The link is often tenuous when I pair my reviews. But, even when there’s a common theme, it’s unusual for a four-sentence summary to serve both. Heck, even the covers match! Yet, while both brilliant debuts, these are very different novels: the first a near-future cli-fi dystopia; the second a historical novel set at the end of the American Civil War. Read on to see which you’ll pick up first!
The Hush by EA Mylonas
Inspired Quill, my publisher, has published only one book this year. But wow, what a book! The bleakness of the narrative is redeemed by its real-world relevance and powerful prose. Beautifully crafted, it’s an intelligent debut about the climate crisis, communication breakdown and how society sleepwalks towards totalitarian regimes. One of my favourite reads of the year.
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
Landowner George had bad news that morning and hasn’t yet dared tell his wife. Meeting the brothers gives him the idea for a project that might ease his pain.
When the three men begin clearing a field to grow peanuts, the neighbours aren’t pleased. Ted, the owner of Majesty’s Palace, still regards the brothers as his property, while the townsfolk can’t understand why George would pay them a decent wage when white men are begging on returning from war.
When Landry sees something he shouldn’t, tempers flare. The new friends discover the limits to how far they can safely disturb the status quo.
While I have read several novels about the victims of the transatlantic slave trade, this is only the second I’ve read – apart from Wide Sargasso Sea – addressing the immediate impact of emancipation. With a deep empathy for his characters and luscious prose, Nathan Harris’s debut novel is one to cherish. Another to add to my favourites list.
The prompt for this week’s flash fiction challenge is for the water, so I knew straightaway I would post it with these reviews. But what to write about? Should I honour Landry whose water obsession cost him dearly or the teacher and farmer whose fields had run dry? But my Muse – a.k.a. the fields where I walk most mornings – led me towards the people suffering most from the climate emergency just keeping their heads above water in the floods that have devastated Pakistan.
My youngest shits brown liquid into the – what can I call it? – lake, ocean, once-was fertile fields. Back in the village, he ran on chubby legs. Now, flopped in my arms, he whimpers, speaks only with his eyes. "You prayed for rain, Mama. Did you pray too hard?"
Forgetting her thirst, my youngest seeks happy endings in the clouds. Yesterday, she conjured a helicopter but where, amid the mass of makeshift shelters, could it land? Today she wants a bucket. Or a pan. "Allah is merciful," she says. She proffers the cooking pot for the water He’ll surely send.