Shelter In Place – David Leavitt (2020)

David Leavitt is an author I’ve not read for about ten years but who is responsible for one of my all-time favourites “The Lost Language Of Cranes” (1986) which I first read not long after publication (when Leavitt was 25) and last re-read in 2008 to see if it had lost its shine and as a re-read it came 2nd in my Books Of The Year.  His 1998 novel “When England Sleeps” also made it to my end of year Top 5 in 2012.  Two outstanding novels from this American author.  I have also read and fully enjoyed his short story collection as well as books he has edited with Mark Mitchell.  I enjoyed but didn’t love “The Body Of Jonah Boyd” (2004).

“Shelter In Place” is his 10th novel, published seven years after his 9th.  It’s one of those novels where I’m not sure what I think, which certainly suggests it’s not on the same level as my favourites by him.  This is a waspish comedy of manners, peopled by characters it is hard to care about and yet I would still recommend it. 

It is set in the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and the horrors of this causes New York society doyenne Eva Lindquist to want to relocate to a life of faded grandeur in Venice.  Eva is at the centre of a group of friends, most of whom she doesn’t seem to care very much about and the novel is largely a response to her fears of the Trump administration.

Although American politics is the catalyst for action it is not especially a political novel, the characters’ immediate concerns are dominated by the trivial, will interior designer Jake agree to work on the Venetian apartment?  Will Min rescue her job in magazines by getting a front cover from the apartment? Will husband Bruce allow Eva to buy the apartment?  Will Eva’s Bedlington Terriers do their number ones and twos on their walks with Bruce?

There are a lot of dinner parties, catered by a procession of nondescript (to the rest of them) young gay men and there’s a lot of dialogue with brittle humour.  This makes it a quick fast-moving read even when plot-wise there’s not too much happening.

The author seems fully ensconced in American literary academia as Professor of English at the University of Florida and he obviously feels confident enough in this world as, through the voice of his characters, especially disgruntled book editor, Aaron, he is very sniping of the US literary establishment with Barbara Kingsolver, Paul Auster, Lydia Davis, Jonathan Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides and Jonathan Safran Foer amongst those facing his vitriol.  Hopefully, they know Leavitt well enough to take this dismissal of their work.

It is interesting that the cast for this are generally in their fifties or above, which feels unusual for a novel of this sort which tend to be peopled by bright young things.  This gives an added dimension as they are facing change which Trump might bring about at a time when questioning their own positions as less relevant to the modern world.

There’s only one act of kindness in this book and that has to be carried out under the radar with the character responsible constantly questioning their own actions.  Towards the end another character fills in back story in a section which could potentially have been a more impressive novel than the one Leavitt has actually written- I wonder if he is toying with us here, showing us glimpses of what might have been?

My four star criteria is always based on whether I would want to read it again and I think here the answer is yes, despite me not really caring for the characters nor the world they inhabit as they did still very much draw me in.  It was humorous, involving and with a lot more depth than the shallow lives portrayed here which just nudges this book into the four star category.  I can see why some people wouldn’t like it but I can’t see that many would proclaim this Leavitt’s finest work.

Shelter In Place was published in the UK in 2020 by Bloomsbury.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter- Tom Franklin (2011)

This is a book which passed me by until I saw it recommended by US author Attica Locke as an example of Southern Gothic claiming it to be “everything Southern Noir should be”.  It also won the UK Crime Writers’ Association Golden Dagger Award in 2011 given for the best novel of the year.  I was also a little fascinated to discover that an author who received such fulsome praise for this, his third novel, (there was also a short story collection in 1999) has only produced one book in collaboration with his poet wife in the decade since.  I don’t know why this is.

My initial impression was that it was a very dense novel and despite the prestigious British award I found it as a British reader to be a bit of a struggle to find points of common ground in terms of cultural references, characterisation and attitudes.  In a quiet Mississippi town, there’s a continual macho undercurrent of violence and a real love of guns.  As the plot builds I did find myself enjoying it more.

Is history repeating itself when a teenage girl disappears?  The main suspect is a man who close to twenty years before was implicated when another girl vanished without trace.  His life since has been made a misery by the locals but he has stuck it out, alone and vulnerable now his mother is in a home with dementia.  A Black cop, Silas, known as 32 because of his baseball shirt number when he played back in the day, has returned to the area and discovers an ex-team mate, latterly a drug-pusher, dead in a swamp.  A violent attack on the town scapegoat follows.

Much has been concealed from the past which may have some influence in the present crime-wave.  There’s a lot of hostility in the town tied up in past and present responses to the two main characters.

I enjoyed this book.  It’s technically very strong and tightly written.  Unlike most crime novels the tension comes out not in the situations but with the characters relationships with one another which gives this depth and emotional resonance.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter was published in the UK in 2011.  I read the Pan paperback edition

The Manningtree Witches – A. K. Blakemore (2021)

Winner of the 2021 Desmond Elliott Prize which is given to the best debut novel and a book I highlighted in my 2021 round-up of “Books I Should Have Read”.  At the time I mentioned “A quick look at Amazon reviews suggest some readers have not really got it which might make it a bit of a Marmite novel.”  Well, having now read it it’s time to reveal where I am on the love/hate divide and just like the actual yeast extract spread, I love it.

I do have a bias towards historical novels, 7 years of reviewsrevues have taught me this.  This 1640’s setting is going to tick boxes for me.  I also like it when there is a fiction/fact overlap, particularly in the use of characters (most existed here) and documentation.  The author weaves in (but does not overdo) statements from the 1645 Witch Trials.  I have a taste for darkness, and the work of the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins certainly brings that but perhaps the main reason I am giving this debut five stars might have been the reason it turned off some readers.  The language is rich, detailed and poetic, just occasionally over-wordy, this award-winning poet certainly came up with a few words I had never heard before.  I actually felt this added to the depth of the novel and enriched the sensory experiences such evocative language conjures up.

This is the narrative of nineteen year old Rebecca West, daughter of Anne, who has her own local nickname, the Beldam West, a good-natured woman who keeps an eye on the less fortunate including the ancient one-legged Old Mother Clarke, but who doesn’t suffer fools gladly.  Her occasional clashes with neighbours does not help her when Witchfinder Matthew Hopkins takes over the local inn and begins his puritanical interfering into the lives of these country folk in Manningtree, Essex.

Plot-wise we know what it going to come.  A group of women will be singled out and victimised and manoeuvred into confession.  Rebecca finds herself in this situation because of her mother and others she associates with and not even her blossoming relationship with Hopkins’ Secretary, Matthew Eades will help.

Characters are strong here, some of the women are adept at saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.  I felt myself both cringing and full of sympathy for them.  The author has avoided the stereotypical baddie in her creation of Hopkins which we might have expected from horror films (and some of the criticism aimed at this book has been because of this) but her depiction of him as misguided and hypocritical rather than out and out evil makes him seem more rounded as a character.  There is often black humour in the townsfolks dealing with him and the situations he brings about. 

The subject matter was always going to win me over but A.K Blakemore’s poetic recreation of this dangerous world was so rich.  The evidence sought to prove consorting with the Devil is ludicrous and the seventeenth century prejudice, hypocrisy and victimisation still resonates in this world we live in.  The author, in her Afterword, acknowledges areas of the world where individuals are still murdered because of accusations of witchcraft.  This is a potent debut.

The Manningtree Witches was published by Granta in 2021.

Pursuit- Joyce Carol Oates (2019)

My introduction to the work of this prolific American novelist was the five star rated “Blonde” (2000) which just missed out on my Top 10 Books Of The Year when I read it in 2020.  This fictionalised account of the life of Marilyn Monroe may soon see a boost in sales as a film adaptation is currently in post-production and due for release by the end of 2022.

Nineteen years on from “Blonde” and after publishing another 26 novels in her own name (and a few under pseudonyms) came this literary thriller.  Unwordly Abby is hit by a bus the day after her wedding to Willem.  As she slowly recovers questions are asked if this was an accident.  Abby is haunted by dreams from her past, when she was known as Miriam, and her parents had disappeared.  Do these dream have any bearing on her encounter with the bus?

This is a quick read which I polished off in a couple of days.  The whole thing has a nightmarish quality which clouds the characters and left me unsure of what is going on.  Insight into proceedings tends to come and go and this had an almost soporific effect on this reader.  I felt very tired whilst reading it and yet I wasn’t bored, it was caused by the hypnotic effect of the tale Oates weaves here.  It is tantalising as the author pulls us in, moving the plot forward and then holds us back without revealing all the mysteries.  The trouble with this is that despite this manipulation of us as readers it means that I felt it is not particularly memorable.  I don’t think this is a book which will stay with me for long and this is a marked difference to how I felt about “Blonde”.  What is undeniable is that Joyce Carol Oates is a writer unafraid of experimentation with style and genre which has sustained her well during a long career.  Because of this diversity I can’t imagine that many readers would be blown away by her every publication. I feel that on this occasion I wasn’t totally on board but I am sure that I would find other books by her that would enthral me as much as “Blonde”.

Pursuit was published by Head Of Zeus in the UK in 2019.

Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe (1722) – A Book To “Read Before You Die”

This was my third dip into Peter Boxall’s “1001 Books To Read Before You Die” which has already had me reading “The Golden Ass” and “Don Quixote”.  I’m dividing the recommendations into groups of five and choosing one. If I’ve read one before in the last 27 years it doesn’t count.  This made the next five choices:

The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan

The Princess Of Cleves – Marie-Madelaine Pioche De Lavergne

Ooronoko- Aphra Benn

Love In Excess – Eliza Haywood

Moll Flanders – Daniel Defoe

I skipped past two titles because of the rules I’ve set myself.  “A Tale Of A Tub” by Jonathan Swift (1704) I read in 2005 and have no desire to read it again.  I really didn’t get anything from it, it was a 1* read for me and has probably put me off reading any more Swift for life.  The other “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe (1719) I read in 2008, it wasn’t what I had expected and I rated it a disappointing 2*.  Very aware that what I have done up to now is choose the most recent in these chronological lists I balanced that with choosing the book with a celebration this year as it is 300 years since the publication of Defoe’s second most famous book “Moll Flanders”.

I do believe I have read this before, as a teenager or in my early 20’s, I certainly had a copy on my shelves for a number of years but as this would have been longer than 27 years ago I thought it was time for another go, hoping that it would not be a let-down as “Robinson Crusoe” was.  It is subtitled “…who was born in Newgate, and during a life of continu’d Variety for Threescore years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Years a Whore, five times a wife (whereof once to her brother), Twelve Years a Thief,  Eight Years a Transported felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv’d Honest and died a Penitent”. The eighteenth century not at all concerned about plot-spoilers then!

Given this description it is far less sensational a work than I had imagined.  I’m wondering if I’ve had it confused in my head with John Cleland’s more notorious “Fanny Hill” from 1748, considered the first pornographic novel. In fact, Defoe’s work is also not quite a moral tract, but it is not that far off.  In the Introduction to the Wordsworth edition I read R T Jones explores the purpose of this novel and there is just too much joy within Moll’s cataloguing of her wrong-doings for it to be seen on self-improvement terms.  Defoe’s intention to guise his novel as a true account may have been a commercial one, attracting a younger readership guided away from the sensational novels of the era by parents who would allow their offspring to learn through what might be seen as a more pious journey of self-discovery.  This conceit of writing Moll’s narrative as if it was true does affect its readability however.  Most characters cannot be named and so “this gentleman” and “that gentleman” becomes confusing at times and just a tad tedious.  If only Defoe had felt able to give his cast names this would really have brought Moll’s tale and world to life.

Another purpose of Defoe’s penning this novel could have been to provide a lesson in street-life to the uninitiated.  Moll describes her crimes and those she has gulled and the methods by which she tricks them in a way that readers might learn not to be taken in thus (there’s another side of the coin here, the less honest could learn from the outlining of such crimes how to carry them off but it is unlikely that those keen to profit as Moll did would have been amongst the eighteenth-century readership). 

Moll comes across a vibrant, well-rounded character.  She’s on a continual slippery slope but blames no-one but herself and is able to put a brake on the road to ruin when needed.  Men do cause her downfall but she has a good relationship with them and is able to give as good as she gets.  Her incestuous marriage is a complete accident and leads to one of the most involving sections of the book.  I did enjoy this although it dragged for me in the mid-sections, the accounts of her youth and the latter part of the book (I can’t say declining years as there is no decline) provided a highly satisfying read and for me this book felt so much stronger than “Robinson Crusoe”.  We are not quite in 5* territory from my twenty-first century perspective of these earliest of novels but I’m sure we will not have to move forward too far chronologically before I start awarding my top rating.

I read the Wordsworth Classics Paperback edition of “Moll Flanders” from 2001 with an introduction by R T Jones.

Let’s Do It – Jasper Rees (2020)

Here’s a big book, the authorised biography of Victoria Wood that I’ve only just got round to despite it being one of my books I’d wished I’d read in 2020 (still only up to 70% of this list).  I think I’ve been a little nervous of this really hoping that Rees gets the balance right between the career and public persona and the very different private person and juggling also the humour of her work and zest for life with the inevitable sadness at reading of a life which ended too soon.

I don’t know of the author, but as a journalist, he seemed to have a professional but not close relationship with Victoria Wood in her latter years.  I was heartened by this book appearing on a number of Best Book Of The Year lists and one description of it was that it was “impeccable”.  It certainly is thorough.  This is the definitive biography of Victoria Wood, no one else need bother.  Rees has had access to all the right people and material and herein is included really all we would need to know.

He does indicate at the start that Victoria Wood was collecting material for a memoir, making audio tapes which he had access to.  It would have been fascinating to see how such a private person would have approached such a publication but it is unlikely that it would have been as thorough and probing as this biography.

It was so important to me that Rees got this right as Victoria Wood (1953-2016) is, in my opinion, the greatest British comedian.  I don’t think a single day goes by without at least one of her lines coming into my head.  Whilst reading this book I dug out a DVD of her award-winning “As Seen On TV” and was staggered to see how many of these were almost low-key asides in their original setting rather than fanfared jokes; often said by characters who were not central in the sketch.  This shows how good her writing was on every level.  And, despite this genius, not everything she did hit home, the same viewing showed that some of the early songs at piano have not dated well and yet, for many years, this was her bread and butter and the first flush of fame came when she performed comedy songs on 70’s TV talent show “New Faces” and topical songs on “That’s Life”.

As a shy, private person it must have been difficult for Victoria as fans felt that they had such a personal bond with her.  She tried to keep a brave face on in public but people could find her prickly and taciturn away from the limelight and even when in it.  I lived in Highgate when she did, would often see her around and was one time rendered speechless by her when teaching as she appeared in my classroom on a school visit for prospective parents (both of her children attended the Primary School I worked at).  This was a school which had more than its fair share of notable parents but this was the first time I felt myself floundering in presence of celebrity.  With someone as good as she was at analysing speech I felt my words being analysed as I spoke to the class, when, in reality, even if she was listening, she was just a mum looking around.

Rees gets this private/public person split very well.  She was demanding to work for, rewriting and striving for perfection and insisting on actors being word-perfect and not deviating from her script.  She was driven, as indeed she had to be, at the time there was no woman writing comedy in this way, there was much resistance to female led female written comedy on British television (“As Seen On TV” predated the first French & Saunders TV series by three years).  She was a pioneer, who achieved so many firsts in her career.  Jasper Rees is also strong in celebrating this, it made me want to go back and experience her work again, always a good marker for a biography.  What I don’t think I need to do is read any more about her life as it is all here- the years of struggling after the New Faces appearance, her marriage, the children, divorce and final illness set alongside the comedy magic she produced. This book deserves my five star rating.

Let’s Do It: Authorised Biography Of Victoria Wood was published by Trapeze in hardback in 2020 and paperback in 2021. Since then Jasper Rees has put together a collection of unseen sketches, songs and other memorabilia in his November 2021 publication “Victoria Wood Unseen On TV” which I am adding to my To Be Read list.

Theatre Of Marvels- Lianne Dillsworth (Hutchinson Heinemann 2022)

This is a debut I’ve been looking forward to and highlighted as one to watch out for in my start of the year post.  I’m feeling pleased with myself as this is the 9th of the 10 of these titles I’ve read and it’s only April!

Lianne Dillsworth has put her MA in Victorian Studies to very good use in this 1840’s London set tale which is the first person narrative of Zillah, a mixed race twenty year old.  Zillah has escaped the poor dwellings of St Giles to become the lover of a Viscount and the headline attraction of Crillick’s  Variety Theatre.  Cast as a “genuine” African native, The Great Amazonia, her tribal dances and staged sacrifices thrill and horrify the audience.  Yet Zillah is a “gaffed freak”, not at all what the theatre is making her out to be and when the secret is blown her time will be up.  An audience member, the distinguished looking Black grocer, Lucius Winter, is dismayed by this duping of the public and Zillah’s role in this and things take a sinister turn when Crillick aims to introduce more authentic exhibits as part of a new disturbing venture.

Zillah is a sparky character who begins to see the error of her ways and passing as someone you are not is a main theme here as well as the notions behind the government plans for resettlement of the London’s Black poor to Sierra Leone.  But this increasingly becomes a tale of rescue and this is done very effectively due to the author’s good story-telling skills.  I liked the Variety Theatre as a central location and the atmosphere of this is well conveyed.  This is an easy read which contains thought-provoking issues, making it a very good Book group choice.  I do feel that keeping Zillah as the narrator throughout makes it seem a little one-note, I think I might have appreciated the odd shift in narrative style as at times it feels a little “reported”.  There were incidents that I would have loved to have been fleshed out, particularly with regards to Zillah’s back story.  This is a strong debut which feels very commercial and should win the author many fans.

Theatre Of Marvels is published in hardback by Hutchinson Heinemann on April 28th 2022.  Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.

100 Essential Books- Young Mungo – Douglas Stuart (Picador 2022)

I’m not sure what I was expecting from Booker Prize Winner and current holder of my Book Of The Year Douglas Stuart’s second novel.  The promise of a 1990’s set tale of young love in a working-class Glasgow setting suggested the author was not going to stray too far from “Shuggie Bain” territory and there may be some who claim this to be a re-tread with 15 year old Mungo Hamilton’s relationship with a toxic mother being again a main focus.  This, however, is an outstanding novel and, I certainly wasn’t expecting to write this next bit, because of its greater focus on plot and sublime storytelling it is even better than his multi-award winning debut and perhaps the best book I have read since John Boyne’s “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” (2017)

It is another tale of a daily battle of survival here as Mungo battles against his environment, his disturbing older brother, Hamish, who overcompensates for his lack of height and thick glasses by being a ringleader for violence with an obsession for destroying the local Catholic youth and his mother Maureen, (known affectionately by Mungo as Mo-Maw) alcoholic and often absent.  In “Shuggie Bain” the mother character, the monstrous but appealing Agnes is given a central role.  Here, Mungo has to go it alone even more against Maureen’s fewer redeeming characteristics.  His only ally, Jodie, is looking for an out through education, an escape route which proves more flawed than she might expect.

The central narrative thread takes place over a May Bank Holiday weekend in the early 1990s making this a decade or so after the action of “Shuggie Bain”.  Mungo, battered and bruised from some incident is sent on a fishing trip to the Lochs with two of his mother’s friends.  We are plunged into a tragi-comic situation of two alcoholics negotiating a journey completely outside their everyday existence with the naïve Mungo in tow.  We know it is not going to go well.

Alongside this are the events leading up to this expedition.  Mungo’s life shifts from the mundane and the threats of violence when he meets James, a Catholic boy with a dead mother and father who works away on an oil-rig in James’ hand-built doocot (pigeon coop).  The boys find escape in caring for the pigeons (in a way reminiscent of Barry Hines’ “A Kestrel For A Knave” and film adaptation “Kes” of which there are echoes here and we know how well that turned out) and then in one another as love blossoms amongst the religious divide.

Once again, it’s beautifully written, there’s humour and warmth amongst the horrors but BAM! this author can hit you right between the eyes with shocking scenes of physical and psychological violence. Without doubt the mix can at times prove a difficult read.  I never thought I’d feel more sympathy towards a character than Shuggie, but Mungo, with his facial tics, unsuitable attire and devotion to a mother whose actions are consistently poorly-judged tops it.  Stuart does push further with the miseries than he did in the debut really putting his young hero through it and there is the odd moment where he might have been in danger of pushing too far and risking melodrama but such strong characterisations rooted so convincingly stops this from happening.  I did finish this feeling emotionally purged finding moments that I did not really want to read on from but ultimately being totally unable to take my eyes off the book.

I think if you are new to Douglas Stuart I’d suggest starting with the debut as he sets his stall out as a writer so well and then take this on to appreciate the upping of the ante.  I think the many, many readers who hold “Shuggie Bain”, like me, so dear in their hearts are going to be so impressed by this.

Young Mungo is published in the UK by Picador in hardback and as an e-book on 14th April 2022.  Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.

Rollover-James Raven (Joffe 2012)

I’ve mentioned these publishers before as I think they are doing a superb job.  During the first lockdown I was so impressed with their innovative great value offers and free e-books at a time when bookshops were closed; they have a good range of (thanks to them) big selling authors to promote and have developed a quality backlist of (predominantly) British crime thrillers, republishing books and series which struggled to get commercial recognition first time round.  They have an excellent attitude and working relationship with bloggers.  I would be very proud to be a Joffe author- if only that novel ever got finished!!

I read this as the first book in an incredible value 5 book set but it is available as a stand-alone.  Originally published in 2012 it introduced Detective Jeff Temple.  I’m not sure whether at the time the author was consciously beginning a series as Temple as a character is rather understated here, which does, at least, present him as a blank canvas to be developed during the course of the series.

Central to the action here is Danny Cain, an ex-reporter now working as one half of a news agency who finds himself in the headlines when his business partner is murdered minutes after discovering he is the winner of a big National Lottery jackpot.  Cain’s first-person account is interspersed through the novel with third-person narratives.  This is not as seamless as it could be, in a couple of places the narrative style jars especially when changing mid-chapter.

However, in terms of plot and tension James Raven knows exactly what he is doing.  The combination of thriller and police procedural is effective.  We spend 48 hours or so in the Southampton area, at one point the city centre on a Saturday night is very well drawn.  I didn’t see any of the twists coming and I was really impressed with the author’s handling of the threat of violence which certainly ramps up the tension.  Plot-wise it is not complex and Raven seems a careful author who makes sure the reader is keeping up by re-emphasising plot points in a way which feels natural.  All in all, as an unfussy British contemporary thriller this ticked all the boxes.  It does feel more stand-aloney than crime series at this point but this is only the first book.  I think this may be the best I have read so far from these publishers (and I will admit I have still only read a handful) and I am keen to read other books in this series.

I read “Rollover” in “The Complete Detective Jeff Temple” a five book series I bought on Amazon at the amazing price of 99p.  “Rollover” is currently available as a stand-alone e-book and hardback.

Memphis- Tara M. Stringfellow (John Murray 2022)

Tara M. Stringfellow’s debut novel focusing on three generations of a family living in Memphis could only have been written by a poet.  There’s a voluptuousness to her words, a richness in description, an over-ripeness which beautifully conveys Memphis, Tennessee.

In 1995 Miriam returns in her battered car with daughters Joan and Mya and Wolf the dog to the house she grew up in and to her sister August and her son Derek.  Joan’s unexpected reaction to her cousin shows that there is a history to this family.  We jump around a fair bit incorporating Miriam and August’s upbringing and their parents, especially mother Hazel, but the focus is on the eight years after Joan’s return to Memphis. She is given a first-person narrative which is interspersed by third-person narratives which focus on the other characters.  The women are central, the male characters are little under-realised which is no doubt the author’s intention.  It is time to let these impressive women have their say away from the troubles that these men cause for the family.

At times it was hard not to be reminded of another “return home” Southern Black American saga I read recently, the critically acclaimed “The Love Songs Of W E B DuBois” by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers.  Both are debuts by women who have made their name in poetry and whereas I felt that Fanonne Jeffers’ novel was too long “Memphis” is too short.  I wanted more from the lives of these women, especially August, who is a terrific character and who I felt could have been further fleshed out through her own narrative.  But every author knows the importance of leaving their readers wanting more and that is why I would give “Memphis” the slight edge.  The importance of carving out one’s own route is emphasised in both books and this can be found through education.  There’s enough autobiographical clues in the author’s acknowledgements to indicate that Tara M. Stringfellow was really writing what she knows with elements of plot and characterisation overlapping her own life.

This is a very strong contemporary saga which deserves a wide readership.

“Memphis” is published by John Murray in the UK on April 7th 2022.  Many thanks  to the publishers and Netgalley for the advance review copy.