Story gifts for early 2017

This is a summary of books I’ve already read and reviewed that are due to be published in 2017:

Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller Published on 7th February 2017 by Tin House Books

Majestic, almost poetic prose, this story is told in the form of a present day narrative, and through the letters written by Ingrid in the past, inserted into the books around the house. These letters are the story of her marriage, and it is the mysterious relationship between Ingrid and Gil that weaves throughout time. At first we meet Gil who is the distant but present father to Flora and Nan, but through the letters we know that Ingrid has endured a period where Gil was missing from family life. It is this enigmatic tale of their love that is the essence of Swimming Lessons.

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan Published on 21st February by William Morrow

A beautiful meandering, twirling Viennese waltz through not only the end of the life of Anthony Peardew, but of the people who have lost ‘things’. The elegant prose introduces us to characters struggling with the enduring pain of personal loss, the yearning to overcome that loss, the dignified, delicate and humble manner by which it is sought. The author has created a garden of delights out of death, divorce and disaster.

Anthony lives every day with the ghost of Therese, the woman who should have become his wife – his beautiful rose garden his promise to Therese, a compensatory move to assuage the pain of losing his precious trinket on the day she died. His housekeeper Laura is pained by a disappointing life, but secretly admires Freddy the unreachable gardener. They in turn are beautifully assaulted by the friendship of Sunshine, and together with them, the reader is woven into this story where all characters are intertwined.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr Published on 12th January by Penguin

Immersive YA fiction that transports you not only to Penzance, but to the scared, unstable every day life of Flora – a seventeen year old girl with anterograde amnesia. Written in such a way to induce the panic of memory loss, the reader feels Flora trying to be brave, and the reader too hangs on to her one memory as if to try and break through the barrier and the limitations of her condition. Flora is surprised in various moments to find she is not ten years old, to find her own reflection, to find she has a brother, and to find her notes to herself. As a reader you become increasingly concerned for her – the time loss, the incoherent thoughts, the words on her arms, the youth and innocence of her bravery.

All is not straightforward. Flora’s parents have a secret. They tell lies. Who can she trust? She has a best friend but she has abandoned her and Flora knows why. Other people know her name when sometimes even she does not. Notes are all over the house telling Flora what she must do, but she has other ideas which she keeps writing down.

This is an amazing affecting story, a book feast of emotions which are compelling and pressing. I made the mistake of putting this book down to sleep and it pervaded my dreams.

Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney Published on 17th January by St. Martin’s Press

Sassy Lillian Boxfish hasn’t worked for R. H. Macy in 25 years but she still loves New York and the life it breathes into her. Elegant, possibly ever so slightly eccentric, she sets off on a before-dinner walk to work up a new appetite after unconsciously consuming an entire packet of Oreo’s whilst on the phone to her son. We’ve all been there! In fact Oreo’s crop up several times as the devil’s own work, and this firmly roots Ms Boxfish in the present day setting of 1984. The walk takes us on a trip down memory lane, to the New York of the 1930s, a different era, a different world. Told in Lillian’s own voice this narrative of an ageing and beautiful retro-perspective is written beautifully and eloquently with the ease of injection of colour and textures, but mostly people and the New York community. Ingenius phrasing, golden nuggets of insightfulness, it’s easy to conjur Lillian and I for one adore her.  Truly beautiful literary fiction.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read all of these books in advance of their publication dates.

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