Having had many, many books flying off the shelves and on to my desk in recent weeks, I deem it only fair to give my views on a selection of recommended books to get your nose stuck into this summer.
The Widow by Fiona Barton
You will be hearing a lot about this book in the future as it has taken the literary world by storm and was published in January simultaneously in UK and USA. It has been translated into 23 languages and optioned for a television drama. For a debut novel this is a lot of interest but having read it I can see why.
This book comes under the genre of psychological thriller and has been compared to The Girl on the Train and Gone girl and is a good a read as either of them. But this is different, as it is so simple and ordinary but in there lies its compulsiveness. Using the characters of the Detective, the Reporter, the Mother and once the Husband, it is the Widow only who speaks in the first person and thereby keeps us guessing. The speculation is what keeps the narrative moving and it was not until the last page that the denouement takes place.
The author has taken the disappearance of a child as the central plot which elicits our involvement immediately, there is no murder or other crimes to be solved: just the heart-breaking child abduction. We are shown into the murky world of the paedophile online networks and the squalid sleazy underworld of pornography.
The eponymous widow, Jeannie is an enigma. We see her through the eyes of the others as a quiet mousey woman who was subjugated by her controlling husband and even though we are told her story in her own words she remains inscrutable.
This book is already a bestseller and is the first novel of Fiona Barton who has had a long career as a This is a step up from the plethora of “Girl” novels and deserves to be well read. For me this was a book I had to keeping reading.
Published by Transworld on 14 January 2016 hardback at £12.99
The Museum of You by Carys Bray
This is the story of a modern family where, since her mother died when she was just weeks old, Clover has been brought up by her father, Darren, with some help from the elderly neighbour, Mrs Mackerell, his own ageing father, best friend Colin and sometime ex-girlfriend Kerry. The supporting cast which also Uncle Jim who is the mentally ill brother of Clover’s mother, Becky are all intriguing characters and so well-crafted that I feel I know them. Mrs Mackerell with her malapropisms and confused take on the modern world made me laugh out loud. Her creator, author Carys Brady has given us a character worthy of Dickens.
Clover’s birth was a surprise to all as Becky had no idea she was pregnant and they were all taken aback when she appeared on the kitchen floor. Clover knows very little about her mother except that no-one wants to talk about her. Living happily with her bus driver father Clover is inspired by a visit to a museum to create her own exhibition of Becky’s life which she does by exploring the piles of “stuff” dumped in the unused bedroom. Darren has a hoarding problem; he cannot let go of anything or more importantly cannot face dealing with sorting through anything in the house or garden.
Most of the narrative is told through Clover who is desperate for answers but fears upsetting her father who is constantly worried about her welfare but is also wary of troubling her.
Set in Southport, Merseyside, during a hot summer Clover is given her own latchkey and trusted to look after herself while her father works shifts. She waters the allotment, makes friends with Dagmar from school and visits her grandfather and Uncle Jim. Clover is a caring thoughtful 12-year-old and as we learn of the disaster of her childhood we are drawn into a tale of mystery and misery but also of love and laughter.
I recommend this novel to anyone who is open to laughter and sadness as this book has it all but most of all it has hope. The chances of them all finding happiness are above average if they stick together.
The book is published by Hutchinson, Random House UK June 2016 in hardback RRP £12.99
The Obsession by Nora Roberts
Nora Roberts is probably the most successful novelist you’ve never heard of. Her books fly off the shelves or through the ether. There are more than 400m Nora Roberts novels in print. Last year alone she sold 10m books. Thirty-four Nora Roberts titles are sold every minute.
She has written over 200 books in her name as well as under several pseudonyms and she, on her own estimate, takes about 45 days to write a novel.
So having finished her latest book I was staggered to learn these facts. The Obsession is so well written, crafted even, that her prodigious workload coupled with her talent makes this even more unbelievable. This was my first read and not my normal choice but I am struggling to find the words to describe what had me devouring this novel long into the night.
It will be a while before I pick up another of her books but just knowing that there is bound to be a new one soon, and hundreds of others available in her back list that I am happy to be an insomniac.
The focus of this story is Naomi Carson, a strong independent woman, whose childhood was torn apart by a shocking crime and its repercussions on her family. The description of this opening sequence is almost cinematic.
Eventually, as an independent young photographer, she has decided to put down roots. The beautiful old house she buys needs work, but Naomi has new friends in town who are willing to help, including Xander Keaton – gorgeous, infuriating and determined to win her heart.
The setting is totally American and the language often alien but interesting and gives an understanding how strange words in the same language can stretch the imagination. I was lulled into a comfortable place until suddenly the past catches up with our heroine and fear pervades her life again. A nightmare engulfs the action and this is so cleverly done that I am in awe of the author’s skill.
I so enjoyed this book that I think everyone should read a Nora Roberts, if you haven’t already.
by Tina Foster, deputy editor
Published by Little, Brown in hardback in April 2016