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Some Kind of Fairy Tale is an atmospheric modern day fairy tale set in a small English village near the woods. The novel begins with the mysterious reappearance of a woman who disappeared twenty years before. The initial explanation she gives is vague, and the one she later gives infuriates her brother with its unbelievability. Is she lying to hide a shameful or incriminating secret? Did something traumatic happen to her that made her subconscious mind translate the memory into something more tolerable? Is she crazy? Could it be real? While this mystery unfolds, regular life unfolds for these characters as well, as they deal with anger, guilt, fear of growing up, or growing older, illness, and the painful awkwardness of social interactions. Graham Joyce's writing style is terrific - while I would classify this as literary fiction, it is at the same time an escape from (or within?) literary fiction.
A mysterious young actress with a fatal diagnosis, a hopeful young Italian pensione keeper, a reprobate Hollywood producer and his frustrated assistant, Richard Burton at the beginning of his relationship with Elizabeth Taylor, a post-WWII American soldier trying to write his depression away, a no-longer young musician trying to make a comeback at The Fringe…This richly imagined novel uses shifts in time, place, and narrative to form many avenues to traverse the fates of its several struggling characters. Reading it may make you wonder if you have been “pitched” a movie about the Donner party, but a backwater theater stages such a beautiful pivot in the plot…
Padgett Powell is funny and deep and very brave in his recent fiction. His last novel, Interrogative Mood, consisted entirely of questions, sometimes annoying, but more often than not, strangely witty. His new book, You & Me, features two nameless characters conversing, Waiting for Godot style about very little. Brief chapters direct skewed talk at subjects mostly having to do with language, and if you love language as much as I do, Powell's use/misuse of our mother tongue will have you in stitches for the length of the book. Full of jokes and tales that are neither jokes nor tales, but tropes in the southern idiom, that mock and chuckle and tease us always a step ahead of the reader. Pure pleasure.
The Farm, the latest thriller from the excellent Tom Rob Smith, is a fascinating psychological thriller. Daniel's parents have retired to their newly-purchased farm in Sweden when he receives a phone call from his father saying Daniel's mother has had a nervous breakdown and suffering paranoid delusions. Shocked by this news, Daniel finds that his mother has just flown to London and is now on his doorstep, claiming Daniel's father is involved in some conspiracy, perhaps even a murder. Torn between which parent to believe, Daniel listens as his mother presents her "testimony". The Farm presents us with interesting themes of deception, perception and the puzzling fact that people are often more willing to believe a man before they will a woman. (Daniel's mother asserts that if this was one hundred years earlier, they would have simply locked her in the attic.) Fair warning: allow yourself some time when you begin this book, as it is nearly impossible to stop reading once you start. And don't miss Mr. Smith's exceptional first novel, Child 44!