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‘The Shadow Year’ by Hannah Richell **

I really enjoyed Hannah Richell’s debut novel, Secrets of the Tides, and jumped at the chance of receiving a review copy of The Shadow Year.  This is blurbed as ‘another mesmerising story of tragedy, lies and betrayal.’

9781455554331In the novel, protagonist Lila Bailey receives a package ‘out of the blue’, which consists of a letter and a key.  She has no idea who could have done such a thing, but someone has anonymously bequeathed her a ‘remote lakeside cottage and the timing couldn’t be better; with her marriage unravelling, the house offers the perfect escape.’  Upon reaching the cottage, which lies in Derbyshire’s Peak District, Lila soon begins to wonder as to why the previous inhabitants clearly left in such a hurry, leaving their belongings behind.  She also, later on, starts to feel as though she is being watched at every turn.  ‘As a year at the lake unfolds, Lila uncovers long forgotten secrets and discovers that the past can cast a very long shadow.’

The prologue is rather sensuously written.  Here, Richell has focused upon an unnamed female character, and speaks of the lake itself almost as a character in its own right: ‘Pushing off from the bottom, she swims out to where the water is dark and deep then stops to watch the breeze play across the surface, lifting it in choppy peaks.  Her blood is cooling and she feels the weight of herself – her arms, her legs, the heavy tangle of her nightie, her slow-beating heart.  Treading water, she sees the cottage tilt in the distance and the light waver across the treetops.  It’s a dream, she tells herself and lays her head back upon the water, suspended there between earth and sky, floating for a moment upon the skin of the lake.’

Lila likes the idea of going to explore the land with Tom, her husband, a trip which is focused upon in the first chapter.  The pair are dealing with a bereavement, following a miscarriage.  Of the trip, which Lila suggests after a series of arguments, Richell writes: ‘She can see that he is surprised by her sudden desire to do something and knows it must seem strange when she has spent the last couple of weeks holed-up at home, doing very little of anything besides sleeping and crying and wandering aimlessly around the house.  But somewhere new and remote…  somewhere no one knows them…  somewhere where no one knows what’s happened is strangely appealing.’

The second chapter of The Shadow Year begins in 1980, when five friends, all of whom have just finished their undergraduate degrees, stumble upon the same cottage that will be left to Lila decades later.  They are all unsure about what to do in the ‘real world’, and the cottage becomes a place of escape for them.  Upon the suggestion of Ben’s, they decide on a whim to spend an entire year there as an ‘experiment’, cut off from the rest of the world, and able to enjoy their own pursuits.  All is not as idyllic as it first seems, however; tensions begin to mount between various members of the group, and ‘when an unexpected visitor appears at their door, nothing will be the same again.’

Richell’s descriptions of the dilapidated cottage are quite lovely.  She writes: ‘The gritstone walls are spotted with lichen and the rose appears to be missing several tiles.  Closer still and she can see guttering hanging off at an alarming angle and birds’ nests and cobwebs lodged under the eaves.  In front of both ground floor windows, nestled amidst the dandelions and nettles are wild bursts of lime green seed heads, round and flat and translucent like paper…  As they move closer still they see that the windows are black with grime…’.

Everything in The Shadow Year started off so well, but there was very little momentum with which to carry the story along.  Rather, whole sections felt slow and almost stagnant.  I did not feel invested in a single character here.  I remember much of the cast of Secrets of the Tides as realistic constructions, with depth to them, and believable backstories.  The characters here, however, felt rather cliched.  The main twist of the novel was predictable, and I saw it coming very quickly indeed.

A lot of other reviewers seem to have really enjoyed The Shadow Year, but I cannot help but feel disappointed.  I have read books with similar plotlines, by the likes of Juliet Greenwood and Kate Morton, which I found to be far more immersive, and better pieced together.

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‘Uncanny Stories’ by May Sinclair *****

I have been coveting a copy of Uncanny Stories by May Sinclair for such a long time.  She is an author whom I was originally focusing upon in my current postgraduate thesis, and whilst my scope has changed since I began my project, I am still very keen to read her entire oeuvre.  This particular book proved rather difficult to find, but I struck gold by keeping my eye on Abebooks, and finding a copy which was around £20 cheaper than those which I have previously seen.

The Wordsworth Edition which, whilst out of print, seemed to be the only edition which I could find, has been edited and introduced in a thorough manner by the well-informed 9781840224924Paul March-Russell.  The stories were first published with this title in 1923, and throughout, Sinclair ‘combines the traditional ghost story with the discoveries of Freud and Einstein.’  March-Russell, who calls her a ‘pivotal writer in the development of the ghost story’, recognises the myriad elements which influenced Sinclair’s work, calling her ‘one of the most intellectually driven of writers, pursuing the “new” and the “modern” in philosophy, psychoanalysis, mysticism and the paranormal.’  These eight tales promise to ‘shock, enthral, delight and unsettle’.  March-Russell writes that due to the very nature of these stories, they are ‘disturbing’ both in their content and the Modernist form in which they have been written.

A recurring motif in Sinclair’s stories is the ‘horror of family life’, and the ‘theme of self-denial’; she explores both in each of these stories, weaving them cleverly in with mysterious circumstances and paranormal occurrences.  Her writing is what really shines here.  A contemporary critic of hers named Julian Thompson said that her writing was ‘pin-sharp, often harrowingly economic.’  Everything here feels almost effortless; there is such a sense of flow and control in Sinclair’s writing, which often feels like a mixture of the Victorian Gothic and the Modernist tradition.

Uncanny Stories has a curiosity about it; it is as though Sinclair has chosen to explore our world through things which cannot be proven to exist, but which a lot of people in the Victorian era, for instance, as well at the time of writing, were highly interested in.  The descriptions which Sinclair has crafted are vivid and mysterious at once.  ‘The Finding of the Absolute’, for example, deals with differing dimensions and the emergence of Kant conversing with the narrator in this particular space, and is the most unusual story in the collection.  Here, she writes: ‘He found himself alone in an immense grey space, in which there was no distinguishable object but himself.  He was aware of his body as occupying a portion of this space.  For he had a body; a curious, tenuous, whitish body.  The odd thing was that this empty space had a sort of solidity under him.  He was lying on it, stretched out on it, adrift.  It supported him with the buoyancy of deep water.  And yet his body was part of it, melted in.’

Different narrative techniques and perspectives can be found from one story to another so, despite the often recurring themes, there is a freshness and variety to the collection.  Given its main theme, Uncanny Stories could so easily have been melodramatic, but not a single story can be categorised as such.  Sinclair has a way of making obscene and otherworldly things seem entirely reasonable; she provides ghosts and hauntings almost with a sense of normalcy.  The tension is built masterfully, and the theme of obsessive love has been explored in such depth in many differing situations.  Whilst there is a trope in these stories in which many young wives come back to haunt their husbands, the ways in which they do so vary, as does the reasoning.  The only thing here which I felt was a little overdone were the accents, some of which felt almost impenetrable.

The stories collected here were originally presented with illustrations; they have since been removed, which seems a shame.  Of this collection, I had only read one of the stories before, ‘The Flaw in the Crystal’; this, I enjoyed even more the second time around. The influence of psychology particularly here is fascinating; there are so many layers to each story, and psychological elements can be picked out in every single tale.

Uncanny Stories is highly engaging, and whilst I read it during a heatwave in France, it would definitely better suit a dark evening with a crackling fire.  The stories here should be better known and more widely read, as, indeed, should the rest of Sinclair’s books.  She is a wonderful and unjustly neglected author, and this collection demonstrates just how versatile she was.

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‘The Big House’ by Helena McEwen ****

Over the years, I have seen very few reviews of Helena McEwen’s work; she seems to be quite an underappreciated author.  I have read her other two published novels before – Ghost Girl (2004) and Invisible River (2011) – and very much enjoyed both, but the overall ratings on Goodreads for both books are rather low (average ratings of 2.82 and 3.10 respectively).  The Big House, her debut novel, has been even more poorly rated, with an average score of 2.65.  It is, however, my favourite amongst what I feel are three very good novels.

The Independent on Sunday deems The Big House ‘brilliant…  A book of immense skill and unique vision’, and the Observer calls it ‘touching, poetic and utterly unsentimental.’  In the novel, protagonist Elizabeth’s brother James has committed suicide.  After her sister Kitty also passes away, a victim of drowning, ‘it is more than she can bear.  As she wanders the large family mansion of her childhood – a haunting place of mystery, wonder and opulence – the memories of an apparently idyllic but secretly threatening past will not let her go.’  She makes her way to Scotland, where the family home is about to be sold, in order to be alone with the memory of her siblings. 9780747548485

From the first, I found Elizabeth’s narrative voice both mesmerising and absorbing.  Trying to make sense of her loss, she asks: ‘What has happened in that time, from spring to autumn, the lifetime of a leaf?  What happened when it poked its way through the four small doors, and unfurled its pale-green folded-up pleats to the world?  James died.  And what happened as the yellow green darkened to summer green, then began to turn yellow at the edges as late summer crept along the branches?  Kitty died…’.  When this particular reflection begins, Elizabeth stands at the point in the year when the leaves are falling.

The narrative voice in The Big House is very connected to the natural world; such attention has been given to sensation and colour particularly.  Given the nature of the death of both siblings, one so deliberate and the other an accident, Elizabeth has to imagine that both are now in a better place: ‘And I can’t think of Kitty’s terrified struggle for life, and I can’t think of the pain that made James pull the trigger, because I can feel where they have gone.  It is a singing place full of light.  It dazzles me.  I long for the sweetness of it.  It is home, and I want to go home.’

The imagery in The Big House is by turns fragile and stark.  McEwen writes, for example, ‘James went along to the gun room and took a rifle down from the stand.  He must have loaded it at night in the dark, and he lay down outside in the leaves and hugged the gun as though it was a friend.’  The scenes which depict grief are touching and raw.  After James’ death on the aforementioned night, Elizabeth recalls: ‘Kitty and I lay on a bed in a hotel with the window open.  I didn’t want to leave her, even go out of the room.  I didn’t want to be anywhere without her, and feel all the feelings about James on my own.  So we lay together on the bed, with our bare arms wrapped around each other, letting the terrible feelings pass through at the same time, and outside we could hear the sea lapping against the rocks and the seagulls calling plaintive cries in the air.  They called through us, and the sound felt our pain.’

One gets a sense of something other than realism filling Elizabeth’s childhood; there are, on occasion, elements of the otherworldly, and a continuing feeling of being observed by the unknown.  ‘The invisible beings of the house seem to draw closer to me and I feel their shadows passing through me.  Little winds blow in my ear, and make me shiver, and strange wispy feelings slide up and down my spine.’  I very much enjoyed the use of the unreliable narrator which McEwen created here, and the brief sense of retrospect at the beginning of the novel, before the narrative which follows is filled with childhood memories.  There is not a great deal of plot when this ensues, but the scenes and memories which are woven in are striking and memorable.  There is a timeless quality to this story; it is never stated explicitly when events occur, and very few cultural details can be found throughout.  The Big House provides a lovely, and quite thorough, exploration of a childhood, and the strength of sibling relationships.

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The Book Trail: From Heartburn to Varieties of Exile

I am beginning this edition of The Book Trail with a fabulous novel about pregnancy and its pitfalls.  As ever, I have used the ‘Readers Also Enjoyed’ tool on Goodreads in order to generate this list.
2253431. Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.  Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has “a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs” is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron’s irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. Heartburn is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé.
2. Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall
England is in a state of environmental crisis and economic collapse. There has been a census, and all citizens have been herded into urban centers. Reproduction has become a lottery, with contraceptive coils fitted to every female of childbearing age. A girl who will become known only as “Sister” escapes the confines of her repressive marriage to find an isolated group of women living as “un-officials” in Carhullan, a remote northern farm, where she must find out whether she has it in herself to become a rebel fighter. Provocative and timely, Daughters of the North poses questions about the lengths women will go to resist their oppressors, and under what circumstances might an ordinary person become a terrorist.
3. Distant View of a Miaret and Other Stories by Alifa Rifaat 19433013
“More convincingly than any other woman writing in Arabic today, Alifa Rifaat lifts the vil on what it means to be a women living within a traditional Muslim society.” So states the translator’s foreword to this collection of the Egyptian author’s best short stories. Rifaat (1930-1996) did not go to university, spoke only Arabic, and seldom traveled abroad. This virtual immunity from Western influence lends a special authenticity to her direct yet sincere accounts of death, sexual fulfillment, the lives of women in purdah, and the frustrations of everyday life in a male-dominated Islamic environment.  Translated from the Arabic by Denys Johnson-Davies, the collection admits the reader into a hidden private world, regulated by the call of the mosque, but often full of profound anguish and personal isolation. Badriyya’s despariting anger at her deceitful husband, for example, or the hauntingly melancholy of “At the Time of the Jasmine,” are treated with a sensitivity to the discipline and order of Islam.
4. The Joys of Motherhood by Buchi Emecheta
Nnu Ego is a woman who gives all her energy, money and everything she has to raising her children – leaving her little time to make friends.

802135. Anthills of the Savannah by Chinua Achebe
Chris, Ikem and Beatrice are like-minded friends working under the military regime of His Excellency, the Sandhurst-educated President of Kangan. In the pressurized atmosphere of oppression and intimidation they are simply trying to live and love – and remain friends. But in a world where each day brings a new betrayal, hope is hard to cling on to. Anthills of the Savannah (1987), Achebe’s candid vision of contemporary African politics, is a powerful fusion of angry voices. It continues the journey that Achebe began with his earlier novels, tracing the history of modern Africa through colonialism and beyond, and is a work ultimately filled with hope.

6. The Radiance of the King by Camara Laye
At the beginning of this masterpiece of African literature, Clarence, a white man, has been shipwrecked on the coast of Africa. Flush with self-importance, he demands to see the king, but the king has just left for the south of his realm. Traveling through an increasingly phantasmagoric landscape in the company of a beggar and two roguish boys, Clarence is gradually stripped of his pretensions, until he is sold to the royal harem as a slave. But in the end Clarence’s bewildering journey is the occasion of a revelation, as he discovers the image, both shameful and beautiful, of his own humanity in the alien splendor of the king.

7. Tropic Moon by Georges Simenon 139054
A young Frenchman, Joseph Timar, travels to Gabon carrying a letter of introduction from an influential uncle. He wants work experience; he wants to see the world. But in the oppressive heat and glare of the equator, Timar doesn’t know what to do with himself, and no one seems inclined to help except Adèle, the hotel owner’s wife, who takes him to bed one day and rebuffs him the next, leaving him sick with desire. But then, in the course of a single night, Adèle’s husband dies and a black servant is shot, and Timar is sure that Adèle is involved. He’ll cover for the crime if she’ll do what he wants. The fix is in. But Timar can’t even begin to imagine how deep.

8. Varieties of Exile by Mavis Gallant
Mavis Gallant is the modern master of what Henry James called the international story, the fine-grained evocation of the quandaries of people who must make their way in the world without any place to call their own. The irreducible complexity of the very idea of home is especially at issue in the stories Gallant has written about Montreal, where she was born, although she has lived in Paris for more than half a century.  Varieties of Exile, Russell Banks’s extensive new selection from Gallant’s work, demonstrates anew the remarkable reach of this writer’s singular art. Among its contents are three previously uncollected stories, as well as the celebrated semi-autobiographical sequence about Linnet Muir—stories that are wise, funny, and full of insight into the perils and promise of growing up and breaking loose.

Have you read any of these books?

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Fairlight Moderns: Emma Timpany and Sophie van Llewyn

I published reviews of three of the Fairlight Moderns novellas recently, and having now read the last two in the series of five, thought that I would post reviews of these too.

Travelling in the Dark by Emma Timpany **** 9781912054480
In Travelling in the Dark, Emma Timpany’s protagonist, Sarah, is travelling back to her native New Zealand from her home in England, accompanied by her young son.  Her husband has recently left her, and she is making the journey in order to show her son where she spent her own childhood, and to meet an old friend with whom she has a lot of history.

Travelling in the Dark begins in such a vivid manner, in prose which feels at once simplistic and engaging: ‘Sarah is on an aeroplane, crossing the night sky.  Her hands are folded in her lap.  Outside the window there is darkness.  She could slide the small, white window blind down, close out the night, but somehow she cannot bring herself to make this one small act.  The sense that she sometimes gets, that she must keep watching or she’ll miss something of importance, is intense, though she cannot see anything beyond the veil of ice crystals.  No stars, no satellites.  No planets.  No moon.  No radiant light from some far city.’  As one can tell from this snippet, Timpany’s descriptions are often quite lovely, particularly when she gives her attention to the natural world.

Every other chapter, which is interspersed between details of Sarah’s present day journey, are vignettes set during her childhood.  Such a sense of place and character can be found throughout Travelling in the Dark, and I so enjoyed Timpany’s writing that I am now waiting eagerly for her next publication.
Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn ****
9781912054305Bottled Goods is Sophie van Llewyn’s first piece of ‘long fiction’.  This novella begins in the Communist Romania of the 1960s, where, in the first scene, protagonist Alina is taken on a roadtrip with her cousins and Aunt Theresa.  Short chapters ensue, some of which are told using the voice of Alina, and others which use an omniscient narrator.  A few chapters consist largely of lists.

From the outset, Bottled Goods is vivid in its descriptions, and culturally and historically fascinating.  Van Llewyn does incredibly well to put across the terror and strength of the regime in such a succinct yet harrowing manner.  She demonstrates how quickly things escalated in the regime, and how far-reaching its effect was upon every Romanian citizen.  The use of magical realism works very well too, particularly given the point at which it is introduced; it is used in quite a serious way, so does not tend to lighten the tone of the novella at all, but it does make one think.  Van Llewyn’s blending of realism with the element of magical realism is rather inventive, and certainly makes for a strange, quirky, and memorable novella.

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‘Madame Solario’ by Gladys Huntington ***

It is rare that an unread Persephone in my possession stays that way for more than a week, but number 120, Gladys Huntington’s Madame Solario, has been sitting on my to-read shelf for over a year.  I have been looking for just the right kind of sultry summer’s day on which to read it, when I would be able to devote a whole day to becoming fully immersed in the novel.  I finally found it in late July, on an unusually beautiful and cloudless day in Scotland, and settled down with another beautifully designed Persephone novel.9781910263105

Huntington began to write Madame Solario in 1944, but only finished it after two of her short stories were published in The New Yorker.  The novel was eventually published anonymously in 1956, and Huntington’s name was surprisingly not revealed as its author until thirty years afterwards.  Madame Solario was a bestseller upon its publication, and has been made into a film.

Madame Solario is set during the month of September 1906, on the banks of Italy’s Lake Como.  Its beginning is sumptuous, and wonderfully sets the scene: ‘In the early years of the century, before the First World War, Cadenabbia on the Lake of Como was a fashionable resort for the month of September.  Its vogue was easy to explain.  There was the almost excessive beauty of the winding lake surrounded by mountains, the shores gemmed with golden-yellow villages and classical villas standing among cypress trees; and the head of the lake lay close to the routes that connected Italy with all the capitals of Western and Central Europe, yet Cadenabbia itself was difficult to reach, which was an added charm.  Long stretches of the lovely shore were without high road of any kind, and are arrived by the little steamboat that started at Como and shuttled back and forth across the lake, calling at one dreaming place after another in a journey of incredible slowness.  It was wonderful to arrive.  As no wheels ever passed, there were no sounds except human voices, the click of the peasants’ wooden pattens, and the lapping of waves.’  There is a strong sense of place throughout, and whilst not all of the descriptions are as breathtaking as the above, they have a layering to them which is fascinating to read.

It is in Cadenabbia, at the Hotel Bellevue, that young Englishman Bernard Middleton is spending the summer, between finishing his Oxford degree and being sent to work in his family’s bank in a northern English town.  Soon after Bernard’s arrival, a previous guest of the hotel, Madame Natalia Solario, comes back.  Throughout the novel, she is a mysterious being; others who are staying in the hotel, and who met her previously, are unable to pinpoint her nationality when asked.  Madame Solario is quick and impulsive, and Bernard is drawn to her immediately.

Huntington’s character descriptions are unusual, particularly when taking Madame Solario as her focus.  She writes: ‘In those days the great, equalising power of cosmetics and beautifying inventions had not yet been let loose, and Madame Solario’s complexion and colouring, and the arc of her eyebrows, and the wave of her hair… were not being counterfeited by everyone who wished; they were rare, like noble birth.  The high rank of her beauty had to be met with something of awe.’  Although Huntington tries to pull Madame Solario apart, layer by layer, she remains a shadowy and unknowable figure throughout; I felt little more familiar with her when the novel ended as I did at its beginning.  We are given clues and hints as to her past and a particular scandal which surrounds her as the novel goes on, but sometimes these raised more questions than the novel answers.  There is an almost oppressive feeling which comes when Huntington focuses so intently upon the emotions of her characters, particularly with regard to Madame Solario and Bernard.    Huntington does, however, have such an awareness of human character throughout; her insights are often profound and memorable ones.

Madame Solario is quite an unusual novel.  I felt rather detached from it throughout, and found the second section, which is largely occupied with recounting conversations between Madame Solario and her brother, Eugene Harden, too long and involved.  The second part of the novel, in fact, feels very different, both with regard to its tone and execution.  The sense of place, which is so beautifully depicted elsewhere, is almost forgotten during this rather lengthy section of the novel, and Bernard is entirely lost, with only a couple of nods to his character throughout.  This part was rather too drawn out; whilst the conversations were lengthy, not a lot was actually said, and it began to feel repetitive after a while.

Madame Solario is not at all a predictable read; I truly had no idea whatsoever regarding its direction.  As with Madame Solario herself, there is a quality of mystery about it.  Madame Solario is a cleverly constructed novel of identity, and what it means to be human.  I did find it problematic in places, and to me, it did not have the feel of a traditional Persephone novel.  Unfortunately, I never fully got into the story, or became entirely invested in any of its characters.  Whilst not my favourite of the Persephone list, it is still a story which I will likely be thinking about for a long time to come.

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One From the Archive: Two Favourite Contemporary Novels

First published in January 2017.

I have linked my relatively short reviews of Claire Fuller’s Swimming Lessons (2016) and Vendela Vida’s The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty (2015) for two reasons – firstly, I adored them both, and secondly, there is a very thin and tenuous thematic thread which links the two.

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller *****
“Gil’s wife, Ingrid has been missing, presumed drowned, for twelve years. A possible sighting brings their children, Nan and Flora, home. Together they begin to confront the mystery of their mother. Is Ingrid dead? Or did she leave? And do the letters hidden within Gil’s books hold the answer to the truth behind his marriage, a truth hidden from everyone including his own children?”
9780241252154
I very much enjoyed Fuller’s first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, and was very much looking forward to her second effort, Swimming Lessons.  I am pleased to report that I enjoyed it even more than her debut.  The plot very much appealed to me, and it was compelling from the outset.

Ingrid’s voice is rich and distinct; she has such agency.  The inclusion of her letters allows her to be present within the story despite not being visible in the physical world.  Each of the backstories which Fuller has created for her characters are just as vivid as their present; there is a wonderful sense of realism here.  The structure perfectly matches the plot, and the presence of the landscape is exquisite; it is always there, affecting the characters and, in part, being affected by them.  There is so much depth and emotion within Swimming Lessons, and so much to adore.

 

The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida *****
In Vendela Vida’s taut and mesmerizing novel of ideas, a woman travels to Casablanca, Morocco, on mysterious business. While checking into her hotel, the woman is robbed of her wallet and passport all of her money and identification. Stripped of her identity, she feels burdened by the crime yet strangely liberated by her sudden freedom to be anyone she wants to be.  Told with vibrant, lush detail and a wicked sense of humor, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is part literary mystery, part psychological thriller an unforgettable novel that explores free will, power, and a woman s right to choose not her past, perhaps not her present, but certainly her future.9780062110916

I have very much enjoyed Vendela Vida’s previous novels; they provide fantastic, intelligent escapism, which grips one from the beginning through to the end, and give realistic glimpses into vivid and vibrant places.  Her most recent effort, The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is no different, and the fact that Morocco is high on my travel list made me look forward to reading it even more.

The second person perspective was used masterfully throughout, and worked incredibly well.  The story itself is relatively simple on the whole, but it has a complexity all of its own.  The sense of unease which creeps in is almost unrecognisable at first, but – in part due to the narrative voice used – the reader becomes so invested within the story that its tension soon heightens.  Vida plays with the concepts of identity and loss in her tautly written novel, which has been extremely well paced.  Little clues are left along the way, but one never quite guesses what will happen next.  The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty is a whirlwind of a novel, which begs for compulsive reading, and which deserves a far wider readership than it seems to have currently.

 

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