Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sampling September: Fiction by women, part 2

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller Our Endless Numbered Days (26 February 2015) by Claire Fuller

The premise: In 1976, eight-year-old Peggy is taken by her survivalist father to live in a cabin in the depths of a European forest. 'Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.'
First line: This morning I found a black-and-white photograph of my father at the back of the bureau drawer.
What I read: Chapters 1-3 (up to 10% in the ebook).
Would I read the rest of it? I think so. Our Endless Numbered Days is instantly compelling, using that old past-and-present flip-back effectively: we know at the beginning that Peggy has returned to the family home aged seventeen, yet the blurb tells us that her childhood was spent in an isolated woodland cabin, believing the world had ended. So what exactly happened in between? And where is her father now? It's virtually impossible not to be intrigued, and the first few chapters' portrayal of Peggy's father's mounting paranoia only heightens that. This is also bound to be a quick read - it only took me 20 minutes to get 10% in. Whether I'll love this or simply like it depends on where it goes from the promising beginning - and, of course, how it ends - but at the moment it feels like a book I could happily binge-read in one sitting.

Dietland by Sarai WalkerDietland (26 May 2015) by Sarai Walker

The premise: Plum is overweight and unhappy, biding her time until she can afford weight-loss surgery, when she is introduced to the women of Calliope House. Described as 'part coming-of-age story, part revenge fantasy', Dietland follows Plum as she is inducted into the Calliope community via a series of challenges - but also promises a 'sinister plot' with 'explosive consequences'.
First line: It was late in the spring when I noticed that a girl was following me, nearly the end of May, a month that means perhaps or might be.
What I read: Part one (9%).
Would I read the rest of it? Another yes. Though it seems, so far, to have been frequently misidentified as some sort of chicklit, Dietland feels more like a clever satire, albeit a warmly funny one. It's well-written and charming, and I already love Plum. I'm also excited to see how the story is going to develop, since it sounds like it becomes a lot darker after this fairly innocuous beginning, following our heroine around her pleasant but very limited world - the hook comes when a mysterious girl writes the name 'Dietland' across her hand and proceeds to gift her a book with that word in the title. Another one I could easily just read in one go right now. (NB, this is a NetGalley review copy of the US edition. Judging by Amazon, it doesn't look like the book is officially out in the UK until December. I'd say it's well worth keeping an eye out for.)

The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (2 July 2015) by Natasha Pulley

The premise: In 1883, the lives of three characters become entwined: Thaniel Steepleton, telegraphist at the Home Office; Keita Mori, watchmaker; and Grace Carrow, theoretical physicist. The story 'blends historical events with dazzling flights of fancy to plunge readers into a strange and magical past, where time, destiny, genius – and a clockwork octopus – collide.'
First line: The Home Office telegraphy department always smelled of tea.
What I read: Chapters 1-3 (9%).
Would I read the rest of it? Historical fiction with what I assume is a fantasy element - it's been a while since I've read something like this. Since there are three main characters, the early chapters mainly exist to establish them (well, two of them - the titular watchmaker hasn't actually shown up at this point). I haven't got very far with the plot yet, so I think my continuing interest will depend on how that unfolds; how magical and fantastical it is, exactly, and in what way. This doesn't feel like a page-turner like the two books above, but I don't exactly feel inclined to give up on it straight away either. A maybe.

Throughout September I'll be working through some of my 2015 to-read list, sampling the books and cataloguing my thoughts on each of them. Find all the posts in this series here!

I received my copy of
Dietland from the publisher through NetGalley.

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