Orna Mulcahy discovers dangerous men, dark deeds and a dazzling debut …
The valium, the vodka tonic in the bath, the Solpadeine, the grinding of teeth to the bone, the alcohol fumes breathing over her babies with
the bedtime stories … Sophie White chronicles it all in CORPSING, her own vivid story of self-harm, self-loathing and grief published by Tramp Press, €15. Tramp has an unerring eye for beautiful books and this is one. For anyone feeling flattened by life, this book could be your friend.
Stella Duffy knows how to tell a dark tale and in LULLABY BEACH, Virago hardback, €19.30, she intertwines the lives of two families in a cruel and brutal dance down three generations. Central to the story is Kitty, a retired district nurse who, though dead by page two, reveals the true story of her life in a cryptic set of dates that lead to a grim discovery in the walls of her beloved beach hut. Don’t expect a heart-warming, Call the Midwife-style finish but do expect brilliant plot twists and violence that’s all the more disturbing for being so occasional and almost casual.
Tipped as rising star in British fiction, Fiona Mozley’s debut novel Elnet was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and appeared in the Leaving Cert English paper in 2018. Her latest novel, HOT STEW, John Murray, €19.30, is set in London’s Soho, where a host of sharply drawn characters, from prostitutes to seeming pillars of society, come together as the foundations of the neighbourhood reveal unsavoury secrets.
Short reads are increasingly what we want and SIMPLE PASSION, Fitzcarraldo, €10.20, a 1991 novel by French writer Annie Ernaux, now translated by Tanya Leslie, (with a film version just released starring Laetitia Dosch) delivers a heart-rending story of a scorching love affair, down to the tiny details, in just 48 pages. It’s a little masterpiece.
Raw and raging with emotion, Megan Nolan’s debut novel ACTS OF DESPERATION, Jonathan Cape, €13.99, is a highly-strung story set in Dublin where it’s love at first sight when the narrator meets Ciaran, a tall fair Dane who slowly reveals himself to be an altogether darker creature as the couple spiral into an addictive, abasing relationship with a shocking end. Nolan’s knife-sharp scrutiny of the need to love and be loved, and her short staccato chapters make this an unstoppable read. I could not put it down.
What did Sylvia Plath, Liza Minnelli and Joan Didion have in common? They all stayed at The Barbizon, a female-only hotel built in the Roaring Twenties in New York. Men were only barred from its 688 pink-painted bedrooms though many tried down the decades, dressing up as plumbers and on-call gynaecologists, according to historian Paulina Bren, who, in THE BARBIZON: THE HOTEL THAT SET WOMEN FREE, Simon & Schuster, €28.40, recalls the heyday of the hotel when Grace Kelly danced topless down its corridors.
The cloud of Covid makes A MATTER OF DEATH AND LIFE, Piatkus, €19.30, all the more poignant and relevant as husband and wife Irvin Yalom and Marilyn Yalom – a psychiatrist and a writer – take a chapter each to describe their long married life together and the difficult choices they face as serious illness looms.
Finally, political nerds and snobs everywhere will love HENRY ‘CHIPS ’ CHANNON, The Diaries 1918- 38, Hutchinson, €39.80. Previously heavily edited, these are the original unexpurgated diaries of Henry Channing, American-born Tory MP and notorious social climber and gossip who was a close friend of Wallis Simpson and who married the brewing heiress Lady Honor Guinness. It is going to be good.
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