June’s first batch of new fiction began with a much trumpeted novel with a literary theme as does the second. Lots of pre-publication brouhaha for Francesca Reece’s Voyeur which sees a young woman who’s left London for Paris, delighted when she gets a job as a writer’s assistant. Leah’s enthusiasm proves infectious, inspiring Michael to draw on his diaries, full of his life in ’60s Soho, which she transcribes in his family’s property in the South of France. All seems set fair, but Leah is nagged by suspicions about her new boss. I’m attracted by that writer/assistant relationship.
Gill Darling’s Erringby sees a young boy sent to live with his bohemian relatives when his adoptive mother suffers a breakdown. Kit becomes increasingly obsessed with his aunt, waking up in her bed, aged eighteen, which sends shockwaves through the household. ‘Unfolding against the changing cultural landscape of the seventies, eighties and nineties, Erringby is a captivating coming-of-age novel with echoes of Great Expectations’ according to the blurb. I’ve read and enjoyed several quirky gems published by Fairlight Books and am hoping for another with this one.
Obsession rears its head in Natsuko Imamura’s The Woman in the Purple Skirt which sees one woman fascinated by another who seems oblivious of the fact she’s being watched. Every day the titular woman sits on a park bench, caught up in her own world, never acknowledging the reaction she provokes in others, let alone the woman who’s aware of her every move. According to the blurb, her observer isn’t a stalker but something ‘much more complicated than that’ which sounds intriguing.
I’ve already read Marie Aubert’s darkly funny novella, Grown Ups, which explores that tricky family dynamic, sibling bonds and rivalries. Ida is on her way to the summer cabin where her mother and her partner will be joining the rest of the family for a sixty-fifth birthday celebration the following day. She’s keen to share her news but her sister beats her to it. Marthe’s announcement makes her the centre of attention resetting Ida’s mood and she proceeds to wreak havoc. A very smart slice of fiction which may feel a little too close to home for some.
Entirely different, Russell Banks’ Forgone, follows a celebrated Canadian-American documentary maker who, along with many others, fled over the border to Canada to avoid serving in Vietnam. Now in his late seventies and dying, Leonard Fyfe has agreed to an interview in which he plans to strip away the many myths surrounding his life. I’ve read and enjoyed several of Banks’ novels although I’ve a feeling this one may have more resonance for a US audience than a British one.
Rupert Thomson’s new novel is as close to a short story collection as I’ve come this month. Set in 2008, just before the financial crash, his new book, Barcelona Dreaming, comprises three stories linked by a crime committed against a Moroccan immigrant. ‘Exploring themes of addiction, racism, celebrity, immigration, and self-delusion, and fuelled by a longing for the unattainable and a nostalgia for what is about to be lost, Barcelona Dreaming is a love letter to one of the world’s most beautiful cities and a powerful and poignant fable for our uncertain times’ say the publishers. Thomson’s one of those writers who never quite seems to attract the attention he deserves despite having proved himself to be both talented and versatile.
That’s it for June’s new novels, two of which sport eye catching swimmers on their jackets. As ever a click on the title of any that have caught your fancy will take you to a more detailed synopsis, and if you’d like to catch up with the first instalment it’s here. Paperbacks soon…