One of the aspects of this impressive debut by Anna Hope that makes me raise my hat is the effectiveness with which she handles its secondary thread. In italics interspersing the main story a page or two at a time, are little vignettes as British officials exhume the body of an unidentified soldier from the battlefields of Northern France, prepare it for a new coffin, and take it with due solemnity to its final resting place in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Westminster Abbey. The vignettes, and the story that they enfold, span a five-day period leading up to November 11, 1920, the second anniversary of the Armistice. The First World War is over, but what has become of the survivors?
Almost as though in reference to the title of her best novel, THE VANISHING ACT OF ESME LENNOX (2006), Maggie O’Farrell’s new one begins with a disappearance. One morning in 1976, in the midst of a heatwave, retired bank manager Robert Riordan, after laying breakfast for his wife Gretta, leaves their North London house, draws some money from his bank, and does not return. Within a day, their three grown children have all returned home to help their mother handle the crisis: Michael Francis from his house a few miles away, where he lives with his wife and two young children; Monica from a farm in Gloucestershire, where she lives with her second husband and, at weekends, his two children; and Aoife*, the youngest, from New York, where she is single with a boyfriend. Thus O’Farrell lays the groundwork for a book about family dynamics, not only Gretta, the absent Robert, and their grown children, but also the individual situations of the offspring, who will each confront and largely resolve their own personal crises over the four-day span of the novel. At this level, it is an extraordinarily well-constructed and heart-warming read.
The brilliant and prolific Ruth Rendell continues to entertain us with her latest Inspector Wexford novel, The Vault. Although he is retired and has no official standing, Wexford, the former Chief Inspector of Kingsmarkham, is delighted when Detective Superintendent Thomas Ede asks for his advice concerning a puzzling case. The scene of the crime(s) is a two-hundred year old house in London, Orcadia Cottage. The current residents are Martin and Anne Rokeby, who bought the property for one and a half million pounds. One day, Martin decides to lift a manhole cover in the “paved yard at the back of the house,” curious to know what, if anything, is down there. Little does he realize that this deed would end up “wrecking his life for a long time to come.”
September 25, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 2013 authors, Foreign Detective, London, Murder Mystery, Ruth Rendell Â· Posted in: Character Driven, Family Matters, Mystery/Suspense, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author
Around ten years ago, a young Nigerian immigrant, 10-year-old Damilola Taylor, was beaten by boys barely older than him in Peckham, a district in South London. Damilola later bled to death. The incident sparked outrage in the United Kingdom and was subsequently pointed to as proof that the countryâ€™s youth had gone terribly astray.
The same incident seems to have also inspired a debut novel, Pigeon English, with 11-year-old Harri Opoku filling in for the voice of Damilola Taylor.
September 14, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Immigration-Diaspora, Life Choices, London, Real Event Fiction Â· Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Debut Novel, Facing History, United Kingdom, World Lit
Iâ€™d heard of Jack the Ripper and the Yorkshire Ripper, but before I read British author Cathi Unsworthâ€™s crime novel, BAD PENNY BLUES, Iâ€™d never heard of Jack the Stripper. Jack the Stripper was the name given to a serial killer who operated in London during the 60s. His victims were young women–6 in all–whose bodies were found in 1964 and 1965. The crimes–also known as the Hammersmith Murders or the Hammersmith Nudes were never solved, but they had some features in common. The women were prostitutes and they died from strangulation. Some had teeth missing and some of the bodies bore traces of industrial paint. The police eventually connected these 6 murders with two other similar, earlier crimes. They acknowledged that the total murder toll might stretch back to include an unsolved murder committed in 1959, and that a dead woman found in 1963 was possibly yet another victim of the same killer.
GHOST LIGHT by Joseph Oâ€™Connor is a brilliant and complex book. It is one of the best books I have read in the last five years. The language is poetic and hallucinatory and this is a book where one can’t skip passages or lines. Every word is necessary and the whole is a gift put together with the greatest care and love.