November Picks

Strout, Elizabeth (2022) Lucy by the Sea. Viking.

It is March 2020 and Covid has struck New York. Lucy Barton’s ex-husband William pleads with her to go into isolation with him in Maine, where he has rented a house. As the months go by Lucy and William learn to live together again. The quiet rhythm of life by the seaside is at odds with pandemic pathos, and the changing social and political landscape in the US. This is not the same Lucy we met in Strout’s earlier novels but Lucy’s ongoing personal conflict and emotional disconnection means the story retains all the compassion of the previous narratives. An astute and intimate novel full of nuance and honesty. A joy.

Rating: 5/5

Norton, Graham (2022) Forever Home. Coronet.

Carol’s private life has captivated her quiet Irish town. When her much older lover becomes ill she is forced to leave their beloved home at number seven Stable Row as his alienated and unsympathetic children want to sell it. Unwilling to see their daughter homeless her parents buy the home and as they begin renovations the house exposes a dark secret. What follows is a crime caper as Carol and her intrepid mother seek to find a solution to their gruesome find. This comedic domestic drama has multiple storylines from humiliation and manipulation, the intricacies of family relationships, childhood trauma, the mystery of a disappearing wife, the devastation of alzheimers, to becoming an adult. Some emotional stuff here but no tidy answers.

Rating: 3/5

Chambers, Clare (2022) Intact: A Defence of the Unmodified Body. Allen Lane.

We are constantly under pressure to change our bodies, challenged by today’s curations of ‘beauty’. Whilst perfection is unattainable that has not stopped us from enhancements, alterations and concealments. Political philosopher Clare Chambers defends the unmodified body as a political principle to help us resist the refrain that our bodies are never good enough. Whilst the principle of the unmodified body does not rule out modification, it does however ask us to reflect on the reasons for modification, especially if the action is shaped in reaction to social status or acceptance. The body can becomes an oppressive place where the hierarchies of sex, gender, race, age and disability are reinforced. An academic celebration of body positivity and individuality.

Rating: 4/5

Dicker, Joël (2022) The Enigma of Room 622. Maclehose Press.

Swiss novelist, also named Joël Dicker, is perplexed by a missing room number at a Swiss hotel and sets about solving the mystery of a murder in the hotel room. The backstory is a crime that occurred when the new president of a private Geneva bank is about to be announced. The fight for the top job, and a woman, is at the heart of this confused and twisty 500 page tale. Flawed, implausible and tortuous. Disappointing read from the author The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair.

Rating: 2/5

Disher, Garry (2022) Day’s End. Text Publishing.

When Janne Van Sant’s backpacker son goes missing Senior Constable Paul Hirschhausen (Hirsch), from the Tiverton police station, is on the case leading him to a roadside body in suitcase and an alt-right military group. Hirsch’s rural beat is wide and in his fourth outing, during Covid, once again we see him dealing with problems that beset small communities, from the social to the domestic, in an environment where criminals often seek to hide. Exciting and unputdownable. Superb read.

Rating: 5/5

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