Paperbacks to Look Out for in January 2018: Part One

This first batch of January paperbacks kicks of with my book of 2017: Jon McGregor’s Reservoir 13 which traces the effects of a young girl’s disappearance from a village in the north of England over the course of thirteen years, one for each of her life. The rhythms of the natural world hum through its pages, a background to the small tragedies, joys, disappointments and achievements that make up the villagers’ lives. Beneath it all there’s a consciousness of the missing girl and what may have happened to her. Deeply compassionate, written in quietly lyrical prose and peopled with astutely observed, well-rounded characters, this is a superb novel. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Identity theft seems to be the theme of Delphine de Vigan’s Based on a True Story The person doing the stealing is L., Delphine’s best friend with whom she has become enthralled. L. is the kind of beautifully turned out woman who seems to know what to do in every circumstance. Chillingly, she begins to dress like her new friend, offering to answer her emails and finding her way into every aspect of Delphine’s life until she takes control of it. It sounds quite riveting, and all the more so given that the author has given her protagonist both her name and her profession, not to mention that title. It’s an intriguing idea and I very much enjoyed the somewhat lighter No and Me a few years ago.

Heading further into dark territory, Phillip Lewis’ The Barrowfields tells the story of a family afflicted by tragedy set against the backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains. Lawyer Henry Aster sets up house with his wife and children in a crumbling mansion so that he can take care of his ailing mother. Henry spends his nights writing and drinking, slowly sinking into a deep depression. Years later his story is told by his son, burdened with his own tragedy. Lewis knows how to spin a story, managing to keep my attention over the novel’s 300+ pages despite a few too many Southern gothic touches.

J, Robert Lennon’s Broken River also has a touch of the gothic mashed up nicely with a slice of noir, this time in upstate New York. In a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage, a couple moves to freshly renovated house, taking their precociously bright twelve-year-old with them, Unbeknownst to them, the house has been empty for twelve years since the unsolved murder of the family that lived in it. Lennon’s deftly handled plot revolves around a web of coincidence and misunderstandings which finally unravels. Not an unalloyed success for me but it’s well worth a read.

That’s it for the first January paperback preview. A click on a title will either take you to my review or to a more detailed synopsis, and if you’d like to catch up with January’s new titles they’re here and here. Second batch of paperbacks to follow shortly…

13 thoughts on “Paperbacks to Look Out for in January 2018: Part One”

  1. I had another look at Reservoir 13 on Amazon. Usually you can tell from the quality of the the 1 star and 5 star reviews what the book is like, but it has 1 star reviews from people who clearly stuck with it and appreciated it, but felt it was lacking something and 5 star reviews saying it’s not an easy read, but worth it in the end. I suspect I’ll fall into the spectrum of people who feel it’s lacking something, but I’m going to give it a go.

    1. I beginning to think this is a Marmite book. Readers who expect the mystery of Becky’s disappearance to be solved will be disappointed, I’m afraid. Far from a plot-driven novel, it’s more about the effects on the community – throwing a stone into a pond and watching the ever-diminishing ripples. It’s also a beautiful and poetic piece of writing, particularly about the natural world. You can probably tell, I’m feeling nervous…

      1. I was horribly disappointed by a book by Henning Mankel once. It wasn’t a Wallander book, but there was a murder, more than one, in fact. I assumed it would be resolved and it wasn’t and he was quite rude at the end about readers who expected everything to be tied up. Since I know in advance that it’s not resolved, I’ll read it differently.

          1. I loved it. I stayed up until gone midnight last night to finish it. It was hard work at first – those paragraphs really threw me. Then it just clicked.

            I found it very sad over all. All those disappointed hopes and the way the village changed over the 13 years. The writing is beautiful and, in way, very spare. A few details tell a complete story.

            I’m going to listen to the radio plays now. I notice that none of them are about characters I think might have something to do with the girl’s disappearance.

          2. I’m so glad (and relieved) that you liked it, April. His writing about the natural world is particularly evocative, I think. There’s a very short interview accompanying the stories which is worth a listen.

  2. I’m beginning to wonder if you’re on commission for Reservoir 13! Barely a blog goes by without a mention (which is quite charming, by the way. Your enthusiasm sells it more than any blurb). I have finally reserved a copy from the local library, but your PR must have spread far and wide as there are 24 reservations against it! So it might be a while, but I’ll get around to it eventually.

    1. Ha! I am determined to get it as much attention as I can although I don’t think my reach stretches very far! It’ll be worth the wait but then, I would say that, wouldn’t I…

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