June is usually the month when publishers present us with a plethora of summer reading designed to keep us entertained by the pool, although there’s not much chance of that this year unless you have your own. Not my kind of novel, on the whole, but Rebecca Kauffman’s The House on Fripp Island might be this year’s exception. The eponymous island is a luxury resort in South Carolina where Lisa Daly and her family are holidaying with friends, all of whom have secrets to keep, apparently. ‘While revelations from the past and present unfold, the book builds to a shocking event that will shake your sense of justice and leave you wanting to talk about crime and retribution’ say the publishers which may sound a step too far into summer reading territory but given that I enjoyed Kaufmann’s The Gunners, I may give it a try.
I’d happily pack anything by Joanna Briscoe in my suitcase should I be lucky enough to get away this year. Her new novel, The Seduction, follows Beth, who lives a quiet life in north London, hoping that her uncertainty can be settled by going into therapy but finds herself even more disturbed than before, apparently. ‘What if the very person who is meant to be the solution becomes the most dangerous problem of all? And why is what’s bad for us so enticing?’ asks the blurb suggesting a thread of suspense. I was a huge fan of Briscoe’s Sleep with Me, published over fifteen years ago but I still remember it well.
Niamh Campbell’s This Happy has been quietly popping up in my Twitter timeline for a few months, much lauded by people whose opinions I trust. Twenty-three-year-old Alannah and her married older lover spend three weeks in cottage in the Irish countryside. Six years later, recently married to another man, Alannah spots the cottage’s landlady triggering memories of bliss followed by utter misery. An interesting enough premise but it’s the quote that comes with the blurb that’s sold this one to me: I have taken apart every panel of this, like an ornamental fan. But we stayed in the cottage for three weeks only, just three weeks, because it was cut short you see – cut short after just three weeks, when I’d left my entire life behind. Hoping for some fine writing if that’s a sample.
I wasn’t at all sure about Jean-Baptiste Andrea’s A Hundred Million Years and A Day with its rather wordy title, either, but the enthusiasm of the small indie publisher who pitched it won me over. Baptiste’s novella was a huge literary hit in France where it was published last year. It’s about a palaeontologist who thinks he may have found a clue to the discovery which will enshrine his legacy, hidden deep in the mountains of Southern France, and the expedition that takes him there. His novel comes complete with a puff from Carys Davies who dubbed it ‘A sublime and beautiful book’ and I’d have to agree. Review shortly…
I’m a little wary of comparisons between authors made in press releases. I’ve noticed Elizabeth Strout’s name appearing more and more frequently as it does in the advance information for Elizabeth Wetmore’s debut, Valentine. Set in Texas, it’s about the shockwaves running through a small town in the wake of a violent crime, following three women including the fourteen-year-old survivor of the crime, apparently. ‘When justice is as slippery as oil, and kindness becomes a hazardous act, sometimes courage is all we have to keep us alive’ say the publishers. An interesting premise, if handled well as well as that mention of Strout suggests.
Another starry name pops up in the blurb for my last June choice, this time in a quote from Alex Preston, the Observer critic, who compares Stuart Evers’ The Blind Light to a British Don DeLillo. I’m not a DeLillo fan but I liked the sound of this novel which explores Britain’s history from the ‘50s onwards through two families from opposite ends of the social specturm, first from the parents’ perspective then from their children’s. ‘The Blind Light is a powerful, ambitious, big yet intimate story of our national past and a brilliant evocation of a family and a country. It will remind you how complicated human history is – and how hard it is to do the right thing for the right reasons’ say the publishers which, having read it already, I can tell you is spot on. Review to follow.
That’s it for June’s new titles. As ever, a click on any that snag you attention will take you to a more detailed synopsis. Paperbacks soon…