We’re deep into summer reading territory with the July publishing schedules, although I doubt that any of my paperback choices would be characterised as classic beach reads in publishers’ terms. Milena Busquet’s This Too Shall Pass is at least set near the sea. Blanca leaves Barcelona for the Spanish coastal town where her late 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.
Emma Chapman’s The Last Photograph also deals with bereavement. A man who photographed the Vietnam War returns to the country he last saw fifty years ago after he’s been widowed. His wife’s death has forced him to look at his past and the way in which he has been affected by it not least, presumably, because his first act on discovering her body is to position it, check the light then photograph it. This sounds such a striking start to a novel that I’m expecting great things.
Steven Amsterdam’s The Easy Way Out may not appeal to everyone although we should all read it. It’s about assisted suicide, one of the great moral dilemmas of the twenty-first century Western world when medicine has advanced in leaps and bounds but not the ethical framework for dealing with its unintended consequences. The novel explores this conundrum through Evan who is licensed to assist terminally ill patients’ suicides and whose mother has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Amsterdam examines the dilemmas that surround this vexed question with compassion and humanity, leavening it all with a darkly sardonic humour.
Inspired by his great-aunt, Brad Watson’s Miss Jane is the story of a woman born in rural Mississippi in 1915 with a birth defect, a genital malformation which closes the conventional path of marriage and children to her. Jane’s story is told with a quiet empathy: never sentimental, always compassionate. It’s a beautifully restrained novel, quietly laying out what it is to be different, to understand that what everyone else takes for granted you will not have, with the grace and dignity that Jane embodies. I had hoped this one might make an impression on the Baileys judges.
My last choice comes from Pushkin Press who publish often slightly quirky books including Butterflies in November, The Beautiful Bureaucrat and Mirror, Shoulder, Signal. In Eric Beck Rubin’s School of Velocity a virtuoso pianist’s mind turns to his high school friendship as he tries to quiet the music in his head before a performance. Jan lost contact with Dirk but when they get back together, he begins to think he’s misunderstood Dirk’s character and the intimate bond they once shared. ‘In this powerful debut, Eric Beck Rubin conjures up a moving tale full of music and raw human emotion with a virtuoso touch’ says the publisher.
That’s it for July’s paperback selection. A click on a title will take you to my review for Miss Jane and The Easy Way Out, or to a fuller synopsis for the other three should you want to know more. If you’d like to catch up with the hardbacks here they are.