NIGHTBITCH by Rachel Yoder (Harvill Secker £14.99, 256 pp)
by Rachel Yoder (Harvill Secker £14.99, 256 pp)
In a small Midwestern town, a mother is reaching breaking point. The sleeplessness, the loneliness, the loss of identity — it’s enough to push anyone over the edge. Except that when this mum gets mad, something unusual happens: she turns into a dog.
Nightbitch (as we know her) was once an artist, and in her canine form she again finds creativity, freedom and fulfilment. What’s more, she’s a better parent, delighting her young son — who takes gleefully to a kennel — with games of doggy.
However, as Nightbitch’s animal instincts grow stronger, they threaten to run out of control. Suffice to say that the family’s poor cat doesn’t see out its natural span.
Yoder writes with a wired urgency that viscerally conveys the relentless, punitive internal dialogue familiar to all mothers, as well as rage at a world that dismisses the extraordinary work of rearing a child. Mad, heartfelt, very funny and unexpectedly charming.
THE OPHELIA GIRLS
THE OPHELIA GIRLS by Jane Healey (Mantle £16.99, 368 pp)
by Jane Healey (Mantle £16.99, 368 pp)
There’s a suggestion of The Virgin Suicides about this long, hot summer novel, which moves between the perspectives of 17-year-old Maeve, convalescing after battling cancer, and Ruth, her mother.
The setting is the grand country home of Ruth’s own upbringing, where, 24 years earlier, she and her girlfriends once posed for each other as pre-Raphaelite heroines, before a tragedy shattered their group.
Now it’s Maeve’s turn, as she becomes a muse for charmer Stuart, an old photographer friend of her mum’s.
But as Stuart and the vulnerable Maeve’s relationship tips into forbidden territory, Ruth is distracted by the chill creeping into her marriage and secrets she’s long kept hidden.
This is a knowingly put together page-turner; a potent blend of art, beauty, awakening desire and mortality that seduces the reader as much as the cast. But for all its soapiness, Healey is sharp on illness and its fallout, and particularly empathic over the torments of youth.
GODSPEED by Nickolas Butler (Faber £14.99, 352 pp)
by Nickolas Butler (Faber £14.99, 352 pp)
True Triangle Construction — volatile druggie Bart, Mormon Teddy and ringleader Cole — have landed the contract of their dreams: a stunning, money-no-object dream house set against the spectacular backdrop of Wyoming’s mountains. But why, they wonder, would multi-millionaire lawyer Gretchen choose three chancers like them?
The answers soon emerge. Firstly, the project must be completed in record time. Secondly, Gretchen’s is a house to die for in more than just the figurative sense, its first (although not last) victim being a builder who literally worked himself to death.
Yet with life-changing sums on offer, the trio aren’t about to pass it up. But as the remaining days become fewer, desperate measures are needed.
After a slow-burn start, Butler’s tale steps up a gear with a somewhat unoriginal series of gory events. But it’s only superficially a thriller: at heart, it’s a study of male friendships, greed and the desire to make meaning.
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