The Sweetness of Water Nathan Harris
This is a very powerful book, telling very moving stories from the end of the American civil war. It’s a slow-paced and moving story about lives affected by the freeing of slaves and the effect this has on whole communities. George and his wife Isabelle, the freed slaves they find living on their land, Prentiss and Landry, and the story of George and Isabelle’s son Caleb who is thought dead in the war but subsequently returns, are all characters that are explored in the book, with touching points for all of them. Their lives are interwoven and their interactions are sensitively explored, as the outside world gradually impacts on them and tragedy ensues.
Beautifully written, the story weaves its way around you and won’t let go, well worth spending time slowing down to savour it at a slow speed and take it all in
Songs in Ursa Major Emma Brodie
This is a lovely, touching piercing story of the folk and rock music scenes of the 1960s and 70s, with all the trials and tribulations of fame. The book is very evocative of the times it is set in, and Jane Quinn and her family are such strong characters at the heart of the book. There is much about fame, it's reality seen from the inside and out, and much about family honour and secrets.
The whole book is written with a gentle touch and an understanding eye, a wonderful book to get lost in on a summer evening, the characters linger on when you finish reading - love it.
The Giant Dark
I enjoyed this book very much, its unusual approach of third-person narration against a very personal story gives a very fresh feel to the narrative.
The story of Aida, unknowable pop star to her fans, a real person to her friends and family, is a fascinating one, as we see her real life differs from what her obsessive fans expect. Her relationship with an old flame rekindled is a catalyst for change in her life, and we see the consequences unfold before us.
It is a very moving book that explores some deep relationship issues between lovers and between family, with all the claustrophobia, despair and hope that these can bring.
The Promise by Damon Galgut
This distance of the narrative in this book is at odds with the intimacy of its subject matter, and this tension carries right through from the mother's death to the last family member, as the family slowly disintegrates.
The Swart family, white, privileged and wealthy, are first brought together by their mother's death, then drift and tear themselves apart over the years until not much is left. The language is rich and evocative, but the lives of the family are often empty and plagued with disappointments and grief that is implied rather than articulated.
I had a sense of stumbling into a world I didn't fully understand, but that made sense through the unshared pain of many characters. Haunting and thought-provoking in equal measure.
The Lonely Castle in the Mirror
I loved this slow-burn dissection of Japanese teen society, with its magical realism and fantasy strengths as a group of disaffected teenagers compete to make their own wish come true.
The descriptions of the teens, their back stories and their distress as they are excluded from mainstream society are very delicately and elaborately realised, and as the book moves towards the end it is destroying to reach the tender conclusion.
Direct and disturbing account of an England that is believably set in what might not be a too distant future.
Marti is a mixed race trans girl at the centre of the story, her story is tainted by love and violence and while the reader might have sympathy for her plight, she isn't that likeable a character, which helps stave off some of the true horror of the narrative.
If anything the book is trying to deal with just too many issues, with racism, homophobia, fascism, you name it. Jarring and insistent, the book gives a lot of food for thought and is a cautionary tale against where none of us want to end up.