This week I’m reading two new novellas, a piece of historical fiction by an Irish writer about the Magdalen Laundries and what I think will be an off-the wall bluebeard meets Stepford wives piece of speculative fiction from an American writer. As part of my ‘Cold Comfort Reads’ challenge, I’m reading the first book in a crime series written a Canadian author I’ve had my eye on.
I’m expecting a high standard of writing from all of the authors and I’m hoping for a variety of styles and world views.
‘Small Things Like These’ by Claire Keegan (2021)
This is not going to be the cosy Irish Christmas story the cover might lead people to expect. Although it’s set in 1985 (it still throws me that that now counts as historical fiction) it’s about a current hot topic in Ireland – the cruelties committed by the Church and endorsed by the State in the Magdalen Laundries. They’re in the news early because of a new non-fiction book called ‘Ireland and the Magdalene Laundries: A Campaign for Justice, by Claire McGettrick, Katherine O’Donnell, Maeve O’Rourke, James M. Smith & Mari Steed. Here’s the RTE review There are currently police investigations going on in both the Republic and in NI.
Claire Keegan is known a lyrical writer and teller of serious stories. I’m interested to see how she presents the discovery by an ordinary man of the Church and State sponsored abuse that everyone in his village is choosing not to see. I’m expecting close observation rather than a polemic. I imaging this to be a long short story rather than a short novel, so it will be a slice of one man’s experience.
‘Comfort Me With Apples‘ by Catheryne M Volente (2021)
I’ll admit that, even before I’d taken in the author’s name or knew anything about the content of the story, I looked at this cover and decided I had to read the book. I mean, look at it. Doesn’t that unsettle your imagination? To me, it says, ‘approach with caution BUT get there soon.’
Then I saw that it was written by Catherynne M Valente and I know I was unlikely to be disappointed but very likely to be surprised by the content. I’ve only read one of her books so far, It was called ‘Space Opera’ and was about an intergalactic version of the Eurovision Song Contest but one in which winning or losing will determine the fate of humanity. At the time I described it as ‘a mind-expanding, chortle-making, thought-provoking, memory-stirring, joy-producing experience from beginning to end-‘
The reviews from folks who received ARC copies of this slim little book all seem to one reaction in common, a ‘What the hell am I reading?’ response combined with a strong desire to finish the story.
I’m looking forward to diving into this one.
‘Cold Girl‘ by R. M. Greenaway (2016)
I’ve heard good things about this series so I’m hoping that ‘Cold Girl’ will turn me into a fan. I’m not enamoured of serial killer stories but I like the setting here and I’m hoping that the focus is on the police and the victim and not the killer.
If I like this book, the good news is that there are five more books in the series already in print.