Trust Exercise is set in a hot, sprawling, unnamed American town in the 1980s, with teenagers attending an exclusive performing arts school. It’s about the intensity of teenagers’ feelings, first love, the need to belong, the creation and abuse of power. It is unsettling and uncomfortable, told in three parts, with no other breaks or chapters; thought-provoking, not completely satisfying, but fascinating.
Frannie is accused of killing her lover and her employer. As she is going to trial we hear her story and find out what happened. Frannie is a slave from Jamaica and the story is set at the time of slave abolition. Sara puts the reader into the time period so well. The novel covers many issues, such as slavery, race, marriage, science and medicine, most of it terrifyingly horrible. How scientists had theories on race and what they did to people to prove their theories was particularly gruesome. I am so glad not to be living in those times.
Despite the fact that their parents have disinherited them, Vicki Laveau-Harvie and her sister travel to rural Canada to care for their father, when their mother breaks her hip. This is a true story of a complicated family; the far-reaching, and long-lasting havoc wreaked by a woman with an undiagnosed mental illness, the wild Canadian landscape, and two, very different sisters trying to navigate new and rocky territory. The author reads it herself, and while, at first, I wasn’t sure she had the best ‘audiobook voice’, I think she did a brilliant job. For such dark subject matter, the book is very funny, disturbing, tense, and utterly fascinating.
I do so love a Tana French novel. Each one’s main character, is a minor character from the one before, which gives the added bonus of getting to know a character you are already familiar with, and don’t necessarily love, so much better. Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy is a murder detective taking a new, young partner along to solve the mystery of who murdered a whole family. It’s a psychological mystery, full of flawed characters, complicated relationships, evocative Irish dialogue, and moving character journeys.
Robert Webb is a funny fellow, just my age, and there was plenty to relate to in his memoir. Though definitely out to make you laugh, there is a lot of serious stuff here; an abusive father, the loss of his mother, mental health struggles, and the overarching theme of toxic masculinity. I enjoy listening to memoirs read by the author, and Webb does a very good job narrating his own story, which is sad, cringeworthy, funny, hopeful, and thought-provoking.
In the long, hot summer of 1992, an outer Sydney suburb is rocked by the disappearance of three young sisters, the Van Apfel girls. Tikka was their friend, and all these years later, she is still struggling to come to terms with what happened. This is a nostalgic, atmospheric, and suspenseful coming of age story about friendship, trauma, neighbourhood dynamics, and loss.It has been described as a mix between Jasper Jones, The Virgin Suicides, and Picnic at Hanging Rock, which is think is perfect.
Yeong-hye has a horrible dream, after which she decides to give up meat. This decision is so shocking to her husband, family, and society, that it has serious consequences. The story is told in three separate sections, from the perspective of Yeong-hye’s husband, brother-in-law, and sister, not Yeong-hye herself. It is strange, haunting, disturbing tale of abuse, family bonds, societal expectations, and mental illness. The narration is very well done, by Korean-Americans.
Friday Black is a series of short stories, some of them connected, that probably fit into the sci-fi/horror genres. Extremely dark, violent, sad and disturbing, I didn’t enjoy them very much, and some I didn’t understand. Some are very thought-provoking, though, on the topics of race, consumerism, and violence.
Alice is struggling to adapt to life in Tangier with her new husband, when a friend from college, Lucy, turns up unannounced. They haven’t seen each other since a nasty accident, and things soon start to go wrong for Alice; is she being manipulated, or is she going mad? There’s a strong sense of place, Bennington College and the oppressive heat and dirt of Tangier, and the we swap perspectives between Alice and Lucy. It’s a little bit The Secret History, a little bit The Talented Mr Ripley, but while it was definitely psychological, and I found it enjoyable, it wasn’t all that thrilling. I do love the cover.
Between a Wolf and a Dog is the story of a Sydney family dealing with loss, betrayal, purpose, and the many complications of life. It is contemplative, poetic and descriptive, atmospheric, nostalgic, and sad, though not depressing. For those who read for language, inner journeys, and messy, complicated people.