Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline
The blurb – of which this is a précis – intrigued me. Especially when I read that the novel was inspired by traditional Metis legend. A novel, I hoped, to educate and entertain. Alas, even as a metaphor for the colonisation of the minds and bodies of indigenous people, I couldn’t take the rogarou seriously. It’s too close to a werewolf for me.
Thanks, and apologies, to publishers Weidenfeld & Nicolson for my review copy. A highly praised novel – one of the most anticipated books of the year for several magazines – that didn’t work for me.
The Exile and the Mapmaker by Emma Musty
When Theo’s increasing fragility forces Elise to move back to her childhood home, Nebay’s arrival as a daytime carer saves her sanity, and her job. But there’s a huge conflict between her role in the UK Borders Agency and the man she relies on at home. Then there’s her father’s obsession with a woman in a photo; it’s not Elise’s mother, so who is she?
This is a heartfelt debut about the cruelties of dementia and Britain’s response to refugees, founded in the author’s activism in Calais and Athens. It’s also about love and loss and the enduring impact of trauma, from which I learnt a little more about Algeria’s tangled history with colonial France. Thanks to publishers Legend Press for my review copy.
Suiza by Bénédicte Belpois translated by Alison Anderson
Tomas’ lust gets the better of him, as he drags her from the bar and rapes her. Then he takes her home.
Unlikely as it sounds, tenderness develops between the two damaged people, each somehow compensating for the other’s deficiencies. But as their relationship becomes respected within the community, Tomas’ health deteriorates. How will the fragile Suiza manage if he dies?
It’s hard to elicit sympathy for a rapist, yet somehow Bénédicte Belpois achieves this in her debut novel. The voice helps – I loved it from the beginning – and the author’s deep compassion for her characters, however deeply flawed. Although I’m sure I’d have little sympathy for Tomas if I met him, this unusual and poignant novel is a contender for my favourite reads of the year. Thanks to publishers Europa editions for my review copy.
My own second novel is also about a man whose actions are repulsive; unfortunately, Steve gets more reprehensible – albeit perhaps more interesting – as the novel develops. Click on the image below to find out more.
I’ve continued the theme of love and loss into my 99-word story in response to this week’s flash fiction challenge prompt: feathers. Let me know what you think.
She didn’t need to go elsewhere to meet him. He was threaded through the fabric of their home. His hatred of spaghetti in the kitchen. His favourite artist down the hall.
She found mementos everywhere. Gifts bestowed to cheer her day. Chocolate in the cutlery drawer. Photos in the airing cupboard. A curled feather where she laid her head to sleep.
Every Valentine’s, a peacock plume. Sufficient now to clothe a taxidermy bird.
She stores these new ones, small and grey, with her jewellery. She doesn’t grasp her pillow’s leaking stuffing. She needs his greetings from beyond the grave.