The Innocents, Francesca Segal
Publisher: Vintage (Random House) January 2013
A haunting, beautifully written modern portrayal of Edith Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence”. Segal presents a traditional Jewish community in West London and the return of family wild-child, Ellie Schneider, from New York. The tension rises as Ellie distracts Adam from marrying his childhood sweetheart. Not a lot actually happens but the sinister undertones and emotional chaos are completely gripping.
The Collini Case, Ferdinand von Schirach
Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin) 2012.
First published in Germany 2011 An elegant novella with very stylish court scenes, this is also a book with a message about a disturbing legal loophole in Germany. In fact, just a few months after it was published in the original German, it was used as a point of reference in a legal review of Nazi Germany. The plot may be faintly predictable but the sharp, clinical writing and convincing characters make it worth a read.
Behind Closed Doors, Kerry Wilkinson
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, January 2014
The seventh book in the Detective Jessica Daniel series, this one stood out particularly to me as a very imaginative and convincing thriller. Written by one of the UK’s most successful self-published authors, it is about a series of murders with a vague link to a reclusive community living in a stately home in the middle of nowhere. While independent females like Jessica with anti-social streaks are now a sterotype in the arts, the book still delivers a well-rounded page-turner.
Journey by Moonlight, Antal Szerb
Publisher: Pushkin Press, 1937
A Hungarian businessman, Mihaly, struggles to rebel against his bourgeouis upbringing with comic results. He relents momentarily and marries the perfect bourgeois wife only to abandon her (twice) on their honeymoon in Venice. The story, written in 1937, coincides with rising Fascism and probes the national obsession with suicide. Its author died six years later in a Nazi labour camp at the age of 43.
Up at the Villa, Somerset Maugham
Publisher: Vintage (HarperCollins), 2004
Mary Panton gets caught up with three men: her suitor, one-night stand and confidant. It is the 1930s and she has travelled to Florence after her husband died in a car crash. It is a short novella but delivers a tight plot with both interesting and entertaining characters. An uplifting read about how life goes on even after great calamities.