The Lobster’s Shell by Caroline Albertine Minor translated by Caroline Waight
Danish siblings Ea, Sidsel and Niels have little in common apart from their deceased parents. Ea, the eldest, lives with her partner and his daughter in San Francisco. Sidsel, the middle child, meets up with the father of her six-year-old daughter on a work trip to London, but will she tell him about his child? Niels, the youngest, realises he’s taken on more than he bargained for when he offers to babysit his niece for the weekend.
Meanwhile, the ghosts of their parents squabble and the medium receives a visit from her semi-estranged daughter as alcohol dulls the pain of the end of her marriage. Each of the dozen or so main characters are convincingly drawn and a pleasure to encounter on the page. The beautiful prose, if not the plot, holds together a novel about the difficulties of connection when we have vulnerabilities to protect.
Thanks to publishers Granta books for my advance proof copy.
Harrow by Joy Williams
When civilisation takes another leap towards its own destruction and the school closes, Khristen sets off to look for her mother who has told her she is attending a conference. (I imagined this to be as pointless as the recent international climate conference in Glasgow.) Her travels across a dead landscape lead her to a rundown resort beside a poisoned lake. There she attends the tenth birthday party of a peculiar boy dedicated to becoming a judge like his grandfather and the community of terminally ill seniors planning to put their deaths to good use by taking some of those responsible for the environmental degradation with them.
Still with me? I could follow the narrative thread thus far as a surreal satire on our complacency about the destruction of the natural world and hoped the final section might bring some kind of closure. But this wasn’t that kind of novel and I was bored before the end.
Harrow comes highly praised by professional readers. Thanks to publishers Tuskar Rock Press for my review copy.