Book reviews: New from Louise Kennedy, Jessie Greengrass, Richard Coles
The End Of The World Is A Cul De Sac by Louise Kennedy is published in hardback by Bloomsbury Publishing, priced £14.99 (ebook £10.49)
CHEF-turned-writer Louise Kennedy’s short story collection details the relationships of women in modern Ireland, mixing folklore and fairytales with the grim realities of life after the Irish economy’s downturn. Her focus is on people in crisis and hiding secrets – a wife left on a ghost housing estate after a mysterious death; a woman on the run from her baby-fixated partner; a landscape gardener who builds his life around an oblivious ex following a shared tragedy. With pin-sharp characterisation, particularly of older women, Kennedy uses flashes of humour to draw you into her often unsettling world. While she takes time finding her feet in the opening stories, some of which fail to ignite, the later tales show promise.
The High House by Jessie Greengrass is published in hardback by Swift Press, priced £14.99 (ebook £9.99)
ENVIRONMENTAL disaster is the backdrop to this modern dystopia. The High House follows three survivors of an apocalyptic flood, now holed up in a former holiday home. As the story unfolds in flashbacks, we learn about their lives and the events that brought them there. You might think there would be considerable drama in the lead-up to this disaster scenario, but in truth, nothing much happens. Rather than action, the focus is on the relationships between the trio – a pair of half-siblings and a local girl. The trouble is, the characters aren’t sufficiently convincing or distinct to generate much tension. Atmospheric and with a great sense of place, the book’s spare, elegant prose makes it pleasurable to read – but if you’re looking for a page-turner, give it a miss.
The Madness Of Grief: A Memoir Of Love And Loss by the Reverend Richard Coles is published in hardback by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, priced £16.99 (ebook £9.99)
HIGH profile clergyman, UK television and radio’s most famous vicar, ex-Strictly star and man of a myriad panel shows, the Rev Richard Coles brings us this heartfelt, moving account of his grieving process following the death of his partner David, from alcohol addiction. He relates with disturbing honesty David’s body closing down as alcohol damage takes its toll during those final days, the blur of bereavement he feels as he wades through the ‘sadmin’ of the funeral and other arrangements, while attempting to keep a lid on his own mental health as he struggles to adapt to life without his partner. We also get a glimpse of his life with David, and his pain and frustration with each alcohol-ridden episode. Moving and candid, this book will resonate with anyone who has lost a loved one, or has had to cope with someone they love who they just cannot help.