‘Myself and Hugh . . . We’re taking a break.’
‘A city-with-fancy-food sort of break?’
If only. Amy’s husband Hugh says he isn’t leaving her. He still loves her, he’s just taking a break – from their marriage, their children and, most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in south-east Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it’s a mid-life crisis, but let’s be clear: a break isn’t a break up – yet . . . However, for Amy it’s enough to send her – along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and troublemakers – teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six-months. When Hugh returns if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn’t she?
What I thought
I happily admit I’m biased when it comes to Marian Keyes because while her writing invariably involves a romance, she primarily writes around the effects of depression, sadness, mental illness and ways of coping with life. Grief, breakups, death, drug addiction, and unplanned pregnancies have featured along the way and have made her much more than a cliche genre author.
In The Break, a single event with a pretty obvious bad guy (the husband for leaving) is traced back over time to the origins of the relationship and what really took place in the dynamics of the family.
Keyes’ writing skills are excellent and, no matter the topic, she consistently shows and doesn’t tell while sustaining more than one -or two- narratives and storylines.
This is a great read.
The Break by Marian Keyes is published on 7 September.
The Last Dog on Earth by Adrian J. Walker starts off in the voice of Lineker –the dog– and the tempo and voice and narration are just as upbeat and ebullient as you’d suspect a joyful labrador to be. Unfortunately, this dog is pretty much house bound with his agoraphobic (and people phobic) master Reginald who has become utterly antisocial due to personal tragedy at the same time as England (and the world?) and all its political and social systems have collapsed.
The narrative takes place through the two voices of Lineker and Reginald who take turns narrating their sides of the story. The conflict they need to deal with is that brought on by the world as they hunt down a home for a 7-year-old girl who comes to their door.
Emotionally, this is a gruelling piece of work and Walker take no prisoners in his sustained literary pursuit of pushing through the worst of society and humanity.
The writing and the theme are excellent. I was very glad to have read it and it was by no means a trivial task to do so.
There were some obvious parallels with concentration camps, and there was a none-too-subtle setup of the book as an answer to how people end up commiting such atrocities. Then there was a bit of an homage to Tolkien at one point with the cloaked figure in a bar being a saviour etc. I won’t spoil the story, I just thought the bar scene was a bit of a wink to readers of this type of ‘journey’ novel.
Ultimately Walker examines the idea of nature and what we can all become with enough pressure and circumstance. The idea is applied to both Reginald and Lineker and I am still not sure which was the toughest to read.
The Last Dog on Earth is published on 7 September, 2017 and is the first of a two-book deal Walker has signed up to with Del Rey.