'The Shock of the Fall' by Nathan Filer won the Costa Book prize recently, and for a debut novel, it really is excellent. Matthew narrates an account of his descent into mental illness caused by a great loss. That may sound incredibly depressing, and while it is bleak and sad, it is also very warm, funny and filled with believable characters. It is very contemporary and Filer, who was a mental health nurse, writes with confidence about that world and the effect that cuts in services are having on vulnerable people like Matthew. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, my book club unanimously loved it, a rare occurance!
'The Great Lover' by Jill Dawson has been sitting on my shelf for a while now and I did enjoy it. The book is a fictional account of Rupert Brook and his time staying in Grantchester just before the Great War and the effect he has on a young maid, Nell. Dawson has obviously researched the subject meticulously and the whole 'fin-de-siècle' atmosphere is captured perfectly. I felt inspired to re-read my collection of Brook's poems afterwards.
'Midwives' by Chris Bohjalian is another book that has been on my shelf for quite a while. Sibyl is a midwife working, often against the wishes of the health authorities, in Vermont. A birth she is attending goes tragically wrong and this novel charts the effect on her family and community. I enjoyed the characterisation in the novel, particularly Sibyl's teenage daughter, and I couldn't really predict the ending. In a country where birth is so medicalised due to omnipresent fears of litigation, Sibyl's plight is entirely believable and will have you thanking the NHS for the midwifery-led services we ( on the whole ) enjoy in this country.
'Bedsit Disco Queen' by Tracey Thorn is a highly enjoyable ( for us a certain age) account of Thorn's life as a pop star. She writes in the same style she sings, wry, dryly humorous and understated. She comes across as an honest, intelligent woman who finds herself in the middle of a crazy time as one part of the successful duo, 'Everything But The Girl'. This autobiography is a complete contrast to the Morrissey book, but I enjoyed both.
'Sweet Tooth' by Ian McEwan is a highly intelligent novel, post-modern and a delight for lovers of literature. It is set in the 1970s and Serena Frome graduates from Cambridge, is recruited by MI5 and is given a mission, to recruit a novelist. This doesn't go entirely to plan as Serena falls in love with her quarry. The atmosphere of London in the 70s is captured perfectly and I did enjoy McEwan's writing, as I always do. His are never 'easy reads' but I like books that make me think...once in a awhile!