The second instalment of May’s new fiction kicks off with Georgi Gospinov’s Time Shelter. There are a multitude of novels about dementia but Gospinov’s takes a very different tack with its ‘clinic for the past’ offering rooms set up to mirror various time periods. As the rooms become more authentic, the healthy and wealthy book themselves in seeking solace from society’s current ills. ‘Intricately crafted, and eloquently translated by Angela Rodel, Time Shelter cements Georgi Gospodinov’s reputation as one of the indispensable writers of our times, a major voice in international literature’ say the publishers of a novel which sounds inventive and interesting, and how nice to see a translator mentioned in a blurb.
Michelle Hart’s What We Do in the Dark is also about seeking solace or perhaps escape as Mallory, grief-stricken after the death of her mother, becomes involved in a complicated love affair with the older woman she spots training in her college gym. After the affair, Mallory is faced with the changes this enigmatic woman has made to her life. ‘In this enthralling debut novel, the complexities of influence, obsession, and admiration reveal how desire and its consequences can alter the trajectory of a life’ say the publishers of a novel much praised by both Tayari Jones and Torrey Peters
Julia May Jonas’ debut, Vladimir, explores the well-trodden territory of sexual harassment although this time with a different spin. Two professors, married to each other, are faced with accusations made against one for his relationships with former students. Then the wife becomes infatuated with a young novelist, a literary rising star who has just arrived on campus. ‘With her bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured literary debut, Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the strictures of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart’ says the blurb, piquing my interest. Another in the woman facedown/face-to-the-wall cover trend which seems so popular this year.
Not entirely sure about Kate Maxwell’s Hush but it has an unusual premise. Thirty-eight-year-old Stevie has returned to England from New York after five glittering years pursuing her career. She’s decided to have a child, the next stage in her successful life, but after giving birth it seems motherhood might have been a mistake. Then she’s faced with revelations that unsettle her belief in love and family. ‘A gripping, beautifully written and taboo-busting debut novel about motherhood and female identity’ say the publishers.
I enjoyed Stewart O’Nan’s Henry, Himself a few years ago so was pleased to be offered a proof of Open State. Set in small town Rhode Island, O’Nan’s new novel sees a woman looking back on a devastating act of violence when she was thirteen years old for which her sister went to prison after the discovery of her boyfriend’s infidelity. We know what her sister did from the dramatic opening sentence, a bold stroke that pays off well in this immersive novel which vividly captures the intensity of teenage love and lust played out against the canvas of a small town. Review to follow…
Irish writer David Park’s Spies in Canaan sees a retired man revisiting his past when a package is delivered from whose contents he deduces he has a journey to make. As Michael travels towards the desert his memory takes him back to long buried experiences during the last days of the Vietnam War. Time to face what was done there. ‘Taut, atmospheric and moving, Spies in Canaan is a powerful elegy to the pain of love, the guilt of old age, and the grace of atonement’ according to the blurb. I’ve enjoyed several of Park’s quietly understated novels before.
More buried memories surface, although of a rather different kind, in Sophie Ward’s The Schoolhouse by the sound of it. A newspaper photograph of a missing girl together with a letter from a teacher at the experimental school she attended in the ‘70s, bring Isobel’s carefully guarded past back to haunt her. While some enjoyed the freedom of no rules and regulations others lived in fear, and now, it seems, the truth looks likely to come out. ‘Set between the past and the present, The Schoolhouse is a masterful and gripping novel about the gulf between the truths we contain and the truths we reveal; about how silence keeps us safe and holds us hostage; about institutional abuse of power; and how the lessons we learn as children informs the adults we become’ according to the blurb which sounds a little like Rachel Donohue’s The Temple House Vanishing.
That’s it for May’s new fiction. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis for any that take your fancy and if you missed the first part, it’s here. Paperbacks soon…