I always make it a point to read at least a few of the Booker-nominated titles each year. The first was Judas by Amos Oz – not a book I wholeheartedly enjoyed, but Oz is such a beautiful writer I thought it was worth a look.
Samantha Schweblin’s Fever Dream is a very different kind of book. A fast-paced novella, Fever Dream is a chilling mystery that is never fully solved. This will alienate some readers straight away. And even though I too was somewhat frustrated by the lack of resolution, Schweblin’s story is a hard one to put down.
The story begins in a darkened hospital room. Amanda is near death, and telling her story to David, the enigmatic son of a neighbour. David urges her to recount her last 24 hours to identify the exact time the ‘worms’ took over and caused her death.
In recounting her time in the Argentinian countryside Amanda ends up telling David about a conversation she has with Carla, David’s mother. She is worried about David – ever since a psychic transmigrated his soul in order to save his life. She calls this new David “a monster”. Amanda is worried for her child Nina too. Something is strange about this landscape, and she feels the “rescue distance” (the space between her and Nina that she feels is safe) is getting smaller and smaller.
David is a hard task-master, shaping and cutting off Amanda’s narrative, focused on getting to the story of the worms. And something is definitely wrong here. Schweblin’s all-pervading and lasting sense of foreboding is inescapable.
I doubt you’ll be able to put Fever Dream down. I don’t know whether you’ll find it entirely satisfactory at the end, but you’ll be impatient to get there.
Many authors stumble when it comes time to follow up a phenomenally successful first novel – but instead, Paula Hawkins has no doubt given her legions of fans more of what they are looking for in the intriguing, if lightweight, Into the Water.
Into the Water is set in the fictional town of Bickford in the gloomy north of England, famous only for it’s drowning pool and the dark history of troublesome women finding their end in it. Years ago, it was accused witches but more recently, a young mother and in just the past few weeks, a young local girl and the mother of her friend. It is the death of this final woman, Nel Abbott – a writer and photographer fascinated by the history of the drowning pool – that sparks this story. Although Nel’s death and the one that proceeded it, have all the earmarks of a suicide, the motives for such actions are a mystery to those closest to them.
The story eventually unravels through multiple narrators, and it has the same feminist bent of The Girl on the Train, where poor women are suffering for the choices of violent and disturbed men.
Behind all of this though, is the story of two sisters. Estranged for years, as one uncovers the reasons for her sister’s death a tremendous family misunderstanding is revealed, leading to a period of renewal amongst the grief.
There’s a lot to like here and Into the Water won’t fail to engage Hawkins’ legion of fans. The same dark sense of mystery and foreboding accompanies this tale. It might even pick her up a few more.
There has been a lot of buzz about Holly Throsby’s Goodwood (especially as Throsby herself is better known for singing words than writing them).
And the buzz is well worthwhile – Goodwood is a finely crafted read that reflects real and engaging characters living that small-town life. You know the sort – where the local fish and chip shop is the centre of society, and fishing is one of the more popular pastimes.
But this quietness is disturbed when two residents go missing within a week of each other. One, a young woman, has vanished without a trace, but with plenty of mystery and discussion. The second, an older man who is well-respected within the town followed after just a week.
Are the two cases connected? Or is life just not as simple as it appears in Goodwood?
This was a really solid read that made me happy to pick up the book each night. Definitely worth a look. Throsby’s move into the literary world is a good one – and I daresay more novels will follow this.