Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday

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51Yq0ragCDLA young woman called Alice who works as an editor at a New York City publishing house meets renowned novelist Ezra Blazer in the park and soon begins a May – December romance. Thus begins the first part of Lisa Halliday’s debut novel Asymmetry.

The timing of this story couldn’t be better. Post Weinstein and in the era of #metoo, the author’s exploration of a relationship where the participants are far from equal and where the older, more experienced, richer and more powerful  male calls all the shots couldn’t be more prescient. Ms Halliday clearly shows the asymmetry in Ezra and Alice’s relationship as it develops. Ezra calls Alice when he wants to see her. He tells her when to go home. He tells her what to wear, what to read. He makes her keep their relationship secret, introducing her as an assistant when he meets some of his friends.

It’s not all one sided though. Alice learns a lot about life and herself at Ezra’s side and Ezra pays off her college debt and teaches her how to really write  although she wonders if she could ever truly lose herself to write from the viewpoint of someone who was different to her in every way.

Ezra’s advanced years bring many health problems and it is only when the author explores this aspect of their lives that the power seems to move in Alice’s favour.

The second part of the book takes us to Heathrow Airport where an Iraqi-American Muslim is detained while trying to pass through  en route to visiting his doctor brother in Kurdistan. We are told Amar’s story in flashback and are shown how his family struggled with fitting in to America, a country to different to everything they have known before. Again, the author plays with themes of inequality and the economic, cultural and religious differences not only between America and Iraq, but also between Amar as a westernized Iraqi and the traditions of his family.

The final and shortest part of the book is a transcript of an episode of Desert Island Discs. Kirsty Young, although not named, fairly leaps off the page.

No doubt some of the first part of the book is semi-autobiographical. Halliday had a relationship with Phillip Roth when she worked as an editor in her 20s. I’m not worried that the author will have to mine her personal experiences for further books as part two is totally outwith her direct experience and reads perfectly believably.

Asymmetry is astonishingly good.  The more I think about this book, the more I find in it to think about. Definitely a book to stay with me.

I apologise for the poor writing in this review but I’m in the middle of a fibroflare and suffering from good old fibro fog. This book is excellent. Highly recommended.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

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35830157._UY200_Jake, a therapist, is newly married to Alice, a former rock chic turned lawyer.  One of their wedding gifts is an invitation to join The Pact, a cult like group that promotes life-long marriage. Sounds innocuous enough , doesn’t it? But there is a manual, a long and very complicated manual, which sets out hundreds of rules and the consequences of breaking them. And if you change your mind about joining and want out, you may just find that the door has slammed shut behind you. Continue reading

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley

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51xclwzj-6L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I really enjoyed The Loney and had high hopes for Andrew Michael Hurley’s follow up, Devil’s Day. I can honestly say this was my favourite horror novel of 2017.

John Pentecost and his wife return to the Endlands farm his family has owned for generations to help with The Gathering when sheep who have wandered the hillsides freely all spring and summer come down to the farm for winter. The day before the Gathering is known as Devil’s Day when rituals, as old as life in Endlands, are enacted to stop the devil from possessing an animal or worse.

John and his wife are expecting a child, a state that they are keeping secret meantime. John senses his father is getting too old to manage their farm now and wants to come back with his family and make a life for themselves there in the small claustrophobic Endlands community. John isn’t the only Endlander with secrets and when Devil’s Day comes it brings with it more than a few surprises. Events from John’s childhood are revealed piecemeal and give an added horror to the current events.

This really is literary horror at it’s best. The author has given his readers such a sense of place I feel I could recognise the setting from a photograph. I know a little about living in a small, closed community and the issues his characters face are familiar – although my own experiences are far removed from those in the book.

Hurley walks the line between folklore and reality expertly and creates such an atmosphere of menace and evil. I was enthralled from beginning to end. A wonderful, beautiful, creepy, horrific slow burn of horror. I eagerly await the author’s next book.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

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chalk ManWhen I was a little girl we used chalk to mark out beds to play peever on – hopscotch, for non-Scots. Sometimes we’d use them to draw pictures, the braver among us describing an approximation of male genitalia on the hot summer pavements of Glasgow. In The Chalk Man, a group of disparate friends use chalk figures to send messages to each other. Lets meet at the park, see you in the woods.

But when the chalk figures start to reappear when the kids are all grown up, they know something sinister is afoot.

On the basis of this book it would be easy to call CJ Tudor the British Stephen King: outsiders? check; death? Check; a band of kids? Check; the past coming back to bite them on the bum? Huge check.

I have read several thriller/mystery books recently that share the King vibe, yet each one has been different and enjoyable in it’s own way. Knowing the time between writing and publication, it’s unlikely this is a fall out from the recent successful film of It. But I do wonder why there seems to be so many. At least it’s a welcome change from all ‘The Girl …’ titles.

The Chalk Man is well written. The characters are well drawn, not all likeable, but their actions seem reasonable within their circumstances and I really was rooting for the main protagonist, Ed. I enjoyed the plot and the creepy vibe and I’d definitely read more by this author. It’s a shame that the book’s impact might be diluted because of other similar themed titles, but if you decide not to read this book because of that, you’d really be missing out.

The year is yet young, but if this is the standard of book I can expect this year, I’m going to be a very happy Nettie!