Highlights in the Charts
By Emma Ferguson, Alex Haywood and Robyn Hewson.
The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish
When Jamie boards the Thames river bus for his return to work after Christmas, he is unphased by the absence of his year-long friend and commuting companion, Kit. But when two police officers are waiting for Jamie as he disembarks, he quickly realises Kit’s absence may be significant after all. Given his argument with Kit the night he was last seen, and his involvement with Melia, Kit’s wife, Jamie is the officer’s prime suspect in Kit’s disappearance. Louise Candlish’s The Other Passenger is a well-planned thriller that is full of twists, double-crossing and betrayal – all motivated by financial gain, and it quickly becomes an unputdownable read.
As Jamie is questioned during the present, the chapters jump backwards, allowing him to unveil the events of the previous year. Despite their substantial age difference (Candlish frequently plays on the Millennial/Gen X divide), Jamie and his girlfriend Clare become friends with Melia and Kit; failed actors who are in serious debt and are terribly envious of Clare and Jamie’s lavish and seemingly unachievable London lifestyle (something all of us publishing hopefuls can relate to!) – unaware that Clare’s parents are to thank for it. But just how far would the couple go to obtain this lifestyle they are so desperate for?
Whilst the unpredictable twists are undoubtedly the highlight of this book, honourable mention goes to the sheer excellence of Candlish’s scene setting – she captures London so vividly on the journeys along the Thames. A convincing ending rounds off a successful thriller that I would highly recommend.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
It is little wonder that Kiley Reid’s debut novel, Such A Fun Age, caused such a storm amongst critics on its release. Longlisted for the Booker Prize, Reid’s novel is an arresting gut-punch of a book examining the micro-aggressions of racial tension at the heart of our society. Perhaps the most scathing element of Reid’s work is her examination of white liberalism and the sheen that a progressive façade forms over our own interrogations of privilege.
Emira Tucker is stuck in a job and a world in which she is undervalued. Babysitter for blogger Alix Chamberlain, Emira forms a tight bond with her daughter, Briar, a precocious toddler. When a supermarket guard accuses her of kidnapping, Emira’s world is cracked wide open. An entirely believable viral event, Emira is thrown into Alix’s war with her own expectations. When Emira builds a relationship with someone from Alix’s past, everything shifts.
Such A Fun Age is an essential read that will deftly force you to inspect your own actions. Reid writes with wisdom and sharp, layered observation that will leave you in a dazzling state of discomfort. Poignant and surprisingly gripping, you can’t help but root for Emira as she is caught between two warring factions of virtual signalling and racial blindness.
Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud
Ingrid Persaud’s breathtaking debut explores the life of an unconventional family in Trinidad. With laughter, joy and tragedy in equal measures, this novel will draw you in immediately and stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.
The narration is split between Betty, her son Solo and their lodger Mr Chetan. With no family of his own, Mr Chetan is quickly absorbed into Betty and Solo’s world, becoming a vital member of their family, and filling the gap of Betty’s husband who died years before. The three live happily for several years, until Betty’s buried secret is brought to the surface, threatening to rip the make-shift family apart. Hurt and angry, Solo flees to New York, where he moves in with his late father’s brother. Keen to move on with his own life, Chetan too moves out into a place of his own.
As the characters leave the safety of the home and the comfort of the family unit, each is left to deal with their secrets alone. Persaud digs deeper into each character’s inner world as the novel progresses, exploring difficult themes like homophobia, domestic abuse and self-harm.
In Love After Love, Persaud has managed to create a split narrative with three equally compelling characters. Readers will be drawn to Betty’s warmth, captivated by Chetan’s exploration of his identity and find themselves willing Solo to return home to his family.
After oscillating between joy and despair, the novel comes to an end with a gut-wrenching tragedy that will leave you heartbroken. Love After Love is an unforgettable novel that emphasises the power of family – conventional or not.