We can sort of lay claim to Katharine Ki­lalea – she grew up in SA but did her master’s in creative writ­ing in Lon­don, where she’s been liv­ing ever since. This is her first novel (she is pri­mar­ily a poet).

When Mr Field, a con­cert pi­anist in Lon­don, breaks his wrist, he uses the com­pen­sa­tion money to buy a house in Llan­dudno, Cape Town

– a replica of Le Cor­bus­ier’s mod­ernist Villa Savoye on the out­skirts of Paris. Mr Field moves into it with Mim, his wife. Villa Savoye was de­signed as a ‘ma­chine for liv­ing’: spare, log­i­cal, prob­lem-solv­ing

– and Mr Field is ex­actly the op­po­site: with­out his mu­sic, he barely knows who he is. Mim, too, seems to be­come more frag­mented by the day; she even­tu­ally leaves with­out ex­pla­na­tion and Mr Field hardly no­tices. While his ev­ery­day life sinks into dis­re­pair, he de­vel­ops an ob­ses­sion with the woman who lived in the house be­fore them.

Ki­lalea has a poet’s eye, and this is a bril­liant and ut­terly un­usual read. I highly rec­om­mend it. Sarah Charl­ston

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