This installment: expats in Trinidad; comic, homey memoir; stories placed in Jamaica; domestic English satire; chilling early mystery by Gillian Flynn; and a charming British mystery;
The White Woman on the Green Bicycle by Monique Roffey
In Trinidad, Sabine from France is not doing well. Of late middle age, she's discontent and her English husband George is more and more absent. At 75 he's a freelance journalist and still a cocksman. When they first arrived on "temporary assignment" she used to pedal around town, a shocking sight. Now her children are grown, and her grandchildren mixed-race--they can move from King's English to patois in a heartbeat. She feels trapped and hopeless but is galvanized politically at the end. In the course of the story, we learn lots about the sorry politics of the island. Very arresting.
Apron Anxiety by Alyssa Shelasky
Subtitled My Messy Affairs in and out of the Kitchen. With recipes, too. I exactly didn't love her but am sharing this book because it's in the "diversion" category, and Lord knows we can all periodically use some. A charmed life you'd think--glamorous jobs in journalism but still single at 30. Along comes a charming, handsome celebrity chef and she moves to DC to be with him where she finds herself bored and at sea. He's up to his ears starting a restaurant. So out of desperation she learns to cook. Eventually the center will not hold and she's back in NYC, doing just fine again, but with this new skill as well. So a kind of fairy tale that doesn't turn out neatly but entertaining enough to give it a whirl.
By Love Possessed by Lorna Goodison
Short stories, mostly set in Jamaica. Lively, charming, full of ripe characterizations and local vernacular. Lots of bad deals: folks unlucky in love, in work (or lack of it), orphaned, and betrayed, but buoyancy and wit leaven the hard times. The last story, a first person chronicle of a singer worthy of Piaf in terms of poignancy, is a particularly uplifting tale. It’s titled “I Come Through,” and that phrase applies to the tenor of the writing and the subjects. Highly recommended.
Denting the Bosch by Teresa Link
When Adele learns that her husband Drew has no intention of leaving San Diego as promised, she explodes and hurls a mug at their expensive Bosch dishwasher. That explains the mysterious title. At first the three couples featured seem pretty solid in their prosperous middle age but soon each relationship unravels—midlife crises gone viral. The husbands are philanderers, the wives are frustrated, and their bastions of apparent affection and habit prove flimsy. (Hence three sections: Straw, Sticks, and Bricks. But the last serve as more as missiles than shelter, metaphorically). The wives take a crazy trip to British Columbia where even more goes wrong. And when they return they discover their financial security is eroded—oh those Ponzi schemes. Wicked satire and rueful revelations.
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
The Day family is greatly reduced after the mother and two sisters are slaughtered and the son is in jail for that act, in part through the testimony of 7 year old Lily who fled when it took place. Lily’s life two decades later is constrained and haunted. She needs money, though, and an odd club that explores lurid crimes pays for her presence and memorabilia. Many believe her brother was wrongly accused, and she ends up pursuing new evidence. Dark places indeed, and very little redemption for the remaining members of this benighted family. Incredible suspense and fascinating characterizations—no glamour or tidy endings here, which is refreshing if chilling.
The Corpse on the Court by Simon Brett
I got to know this British mystery writer through his Charles Paris detective series which focuses on theater with lots of inside lore and wit. This is the latest in his Fethering mysteries, which feature amateur detectives Jude and her friend and neighbor Carole. The latter is dry and self-contained (except for her beloved dog); the former emotional and eccentric. The setting: small-town Sussex. The court refers to “real tennis,” an archaic sport, which Jude’s new lover Piers plays. The ladies do their sleuthing after a few bodies appear. It’s Agatha Christie-like with a contemporary twist, and lots of fun to read.
Back next Monday