The Atomics by Paul Maunder
He loves his new job, it’s just a pity about the neighbours. Maynard, who also works at the power plant, is everything Frank hates. When Maynard gets too close to a young female colleague, Frank feels compelled to intervene. With morality on his side, or so he believes, and strengthened by exposure to radiation, Frank’s quest is doomed.
I discovered this novel via Twitter - yes, it does happen sometimes - from a publisher, Lightning Books, which was new to me. And I’m so glad I did. It’s a cracking read about compulsion, masculinity and people blind to their flaws. Frank’s delusional self-justifications remind me of my character, Steve, in my second novel, Underneath. (Click on the image to learn more.)
Hurdy Gurdy by Christopher Wilson
This is a fun coming-of-age novel about the quest for knowledge: how we humans strive for understanding, while constrained by the assumptions and biases based on what we already know. It’s half exposition of the mindset of the Middle Ages, half picaresque journey through a depopulated England where much of the workforce is dead. Not so far from contemporary times, then: our death toll is lower, but many still adhere to unscientific notions of the pestilence and Brexit has created a labour shortage in some areas.
I was interested to read that the author has a PhD in the psychology of humour; perhaps he’d know why I didn’t find it as funny as most reviewers have claimed. That didn’t detract from my enjoyment but, given that I’m still coming to terms with the humour in my own novel about delusion (click the image for more), it certainly got me wondering. Thanks to publishers Faber for my review copy.
I hope she doesn’t cook curry, thought Mary, offering the other finalist her hand. The smell!
Please don’t cook beef, thought Manju, greeting her rival with palms joined as in prayer.
Winking at the audience, the compere showed them their separate kitchens. Manju gasped at the oak cupboards, the marble worktops, the built-in stove. Mary gasped at the water pump, the stack of firewood, the grey clouds above.
Defeated by the controls on the cooker, Manju diced raw onion into yoghurt, garnished with coriander. Mary grated raw carrot into cream. Wisdom worth more than money, both felt they’d won.