Kith, by Jo Bell

Kith, by Jo Bell

What is Kith? In the dictionary, it’s ‘familiar friends, neighbours, or relatives’. Here, though, it’s a collection of poetry in which we are promised ‘love, sex, boats and friendship’. And it does what it says on the tin. Open any page, and you’ll find a poem worth the reading. As Carol Ann Duffy says in her cover quote, ‘no time is wasted in the company of (Bell’s) work.’ They are accessible, to be jumped into without preparation, and they are funny, beautiful, and direct in their summoning of a scene, or an emotion. But if the point of a collection is to find the links between the poems, then you’ll want to invest a bit more time, to browse and revisit, reading them in order and without....

The Summer of Secrets

The Summer of Secrets

THE SUMMER OF SECRETS is the story of Helen, a shy sixteen-year-old whose life is changed forever in the summer of 1983 when the bohemian Dover family moves into an abandoned cottage on the banks of the nearby canal. Helen is infatuated, especially with the petulant and charming Victoria, and the Dovers instantly make Helen’s lonely world a more thrilling place. Even her morose father is affected, and with the help of Victoria’s uncle Piet he begins to renovate his long-neglected boat. But the idyll of their long, sultry summer is shattered by a terrible tragedy and Helen never sees the Dovers again. That is, until one day thirty years later when Victoria reappears. Now Helen must finally confront what happened that summer. She has always wanted to be part of the...

Amendments, by H.M. Lynn

Amendments, by H.M. Lynn

I don’t read a lot of sci-fi, nor do many indie publications flash up on my radar. There’s only so much reading time in a day, after all, especially when deadlines for my own next novel are scratching around the door frame. It was a chance recommendation from THE Book Club on Facebook that put Amendments on my Kindle earlier this month. I’m so glad it did. One of the reasons I’m glad is fairly self-centred: as I work on my own new plot line, it’s been a genuine pleasure to see twists, turns and cliffhangers handled with such assured aplomb. The other reasons will emerge below. The dystopian world of Amendments reminded me a lot of William Gibson, but without the technological firecrackers. Emelia is about to turn 21, the age at which...

Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller

Our Endless Numbered Days, by Claire Fuller

Take notice of what you’re being told in the first few pages of Our Endless Numbered Days. When you reach the end of this satisfying and beautifully drawn story, you’ll find that the whole of the book is present in those initial paragraphs.  This morning I found a black and white photograph of my father at the back of the bureau drawer. He didn’t look like a liar… He looked shockingly young and healthy, his face as smooth and white as a river pebble. He would have been twenty-six, nine years older than I am today. We meet Peggy in 1985, when she is seventeen, and sitting alone in her mother’s house in London. What follows is the story of where she has been for the previous nine years. Back in 1976, the year of the notoriously long...

Q&A with Renee Knight

Q&A with Renee Knight

We’ve not been kept short of excellent thrillers in 2015, but this week it’s all about Disclaimer, Renee Knight’s tightly wound debut of suburban noir. Having read, and loved, a proof copy of the book back in January, when the chance came up to talk to Renee as part of Disclaimer’s blog tour I grabbed it (even though The Telegraph swiped all my questions before I had a chance to ask them!). I thought of some more, though…   Hi Renee, and thanks so much for taking time to chat. You do a great job of juggling the multiple points of view and time frames within the story. Was the structure something that fell into place from the start, or was it through the editing process that smoothness was achieved? And did you always know how...

Disclaimer, by Renee Knight

Disclaimer, by Renee Knight

Today, I’m pleased to be heading up the Disclaimer blogtour. Described by Lee Child as ‘sensationally good psychological suspense,’ it’s the latest must-read, promising to turn you upside down but with an ending that may catch you out in ways you weren’t expecting. Catherine is married to Robert. She’s an award-winning documentary film-maker with everything in her life, seemingly, just as it should be. Her son, Nick, is something of a disappointment, but at least he’s in his own place now, being independent. Stephen Brigstocke, on the other hand, is a failure. A lonely, disgraced schoolmaster, he is unable to move on after the death of his wife and is haunted by a life that had started with so much promise. He once had a...

The Opposite of Kin, by Jo Bell

The Opposite of Kin, by Jo Bell

What could be better for this week’s Not The Guardian Family Section than some thoughts on kith, those ‘who are known, taken collectively; one’s friends, fellow-countrymen or neighbours’? It’s the title of Jo Bell’s upcoming poetry collection, for a start, and I’m exceedingly happy that two of the major kith areas of my life – those of writing and boating – intersect with those of Jo. I’ll be reporting back from the launch of KITH, which will be happening later this month in the marvellously named Much Wenlock, but for now, here is Jo with a look at what kith means to her.     Experience has shown, dear reader, that commitment is not my thing. I am what Nancy Mitford would call a Bolter. I have...