There was a definite family theme running through much of the first part of March’s fiction preview; this second part is more of a mixed bag although it does start with a novel about a family, and an infamous one at that.
As I say all too often on here, then promptly read the exception that proves the rule, I’m not a fan of historical fiction but Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth certainly appeals. The children of a celebrated but unstable Shakespearean actor, the six Booth siblings grow up in rural Baltimore in the 1820s. One of them will be responsible for changing the course of history by assassinating Abraham Lincoln. ‘Booth is a riveting novel focused on the very things that bind, and break, a family’ say the publishers. Sounds worth venturing outside of my usual reading territory.
Andrew Miller’s historical fiction falls into that exception/rule category. I much prefer it to his more contemporary novels so am a little wary about The Slowworm’s Song in which an ex-soldier’s past comes back to haunt him. Recovering alcoholic Stephen Rose is just getting to know his daughter when he’s summoned to an inquiry into an incident in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and fears that his testimony may destroy their relationship before it’s established. Instead, he decides to write a confessional addressed to her. I’m sure I’ll read this but I’m wondering whether it will match my enjoyment of Ingenious Pain, Pure or Now We Shall Be Entirely Free.
Heather Marshall’s Looking for Jane spans the years from 1960 to 2020 following three women. Evelyn Taylor and Nancy Mitchell were both members of the Jane Network, set up to provide safe but illegal abortions; the third, Angela Creighton, finds a letter leading her to a book by Evelyn about the Janes. It seems Angela’s letter may finally offer closure for Evelyn. Very much like the sound of that. I’m a sucker for this kind of structure if done well and the subject appeals.
This one has been popping up on my Twitter timeline since last year. Julia Armfield’s Our Wives Under the Sea sees Miri relieved when her wife returns after a deep sea mission but it soon becomes clear that Leah has changed and a distance opens up between them. ‘Our Wives Under the Sea is the debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep, deep sea’ says the blurb. I really should get around to reading salt slow.
The premise of Antoine Wilson’s Mouth to Mouth is a brilliant one. Killing time at the airport, an author bumps into a former classmate who invites him for drinks then regales him with a story which sounds the stuff of fiction involving the rescue of a drowning man. Jeff becomes obsessed with the man he saved eventually working for him. Francis appears not to recognize his rescuer but welcomes him into a world of power and influence. Very much enjoyed this one. Review to follow…
Ben Hinshaw’s Exactly What You Mean sounds as if it has a foot in coming-of-age territory as a teenager stumbles on a secret which has the power to destroy adult lives. ‘In this extraordinary debut, a cast of characters grapple with unexpected betrayal, the loss of innocence and the lies we tell. With sharp insight, Ben Hinshaw illuminates the unnerving nature of what it means to grow up, to be a teenager playing at adulthood and an adult playing games’ say the publishers promisingly.
That coming-of-age theme runs through American writer Barry Gifford’s The Boy Who Ran Away to Sea by the sound of it. It’s a collection of short stories linked by Roy, the titular character, growing up in the ‘50s and ‘60s, travelling the country with his mother, surrounded by a dubious bunch of people, from grifters to mob enforcers. ‘Roy is the muse of Gifford’s hardboiled style, a precocious child, watching the grown-ups try hard to save themselves, only to screw up again and again’ says the blurb of a collection which sounds well worth investigating
That’s it for March’s new fiction. As ever, a click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis and if you’d like to catch up with the first part it’s here. Paperbacks soon…