The Snow Kimono by Mark Henshaw
After a retired police inspector based in Paris receives a letter from a woman claiming to be his daughter, he forms an unlikely friendship with a Japanese stranger who knocks on his door. They start meeting up regularly to tell each other stories about their lives. Slowly, their lies unravel and the puzzle pieces fall into place. A poetic, non-linear psychological thriller reflecting on memory, truth, love and loss. If you appreciate an intellectual challenge, this one’s for you.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
It’s easy to sympathise with the disturbed, lonely Eileen. She works as a secretary at a prison for boys and looks after her alcoholic father in her spare time. Her resentment drives her to stalk a prison guard and compulsively shoplift, but what she really wants to do is to escape to the big city. Then Rebecca starts working at the prison and Eileen’s obsessiveness suddenly shifts focus. Eileen is such a beautifully written, human character that you can’t help but cheer her on. A deliciously bleak, darkly funny and perverse psychological thriller set in the sixties.
People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry
A true crime book about Lucie Blackman, a British young woman who was murdered in 2000 while working as a bar hostess in Tokyo. Richard Lloyd Parry spent a decade travelling between continents interviewing people involved in the case. It’s a harrowing and exceptionally detailed read. The contrast between Britain and Japan – two vastly different cultures and legal systems – is fascinating no end. If you’re into psychology and/or true crime, I highly recommend you read this book.
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham
All the inhabitants in Midwich fall unconscious when a mysterious object appears in the sky. When they wake up a day later, all the fertile women are pregnant. No one has any idea what happened during the “Dayout”, but when the children are born, they look remarkably similar with their blonde hair and golden eyes. They grow quicker than normal children and it turns out that they have the uncanny ability to control others with their minds. Like the narrator, we are outsiders looking in and we too, can sense the growing unease and paranoia. This is my kind of science fiction. Filmed as Village of the Damned (1960).
Deep Water by Patricia Highsmith
Vic and Melinda Van Allen are trapped in a loveless marriage. Their young daughter receives no love or attention from her mother, who rather spends her time drinking and cheating on her husband. Vic reluctantly accepts Melinda’s behaviour to keep the family together, but how long can he suppress his violent jealousy? A cleverly written and utterly gripping psychological thriller that shows the reader how deceptive a psychosis can be.
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver
The dollar is in meltdown and America’s national debt has reached such proportions that it can never be repaid. The patriarch of the Mandibles dies and the substantial fortune that the rest of the family were expecting to inherit, has become worthless. They are left to fight for their survival while America implodes around them. A deeply unsettling, sometimes funny and worryingly probable dystopian novel. Lionel Shriver is acutely perceptive and her take on the human condition is impeccable. I also highly recommend Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, if you haven’t read it yet.
China Dolls by Lisa See
In 1938 San Francisco, three women from very different backgrounds strike up a friendship. Grace Lee is an American-born Chinese woman who has escaped her abusive father and has come to the big city to become a star. Ruby Tom is a feisty Japanese woman pretending to be from China. Helen Fong is from a respectable, traditional family based in Chinatown. While the war is going on overseas, they start working at the glamorous Forbidden City nightclub. The reader follows them through heartache and triumph for a few years – until Pearl Harbor changes everything. A stunning portrayal of the complex relationships of women.
Dark Water by Koji Suzuki
An atmospheric collection of creepy short stories linked together by the presence of water. The first story about a recently divorced mother and her 5-year-old daughter who move into a damp flat, is the basis for the film Dark Water (2002). Suzuki builds tension expertly and doesn’t rely on cheap scares. There’s a wonderful subtlety in his stories. Also read Suzuki’s The Ring series, which is very different from the films.
Please Look After Mother by Kyung-Sook Shin
So-nyo disappears in the commotion of a train station while travelling from the countryside with her husband to visit their adult children in Seoul. She has sacrificed her dreams and compromised her life to be a full-time mother. After a stroke, she has become confused and vulnerable. As the story of So-nyo’s life is unveiled, it becomes evident that this heartbreaking novel isn’t really about the search for So-nyo. It’s about compassion, unconditional love, motherhood and family.
Now what about you? What have you been reading lately?