I found you: a novel by Lisa Jewell (Atria Books, 2017)
This seemingly ordinary novel about a single mom somewhere in England (I don’t know English geography very well) sort of turns into a murder mystery when you’re not looking. A man shows up in a beach town without his memory and the single mom takes him in, realizing this is probably a stupid move. Luckily it works out all right. Meanwhile other pieces of the story are narrated as seemingly separate stories, one about a young foreign bride and one about a family with two teenagers, which eventually all come together. The character development is very good, and the descriptions of life in England will be interesting to American readers. This is a well-written novel which keeps the reader wondering what will happen next, without so much graphic violence that you can’t sleep until you’re done.
Filed under Fiction, Mystery
The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain by Bill Bryson (Doubleday, 2015)
Bill Bryson is a very entertaining writer of non-fiction, a genre not generally known for its humor. Although I have only read A Short History of Nearly Everything, he has authored many other popular books. In this one he travels across the United Kingdom from the southern to northernmost points, describing the various cities and villages that he visits on foot, by bus, by train or by car. It is not meant to be a guide to specific places to stay, but more of a verbal tour and commentary – like a television travel program. I really enjoyed the way he brought the country to life for me.
Bryson’s background is in journalism, but he writes about the places he visits in a casual and humorous voice that he probably couldn’t get away with in everyday print journalism (at least not the parts where he reveals his liberal political views). I was surprised to learn that Bryson has British citizenship and has lived in England for forty years, but still thinks of himself as an American. I highly recommend this book if you’ve never been to the UK and want to know what it’s like, although since I haven’t been there myself I can’t vouch for how accurate it is.
One Day by David Nicholls (Vintage Books, 2009)
This novel comes packaged with two full pages of glowing reviews from professional reviewers, but I didn’t actually enjoy it that much. It’s the love story of a young British man and woman, and their adventures over the fifteen years after they meet at university. Each chapter takes place on the same date (July 15) of the year, but you don’t find out until the end why this date is chosen. The novel is probably most meaningful for British readers in their forties because they would be able to relate to the events and experiences the main characters go through on their way to finally being a couple.
Us by David Nicholls (HarperCollins, 2014)
Based on the book jacket describing a failing marriage, I was worried that this novel was going to be too emotional and melodramatic for my taste. But the male protagonist had a self-deprecating sense of humor that kept the drama at a respectable distance. The basic plot involves a couple taking a month-long tour of Europe with their son the summer before he starts college. The structure of the novel, at least for the first half, consists of alternating chapters describing how the couple met, married, and raised the son, and their present day adventures in various cities in Europe. The wife and son are both artists, but the husband is a biochemist. The differences in personality between husband and wife and between husband and son are the cause of most of their problems. Yet, it all works out all right in the end.