Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

In January 2015, British author Paula Hawkins released The Girl on the Train. Little did she know what success it would have; smashing sales records and topping bestseller lists for months on end. Since, it has sold tens of millions of copies worldwide, spawned a hugely successful film adaptation starring Emily Blunt, and has made Hawkins one of the biggest names in popular fiction. The question is: how does one follow that up?

With Into the Water, Hawkins has given it her best shot. Whether this novel – another entertaining, page-turning, psychological thriller – can bring Hawkins the same success as The Girl on the Train remains to be seen, but it has all the elements that made her previous novel so fiendishly gripping.

Nel Abbot is dead, and in the last days before her death she calls her sister Jules – who ultimately does not pick up, ignoring a plea for help with disastrous circumstances. They say Nell has jumped, thrown herself into the place they call the Diving Pool, but the young, ambitious female detective on the case, Erin, thinks otherwise.

In the small British town of Beckford, the Drowning Pool has a dark history, and Nel has been working on a manuscript that will unlock its secrets and unravel the mysteries of a series of female deaths and suicides. Hawkins keeps us suitably confused, tied up in a mass of characters – each of which with their own individual chapters and perspectives – and for the first quarter of the book moves slowly, drip-feeding us snippets of the history of the town and its residents, but never revealing enough to give the reader answers.

Unreliable narrators have become a familiar staple in psychological thrillers over the years and Hawkins follows the same plan that was put to such clever use in The Girl on the Train. Jules, hearing of her sister’s death, must return to the family home to look after Nel’s 15-year-old daughter Lena, who she has never met. Indeed, the estrangement from her family – because of perceived slights that are slowly revealed to us over the course of the book – is important, as Jules and Lena must get to know one another, and indeed trust each other, over time.

Elsewhere we have Sean Townsend, good cop of Brentford, struggling with his own demons. As he investigates Nel’s alleged suicide, Sean remembers that of his own mother, who he saw jump into the Diving Pool when he was just a child. Meanwhile, his wife Helen sleeps in another room and avoids his touch, and his father Patrick, the grizzled ex-cop, prowls the river, unable to rest.

Then we have Louise Whittaker, left devastated by her daughter Katie’s suicide, six months prior to Nel’s. Katie was Lena’s best friend in the world and her mother is convinced that the pair knew more than they let on. Katie is a happy, vivacious 15-year-old with her whole life ahead of her, so what tempted her to creep out late one night, fill her pockets with stones and ultimately give herself to the Diving Pool?

Hawkins intertwines narrative perspectives, time periods, flashbacks and manuscript entries, to tie the reader in knots. The language is compelling, the mysteries interesting enough to have the reader rattling through the pages in a quest for answers. At times Into the Water can become a bit too littered with characters and there is a feeling that the novel would have been improved with a little pruning and tightening of the reins.

Nevertheless, Hawkins hasn’t just stuck to the formula that made The Girl on the Train so successful – instead she has been a bit more ambitious, and Into the Water is better for its bigger scope, taking us through the history of a small town with a big secret at its heart.

Make no mistake about it: Hawkins has another summer blockbuster on her hands, and it would be no surprise to see it make a huge splash in the best-seller charts of 2017.

My thanks to Alison Barrow and Transworld/Doubleday for the ARC. Into the Water is released online and in all good bookstores on May 2.

Advertisements

Moonglow by Michael Chabon

26795307A lot of talk has surrounded Michael Chabon’s new ‘novel’ – not only because, well, a new Chabon release is enough to wake the literary world up from its slumbers – but because of its clever use of a hybrid of forms. Moonglow straddles the divide between fiction and memoir; ostensibly a narrative born from Chabon’s grandfather’s stories as he lay dying back in 1989, the author freely admits that he was instructed: “Explain everything. Make it mean something. Use a lot of those fancy metaphors of yours.”

So, has he taken liberties with his grandfather’s tales? Chabon confesses in the acknowledgments that Moonglow is a “pack of lies”, but this is merely a plea for the reader not to study every detail, but to enjoy the whole story. Memory is, of course, unreliable at the best of times, and the very nature of the stories being passed on from his grandfather at the end of his life while he’s ill – not to mention the re-telling from Chabon himself – suggests perhaps that we should take everything with a pinch of salt.

Chabon has fun, obeying his grandfather’s wish for a bit of narrative playfulness, as he explores his family’s sweeping history – a past that roams from a synagogue gala in Baltimore in 1947, to an end-of-World War II Germany; across a seemingly endless mishmash of American locations. Moonglow works as a series of vignettes – which Chabon explores with his usual humour and warmth – and at times may seem meandering. Yet this is also the nature of memory, and the book sticks to its own structure; one determined by his grandfather’s reveries. This book is better for its lack of ‘neatness’ and a strict narrative timeline.

Some of the most vivid scenes in the book recall his grandfather’s experiences as a solider in WWII; or the time he was fired from his job and took his anger and frustration out – with terrible consequences – on his boss. Chabon writes with wonderful lyricism and craft, fashioning out of his grandfather’s memories a story of love and loss, but also of laughter and warmth. The reader is also treated to some sharp, evocative passages on Chabon’s grandfather’s obsession with spaceflight. He drives down to Florida for every rocket launch, and is given a job for NASA building model rockets. He promises his wife – a refugee from France – that he will one day fly her “to find refuge on the moon.”

This ‘refuge’ is not only a nod to Chabon’s grandmother’s beginnings – which are explored with some terrific scenes elsewhere in the book – but as we learn more about her, it also suggests a refuge from herself and the “skinless horse” that plagues her waking dreams. Chabon’s grandmother suffered with voices and visions, and some of the most piercing passages in the book explore the repercussions of this.

In Moonglow, Chabon is on top form. Whether he is describing his fear as a child of the evil-looking puppets owned by his grandparents – that he ultimately thought were going to kill him while he slept – or his grandfather’s attempts to search out and kill a snake for the affections of a woman in the twilight of his life – Chabon’s story-telling (or re-telling) is a joy. Forget the issue of categorisation, Moonglow is, fittingly, a beautiful blend of fiction and truth; memoir, but with just the right sprinkling of embellishment.

***

Moonglow is released on November 22. Thank you to Harper Collins for the ARC.

Pendulum by Adam Hamdy

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1477857046l/27396854.jpgIn a book-selling market where it has become increasingly useful to have an effective social media campaign – as well as the latest super quote from a best-selling author – it is difficult to look past those advertisements that promise so much and deliver so little, to find the real gems. Adam Hamdy’s Pendulum ­arrives this winter championed by author James Patterson, who describes it as “one of the best thrillers of the year.” The difference this time: Pendulum is well worth the hype and attention.

Hamdy, a British writer who is well known for his film work – for instance: the comedy feature film Pulp, which became the first to film to ever premiere on Xbox’s Video platform – has brought that same eye for detail to his writing, and it would be no surprise to see Pendulum adapted for the big screen in the not-so-distance future. From the outset of the novel the action is immersive and the threat dangerously real.

Meet John Wallace, a highly successful photographer – but one who when the story starts is not only mentally hanging from a rope, but literally too. Hamdy pulls no punches, starting this high octane, all-action thriller with Wallace’s death-defying escape from a masked and armoured stranger who has entered his home to execute a forced hanging. Wallace’s death is designed to look like a suicide, but our main character escapes – barely – forced to jump through his upper-story window and flee for his life. He wakes in a London hospital, needing to convince the police that instead of going crazy – and indeed imaging the attack – another threat on his life may be imminent.

This is easier said than done, as Wallace becomes embroiled in a cat-and-mouse chase that takes us through the London streets – via mental hospitals, a ghastly American prison, burning buildings – in a thrilling narrative that never stops to breathe. Not knowing who to trust, Wallace must unravel the clues that are slowly drip-fed to us, as he slowly begins to realise that the attack on his life was no isolated event: past murders bear remarkably similar patterns. Wallace’s attacker is intelligent, resourceful and patient. This will be a battle of wits to the very end.

Wallace is a very likeable character; it’s easy to become invested in his quest to discover the truth, as he tries to battle through the demons of the past at the same time. Hamdy’s main character is strong, well-trained and powerful – with a remarkable, somewhat disbelieving, James Bond-esque tendency to escape certain death at the very last moment – but he is also sensitive, caring, and has psychological depths which give Pendulum a lot more weight.

Hamdy’s novel is a modern one in the traditional sense: it deals with some interesting questions about love, loss and memory – but it is also, at its best, a page-turner that rips you from the comfort of your couch and doesn’t put you down. Some of the best thrillers require a bit of suspended disbelief, and at times Hamdy’s book threatens to let itself go – before just managing to reign in the far-fetched scenarios just in time.

At times the narrative is dark and violent – and the author certainly holds nothing back in that respect, with a Game of Thrones-esque propensity to kill people off when you least expect it – but Pendulum is an immersive book that certainly deserves its plaudits. Make no mistake about it: thriller fans wait with baited breath to see what Hamdy has in store for his fans next.

Thanks to NetGalley and Headline books for making this ARC available. Pendulum is available online and in all good bookstores now.

Shtum by Jem Lester

25369192Good grief, readers, you better hold on to your hats. Jem Lester’s Shtum has been receiving glowing reviews across the board; social media is awash with praise, and the newspapers have been effusive in their compliments.

‘This many people can’t be wrong’ is not always a phrase that rings true, but in this case it does: Lester has created a wonderful, emotion-filled roller-coaster of a novel that will sweep you up and not put you down until you reach its end.

This novel explores the extraordinary lengths that some parents are willing to go in order to protect their children, as we follow Ben and Emma’s troubled attempts to both secure a future for their 10-year-old autistic son, Jonah—a journey which includes their prolonged and difficult legal battle to have him transferred to a high-quality residential school—and solve their marriage, which has dwindled down to just being words on piece of paper.

To make this happen, Ben agrees to move himself and Jonah out of the family home, both to give Emma some time to herself and because it may help their case if they pretend not to be a couple. Ben moves the two of them in with his father Georg, and the character dynamic between the three absolutely brings this novel to life.

Ben carries his own frustrations at Jonah’s inability to communicate, but we soon learn that he has his own crosses to bear: watching his relationship develop with his dad is often funny—Georg’s dialogue sparkles with humour and wit—and always moving.

Shtum really has you going through a whole spectrum of emotions, and although I don’t want to under-sell how good the novel is, if I could use one word to describe it I’d use “readable”: the sentences and pages race by as we become invested in every temper-tantrum and tension-straining scene. You find yourself torn with wanting success for Ben and Emma in their legal battle, but also knowing that to let their son move to a residential home—no matter how difficult it is to cope with his actions—will be the hardest thing they’ll ever have to do.

As a reader, you would expect that a novel packed with such difficult themes as Shtum is, may find itself low on laugh-out-loud opportunities. You would be wrong. Lester breaks up the tension and often heart-wrenching scenes with a lightness of touch that is surprising, but it works.

The reasons for Ben and his best friend wandering around town doing a bit of debt collection are serious, but watching Ben, a father wracked by guilt—and frequently driven to drink—puffing himself up to collect some unpaid debts in an effort to raise legal funds, often brings about some brilliantly amusing passages.

Every now and again a debut author simply gets it right, and Jem Lester has done just that. It’s not an easy read, but it’s a novel that manages to balance insight with a superb story. Shtum is about sacrifice, love—in many forms—and doing the right thing whatever it takes. If you’re considering the plunge with this one, take it. Allow yourself to be swept up; this reader can guarantee you won’t be making a mistake.

Thanks as ever to Sam Eades and Orion Books for the ARC. Shtum is out April 7.

The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

25862989Make no mistake about it: Monica Wood has delivered a heart-warming gem of a novel this autumn. The One-in-a-Million Boy is a story that plays on the heart strings in a simple but effective way, as the reader witnesses the unlikely coming together of young and old.

Ona Vitkus is 104-years-old, lives alone, and has kept her secrets closely guarded for every last one of those years. She is the last person that expects to find one final, meaningful friendship, but when the boy enters her life—initially to help out with domestic tasks, but instantly bringing the promise of something much more—that is exactly what she finds.

This strange child, just 11 years of age, is absent for the vast majority of the novel, but even though disaster strikes early, events centre around him. His love of words, of Guinness World Records, lists—and an ever-questioning thirst for knowledge and facts—sweeps Ona up as she begins to feel special for the first time in decades.

They form the most unlikely of relationships as they set out on a mission to get Ona into the record books, but when their friendship suddenly comes to a crushing close, Quinn, the boy’s father—guitar player, irresponsible father, but for all his faults loyal at heart—sets out to finish what his son started. He too initially arrives to continue with the odd jobs, but soon bonds with Ona through their shared grief.

Elsewhere, the boy’s mother is the most peripheral figure in the novel—and perhaps, from a character perspective, the least exciting—but The One-in-a-Million Boy bursts into life with an impromptu road trip that is unexpected, but brilliant in its execution. Ona has her own reasons for travelling, as we are drip fed her secrets in superbly crafted flashbacks that show her recorded conversations with the boy for a school history project. Yet she isn’t the only one: all the characters in this novel have their own secrets and crosses to bear.

Wood has written a book that plays on your emotions: it can be sad, funny and uplifting, often within the space of a few paragraphs. The boy is the thread that binds together an unlikely cast, but it is through emotions like grief and loss that we often find out the most about ourselves.

The boy remains nameless because he represents something bigger: in his pleasure for the things he loved—and the pursuit of those interests—he shows people how life should be lived. A valuable lesson, and one which Wood has delivered in what is a wonderful, poetic novel.

My thanks to the wonderful Caitlin Raynor and Headline Books for the ARC. The One-in-a-million-Boy is out April 5.

Look at Me by Sarah Duguid

25863015Look at Me is a beautifully assured novel that crackles with the drama and complex dynamics of family life. So, make no mistake about it: Sarah Duguid has arrived with a debut that is going to whip up a storm this spring.

Our narrator Lizzy is an aspiring actress in her thirties, who lives with her brother and father in London—but also, seemingly, with the ghost of her mother Margaret: loving, caring, lively, fun, someone that held the family together, before she died two years ago. Theirs is a sprawling house which contains multitudes, but suffers from its absences.

Wasting no time in setting the scene, Duguid soon ratchets up the tension a couple of notches when Lizzy finds a letter in her father’s drawers. It soon transpires that Julian had an affair: out in the world is his other child, who, in a sudden burst of defiance and outrage, Lizzy invites into their still-grieving home.

It doesn’t take long before she realises her mistake. Eunice moves into their life in a flurry of pink, fluffy sweaters, ready with her kind words and over-bearing eagerness to be a part of the family. The problem is, Lizzy is far from ready to great her with open arms, struggling to come to grips with the idea of Eunice’s very existence: of a half-sister waltzing into her home and stealing the attentions of her father.

Lizzy’s life up until this point has been a closed book when it comes to outsiders: it’s just her, Ig – her bohemian brother – and her father Julian: a somewhat sheltered existence. That’s what makes this novel so effective: Duguid creates a brilliantly tense atmosphere by introducing Eunice and upsetting the status quo. She quickly makes the rest of the family re-evaluate everything they previously thought about love and loss.

Look at Me is a compelling psychological take on dysfunctional family life and what it means when circumstances beyond your control impact on an existence you have grown accustomed to. The novel is mysterious, intriguing, and probing—often all the same time—as we race to a breathless conclusion where the tension, that has been lurking just beneath the surface, finally boils over in an explosive fashion.

Duguid writes with an assured touch and has given us a debut that will have people wondering what might come from her pen next. I for one am excited to find out.

—-

My thanks to the wonderful Georgina Moore at Tinder Press for the ARC. Look at Me is out now.

The American by Nadia Dalbuono

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1434090579l/25712959.jpgIf you like your thrillers intricately crafted and pulling no punches, Nadia Dalbuono is definitely one writer you should be looking up right now. The Few—Dalbuono’s debut novel—introduced us to Detective Leone Scamarcio and a style of hard-hitting writing that tackled some big ideas. Now, The American has risen the stakes.

A few months down the line from the action of the last book, Scamarcio is struggling to deal with some important moral decisions he’s had to make, as he tries to live his life as a balancing act on both sides of the law. Piero Piocosta, his father’s old lieutenant, has kept an eye on his old mafia boss’ son, but the favours Scamarcio demands will not be granted without the debt being repaid.

Scamarcio needs to remove his underworld connections for the good of his career, but the problem is he needs them—particularly when he’s given a new case that good send ripples through international intelligence agencies across the world and, by association, threaten Scamarcio’s very existence.

An American is found hanging from the Ponte Sant’Angelo, just a stone’s throw away from Vatican City. At first it appears to be your average suicide, but Scamarcio is troubled by similarities to the 1982 murder of Roberto Calvi, known as ‘God’s Banker’ for his administration work for the Vatican. This isn’t going to be a home-by-six kind of day for the Rome detectives.

Dalbuono goes big with the overarching ideas in this one, and as soon as Scamarcio begins to look deeper into what he believes are two interconnected murders, he is warned off by two Americans in suits: self-important government types.

Scamarcio is quickly thrown into a world of subterfuge that goes deeper than he could have ever imagined: the mafia, international governments, The Vatican. Answers are elusive, both for our detective and the reader, as Dalbuono dangles enough information at us to keep us enticed, but while keeping it suitably mysterious.

We learn a lot more about our protagonist in this book, as Scamarcio begins to realise that he must make an important decision about whether to honour the old values of his father and his mafia ties—and before its all too late. Clearly, people don’t want him to continue with his investigations, as he is repeatedly warned not to tread on some very important toes. Scamarcio, however, is brave, and will do what he has to do to show the world the atrocities that are committed behind closed doors. Whether he can do so before they get to him, is another question entirely.

Although The American can be read as a standalone, it expertly fleshes out the characters we first go to know in Dalbuono’s predecessor, and it is useful to read them in order. Both books are intelligent thrillers that combine the political with the police procedural expertly, discussing some big ideas in the process, and Dalbuono definitely has an exciting series on her hands.

The denoument from this latest instalment leaves many questions open for the wider character arc, and I for one am excited to see what Dalbuono has up her sleeve for our next Leone Scamarcio thriller.

—–

The American is out online and in all good bookstores right now.

As ever, my thanks to Molly Sight at @ScribeUKbooks for the ARC.

The Few by Nadia Dalbuono

https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1412094719l/23290195.jpgNadia Dalbuono’s The Few is a razor sharp thriller, mixing the political with an intelligent police procedural as it bubbles and simmers, drip-feeding us the relevant information while holding back enough to keep us flicking through the pages.

Set in the city of Rome and on the island of Elba, we join Detective Leone Scamarcio—a superbly penned character, full of tension and a Mafioso past, through his father, that is difficult to shred—as he explores a case that begins when his chief hands him a file full of photos that certain people would rather not have see the light of day. The consequences are complex and high-reaching, as we’re thrown into a world of dark political dealings, murder, sex trafficking, murder, and other nefarious crimes.

Dalbuono is a terrific a writer—her descriptions of stale cigarette smoke and strong latte coffee leap off the page so much you can almost envision yourself there, wandering the dark streets of Rome in an attempt to unlock its secrets. A murdered male prostitute sets the action in motion, but The Few is a slow-burner: Scamarcio senses that these are events beyond his paygrade, and yet he slowly, but inevitably, begins to paint the picture of the involvement of a group that calls themselves ‘The Few’.

This is a debut novel that does not hold back: we’re faced with everything from kidnapping to sex and drugs—each crime bleeding into the next. For Scamarcio and his father’s past, sometimes the lines between being morally upstanding and needing to get results as a detective become blurred, and some of the best scenes are the interactions between Piero Piocosta, his father’s old lieutenant, and Scamarcio, as he struggles against some morally difficult choices

The author brilliantly manipulates the way in which the narrative moves as we’re fed italicized titbits of the world of the corrupt politicians at the heart of Scamarcio’s tricky, sensitive case. Not only to you get the sense that the detective is playing a game that involves a fine balancing act, but the consequences could end his career and maybe even his life.

If this strange, murky world—full of corruption and murder—Dalbuono gives us enough to whet the appetite elsewhere, too: particularly Scamarcio’s ‘girlfriend’, Aurelia, who works in the morgue. Theirs is a refreshingly different look at the usual shoe-horned relationship narrative, and you get the sense that Dalbuono is far from finished exploring their strange dynamic.

Overall, The Few is an intelligent debut that introduces us to a cast of fascinating characters—some of whom will be returning in a sequel called The American—whilst telling a complex story of the lengths that people will go to, in order to keep their secrets hidden.

The Widow by Fiona Barton

25734248What a delightfully creepy, slow-burning novel The Widow is. We have been treated in recent years to psychological thrillers such as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and it has to be said, Fiona Barton has crafted a thriller that is bound to have everyone talking in 2016—and on her debut at that.

Follow Jean Taylor, the titular ‘widow’, as she tries to deal with the loss of her husband Glen and the can of worms his death has finally unlocked once and for all. Now the secrets won’t stay locked away in a dark desk drawer; no longer will the mysterious remain private, hidden behind closed doors and password-protected computer files.

Narrated from multiple perspectives, The Widow tells the story of a missing 2-year-old girl, Bella—her mother, Dawn, leaving her outside alone for “just a minute”—and how detective Bob Sparkes will never cease in his mission to track down her abductor, a man he believes is Glen Taylor. The problem is, no matter how hard he digs, there isn’t any tangible evidence. A liar? Yes. A man with dark secrets? Absolutely. A kidnapper and a paedophile? Bob can’t find the answers he needs.

The story starts with Glen dead, but it unfolds with him very much alive—in the form of flashbacks—as we dive deep into Jean and Glen’s marriage, and discover everything that comes with it: the secrecy, the arguments—but most of all, the loyalty. Jean lies at her husband’s bequest, but the dynamic is a fascinating one: she has secrets of her own, and Glen is familiar with her weakness, what exactly makes her tick. The suspicion lands on both as their bond tightens during the inquiries from the police. Jean kept her mouth shut when her husband was alive, but what will she say now?

Some of the best parts of this novel come when we get to witness Kate at work—a newspaper reporter who will stop at nothing to get the scoop that all of the biggest journalists want. Offers of hotel rooms, spa services, and the works— all designed to get Jean out of her shell and finally spill the gossip that she and her editor covet. She is a dog with a bone, and it is interesting to see how she develops as a character the more she learns. This is Barton at her finest: crafting some great dialogue and exploring interesting morale dilemmas through an excellent character.

We have, in all honesty, seen a lot of these types of novel in recent times, but there’s something refreshingly different about Barton’s debut. Sure, there’s twists and turns aplenty—and an ending that is executed nicely—but The Widow offers more that just your usual “whodunit”.

It’s a psychological thriller in the proper sense: a teasing, penetrating look at that fact that, when all’s said and done, everyone has a breaking point.

—–

The Widow by Fiona Barton, is out on January 14 – online and in all good bookstores.

Thanks to @BenWillisUK and @TransworldBooks for the ARC.

The Penguin Lessons: A True Story by Tom Michell

26192990What a delightful little (true) story Tom Michell’s The Penguin Lessons is. It often becomes tempting to dismiss the whole “get this item just in time for Christmas” marketing gimmick—and it’s usually a very good idea to ignore the not-so-subtle attempts to shoe-horn every item for sale into the festivities. However, with this book, Michell has created a touching narrative that will soften the most hardened of hearts.

Michell’s book focuses on a period of time in the 1970s where he moved to Argentina—ostensibly to teach at a prestigious boarding school, but really as an excuse to travel South America and succumb to his adventurous 23-year-old spirit. What he probably doesn’t expect to find when wandering the Uruguayan coast one afternoon, however, is the corpses of hundreds of Magellan penguins—dead as a result of an oil spill. One lone penguin hangs on to life by the slenderest of threads, alive but clearly not in good shape. Michell, in a move that today sounds like it could come straight out of the script for a particularly zany Hollywood movie, decides to rescue the penguin, scrub him up in his friends’ apartment, and bring him back to Argentina.

So begins a friendship that touches many lives and gives rise to many a joyous moment back on campus. Juan Salvador—for that is the name Michell has given him—is a delight to all the boys at the college, and flourishes in his new environment. Our author struggles constantly with the debate about what is best for the penguin’s well-being, but in the end his obvious contentment is enough to make Michell decide that the college room—and in particular the terrace where the penguin basks in the sunlight and eats his fish—should be Juan Salvador’s home.

Michell really manages to pack a poignant tale—centred on the joy and happiness that Juan Salvador brings to people’s lives—into just over 200 hundred pages, but he does not leave it there. The descriptions of Argentine politics, economics, rugby—even the scenery he finds on his coastal wanderings—really bring the narrative to life, and you almost feel as if it’s you the reader that has taken this wild—but ultimately hugely rewarding—expedition, a long way now from home.

One particular highlight of The Penguin Lessons is the story of Juan Salvador’s relationship with one of the boys from the college—a section that explores the idea that sometimes it takes something a little bit special and different, to find out the truth behind a mask; to learn what really motivates a person. The idea that animals can unlock something inside of us through communication, and that they understood more than we could ever expressed, is something worth considering. Michell is absolutely right in his assertion that as technology develops we will find a way to break down the barriers between human and animal communication.

In essence, Michell’s The Penguin Lessons is a heart-warming and thoroughly entertaining read. There is humour—both light-hearted and laugh-out-loud worthy, often at the same time—but also inevitable sadness. This is a wonderful little story, and it has to be said: it’s a perfect little Christmas treat.

——————————-

My thanks to Gaby Young (@GabyYoung) and Penguin Random House/Michael Joseph (@MichaelJBooks) for the ARC.