It’s a rainy day in Scotland, it’s been raining for days, and the families of holiday makers in cabins around the loch are definitely feeling cabin fever. From the very first page you know something terrible will happen; Sarah Moss’s new book Summerwater keeps the narrative pace going as you follow twelve of these holiday makers—all disparate and unconnected except for the place they find themselves. The tension mounts inexorably through the dense and compelling prose, and while I wasn’t surprised by the end, I was definitely horrified. This is quite a book—as powerful as Moss’s previous Ghost Wall, as lyrical as Tidal Zone, and like both those books, it stays with you.
Less shocking, but still compelling, is Kate Grenville’s new book, A Room Made of Leaves. Set in the first settlement of Sydney, the book is about Elizabeth Macarthur—the intrepid wife of mercurial John Macarthur, and the mother of Australia’s wool industry. Written as notes and letters by Mrs Macarthur herself, Grenville deftly sets the scene and leads the reader up the garden path with a light touch. I loved all the ovine details, but I did feel modern sensibilities were overlaid on Mrs Macarthur, but perhaps that was a playful device from the author.
We Are All Adults Here by Emma Straub looks like a bit of froth—but while it’s certainly very easy to read, its overarching themes are both contemporary and thought provoking. Astrid Strick is a widow, who has lived a long time in a small town in the Hudson Valley. At the beginning of the book she witnesses a fatal accident which seems to set off a whole series of psychic events for Astrid—starting with a fairly major lifestyle change. Her teenage granddaughter is sent to live with her, and in fact she does seem far more adult than her parents, her aunt and uncle, and even her grandmother. Never judge a book by its cover is the lesson with this book!