If my reading week has been subject to cosmic influences, I blame Shirley Wright’s Time Out of Mind, even better IMO in its final version than it was when I first read it around a year ago. I had no hesitation in giving it 5 stars on Amazon – a rare occurrence! And its Cornish magic must have been at work when I gave into temptation and bought Patrick Gale’s A Perfectly Good Man on a very special offer in the local supermarket (of course I’ll have to attone for this sin by visiting a real bookshop and buying at least one full price book as soon as I can afford it!) which is not only set in Cornwall but also mentions the very same standing stones as occur in Time Out of Mind.
Patrick Gale is an author who is always dependable but never predictable – what more can a reader ask? – and a great advert for mainstream fiction. This latest (a lot darker than the cover image suggests) is the story of a family and community haunted by all kinds of heartbreak, pieced together in a compelling construction that uses different points of view and different time periods but in a way that feels totally organic. (The writer’s question of whether it is led by plot or character is irrelevant. It just works.)
However it takes a little while for the ‘pace’ (somehow the wrong word for this kind of novel) to develop and I admit I was temporarily distracted from it by Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, an author to be featured in the next What the Dickens Magazine. Not a whiff of Cornwall here, but plenty of what one might call the paranormal. I loved its examination of what happens when an ordinary family (is there such a thing? maybe not, but this one is compellingly real) finds itself facing the possibility that the daughter/sister, missing for 20 years, has actually been “away with the fairies”. I believe there’s a Q&A session going on soon with Graham Joyce for anyone who knows his work. I’ll certainly be looking out for more of it.
And finally, with so many books at the moment set in the eighties, I’ve decided it’s time for some seventies nostalgia. Truth Games by Bobbie Darbyshire, now available as an e-book, is set “after the hippies and before the yuppies, between the advent of the Pill and the onset of AIDS. … when the newest game in town was sex.”
Down to earth at last?