THE FALLING THREAD by Adam O’Riordan (Bloomsbury £14.99, 272 pp)

FALLING THREAD by Adam O’Riordan (Bloomsbury £14.99, 272 pp)


by Adam O’Riordan (Bloomsbury £14.99, 272 pp)

Award-winning poet O’Riordan successfully turns his hand to fiction in this elegant and engaging family portrait. Bored when stuck at home during his university holiday, Charles seduces his younger sisters’ governess, Hettie. Hettie falls pregnant and Charles’ middle-class parents send them both to America, where the couple will get married.

The novel follows the progress of their lives along with those of Charles’ two sisters: Tabitha, who becomes active in the suffragette movement, and Eloise, who becomes an artist.

The backdrop of World War I events sets the scene for how the fates the siblings will be played out. The story is rounded out with beautiful detail and a skillful description of the turbulent times.

LEARWIFE by J. R. Thorp (Canongate £14.99, 336 pp)

LEARWIFE J. R. Thorp (Canongate £14.99, 336 pp)


by J. R. Thorp (Canongate £14.99, 336 pp)

With only two mentions in Shakespeare’s play, the wife of King Lear is given a powerful voice in this haunting narrative of her life.

She learns about the deaths of Lear, their three daughters and opens her novel. She was kept in the abbess’ convent for fifteen years. Why? But why? And who is it that she asks? As she goes about her duties, she also tries to elicit permission to travel to her family’s graves. But a plague visits the convent and the nuns are quarantined until it’s over.

Slowly her past is revealed through reflections and her actions and all her questions are answered.

It is a masterpiece of writing: it’s lyrical and imaginative, with a lot to enjoy. Its cumulative effect is to draw the reader into a story that shows many sides to a woman intent on her purpose — queen, wife, mother, politician. It is both fascinating and deeply moving.

PITY THE BEAST by Robin McLean (And Other Stories £14.99, 384 pp)

SINCERELY PITY THE BEAST Robin McLean (And Other Stories £14.99, 384 pp)


by Robin McLean (And Other Stories £14.99, 384 pp)

The opening of this novel is brutal. Dan, a Montana farmer and Ginny his wife struggle to conceive a foal. They also have to deal with her infidelity with a neighbor. Ginny is gang-raped and thrown into the lime pit with the still-born foal. But dead she isn’t.

One night, she gets out of her pit, climbs on a saddle, and takes some food with her. When the others realise she’s gone, they form a small posse to track her down.

This ambitious, innovative story moves through space, time and myth to examine a wider philosophical landscape beyond what is happening right now.

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