The Two Houses by Fran Cooper
The residents of the nearby village are cold and unfriendly, but there’s a reason they don’t welcome their new neighbours from the metropolis. As Jay investigates the house’s history, it becomes apparent that some secrets are best left buried in the past.
Fran Cooper writes beautifully, and the landscape and characters, both major and minor, are well fleshed out. For me, the incessant rain and negativity of the locals dips now and then into melodrama and an Othering of the grim north that made this northerner smile. But it comes together in a satisfying way with the author’s empathy for her characters finally apparent. Fran Cooper’s second novel is about the making and breaking of both buildings and people; thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for my review copy.
The Hoarder by Jess Kidd
A sharp and witty voice is Jess Kidd’s second novel’s greatest strength, with delightfully succinct evocations of character and place. The joyous gumption enables the reader to accept the unlikely (for example, grounds large enough to contain an icehouse in suburban London and the authorities’ ability to relocate Cathal to residential care without his consent) and pseudo-supernatural elements (including the host of saintly apparitions revealing and concealing useful information to twists and turns to the plot). Although I admired how the author introduced the parallels with the missing sister in Maud’s past, around the middle I’d have welcomed a greater variation in emotional tone is to emphasise the pathos of the characters’ situations overall. But it leads to a satisfying conclusion, with both Maud and neighbour Renata psychologically in a better place.
Thanks to Canongate for my review copy. For another novel about hoarders and overzealous collectors, see my reviews of Making Space and Lost Time Accidents.