Yuki Chan In Brontë Country by Mick Jackson (Faber & Faber, £7.99) With very little English at her command, Yuki has come to Britain from Japan, ostensibly to visit her London-based sister, but the real purpose of her journey is to reconnect with her late mother, who visited Brontë country 10 years earlier. Yuki makes an endearing fish out of water, fixated on retro visions of the future and filling up notebooks with designs for new inventions. She sees herself as a detective ferreting out the truth behind her mother’s death, and one can’t help admiring her resolve as she makes a very touching pilgrimage, visiting the same places and recreating the photos her mother took. Her investigations have led her down some esoteric paths, which turn out to be central to the story. Britain seen through Yuki’s eyes is exotic and strange, and perhaps it’s that sense of distance that enables Booker-nominated Mick Jackson to evoke the
Yorkshire countryside so vividly as he chronicles her voyage of discovery.
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal by Dorthe Nors (Pushkin Press, £10.99) Now in her 40s, Sonja is going nowhere fast. She translates the novels of a popular Swedish crime author, the only thing anyone seems to find interesting about her. She has an inner ear condition that causes dizzy spells. And her sister can’t even be bothered talking to her. Sonja’s driving lessons provide a metaphor for her frustrated life. Mirror, Shoulder, Signal is an examination of what it feels like to be stuck, with Sonja capable of longing for the days when she could hide out in a field of rye on her parents’ farm, but unable to picture a future, let alone work out a way of getting there. It’s an insightful and compassionate novel, in which Dorthe Nors is less interested in driving the narrative forward to a satisfying conclusion than in lingering over the details of a stalled life.
A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold (WH Allen, £8.99) In April 1999, at Columbine High School, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 12 students and one teacher, wounding 24 others, before turning their guns on themselves. In this harrowing memoir, Klebold’s mother, Sue, writes of an experience the rest of us could barely imagine: her incomprehension at how her son could have done such a thing; the tidal wave of hate she faced; how it took seven years for her “to emerge from the fog” of grief and find purpose in her life. She ends with a laudable plea for greater understanding of mental health issues in young people. Nevertheless, there are many indications her faith in her parenting methods blinded her to the possibility Dylan might do anything destructive, and the indulgent attitude she continues to show towards him suggests she is still a long way from facing up to what happened.