Today Will be Different, Maria Semple
More about the wacky world of middle class Seattle from the author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, which I enjoyed. Today Will be Different is a breathless gallop through one day in the life of Eleanor Flood: former graphic artist, surgeon’s wife, older mother. ‘Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.’ If this day of misadventures is typical, you wonder how she keeps going.
This book is just packed with action and very funny. Eleanor has lived in Seattle for ten years but hasn’t really adjusted. ‘Living too long in New York does that to a girl, gives her the false sense that the world is full of interesting people.’ She loves her husband but lists his faults, one of which is reading in bed and not switching out the light. ‘When he finally does, he’ll sometimes rest his book on me. And these aren’t slim volumes of poetry. They’re Winston Churchill biographies, and Winston Churchill lived a very full life.’ Her son Timby is a worry, with his love of wearing make up and sudden dislike of school. This is absolutely not a linear narrative; the action jumps around apparently randomly, through Eleanor’s consciousness. In this way Maria Semple brilliantly manages to tell a whole life story in a day: from difficult childhood through career and marriage and ongoing attempts to cope with her troubled relationship with the sister whose very existence she now denies.
A tour de force of writing, which I loved.
Published 13th October
Holding, Graham Norton
The Irish village of Duneen is a place tourists pass through to get to somewhere prettier. Little changes there from year to year: land ownership, marriages and religion are the main concerns of the inhabitants. The book starts really well. As we meet the villagers, we seem at first to be in an Irish Milk Wood and can almost hear the soft accents. When human remains are found on old farm land now being redeveloped, reaction in the village is more extreme than might be expected. Whose bones; why there; who knows the truth? This is the puzzle for overweight (yes, it matters), Guard ‘P J’ O’Connelly, tasked with interviewing people who don’t want to tell him anything. The village seems full of sad souls. Three spinster sisters, living apart from their neighbours in a big house. A drunken wife who feels her husband married her for her land. As for P J’s housekeeper, she has been behaving strangely ever since the news broke. Eventually the truth is out and you wonder if the village can settle back into its torpor.
Graham Norton has written other books but this is his first novel. He says it’s ‘not the novel I planned to write’ but that it’s best ‘to write about what you know’, and he knows Ireland. It’s well written, amusing in places and a genuinely puzzling mystery. I just felt that having laid the table so nicely, Graham didn’t put quite enough meat on it. I hope he will persevere and write another novel.
Published 6th October. What a strange cover! At first, I thought it showed a space ship.
Magpie Murders, Anthony Horowitz
‘When editor Susan Ryeland is given the tattered manuscript of Alan Conway's latest novel, she has little idea it will change her life.’
Alan Conway is the author of a series of mysteries featuring his detective Atticus Pünd. The books are set in the 1950s and are the chief earners for the small publishing company Susan works for. Conway’s new novel, Magpie Murders is then presented verbatim to the reader, without interruptions. So, having been introduced to Susan and her world, we’re suddenly reading a golden age-style mystery. This is cleverly written, although with some anachronisms which should have been spotted. Little does the reader suspect that the manuscript is actually full of clues to Alan Conway’s life, writing and a real life mystery. Susan turns detective herself, searching for the book’s missing final chapters and uncovering a modern plot with a melodramatic denouement.
As I said, this is all cleverly done but after looking forward to reading the book, I was rather disappointed in it. I can read a golden age mystery or a thriller any time. Mixing the two just didn’t quite come off for me. I think I’d have enjoyed it more had I been reading a paper copy and been able to flip back through it looking for all the cunningly laid clues I’d missed.
Published by Orion, 6th October