The long and the short of it – Orna Mulcahy chooses seven books to read this month including Hanya Yanagihara’s long-awaited third novel, To Paradise …
Following her agonising 2016 blockbuster, A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara’s long-awaited third novel is here. TO PARADISE (Picador, €23.50) is set in three different versions of America, bound together in another huge read that runs to over 700 pages. It opens in a utopian version of 1890s New York, then moves forward to 1993 Manhattan – in a city overwhelmed by the AIDS epidemic – with the final instalment set in 2093, in a world riddled with disease and governed by totalitarian rule. Yanagihara is expert at lending beauty to sheer awfulness and pain and readers will find the same intimacy among friends in these richly detailed stories, each of which would make a satisfying novel in itself.
Journalist and broadcaster Edel Coffey leaps into fiction with her superbly shocking BREAKING POINT (Sphere, €17.60) which grips from the get-go. Here we have beautiful talented doctor and parenting guru Susannah who has it all but is buckling under the pressure of doing it all against the clock. One hot morning she leaves her baby strapped into her car seat and ignores the car’s alarm as she attends to an urgent hospital case. Nothing could be worse, and soon her entire life is being pulled apart by the media in the run-up to a devastating trial in which working mothers everywhere will feel judged.
I flew through TIDES (Granta Books, €15.20), a fine debut novel from Canadian British writer Sara Freeman who chooses a shuttered beach resort as the setting for a bleak winter’s tale. Mara has fled her family having lost a child and taken liberties with her brother’s baby and is now penniless, living secretly in the attic of a wine shop where she has found a job. Her boss Simon is depressed – his wealthy wife having left with their child – and at first he doesn’t notice Mara’s threadbare existence, which involves bathing in freezing water and eating leftover cheese from the shop, but as their relationship deepens, over many bottles of wine, happiness seems possible. But Mara is fully aware of the ways life can trip you up and knows when it’s time to leave.
In Dana Spiotta’s WAYWARD (Virago, €16.45), another runaway wife, Sam Raymond, is driven almost crazy by menopausal hot flushes and sleep deprivation, not to mention fury at the election of Donald Trump. Fleeing her suburban existence which includes a difficult daughter and a sick mother, she buys a wreck of a house in upstate New York to renovate while she seeks to find herself again.
Spiotta, a writing professor at Syracuse University, has sometimes been compared to Claire Messud, whose latest book, A DREAM LIFE, (Tablo Publishing, €15.20) is set in Sydney in the early 1970s where Alice finds herself transported from a small New York apartment to a swanky residence on the shoreline thanks to her husband Teddy’s job. It’s just too much house to handle but when Simone Funk arrives to help out, she fits in a little too well with everyone in this slight but sunny domestic drama.
Belfast writer Jan Carson’s THE RAPTURES (Doubleday, €14.99) plunges the reader into the home of the Adgers, religious fanatics in smalltown Northern Ireland where EastEnders is banned and so are school trips to even remotely exciting places. Hannah yearns to be like the others at school, that is until her classmates start dying of a mysterious illness, and only she can talk to them after they have gone. It’s an unexpected page-turner with a heart.
I’m looking forward to Herve le Tellier’s thriller THE ANOMALY (Michael Joseph, €17.50) which became France’s biggest pandemic read, selling over a million copies. The 64-year-old author, a former maths teacher, describes the book as “experimental, bizarre and a little crazy”. An Air France flight goes through a terrifying bout of turbulence on a flight from Paris to New York, after which those on board discover they have been duplicated and have to confront their other selves. Sounds highly existential and enjoyable.
Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.