BOOK CLUB

READ CARE­FULLY: MANY OF TH­ESE SE­LEC­TIONS HAVE A MES­SAGE, HID­DEN OR IN CLEAR VIEW.

Country Style - - YOUR PAGE - REVIEWS ANNABEL LAW­SON

QUICKSAND

Malin Pers­son Gi­olito, Si­mon and Schus­ter, $29.99 This book won Swe­den’s crime novel of the year award. It’s ob­vi­ous why. The plot fol­lows the trial of an 18-year-old who shot ev­ery one of her class­mates, in­clud­ing her lover. Only one stu­dent sur­vived. His vi­tal eye­wit­ness tes­ti­mony dis­solves un­der in­ter­ro­ga­tion by the de­fence coun­sel, a cool and cryptic pro­fes­sional who per­forms mir­a­cles with min­i­mal ev­i­dence. The reader, stunned, must de­cide to what ex­tent the de­fen­dant’s mother and fa­ther are to blame. They love and pro­tect but they are devo­tees to their daugh­ter, not par­ents. Her judge­ments, churn­ing among all too recog­nis­able emo­tions, ex­pose the plight of young adults de­pen­dent on 24/7 con­nec­tion. When there’s no re­sponse, des­per­a­tion leads ei­ther to shut­ting down or act­ing out.

THE COWS

Dawn O’porter, Harper Collins, $29.99 I’m dis­ap­pointed that so few au­thors have used the ti­tanic lurch away from the old ways in which we used to in­ter­act. So­cial me­dia fea­tures in most mod­ern nov­els but it’s only on the sur­face. O’porter plunges down to the depths. While you’re squirm­ing with mirth and hor­ror at the vi­ral video that un­does Tara, you’re made uneasy by Cam’s blog, which eval­u­ates how we treat the child­less. And as for Stella, does her tragedy have to be a three-ring cir­cus? Dis­play your life to an un­seen pub­lic and they own you. O’porter, how­ever, loves her three pro­tag­o­nists and con­cludes that when every­one you’re ex­posed to is ei­ther agog or cring­ing then at least you’ve proved that you don’t fol­low the herd. That’s her hash­tag by the way.

THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS

Michael Finkel, Si­mon and Schus­ter, $29.99 Three decades spent hid­ing in the woods of Maine not far from a city is an unimag­in­able achieve­ment in this day and age. How­ever, Christo­pher Knight did just that. In win­ter he needed to steal food from cab­ins and even­tu­ally was ap­pre­hended by a game war­den in 2013. His re­turn to the com­pany of hu­mans was fraught with dif­fif­fif­fi­culty. To­day he just wants to be left alone. What lingers af­ter the last page is our lost opportunity to be part of the nat­u­ral world.

SPOOK STREET

Mick Her­ron, John Mur­ray, $32.99 In this out­ra­geous thriller, Slough House is where MI5 de­posits those deemed not up to the job. A life­time of pre­tend work at a cheap desk awaits and, of course, with­out bud­get or di­rec­tion, they end up out­smart­ing the com­pet­i­tive agents at HQ. A re­tired MI5 lu­mi­nary has gone se­nile and to avoid him giv­ing away se­crets, an “en­hanced re­tire­ment plan” must be ap­plied. You guessed it. A bul­let in the head. Don’t be put offff by the un­tidy open­ing pages. By chap­ter four Her­ron’s comic ge­nius is ev­i­dent and he’s man­aged to get a grip on the plot.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COM­PLETELY FINE

Gail Honey­man, Harper Collins, $29.99 At the of­fice where Eleanor works with ex­em­plary ef­fif­fi­ciency, her less couth col­leagues snig­ger be­hind her back — it’s her clothes, her funny way of tak­ing ev­ery­thing lit­er­ally. Half her face has been burnt by fi­fire. She has blanked out how it hap­pened. Grad­u­ally there are changes. For one of her col­leagues she is ever so slowly be­com­ing more hu­man. Quirky and wryly amus­ing.

THE REFUGEES

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Cor­sair, $32.99 “Am I good?” asks a young Viet­namese refugee in one of Nguyen’s sto­ries. The ques­tion re­curs, some­times re­fer­ring to moral­ity, some­times to par­ent­ing or sex­ual per­for­mance. Th­ese new­com­ers don’t know what to make of what hap­pens around them. The cul­ture they grew up with — a com­pos­ite of Asian her­itage, French coloni­sa­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion to Amer­i­can forces — doesn’t fi­fit what they fifind in Cal­i­for­nia. Th­ese short sto­ries zero in on the mys­tery of whether or not we can shed one skin and grow an­other.

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