Highlights in the Charts
Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney
Review by Becky Innes
Feeney's alliterative thriller Daisy Darker, set around the gloomy beaches and moors of Cornwall, England, is a family drama of uncomfortable dynamics around the Darker family table after years of avoiding one another. The story begins on Halloween. Daisy has travelled to her Nana’s crumbling, eerie house, Seaglass, and in true horror story fashion, once the family commits to staying at the house, the tide means they can’t leave until the house is reconnected to the mainland in eight hours time.
Daisy is a typical younger sister, often ignored by her older sisters Rose and Lily. Lily’s daughter Trixie and family friend Conor also joined the event. The dialogue in the book is extremely strong and the family have gathered for Nana’s eightieth birthday as she wants to read out her will after being told by a psychic that she will die soon. As the will is read, Daisy is disappointed to learn that she hasn’t inherited Seaglass. And then the murders begin.
The use of poetry throughout the book adds to the creepy theme, especially as each line is crossed off as each murder happens. Throughout, you are constantly second guessing yourself – with each suspect quickly becoming the next victim! Cleverly written and managing to keep you hooked the entire time, the story is told in flashbacks through home video tapes, explaining the family history and why they've been estranged so long. Daisy learns what is happening as the reader does and the twist at the end is so incredible that I didn’t see it coming.
Really Good Actually by Monica Heisey
Review by Natalie Beckett
Heisley’s conversational style and darkly humorous observations turn what might have been a depressing story about divorce in your late twenties, into a book that made me laugh out loud and (almost) cry twice. It’s one I will enthusiastically recommend to friends through its quotability, for example: “I ate so much of the cheese board I briefly considered pretending the dogs had got at it; I did, in the end, pretend this.”
I loved this book's relatability, sometimes excruciatingly so. Like Maggie, I too am in my late twenties and while none of my friends have got married or been divorced (yet), life is starting to look and feel different. For some friends, getting married in the near future isn't an unthinkable prospect and the topic of babies isn't followed by a chorus of gagging noises when it’s brought up at the pub. In spite of this, we are also still undoubtedly young. Our group chats are also full of ridiculous animal memes, like the shoplifting seagull Maggie’s friend Amirah shares in chapter one.
The thoughtfully-crafted characters perfectly epitomise this in-between stage of life. Their astute responses to Maggie’s accounts of single life not only signpost their age, but cut to the heart of modern dating culture. I especially enjoyed Clive telling Maggie not to worry, because “Gen Z rarely wasted time breaking things off in full,” or Amy explaining there are numerous ways a woman’s Instagram stories could tell the world she is now single.
The relatability factor kept me rooting for Maggie even when I hated what she was doing. As she continues to email, text and call her ex-husband – despite his clear desire to cut all communication – I wanted to scream, because we’ve all been there and it never ends well. Her desperation for closure reaches an all-time high when, having claimed she would never go to therapy, she books herself and her ex-husband into a couples session without his consent. The fall-out when he doesn’t show up made me cringe, but it was also one of the most moving scenes I have read in a long time.
The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess
Review by Jenna Tomlinson
Burgess' most famous work, A Clockwork Orange, has been immortalised in popular culture, but it isn't his only novel. The Wanting Seed is a dystopian work set in a future where the government grapples with control as overpopulation and food shortages threaten the world. Severe restrictions have been placed on families and heterosexuality faces active discrimination. Into this fold, married couple Tristam and Beatrice are reeling from their young son's death.
The book is not new, being originally published in 1962, but has been recently re-published: interesting, given some of its themes (gender, sexuality, war, population and the role of government) are contemporary concerns in today's world. It's also not an easy read, with some triggering themes and difficult underlying discussions woven through subliminal messaging. The idea that a government should protect its citizens is pitted against the question of how far this "protection" should go and whether certain liberties and rights should be reduced in light of this.
Burgess is and always will be a controversial author telling controversial stories. Personally, I fully understand the gravitas of this novel as a cynical satire on the plight of mankind and in that vein it is an interesting and provocative read to sink your teeth into.