Debut novelists

I’ve been reading some ‘new voices’ lately. Rather than space out my brief reviews, why not group them into one bumper post?

The Silver Linings PlaybookThis was apparently a TV Book Club choice. I don’t watch it, so I had no idea but for the sticker. I must say that the sticker did add a sense of trepidation, in that it might be shite. There was also that marketing gumpf about being like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, which is a novel I really enjoyed.

So. Pat Peoples has just got out of the ‘bad place’, and is working towards being kind, not right, as he wants to end ‘apart time’ with his wife Nikki. The blurb on the back makes it sound like David Nicholls-style chick-lit with temporary insanity thrown in, but it isn’t, really. While I loved One Day for its ability to twang the heart-strings, The Silver Linings Playbook is that and so much more.

Spending time in Pat Peoples’ mind gave me quite an interesting perspective, and a renewed appreciation / confirmation of the truth about love (i.e. a constant compromise). And how supposedly sane and normal people really aren’t.

Details: The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, Picador, £7.99

Verdict: 4/5

The ImperfectionistsNext up is Tom Rachman’s The Imperfectionists, a story about a failing English language newspaper in Rome, as seen through the eyes of the people who work for it. If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you’ll know I used to work for an international weekly newspaper, so I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this particular section of the industry. I was entertained by the author’s stories of the weird and wonderful people who work there. I was surprised that the story that has stuck with me most is Ruby Zaga’s — ultimately, I felt she was the one to be most pitied.

I thought it was funny. And sad. I’ve read some reviews condemning it for not being about the business, but all that stuff is reported in the news anyway. I rather enjoyed the fact that it was about the types of people in the business and how it thoroughly invades their personal lives.

Details: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, Quercus, £16.99

Verdict: 3/5

The Registrar's Manual for Detecting Forced MarriagesThis novel gets the same score as The Imperfectionists, but only just. The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages jumps backwards and forwards in time, interweaving the stories of Selim, a Kurdish illegal immigrant, and our narrator, a German woman who now works in France, assisting in marrying people at the local town hall. When she feels compelled to look into a possible forced marriage, she starts to remember Selim and her less-than-illustrious past.

It was an easy read — I managed it in an afternoon. But it just didn’t do it for me, I simply couldn’t feel as strongly about it as, say, The Tortilla Curtain, another novel about illegal immigration, but told with much more feeling.

Details: The Registrar’s Manual for Detecting Forced Marriages by Sophie Hardach, Simon & Schuster, £12.99

Verdict: 3/5