This installment: cozy domestic island novel, a dystopian world through a teenager’s eyes, and a novel in which literature and journalism go head to head.
Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Another book in the cozy domestic category which provides immediate escape for me. A large cast of characters in this Irish Catholic family with chilly, once beautiful, aging matriarch Alice, her three grown children and their broods, and the beloved summer home they discover, with horror, that she's giving to the church after her death. Each subset has its own problems (infidelity, unwed pregnancy, homosexuality, etc.). The participants are well-drawn and eventually we discover the secret that warped Alice early on. A good read.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
These days we talk a lot about weird weather, a result of climate change, but what if something affected time as well with equally disastrous results? That's the theme of this novel, narrated by 12 year old Julia. The title refers to adolescence with its great changes, often for the better. But as regular circadian rhythms wobble drastically off course, tensions abound and societal structures crumble, along with agricultural chaos and subsequent shortages. The majority "adjust," following clock time which bears little relation to patterns of light and dark, and others rebel and form alternative but equally stressed compounds. Technology tries to fill in but it's a losing proposition. Seeing it through Julia's young eyes is an excellent device for immediacy and freshness--no preaching here. Arresting and thought-provoking.
The Spoiler by Annalena McAfee
It's an awkward, unpleasant pairing: old principled journalist Honor and young, ambitious journalist Tamara, who hopes this interview for a British magazine will launch her career. At first Honor won't give an inch, just quoting old stories, but Tamara wants human interest which she tries to glean by digging up celebrity contacts and dirt. But Honor needs the publicity to launch her last book. There's wicked humor, especially with Tamara's cluelessness about relatively recent history and all the jockeying and infighting in the publishing field. Ultimately both get what they need, though the cost is huge. A combination of funny and sad, which I find quite tasty.
Back next Monday (I know it'll be Xmas Eve but the books don't go on holiday...)