Books editor Orna Mulcahy on literary stars and new talent …
Powerfully drawn to the work of famous artist, L, a woman invites him to stay at the retreat she and her husband Tony have built on their coastal farm where the light is particularly lovely. L duly arrives with a guest of his own, leggy insufferable Brett, and both soon entwine themselves in the lives of the main house where daughter Justine and her boyfriend Kurt are entranced by the new arrivals. SECOND PLACE, Rachel Cusk’s latest novel (Faber, €17.60) is possibly set, though it’s never clear, in pandemic recessionary times and L, in fact, has nowhere else to go. Shifty, insightful and spiteful, he reduces the family members to willing bit parts in his own grandiose story. Fans of Cusk’s Outline Trilogy will find the same sparse prose and knife-sharp observations on relationships, ego and self-delusion. I loved it.
Deborah Levy’s REAL ESTATE, (Hamish Hamilton, €12.90), the latest in her series of memoirs, is a marvellous meander around the properties Levy has loved, lived in and dreamed of – her writing huts, her London flat, an “empty nest” apartment in Montmartre, a mysterious grand house by the sea. It’s also a meditation on what it is to be writer finally free of old ties, needing just a room in which to create art that is a kind of real estate to bequeath.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s WHEREABOUTS (Bloomsbury, €17.60), was originally written in Italian by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer who moved to Rome to immerse herself in the language. Having trained herself to think in Italian, Lahiri then translated the book into English for publication. The narrator, a solitary woman in middle age lives in an unnamed Italian city where she observes all around her, guards her privacy and idly contemplates starting an affair with her best friend’s husband. Beautifully written but I ended up disliking her just a little.
Having scooped the Women’s Prize for Fiction with her debut, The Glorious Heresies, and further accolades for its sequel, The Blood Miracles, Lisa McInerney is back with THE RULES OF REVELATION (John Murray, €16.44), a belting read of drink, drugs, music and finally getting to grips with the past.
BOYS DON ’T CRY (Faber, €15.20), is a fine debut novel from primary school teacher Fiona Scarlett in which 17-year-old Joe makes sure his baby brother Finn gets to see life outside their tower block flat. When Finn falls ill, it’s down to Joe to keep his spirits up in beautiful and unexpected ways. Whatever about boys, this book will make you cry.
I escaped reality for a while with MURDER TAKES A HOLIDAY, (Profile Books, €8.99) a collection of classic crime stories for summer by Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh and Arthur Conan Doyle and others with pages of very satisfactory detective work carried out on a Cornish beach, on an African safari and in a London drawing room.
It’s summertime too in THE BEAUTY OF IMPOSSIBLE THINGS (Corvus, €15.20), Rachel Donohue’s follow up to her best-selling debut, The Temple House Vanishing. Natasha is led through therapy to a summer of long ago when she lived with her beautiful artistic mother in an elegant house overlooking a seaside town. Strange things begin to happen when Natasha realises she has can foretell the future but it doesn’t help her to rescue those she loves.
Noreen and her friend Therese are stranded in a grim Tunisian resort where it doesn’t stop raining; Eithne and Sandy set out across Ireland to scatter some precious ashes; landscape gardener Aiden rubs soil into the bedsheets of a woman he has history with: Louise Kennedy’s collection of short stories THE END OF THE WORLD IS A CUL-DE-SAC (Bloomsbury, €17.60) is both bitter and brilliant with characters that leap from the page and hang around in the mind. @OrnaMulcahy
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