I wasn’t overly taken with the ending of Clare Mackintosh’s After the End, which marks a departure from her successful thriller-writing career. However, it posed a lot of interesting questions and scenarios, and I know that I will be thinking about it for some time to come. I have therefore chosen it as the starting point for this edition of The Book Trail. As ever, I have used the ‘Readers Also Enjoyed’ tool on Goodreads in order to generate this list.
1. After the End by Clare Mackintosh
‘Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son. What if they could have both? A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.’
2. Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline
‘From the New York Times-bestselling author comes a pulse-pounding domestic thriller about a group of friends who have been bound for twenty years by a single secret—and will now be undone by it. Someone Knows is an emotional exploration of friendship and family, as well as a psychological exploration of guilt and memory. Twenty years ago, in an upscale suburb of Philadelphia, four teenagers spent a summer as closest friends: drinking, sharing secrets, testing boundaries. When a new boy looked to join them, they decided to pull a prank on him, convincing him to play Russian roulette as an initiation into their group. They secretly planned to leave the gun unloaded—but what happened next would change each of them forever. Now three of the four reunite for the first time since that horrible summer. The guilt—and the lingering question about who loaded the gun—drove them apart. But after one of the group apparently commits suicide with a gun, their old secrets come roaring back. One of them is going to figure out if the new suicide is what it seems, and if it connects to the events of that long-ago summer. Someone knows exactly what happened—but who? And how far will they go to keep their secrets buried?
3. The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins
‘FOR SALE: A lovely family home with good-sized garden and treehouse occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog walkers… And, it seems, the perfect hunting ground for a serial killer… On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. Besides, they’d got the house at a steal and he was convinced he could flip it for a fortune. The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception. After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer – quickly.’
4. Jerzy: A Novel by Jerome Charyn
‘Jerzy Kosinski was a great enigma of post-WWII literature. When he exploded onto the American literary scene in 1965 with his best-selling novel The Painted Bird, he was revered as a Holocaust survivor and refugee from the world hidden behind the Soviet Iron Curtain. He won major literary awards, befriended actor Peter Sellers, who appeared in the screen adaptation of his novel Being There, and was a guest on talk shows and at the Oscars. But soon the facade began to crack, and behind the public persona emerged a ruthless social climber, sexual libertine, and pathological liar who may have plagiarized his greatest works. Jerome Charyn lends his unmistakable style to this most American story of personal disintegration, told through the voices of multiple narrators—a homicidal actor, a dominatrix, and Joseph Stalin’s daughter—who each provide insights into the shifting facets of Kosinski’s personality. The story unfolds like a Russian nesting doll, eventually revealing the lost child beneath layers of trauma, while touching on the nature of authenticity, the atrocities of WWII, the allure of sadomasochism, and the fickleness of celebrity.’
5. Fatal Inheritance by Rachel Rhys
‘1948: Eve Forrester is trapped in a loveless marriage, in a gloomy house, in a grey London suburb. Then, out of the blue, she receives a solicitor’s letter. A wealthy stranger has left her a mystery inheritance. And to find out more, she must travel to the glittering French Riviera. There Eve discovers that her legacy is an enchanting pale pink villa overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Suddenly her life could not be more glamorous. But while she rubs shoulders with film-stars and famous writers, under the heat of the golden sun, rivals to her unexplained fortune begin to emerge. Rivals who want her out of the way. Alone in this beguiling paradise, Eve must unlock the story behind her surprise bequest – before events turn deadly . . . Reminiscent of a Golden Age mystery, Fatal Inheritance is an intoxicating story of dysfunctional families and long-hidden secrets, set against the razzle-dazzle and decadence of the French Riviera.’
6. A Fence Around the Cuckoo by Ruth Park
‘This first volume of Ruth Park’s autobiography is an account of her isolated childhood in the rainforests of New Zealand, her convent education which encouraged her love of words and writing, and the bitter years of the Depression.She then entered the rough-and-tumble world of journalism and began a reluctant correspondence with a young Australian writer. In 1942, Park moved to Sydney and married that writer, D’Arcy Niland. There she would write The Harp in the South, the first of her classic Australian novels. A Fence Around the Cuckoo is the story of one of Australia’s best storytellers and how she learnt her craft.’
7. The Shiralee by D’Arcy Niland
‘A shiralee is a swag, a burden, a bloody millstone – and that’s what four-year-old Buster is to her father, Macauley. He takes the child on the road with him to spite his wife, but months pass and still no word comes to ask for the little girl back. Strangers to each other at first, father and daughter drift aimlessly through the dusty towns of Australia, sleeping rough and relying on odd jobs for food and money. Buster’s resilience and trust slowly erode Macauley’s resentment, and when he’s finally able to get rid of her, he realises he can’t let his shiralee go. In evocative prose that vividly conjures images of rural Australia, The Shiralee reveal an understanding of the paradoxical nature of the burdens we carry, creates a moving portrait of fatherhood, told with gruff humour and a gentle pathos.’
8. It’s Raining in Mango by Thea Astley
‘Like a deal of Astley’s fiction, It’s Raining in Mango is set in north Queensland, an inhospitable locale in many ways but one which the Laffey family of Mango find compelling and to which they are drawn back after their half-hearted forays into urban life. The book is written in the saga form, spanning four generations from 1861 to the mid-1980s, though the path from past to present is neither straight nor defined. It is, rather, a broader and interwoven series of relationships in which the generations of the past continue to inform the present and all meld in the land and landscape. As Connie Laffey puts it: ‘So closely meshed all of us, the nature of our closeness bound up with this place. With family.’ The novel opens in the early 1980s with Connie Lafey and her middle-aged son, Reever, protesting against development which is decimating to the rainforest in the Mango area. Connie, anxious about Reever’s safety—he has chained himself fifty feet up a celerywood tree—heads off to find help when she falls and concusses herself. The attendant delirium is the starting point for the narrative saga as the past and present converge in Connie’s reverie. The narrative transports us back in time to the first generation of immigrants and the courtship and marriage of Cornelius Laffey and Jessica Olive in 1861.’
Have you read any of these books? Which of them pique your interest?