Not to be Overlooked
By Natalia Alvarez and Gurnish Kaur
Not to be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon and Love Marriage by Monica Ali.
A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon
From bestselling author of The Trouble With Goats and Sheep and Three Things About Elise comes Joanna Cannon’s third novel, A Tidy Ending. This is a captivating murder mystery released 2 August 2022 through Scribner that focuses on the life of unreliable narrator, forty-two-year-old Linda Hammett. This was my first time reading a novel by Joanna Cannon and I have to say it did not disappoint.
Throughout this novel, we follow Linda as she and her husband Terry navigate moving to a new town and easing into a new life in their English housing estate. For those on the outside, they seem like perfectly ordinary individuals, however when mail from a previous resident named Rebecca Finch starts appearing, Linda takes it upon herself to find this woman and see if the glamorous life depicted in the catalogues Rebecca subscribes to align with the woman herself. This occurs while women in and around the estate start to go missing and are eventually found murdered. In Linda’s mind, everyone is a suspect. This is due in large to the unhappy and traumatic events that take place in Linda’s childhood. She shows herself to be friendless, socially inexperienced and overall unfulfilled. This leads Linda to live a rather boring life up until this point: revolving around working part-time at a local charity shop, cooking and keeping her house tidy and visiting her mother. As things get messier and messier in Linda’s life, she clings to what she knows as her search for Rebecca grows into an obsession and the bodies continue to pile up. These events force Linda to confront her own past traumas that have followed her into adulthood, creating a woman who is constantly uncertain, fearful of germs and quotes her ageing mother far too often.
A Tidy Ending is a darkly comedic novel that introduces readers to an unreliable narrator who is continuously changing from one minute to the next, keeping readers constantly on their toes and second guessing every event that takes place. I would recommend this novel to anyone in need of a fun, quirky murder mystery. This is a story that promises to keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. I greatly enjoyed this read and cannot wait to see what Joanna Cannon does next.
Love Marriage by Monica Ali
From her bestselling debut novel, Brick Lane (published in 2003) to Love Marriage (published in 2022), Monica Ali has continued to deliver detailed and accessible South Asian characters. Love Marriage has been reviewed as the “best book of 2022 so far” in The New Yorker and Monica Ali herself has been awarded the Man Booker Prize for fiction. It is an understatement that Monica Ali’s storytelling has widened the pool for South Asian writers in the literary field.
To many, falling in love and proceeding to marriage is simply "marriage" – tying the knot. But for many even the act of marriage has its complexities. “Love marriage” is a term used across many cultures to describe a marriage driven solely by the couple, who have found each other and are in love. As the novel opens, we are introduced to the protagonist Yasmin, who is taking her love marriage to the next step. Introducing her parents to her fiancé’s outspoken, feminist mother. Harriet is a courageous activist, author and the soon-to-be mother-in-law to Yasmin.
Ali sets the foundation of the novel through two central families. The Ghoramis and the Sangsters. The story moves through Yasmin’s lens: we observe Yasmin steering her career, her rocky engagement and the responsibility of the eldest Indian daughter. As Yasmin navigates her love marriage and new relationships, betrayal, secrets and hidden trauma unravels in front of her.
The novel is structured with great thought, giving readers glimpses of Yasmin’s relationships as the chapters alternate seamlessly. The tapestry of Yasmin’s thoughts and feelings created by the chapters mirrors Ali’s layered commentary on religion, politics and family dynamics.
Yasmin is a British Indian trainee doctor who has fallen in love with fellow medic, Joe. The culture clash of Joe and Yasmin’s families is playfully written yet has complete truth behind it. What happens when you fall in love with someone outside your faith and culture? Everyone’s story is different and so is Yasmin and Joe’s love marriage.