the Dovers arrive and she is mesmerised by their casual largesse and bohemian ways. As the weather heats up, emotions heighten and something terrible happens. The novel is divided between the seemingly golden past and a difficult present. It is clear that Helen’s isolation in the present is related to the events of that summer. But what exactly happened and who is to blame? There are plenty of candidates: the petulant and charming Victoria, her damaged mother, her exotic uncle Piet, the mysterious Moira and Helen's morose father. When the denouement finally comes it's guaranteed to take you by surprise.

In Stephanie Bishop's The Other Side of the World artist Charlotte is unable to resist husband Henry's enthusiasm for sun and adventure. She allows herself to be swept to the other side of the world where she is crippled by homesickness and overwhelmed by the lonely routines of motherhood. The are moments in this novel that are so beautifully and painfully evoked that they sent me right back to the claustrophobic and seemingly endless days of toddlerhood (I spent about 8 years with a least one toddler in the house). I felt uncertain and bereft at the end of the novel; I thought about it for days, unable to decide what I hoped would happen next. The Other Side of the World is a meticulous portrait of ambivalent motherhood and the pain of nostalgia. 

On the bleak, windswept moors of northern England a religious cult has cut itself off from society. Meanwhile, vulnerable single mother Stephanie is falling for the enigmatic Nathaniel. Eventually Nathaniel brings Stephanie and daughter Judith to live with the other followers. Judith's feelings, unlike those of her mother, are not complicated by romantic love. She struggles to fit in and determines to escape. Rebecca Wait's The Followers is a fascinating look at what happens when doubt is equated with sin and one man speaks for God. It's also a poignant evocation of parental betrayal and the helplessness of children. I really enjoyed this quietly terrifying and suspenseful exploration of obedience to authority and the dangers of fundamentalism. 

And lastly, although I haven't read it yet (a casualty of PhD revisions) do look out for Cassandra Parkin's recently published novel, The Beach Hut

Parkin is an excellent writer - her collection, New World Fairy Tales, published by Salt, is one of my favourites.