Orna Mulcahy has books to transport you to sunny places, and some very dark ones too …
An idyllic villa by the sea in the south of France is the setting for much of VOYEUR (Tinder Press, €17.20) a smart debut novel from Francesca Reece in which beautiful but aimless Leah is hired as an assistant by bitter, blocked writer Michael who is stunned by her resemblance to his first love Astrid. Reinvigorated by her presence, he entrusts his old diaries to her to transcribe but it emerges that jazz singer Astrid was the true talent of the pair, making her disappearance in Athens decades ago all the more mysterious. Leah pieces together the mystery in between copious amounts of sunbathing and sex with a handsome neighbour.
The fluffy cloud blue sea cover for DEVORGILLA DAYS (Two Roads, €19.50) suggests a timid rural romance but this real-life story has a lot of grit: author Kathleen Hart finds her life of relative luxury wiped out by bouts of cancer and endless operations that leave her scarred, divorced and with just enough money to buy a leaky cottage in remote Scotland. She kits the house out from the community charity shop, takes daily sea swims and joins every local activity possible from knitting to beekeeping. Sounds too parochial for words? In fact Hart has built up a huge following on Instagram where, as @poshpedlar, she pairs beautiful images with uplifting quotations. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Philip Ó Ceallaigh’s book of short stories TROUBLE (The Stinging Fly, €15) deals with themes of displacement, loss and madness. An apartment purged of an old man’s letters and books is briefly beautiful until a girlfriend fills it to bursting point with her clothes and shoes; a man shoots a barking dog, and then an angry man, from his balcony, accepting a nod of thanks from the man’s wife down below: Ó Ceallaigh’s skill is in making one read on through bleak but completely believable tales.
We know from Daisy Jones and The Six that American writer Taylor Jenkins Reid can deliver a page-turner and her latest novel MALIBU RISING (Hutchinson, €14.99) is even better. It’s California, 1983, and the stunning, talented Riva siblings live for surfing, for each other and the memory of their late alcoholic mother who was abandoned by their famous father. When Nina Riva hosts one of her famously wild end-of-summer parties at her clifftop mansion, the scene is set for incendiary events. If you’ve a beach to go to, take this.
Ed O’Loughlin’s THIS EDEN (Riverrun, €19.50) zips from Vancouver to Palo Alto to Belfast to New York, as struggling engineer Michael Atarian grapples with the loss of his coder girlfriend and soon finds himself on the run from a shady billionaire. O’Loughlin’s debut novel, Not Untrue and Not Unkind was longlisted for the Man Booker prize in 2009.
In Liza Costello’s THE ESTATE (Hachette, €16) freelancer Beth is persuaded by new boyfriend Jason to house-sit in a semi-ghost estate far from Dublin so they can save money. But as Jason goes to work in Dublin, Beth finds herself hitting the bottle as the estate’s suffocating atmosphere settles around her. No one is prepared for what happens when a neighbour finally flips. Costello creates a brilliantly creepy world in a cul-de-sac.
Creepier still is Karen Perry’s STRANGER (Michael Joseph €12.99) which presents the perfect family of high-flying Abi and house-husband Mark parenting two teenage daughters. Eva is self-aware with a thing for the dad next door. Fifteen-year-old Beth has issues at school, but French exchange student Corinne proves a fun, fearless friend. The pair swap their deepest secrets, and when the family holidays in France with Corinne’s boho parents, they are bound together on a terrifying trajectory. Gripping from grisly start to finish.
Hitler won the war in CJ Carey’s WIDOWLAND (Quercus, €17.24) set soon after in a drab London riddled with spies and Wallis Simpson as queen. High-ranking Rose has a a coveted job, rewriting classic English novels in line with the Great Leader’s thinking, but when she discovers a plot to topple the leader, she finds herself with the means to change the course of history. @OrnaMulcahy
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