All the Places I’ve Ever Lived by David Gaffney
It wasn’t the prospect of time travel that drew me to this novel, but the setting in West Cumbria close to where I grew up. But even if I hadn’t relished the opportunity to revisit familiar places, I think I’d have enjoyed this quirky and tender coming-of-age story with a supernatural bent, although the thought of Barry’s lesions did turn my stomach. With writing of such quality, it wasn’t difficult to suspend disbelief and, despite the twist that left me wondering, I was rooting for Barry all the way. Thanks to Urbane Publications for my review copy.
Give Me the Child by Mel McGrath
But Cat finds Ruby a strange child. She’s sly, deceitful and doesn’t seem to be grieving the death of her mother. An expert on severely disturbed children (callous and unemotional personality disorder was a new one on me), Cat wants Ruby to have therapy, which her husband strongly resists. Besides, everyone else seems to find Ruby charming; Freya, although a few months older, is much less streetwise and in awe of her. With her history of mental health problems, could it be that Cat is paranoid?
Although I was sceptical about some aspects of both the set up (the vagueness of Cat’s professional identity until she is named as a forensic psychiatrist towards the end; whether social services would place a bereaved child with a family she purports not to know, even if it includes her biological father) and the genre’s requirement for increasing calamity, I found this a chilling story of gaslighting and the stigma that endures following a mental health crisis. As with The Stolen Child, the potential risk to her own daughter significantly ups the stakes in a convincing manner. The backdrop of the London riots further increases the jeopardy. Thanks to HarperCollins for my review copy.
Meanwhile, the Carrot Ranch has received a mysterious visitor, leaving the lead buckaroo to wonder whether Nanjo Castille is a spammer or an offbeat entrant to the recent flash fiction competitions. Ever one to make a refreshing drink from sour fruit, Charli challenges us to compose a 99-word story about this character’s identity. I’ve drawn inspiration from All the Places I’ve Ever Lived.
You didn’t see me, as you set off for the fells from your tents and your smart hotels. You didn’t see me, from your government palaces, as you closed the steelworks and pits. You didn’t hear me when you moved the call centres to India where graduates paid a pittance had better English accents than mine. You didn’t smell, from your barn conversions by the lakeside, the stench of slime and shit and sorrow.
See me now, friends, brothers, strangers! See the blood, the bone, the bullet holes. Hear the sirens. Smell the fear. Remember my name: Nanjo Castille.