by Amy Ahearn, Handbagmafia
We might be only a month and a bit into 2017, but I’ve managed to read a few books so far. One was a novella that makes up part of a much larger series (‘Virgins’ by Diana Gabaldon, an Outlander story) and another was a much-anticipated sequel (‘Who’s Afraid Too?’ by Maria Lewis).
The other 3 books I’ve read this year have something in common with the first couple mentioned; they have all been written by women. For some reason, I wasn’t especially surprised to learn that books by female authors are reviewed far less than books by male authors.
That aside, these 3 books have something else in common; they’re all debut novels. There’s something special about reading the first novel an author puts out into the world; you have no idea what to expect in terms of writing style. I loved each of these for different reasons.
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
15-year-old Milly is coming to terms with her new identity and foster family while the court date looms. Being the daughter of an horrific serial killer has taken a toll on her. The strength it took for her to go to the police, finally, and tell them what her mother did in the spare room, has left Milly in a strange place. Her mother is physically removed but her presence haunts Milly’s every thought and action as she tries to make a place for herself. However, blood is thicker than water.
This novel is written from Milly’s point of view and the perspective of a damaged teenage mind. She knows the difference between right and wrong but gradually descends into a struggle between doing what she knows is right and doing what she thinks she must. This is an extremely tense story; the main character’s youth and what she’s survived makes you instantly feel for her. Her voice is so strong that even when she makes wrong choices, that empathy never really leaves you.
The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
Three generations of women from one family and all of them midwives. This grandmother, mother and daughter might all share a profession but they are all very different women. Helping bring babies into the world is the common thread that binds them.
The other thing these 3 women have in common is their ability to keep secrets. The youngest, Neva, keeps her pregnancy a secret for months. When her mother, Grace, eventually finds out, she can’t let it rest. Grace, however, soon finds herself in legal trouble and must keep secrets of her own. Neva’s grandmother, Floss, must face a secret she’s been keeping for a long time.
I loved this for the examination of mother and daughter relationships; the ultimate longing for a mother in times of true need, even if they otherwise might drive us up the wall!
All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford
Leaving your small, rural Australian town to go to uni is a big deal for many young people. When you’re also leaving behind the backwards glances and whispers about your involvement in the death of a local police officer, it’s quite liberating. A fresh start and a chance to be anonymous.
Pen Sheppard did exactly that. She moved into Scullin Hall, a building populated by fellow students. She was quickly absorbed into the scene; booze, drugs, sex, parties and fun. The thing is, 3 of Pen’s friends are dead. And Pen is the only one that knows why. As she says, “You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty.”
Pen’s frustrated attempts to reinvent herself morph into an attempt to rewrite history. As a narrator, she’s unreliable. You’re never quite sure when to believe her version of events and constantly on the lookout for slip-ups. I found myself wondering who Pen was trying to convince; in the story, it’s her doctor. As a literary device, she’s trying to convince the reader but really, I think it’s the story of a young woman trying to justify her actions to herself. I couldn’t put it down!