October 9, 2021 · 12:46
The Land of Others by Leila Slimney, Translated from French by Sam Taylor, is the first book in a planned trilogy of historical fiction. In a very different setting and genre from Slimani’s breakout thriller A Lullaby, ‘Land of Others’ opens immediately after World War II when a Frenchwoman from Alsace, Mathilde, falls in love with Amin, a Moroccan soldier who fights for the French and moves to Morocco with him in 1946 when they marry. Mathilde is raising their daughter, Icha, and their son, Salim, while Amin works on the farm, but she becomes increasingly disappointed with her choices. Inspired by the life of Suleimani’s grandmother, who also left Alsace after marrying a Moroccan soldier, ‘The Land of Others’ is a very personal project for Suleimani. He suffers a bit from a lack of narrative impulse, often referred to as a series of vignettes, but perhaps a bigger picture will emerge as the trilogy progresses. I look forward to reading the next episode that will take place in the 60s.
The Seven Owners of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reed Tells the story of an iconic Hollywood actress, the daughter of Cuban immigrants living in Hell’s Kitchen, who becomes a rising star in the 1950s with a tumultuous love life. In addition to the many owners, it is Hugo’s secret relationship with actress Celia St. James that is at the heart of the affair. Now in her late seventies and living outside the public eye since the 1980s, Hugo decides it’s the right time to publish her memoirs and contacts an unknown young journalist named Monique Grant to become her ghostwriter. I really enjoyed Reid’s novel from 2019 Daisy Jones and the Six and her novel from 2017 ‘The Seven Owners of Evelyn Hugo’ is another fascinating piece of escapism about the price of fame and celebrity culture, said to be partly inspired by film life. Stars like Elizabeth Taylor. Reed is very good at developing complex characters, and Evelyn Hugo’s ambition and charisma alongside her vulnerability are presented in a realistic and emotionally real way.
Brixton Hill by Lottie Mogg Tells the story of Rob who is nearing the end of seven years in an open prison in Brixton, and is working on a day release at a nearby charity shop. A chance encounter with a woman named Steph changes everything for Rob and he expects to see her even though it violates his license terms. Although it soon becomes clear that Steph’s motives are not all as they first appear, the story unfolds very satisfactorily with plenty of twists and one of the best endings I have encountered in a long time. Mogach’s ex-partner is Chris Atkins whose memoir A Bit of a Stretch is a story about his time in prison in the UK while serving a five-year prison sentence for tax fraud, and her knowledge of the justice system ensures that the description of life inside feels completely authentic. Rob’s feelings are especially convincing as he desperately tries to stay on the straight and narrow for his imminent release. I had mixed feelings about Mogech’s debut, Kiss Me First in 2015, but her latest novel is a sweeping and accomplished creation.
This is the story of a happy marriage by Anne Patchett It is a collection of the author’s reference works, first published in 2013. ‘The Escape Car’ is an inspiring practical description of how she sharpened her work as a writer. The title chapter deals with how she eventually married her husband Karl, following a short and happy first marriage in her early twenties. The longer passages in this collection are usually the most fascinating to read, and usually also the most surprising. In The Wall, Patchett tries to study at the Los Angeles Police Academy following the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles as part of her research for a book about the police. I look forward to reading ‘Truth and Beauty’, which is Patchett’s book about her friendship with the late author Lucy Greeley that was published in 2004 and became the subject of a censorship campaign in South Carolina, as detailed in The Right to Read. Overall ‘This is the Story of a Happy Marriage’ is a more eclectic collection of essays I was expecting, and all the more so.