Fiction

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The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Some people are born deaf, mute or blind. – Opening sentence I recently started a new job at an independent publishing company in London. Some of my colleagues there have formed their own book club, meeting monthly in the large meeting room at lunch with cakes and treats, to discuss their latest read. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to be involved. Not only would it be a good opportunity for me to get to know my colleagues better, but it would also be a way to discover new books that I might not otherwise be introduced to. Each month, one person chooses three books, and the remaining members vote for which one they would prefer to read. This month’s winner was The Reader on the 6.27. Set in France, the story follows Guylain Vignolles, a 36-year-old engineer at the TERN recycling facility. Guylain is by all accounts a sad and…

Restless Souls by Dan Sheehan

I haven’t seen Tom in three and a half years. – Opening sentence I was super-excited when this beautiful looking proof was posted through my letter box (thanks Jennifer!). The cover art depicts Restless Souls as 1/3 comedy, 1/3 road trip and 1/3 tragedy. However I must have got the wrong copy, because the majority of what I read was full-on tragedy. Part one had me choking back tears, as it covers some pretty heavy stuff that the majority of media publishers like to pretend don’t exist; modern poverty, male suicide and mental illness through trauma. However,  instead of shying away from these taboo subjects, author Sheehan casts a light on them, using clever humour to soften the blow and place them in a more natural, relatable setting. And that’s where the comedy comes in, and why it’s so important. I wouldn’t say this book has moments of laugh-out-loud comedy, but it does…

The Image of You by Adele Parks

Zoe laughed her head off when she read Anna’s online dating profile. – Opening sentence The Image of You is a clever and gripping book about two identical twins, Anna and Zoe. Despite sharing the same DNA, they are polar opposites; Anna is optimistic, sweet and caring, and dreams of settling down with Mr Right, having children and living happily ever after. Zoe, on the other hand, is daring, sultry and a risk-taker. Anna calls her “an addict”. I got a good grasp of the direction of this novel in the prologue, which includes the following: I’m thirty-one and have been so very, very good all my life; not so much as a flirty text sent to one guy whilst I was with another. I’m faithful first and foremost. I think loyalty is all, it’s the backbone of all relationships – nay, the very oxygen – but that is not the…

Hollow Shores by Gary Budden

My old man was a lorry driver, back in the eighties. – Opening sentence Hollow Shores is the debut collection of intertwined short stories by writer Gary Budden, combining psychogeography, history, nature, punk sub-culture and more. In the acknowledgements, Budden writes, “A massive thanks to Nathan Connolly at Dead Ink for taking a punt on what he described as ‘a really weird book’.” “Really weird” is definitely one way to describe this collection, but I would prefer to choose enchanting, haunting or melancholic instead. Indeed, I’ve never read anything like it (and probably won’t again). All these stories are centred between the stretch of coast between Norfolk and Kent, including the Thames estuaries,  known as the ‘Hollow Shores’. Where fiction mingles with fact, Budden made me nostalgic for a place I’ve never actually visited. As the various characters deal with themes of loss, change, relationships, self-enlightenment, home and family, they all share a…

Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

More than a hundred years had passed since the single tiny seed broke free and left its home. – Opening sentence I didn’t know anything about Broken Branches prior to reading it, although the blurb hints about a ‘family curse’ which intrigued me a lot. Other reviewers have described Broken Branches as a mystery and/or horror – but although it tries to be a bit ‘spooky’ in places; it wasn’t enough to scare me at all and I wouldn’t characterise it as such. The story is about a man called Ian Perkins. After the unfortunate passing of his older brother, Ian inherits his old childhood home. With his wife and young child, Ian moves into the home and makes it his mission to get to the bottom of the so-called family ‘curse’. Ian is a realistic and relatable character, but early on it’s obvious that not everything it quite what it seems. Author M.…

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