Doxology by Nell Zink review

Hi everyone! So this week I’m reviewing Nell Zink’s latest novel Doxology. Taking place in New York, the novel focuses on two generations of the same family, with 9/11 splitting the book into halves. We first follow couple Pam and Dan who, along with friend Joe, start a band. We then switch to Flora, Pam and Dan’s daughter, after 9/11; she is an environmental activist and member of the Green Party.

Zink’s writing style is very distinctive; combining the mundane with the downright weird. I enjoyed it as it felt unique compared to other books I had been reading at the same time. Her style also lends itself well to the absurdity of events within the book; particularly in the latter half. But I can understand why her writing may not be for everyone.

Zink flits between different characters, most notably Pam, Dan, and Flora, and changes her writing to match their personalities, which worked very well. It gave a greater sense of them as people and how they view the world. Out of all of them I preferred reading about Flora rather than her parents. This can be simply put down to that I’m closer to her age and the events she’s mentioning I obviously remember (ie Trump’s election campaign – though I wish I didn’t). There are references to Trump and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein so a knowledge of American politics is probably needed to fully ‘get’ the novel. There are a couple of times I don’t think Zink went far enough into exploring the policies and mentalities of these political figures, particularly Stein. I would have liked more insight perhaps.

Pam and Dan, meanwhile, are not bad characters. They’re not poorly written or have no depth. I just struggled to connect to them and the world of musical counterculture. It is simply down to my ignorance of US music at that period rather than Zink. Her writing was always engaging yet their storyline did feel a bit of a slog.

Would I recommend Doxology?  If you’re a fan of multi-generational narratives or indeed Zink herself, then yes. Her writing style might put some readers off (I’ve seen it labelled ‘wacky’ and ‘pretentious’ through my brief research of some of her other work) but I liked it. It was different from what I usually read and worked with the plot. A knowledge of US culture from the 1990s to present day would certainly help when reading, which is probably my downfall. But I’m certainly interested to see what her next book will be about.

Doxology is published by Fourth Estate and you can find more information here.

Saltwater by Jessica Andrews review

Hi everyone! I kindly received an ARC of Jessica Andrews’ debut novel Saltwater after requesting it on Netgalley. What drew me to the novel originally was the plot; our narrator Lucy Bailey has gone to live in her grandfather’s house in Co. Donegal after graduating with a Literature Degree from Queen Mary University in London. Not only do we see her life in Ireland and the reasons why she left London, but we also witness her childhood in Sunderland and her relationship with her mother.

Andrews has written the story in vignettes, often hopping between different periods of time. There might be a couple of pages on Lucy’s life in Donegal, then followed by her childhood in Sunderland, then even looking at her grandmother’s life. At first, I found this technique quite confusing and disjointed; often getting characters a bit muddled up. But the more I read, the more I really enjoyed it. By reading about people like the grandmother, it gives you a better picture, not just of Lucy but her whole family. You can empathise with them and how they behave, knowing what has happened in their past. The fragmentary nature of the novel reminded me of another debut: Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under (who, funnily enough, provides a quote praising Saltwater as ‘sublime’). The novels also explore the complex relationship between their narrator and her mother. However, I feel that Is where the similarities end and I enjoyed Saltwater for different reasons than Everything Under.

The main reason was nostalgia. Lucy’s teen years reminded me of my own, especially when she noted clothes or music. The bands she mentions are the ones I listened to and I recognised myself and my friends in her group. And yes, I did cringe when I remembered some of the stuff we thought was cool. This made Lucy’s reflections as a teenager really fun to read and probably the most enjoyable part of the book for me. Lucy is also a really sympathetic and relatable character, especially after leaving school and going to University. The insecurities and worries, the trying hard to fit but never quite feeling you’ve succeeded, the attempts to define yourself away from your parents… all of that makes her empathetic as she navigates her way to becoming an adult. Andrews conveys those feelings of insecurity wonderfully. I also found Lucy’s relationship with her mother very relatable.

Andrews’ writing is also wonderful. There are many beautiful, lyrical passages throughout the novel, perfectly capturing either a landscape or a mood. You are instantly catapulted to the natural world in Donegal or the hustle and bustle of London. Her imagery is very evocative and original, never relying on clichés to describe. She creates such a rich tapestry that the places become characters in their own right. This ties in nicely with the idea of places where you lived previously somehow still shape or define you in some way.

Despite my confusion at the beginning, I liked Saltwater. This is partly due to the nostalgic factor for me (and I’ll admit, not everyone will relate to those specific bands) but mainly down to Andrews’ amazing writing and sympathetic narrator. Heart-breaking, tender but still beautiful, Saltwater is an excellent debut and pegs Andrews as a writer to watch.

Saltwater will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on the 16th May and you can find more information here.

Marilyn and Me by Ji-min Lee review

Hi everyone! I promise this is my last Marilyn Monroe related blog post (for now). I promise. Coming out on 11th July this year Marilyn and Me, translated from Korean by Chi Young Kim, takes place in 1954 when Monroe visits American troops stationed in Korea after the war. A young woman named Alice, working as a typist on a US base, is designated to be her translator for the entirety of the trip. But Alice is harbouring many dark, painful secrets, and the novel flits back in time to before and during the conflict to uncover them and discover why Alice seems to have given up on life.

As you can tell from my small blurb, the main focus is on Alice rather than Marilyn. Alice is very much the driving force behind the narrative; we begin and end the novel with her. She will be quite a divisive character as she isn’t particularly likeable, especially in the first half. As a victim of war she is traumatised by what she has gone through so she doesn’t necessarily act rationally in situations. Understandable. But the way she treats and talks about people is quite horrible and her behaviour in that regard will put some readers off. Also her actions prior to the war starting are reprehensible. But I found her a really tragic yet fascinating character; I couldn’t stop thinking about her. In many ways she is a perfect mirror image of Monroe, another woman who has also suffered greatly in the past. But whilst she hides her sorrow (or at least attempts to escape from it) behind a glamourous persona, Alice seems to wallow in self-pity. This makes her both pathetic and sympathetic, and she will be either be a love them or hate them character.

With translated work I always find it hard to decipher how much credit for the writing goes to the author and to the translator. But either way, there are passages of Marilyn and Me that are very well-written. There was a beautiful line about the letter Y on a typewriter making marks on paper like a bird’s foot on snow. It was just little moments like that, that captured my imagination and reflected elements of characters’ personalities. Another image features Alice lingering on a bench at a train station after her lover has boarded and left. It conveys the loneliness that she feels, both then and in the present. Yet there were other aspects of the book that I didn’t enjoy as much, one being the romantic interest. Without giving too much away, Alice’s lover is necessary to drive the plot forward but other than that, I didn’t really know why he was there. I didn’t understand what Alice saw in him or really knew what he was doing during the war. He feels like a blank canvas that someone has forgotten to draw on; there didn’t seem to be any personality.

If you go into Marilyn and Me expecting a novel about Monroe, you will be disappointed. She is very much a secondary character to Alice. As the title suggests, the narrative is told from Alice’s perspective and it is her that guides the reader (and Monroe) through this war-torn country. I preferred the second half of the book to the first; this may be because of Alice’s lover as I mentioned above. But overall, I enjoyed the novel. It is heart-breaking at points but ultimately it has a really nice, life-affirming message within. There were some problems I had but I came away from Marilyn and Me really liking it and wanting to read more about the Korean War.

Marilyn and Me is published by 4th Estate and you can find more information here

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal review

Hi everyone! So today I’m reviewing Elizabeth Macneal’s debut The Doll Factory which is due for release on 2nd May. It is London, 1850 and The Great Exhibit is in the process of being built in Hyde Park. Whilst watching the construction two people meet; Iris, an aspiring artist, and Silas who owns a curiosity shop and is somewhat of a collector. Iris barely remembers this meeting and carries on with her life, even getting a chance to study with artist Louis Frost. Silas, on the hand, becomes obsessed with Iris and will do anything to make her fall in love with him, going so far as to stalk her every movement.

The Doll Factory is a gripping, tense read. There is quite a slow build in the beginning as you watch Iris and Silas’ separate lives; their relationships, their dreams and fears. It helps you feel connected to these characters and when they do meet and the plot truly kicks off, you are already invested in them. It is hard to put the book down, especially in the last quarter which is truly terrifying. Macneal builds up to this moment and it is wonderfully done; I was on the edge of my seat. However, I will say the final chapter felt odd, almost anti-climatic and I could have done without it and made my own decisions what happened after. It is hard to talk about obviously due to spoilers but I felt it wasn’t necessary to the plot and could have been cut.

Macneal’s characterisations are also well done. She has created well-rounded, interesting people so it wasn’t a hardship to pick this book up. I particularly liked the relationship between Iris and her sister Rose. It is complicated, fraught, and tender and I felt for both of them even if I didn’t agree with them. There is a sense of them relying on one another for support but at the same time each wanting their own life. It was really fun exploring their characters and the changing dynamic between them as the novel progresses. Silas, in some ways, could have been portrayed as a cartoonish villain. But Macneal makes him quite pitiful, especially in the beginning, and gives him enough personality that the reader can become invested in his character. He is horrific; genuinely frightening and I think a character people will love to hate. Some of the supporting players, such as Louis and Albie, a young street urchin who connects Iris and Silas, are also given depth and motivations of their own which also adds another element to their relationships with the main characters.

I also really liked how Macneal incorporated art into the story. Both Iris and Silas believe themselves to be artists in their fields and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood make an appearance in the book. The novel asks really interesting questions concerning our relationship to art; what is the difference (if any) between art and real life? How does one accurately portray life in art? There is one scene where, viewing a painting Louis has drawn of her, Iris notes that it is both her and not her. This was really well-handled and emphasised this discussion of art and how we view it.

If you historical fiction, or are just in the mood for some creepy Victorian fiction, then The Doll Factory might be for you. Macneal has captured London perfectly; evoking all the seedy bars and fancy houses and everywhere in between. Her characters are beautifully rendered; they are endlessly fascinating to watch and I was disappointed when the book ended. It is hard to imagine this is a debut as it is really impressive; great characters, evocative writing and a truly gripping story. What more can you want out of a book?

The Doll Factory will be published by Picador in May and you can find more information here.

M for Mammy by Eleanor O’Reilly review

Hi everyone! So this week I thought I would review Eleanor O’Reilly’s debut novel M for Mammy which is being released on 21st March. Set in modern day Ireland, we follow a family called the Augustts. Father Kevin has been laid off and is searching for a job, putting extra pressure on mum Annette. The youngest child, Jacob, has autism and refuses to speak though his sister Jenny believes she can hear his voice in her head. One day Annette has a stroke, an event which devastates the family who are left trying to soldier on with their lives as best they can.

O’Reilly’s use of language is really playful. The novel is about communication and how people communicate with each other, especially when language is robbed from them (Jacob is mute and Annette struggles with speech following the stroke). Even those that do talk, Jenny often notes the punctuation in others’ speech, trying to infer what they mean through that and it is in the chapters dedicated to the children that O’Reilly’s language really shines. The use of repetition and word choice highlights their confusion, their trying to understand the world around them following their mum’s hospitalisation. They want to ask questions but they don’t or can’t so they express themselves in different ways (Jenny likes writing while Jacob prefers to paint). O’Reilly really delves into these characters and I found them very compelling. I think she also captures a child’s voice really well, using simplistic sentence structures and imagery. There wasn’t a moment in the novel when I thought ‘a kid this age wouldn’t say that’. It was very believable.

The characters were also believable. The children were my favourite narrators; their chapters were so lively, playful, and engaging that I wanted more of them. The third narrator, Annette, I wasn’t so interested in, perhaps because the kids were so well written and developed that she felt a bit bland and boring in comparison. I would find myself reading her chapters quicker so I could get back to the kids. But my favourite character has to be Mae-Anne, the children’s gran. She is this amazing presence in the narrative; a fireball of energy that can be infuriating at times but is still lovable. I recognised people in my own family in Mae-Anne and her strength and determination made her such a joyous character to read. She may be the highlight of the entire novel to me.

M for Mammy won’t be for everyone; it’s slow and not a lot happens in novel, you simply watch the trials and tribulations of this family. Yet I found it a really enjoyable read, playful and cleverly written with compelling, relatable characters. While I did have some difficulty connecting to Annette, Jenny and Jacob more than made up for it. Also The Diary of Anne Frank is mentioned frequently throughout, linking into the theme of communication. Anne Frank can still connect to people even after all these years, people she would never meet and who wouldn’t meet each other, highlighting the power of words which I really liked. At times heart-breaking and at others funny, if you enjoy family dramas, then you’ll like M for Mammy. A very impressive debut.

M for Mammy is published by Two Roads and you can find more information here.

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin review

Hi everyone! I’m back with my first review of 2019 and it is Samanta Schweblin’s short story collection Mouthful of Birds, due for release on the 7th February. Some people might remember that I read her debut novel (novella?) Fever Dream late last year. I had no idea what was going on but found the overall experience very atmospheric and creepy. And that’s exactly how I felt reading these short stories, which have also been translated by Megan McDowell.

Even in stories I felt didn’t particularly work, Schweblin’s imagery is so striking that it haunts after the story is long finished. I still remember scenes from stories that overall didn’t grip me or I wasn’t sure what to think, but those brief images were very powerful. A good example of this is seen in the eponymous short story ‘Mouthful of Birds’. The image – a girl eating live birds – is uncomfortable, unpleasant, and unforgettable, yet the actual plot of the story felt like it could have been expanded. I was left wanting more, especially in terms of characterisation and seeing the relationships within this family. A lot was left unsaid, which I don’t normally mind as I like the ambiguity it gives, but here I found myself scratching my head, not knowing what to make of these people or the girl’s sudden interest in birds.

Yet when the stories did work, they were brilliant. One of my favourites was ‘Heads Against Concrete” which follows the life of an artist who only paints heads getting hit against concrete. It was such a brilliant and disturbing character study which quietly builds to this terrifying conclusion that I could not stop reading. The narrator is both repulsive and fascinating; creating this sense of unease, of not wanting to follow him down an increasingly darker path yet curiosity compels you forward. Another story I liked was ‘The Size of Things’ which sees a young man come to live and work in a toy shop. This one feels very different from the others in the collection in that there is a sense of sadness throughout. Is Enrique in this shop because he simply refuses to grow up? Is he trying to relive his childhood? Or did he not have much of a childhood to begin with? The reader is plagued by these questions during the story and it is only when we get to the heart-breaking climax that you realise what has been happening all along.

If you are a fan of Schweblin’s Fever Dream you will like this. Despite the narratives here perhaps being more accessible than the dialogue driven, nonlinear plot of the first book, Schweblin’s knack for creepy, intense storytelling is on full display here. Her imagery and word choice are stunning, and nothing feels out of place; every word chosen deliberately for maximum impact. However in a couple of stories I did feel like the characterisation and plot were lacking and I struggled to connect with those. Overall however, I did enjoy Mouthful of Birds and will be interested in reading more of Schweblin’s work.

Mouthful of Birds is published by Oneworld and you can find more information here

 

Look at Me by Mareike Krügel review

Hi everyone! Today I thought I’d review Mareike Krügel’s Look at Me, which been translated from German by Imogen Taylor. I recieved a copy via Netgalley and the book comes out in December. Our protagonist is Kat, a music teacher who has to pick up her daughter Helli from school after a nose bleed. We follow Kat through this particular day and see her relationships with family and friends. But Kat has a secret; she has felt a lump on her breast (a ‘something’ she calls it) which she suspects might be malignant.

Kat is a very quirky narrator (I hate the word but it fits here). She doesn’t necessarily act as you would expect and she has a different way of viewing her world. At first it was hard to get into the story and connect to her as a character because of this, but as the novel progresses and you become use to this style of narration Kat becomes quite endearing. She is a well-developed character, and there were moments when I could relate to her.

Because we are told this story from Kat’s perspective, everything feels quite detached. This is deliberate; Kat feels quite isolated from her loved ones, as her kids grow up and her husband is away most days. Yet by distancing us from the characters, I found it was hard to care for them. The two neighbours, Theo and Heinz, did nothing for me, and when I look back I find them interchangeable. I remember characteristics that belong to one of them, but couldn’t say which one. As I say, the detached narration was probably intended by Krügel and it does accurately reflect Kat’s feelings about her life, but it affected the secondary characters negatively.

The novel flits between drama and comedy, having moments which are ‘life like’ and others that are completely ridiculous. There is a moment at some stables which I found stupid, and pulled me out of the narrative. It just seemed highly unlikely that Kat would do what she does, and the ridiculous thing that happens here makes the ending less impactful. The ending is also a bit ridiculous and out of character, but I thought it was sweet and something out of a rom-com. It also shows a character change in Kat. But the earlier moment kind of robs this of something.

Look at Me is not everyone – a quick browse through Goodreads and Netgalley highlights the mixed response. The unusual, detached narration could put people off. Overall I thought the novel was good. It’s not groundbreaking and I don’t think it’ll make my best books list at the end of this year, but I enjoyed myself while I was reading it. The imagery and characterisations were fine, and I thought Krügel’s word choice and sentence structure was good. There were some problems which I’ve already discussed. I think reading a sample to get a taste for what this book is like might be a good idea instead of rushing out to buy it.

Look at Me will be published in December by Text Publishing and you can find more information here.

Ponti by Sharlene Teo review

Hi everyone! Today I’m reviewing Sharlene Teo’s debut novel Ponti, which I received from the publishers and Netgalley. We follow three women at different points in their lives and how they relate to one another. In 2003 Szu is a teenager living with her mother and aunt in Singapore. A bit of a loner, Szu is often seen as an outsider until one day she befriends Circe and the two quickly become close. The narrative also follows Szu’s mother Amisa in the 1980s as she struggles to become a famous actress, with her only credit as the monster Pontianak in a low-budget horror and its sequels. Finally, in 2020 a recently-divorced Circe is forced to confront her past when she is part of the advertising team of the rebooted Ponti films.

The three different perspectives are incredibly well-written. Each sheds new light on the past and the other women involved in the story. As a reader you see these characters from different angles, making them feel very fleshed out. None are wholly good or bad, but rather have moments that attract sympathy or disgust. Teo also gives each of them a distinct narrative voice, making them feel like individuals rather than just a plot device. You are always very aware of whose perspective you are following and Teo never slips up going back and forth between the characters. However I found Szu to be quite unrelatable at first. Her first chapter I found a bit of a slog, especially compared to Amisa and Circe. When you get further into the plot you do begin to understand her, but at the beginning she is a hard character to connect to.

The novel shares its name with the film Amisa stars in, and there does appear to be horror elements within Ponti, particularly body horror. The most obvious example is when the reader first meets Circe in 2020, she goes into detail about her tape worm. Her strange fascination felt uncomfortable to read and Teo explores this notion of the body throughout the text. There are constant mentions of sweat and scabs, with Amisa at one point comparing her body to beef patty. The juxtaposition between this incredibly over-the-top horror movie and the average body was fascinating. No matter how horrific the events depicted in film are, reality feels much more gruesome.

Of course Teo explores the flip-side to this idea of body horror. Szu is constantly comparing herself to girls at school, whom she considers flawless, and Circe works in advertising where looks have a great importance. In a way this is itself a kind of body horror; a desperation to look a certain way, a fixation on beauty. It makes you question whether Szu’s dislike of her body comes from within herself or whether external pressures to be beautiful are affecting her perspective.

Teo’s writing here is very evocative and lyrical. It is hard to believe this is a debut novel, as some passages within Ponti are stunning. As a reader you are transported to Singapore and Teo describes it so vividly it feels like you’re there in the bustle of the city or the lush greenery of the countryside. The imagery is beautiful, imaginative and I wish I could underline so many passages in my copy. Not a word feels misplaced or haphazardly thrown in; a lot of care and patience has gone into each chapter and it shows.

Ponti is an incredible novel. Without going into spoilers Teo deals with very serious topics yet I found reading the novel a very uplifting experience. The characterisation of the three main leads was excellent and they were very well-developed. However the main strength of the novel lies in Teo’s writing style. It is haunting and imaginative, letting you explore a part of the world which doesn’t often appear in literature, particularly in the Western world. If you can get through Szu’s first chapter, then Ponti is certainly a worthwhile read.

Ponti is published in April by Picador and more information can be found here.

Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala

Hi everyone! Today I will be reviewing Uzodinma Iweala’s Speak No Evil, which I gratefully received from John Murray and Netgalley. Our protagonist is Niru, a teenager living in Washington DC. He appears to have it all: a star track runner bound for Harvard who is surrounded by friends and family. Except Niru is gay, something his strict Nigerian parents find sinful. With his life flipped upside down, Niru must try and navigate the precarious situation he is in.

Iweala does an excellent job of capturing the experience of being a teenager, filled with all the anxieties and hopes during that period. Whenever an adult tries to write in the style of somebody younger, I very often roll my eyes at the tired (and often wrong) cliches they spout out. Here however, Iweala successfully manages to pull off a teenage voice. The pop culture references are not shoe-horned in, but rather naturally appear in conversations. The stresses of exams and extra-curricular activities are so well-done, they reminded me of my own experience at that time in my life.

The difficulties of being a teenager are successfully blended together with wider themes of identity. Niru and Meredith, Niru’s best friend who is the first to find out he is gay, struggle to find their place in the world, as many teenagers do. But being gay when it is forbidden, and being black in a predominantly white city, adds more pressure and Iweala captures Niru’s confusion and frustration beautifully. He is discovering his identity as a teenager but that identity is seen as different by his family and peers. This plays into a much more broader discussion, namely the treatment of black people and the LGBTQ+ community in the USA, as well as movements such as Black Lives Matter. Iweala navigates between the personal and the political very well.

However where the novel really excels is through its imagery. The language is beautiful and evocative, in particular a scene where Meredith is walking through Washington DC. I felt like I was pounding the pavements alongside her, so vivid Iweala had painted that picture. The recurring imagery of running laced throughout the story was also great. Both Niru and Meredith are into athletics, and we see them at various practices. Yet the physical act of them running becomes a metaphor, whether that is leaving the city or going to college, they are escaping from their lives here in search of a better one.

Overall, I thought Speak No Evil was a stunning piece of work. Iweala tackles very serious, sensitive subjects such as race and sexuality, as well as weaves a very compelling story. The novel isn’t long but certainly packs a punch. The characters are well fleshed-out and their voices are believable. The imagery used is also incredibly beautiful and poignant. I would highly recommend Speak No Evil.

Speak No Evil will be published in March by John Murray and you can find more information here.

The Hoarder by Jess Kidd review

Hi everyone, I hope you are well. Today I’m reviewing The Hoarder by Jess Kidd, which I was kindly given by Canongate via Netgalley. Our protagonist is Maud Drennan, a carer originally from Ireland who now lives in a maisonette with the agoraphobic Renata and a group of saints who can only be seen by her. Maud is sent by her agency to care for and clean up after the cantankerous Cathal Flood, living alone in the once grand house Bridlemere. His wife Mary died a few years ago and his relationship with son Gabriel is testy, so Maud is his only real companion. However, as Maud begins to clean up Bridlemere, the house starts to reveal clues to its sinister past. Can Maud and Renata uncover the dark secret which haunts both the house and the family? And can Maud finally recall what happened to her sister in Ireland years previously?

I love a creepy house story. Jane Eyre, Rebecca, The Little Stranger, you name it – if it features a sinister manor or haunted house I have probably read it or it is sitting on my TBR. And The Hoarder certainly doesn’t disappoint in this regard. The descriptions of Bridlemere are so vivid that you feel you are there, I could smell the wet earth and dusty scent. The sights and smells are beautifully evoked by Kidd, and gives you a real sense of the house and its dilapidation. I could picture the rooms and garden easily. Bridlemere, like many grand houses before it, plays a major part in the story and feels like a character rather than a mere backdrop.

Kidd has also admirably taken this grand, sinister house from its usual historical setting and placed it in the modern world. I really enjoyed this aspect, and it was fun reading a Gothic story in this context. While we still have the staples of a haunted house such as forbidden rooms and mysterious creaking in shadowy corners, Kidd injects something new. Instead of a locked door, a part of the house is blocked off by a wall of National Geographics. Whilst there was imagery evoking earlier Gothic stories, and I was reminded of things such as Bluebeard’s Castle and Robert Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’ when reading, there was also plenty of current pop culture references. The mash-up of the old and the new was fascinating and really made the novel stand out.

The characterisations of Maud and Cathal were also highlights for me. Their banter was well-written, funny at one point then suddenly becoming quite tense. You never quite knew how Cathal would react or what would happen next. This gave their conversations, though often lighthearted, a sense of dread especially when Cathal becomes a figure of suspicion. Maud’s witty, dry observations and religious leanings reminded me a little of Jane Eyre, though like with Bridlemere, I think Kidd does subvert this idea. Maud feels like a much more troubled, world-weary character than Jane, and I think that’s what makes her an interesting character to read about.

The one thing I didn’t like was the frequent conversations with the saints. At points they reminded me of Gods in Ancient Greek literature, commenting on the unfolding plot. However most of the time they reminded me of the ‘inner goddess’ of Fifty Shades of Grey and (sorry E.L James fans) that put me right off. They also were quite distracting, especially in the second half of the novel. I would be gripped by the mystery, heart pounding and then ripped out of the story because St Valentine or George was doing something irrelevant. I understand their significance in the story but I felt they were overused and became annoying by the end.

Overall I really enjoyed The Hoarder. This was a very clever, well-written take on a haunted house story. The characters were beautifully drawn and Bridlemere was very atmospheric. I’ve never read Kidd’s first novel but I will pick it up in the future as she has a great writing style. If you like a good literary mystery (who doesn’t?) then you should definitely check out this.

The Hoarder will be published by Canongate on 1st February 2018. For more information click here.