This second batch of May goodies ranges far and wide beginning with Suzanne Joinson’s The Photographer’s Wife which takes us to Jerusalem, already riven with political manoeuvring in 1920. The daughter of a British architect with ambitious plans for the city, eleven-year-old Prue spends her time eavesdropping on the conversational machinations of the adults around her, romantic and otherwise. Jumping forward to 1937, Prue is a reclusive artist living with her young son when the pilot her father employed to survey the city turns up unexpectedly, spilling secrets that will turn her world upon its head. ‘The Photographer’s Wife is a powerful story of betrayal: between father and daughter, between husband and wife, and between nations and people, set in the complex period between the two world wars’ say the publishers. It’s a fascinating subject and that’s a very smart cover.
Yewande Omotoso moves us on to South Africa where Hortensia and Marion are neighbours in The Woman Next Door. Both over eighty, both widowed, both with successful careers under their belts – one is black and the other is white. Omotoso throws an unexpected event into this mix which forces these two together until their incessant bickering softens into what might eventually become friendship. It’s an entertaining premise and if there’s enough of a bite in it to avoid sentimentality it could work well
Milena Busquets’s This Too Shall Pass scoots us over to Europe. Struggling to cope with her mother’s death, Blanca leaves Barcelona for the Spanish coastal town where her mother had lived taking two-ex-husbands, two sons and two best friends with her. As if that wasn’t complicated enough, she plans to meet her married lover. This novel of middle-aged angst was a huge bestseller in Spain, apparently, and was already being talked about on Twitter by people whose opinion I trust way back in early February.
A. L. Kennedy’s Serious Sweet crosses the sea to Britain – Westminster to be precise – where a fifty-nine-year-old senior civil servant is struggling with his conscience over his government’s shenanigans and on the brink of spilling the beans. Meanwhile, Meg Williams is a forty-five-year-old bankrupt accountant just about managing to keep sober. Set over twenty-four hours in 2014, it’s about ‘two decent, damaged people trying to make moral choices in an immoral world: ready to sacrifice what’s left of themselves for honesty, and for a chance at tenderness’ say the publishers. I have a very on-again off-again relationship with Kennedy’s writing but find ‘state of the nation’ novels well-nigh impossible to resist.
That’s it for May hardbacks. A click on a title will take you to a fuller synopsis and if you’d like to catch up with the first batch they’re here. Paperbacks soon…