Top of the list for this second batch of March goodies is Michèle Forbes’ Edith & Oliver, largely on the strength of her exquisitely written debut, Ghost Moth, published back in 2014. Hopes are high, then, for this new novel which is about a couple who fall in love when she’s a pianist working the music halls and he’s touring the world performing as an illusionist. When music halls fail, thanks to the advent of cinema, these two are left with only each other and their children as glamour seeps away and Oliver’s dangerous flaws become apparent.
Katie Kitamura’s A Separation is also about a marriage – this one, as the title makes clear, so strained it has broken. A young woman leaves her husband, agreeing to keep the rift between themselves, but then finds that he has disappeared somewhere in the Peloponnese. She reluctantly tries to track him down and as she does so, contemplates what has led to the breakdown of their marriage in ’a story of intimacy, infidelity and compassion… … about the gulf that divides us from the lives of others and the narratives we create to mask our true emotions’ according to the publisher. Not very cheerful, I know, but it’s an interesting idea and I’ve enjoyed Kitamura’s previous fiction.
Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West carries on the theme of relationships and love, this time between two refugees fleeing the civil war raging through their country. Nadia and Saeed are ‘two ordinary young people, attempting to do an extraordinary thing – to fall in love – in a world turned upside down. Theirs will be a love story but also a story about how we live now and how we might live tomorrow, of a world in crisis and two human beings travelling through it’ says the publisher. Hamid’s name may be familiar from his previous novel, the Man Booker shortlisted The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which I enjoyed very much.
Which can’t be said for Stephen May’s debut, I’m afraid, although I think I’m in the minority there – Life! Death! Prizes! was one of those books that everyone seem to love but I did not – however I do like the sound of Stronger Than Skin. When Stephen Chadwick sees a police car outside his house he knows why it is there and that the family life he’s carefully built up over twenty years is about to unravel. According to the publishers it’s ‘a story of a toxic love gone wrong, with a setting that moves easily between present day London and 1990s Cambridge… …compulsively readable, combining a gripping narrative with a keen eye for the absurdities of the way we live now’. Quite like the sound of that but we’ll see.
That’s it for March new books. A click on a title will take you to a more detailed synopsis and if you’d like to catch up with the first instalment it’s here. Paperbacks shortly…