1. The Cove by Ron Rash
I am way way way behind on my “Reading Lately” posts, and actually picked this up for about 99p in a Kindle sale way back in August. I hadn’t really heard of the author before (or the book), but liked the sound of the plot so decided to give it a go. The story revolves around Hank and Laurel, a pair of brother and sister outcasts who inhabit an old farm deep inside a cove in rural North Carolina. They live a lonely life, with Hank having been disabled whilst serving during the First World War and the local townspeople believing Laurel is “cursed”. The discovery of a mute and illiterate stranger on their land brings some hope to Laurel’s lonely existence, but Walter is far more mysterious than the siblings first imagined and their lives are changed forever. I loved the whole “Southern gothic” feel to the novel, with beautiful, evocative writing, strong characters and an ever-present sense of underlying tragedy. I really liked Rash’s style of writing, and I’ll definitely be reading more from him; Serena is next on my list.
2. Ramshackle by Elizabeth Reeder
Again, it’s been a while since I read this, but Ramshackle was another book I really enjoyed despite having just chosen it randomly from Amazon. Fifteen year old Roe wakes up one morning to find her father, an eccentric locksmith, has disappeared. Her family life had always been a bit peculiar, but it’s not until her dad disappears that she begins to uncover long-forgotten secrets and realises her father was deeply flawed and troubled in ways she never knew. Despite having “conventional” coming-of-age themes – new boyfriend, unstable friendships, rebelling against adults – there’s an overwhelming sense of loss and loneliness throughout the novel which gives it a completely different feel. The story is set during a bitter winter in northern Chicago and the setting really adds to the atmospheric feel of the novel. I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it, I loved the almost surreal/magical quality to it – in some ways it really reminded me of John Burnside’s A Summer of Drowning which I also loved.
3. This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor
I’m not usually a fan of short stories, but I thought I’d give this collection a go as it’s written by the author of one of my all-time top five favourite books. I love love love McGregor’s style of writing, which I think is beautiful and poetic but totally readable at the same time. I wanted to love this book, but I’m afraid I only like it. As is the danger with collections of short stories, it’s difficult to become equally invested in all the characters and storylines, therefore I ended up wanting to finish some chapters as quickly as possible whilst others were over and done with before I was ready to say goodbye to them. I did really love some of the stories, particularly “We Wave and Call”, but reading this has confirmed my suspicions that I much prefer full-length novels. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this if you’ve never read anything by McGregor before, but nonetheless it’s quite a nice collection of stories to dip in and out of if you like this style of writing.
What have you been reading lately?