Book of the Week: The Sudden Departure of the Frasers

This week’s BotW is Louise Candlish’s The Sudden Departure of the Frasers – which was my Curtis Brown Book Group book for April, but which didn’t get finished until last week because that was when the discussion was.

Book

This has such a striking cover I know I would have looked at it in the shop, I’m not sure if I would have bought it without the Book Club

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers tells the story of Christy and Joe Davenport, who have just bought the house of their dreams in a leafy London area they never expected to be able to afford.  The previous owners, the Frasers, renovated the house and then abruptly disappeared.  As the Davenports settle in to their new home, Christy becomes obsessed with why the Frasers left and particularly what happened to Amber – beautiful, popular, charming and the centre of the social whirl – and why the atmosphere on the street is so tense.

This is another book that I probably wouldn’t have picked out for myself – but ended up really enjoying* – in fact, I read the vast majority of it across the course of one afternoon and evening because I got sucked in and then I Needed To Know.  It’s one of those books where you can’t put it down because your brain is frantically trying to work out what has gone on and you just need to read one more page/chapter/section because then you might be able to figure it out.

One of the reasons this book worked so well for me is that the setting and the characters seem utterly believeable.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had the fantasy that one day the dream home that you’ve always wanted will pop up on the market miraculously in your price range despite being worth oh-so-much more usually.  And then obviously the old adage about “if it looks too good to be true, maybe it is” springs into your mind.  Now scenarios like this usually lend themselves to horror or ghost stories (definitely not my thing) but this is neither.  It’s a gripping little thriller, which will mess with your head but not leave you with nightmares about blood and gore and ghosts.**

Now I am breaking one of my own rules in writing about this now – because The Sudden Departure of the Frasers doesn’t come out until the 21st.  But after a long deliberation I’ve put it up as this week’s BotW – because a) it was really good, b) if I didn’t BotW would probably be another Janet Evanovich (the obsession continues) and c) it will be a really, really good beach read, so preorder it for your holiday and you’ve one less thing to worry about!

You can pre-order The Sudden Departure of the Frasers from all the usual outlets – here is a selection of links – Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles and Kindle – and I suspect that when it does come out it may pop up in your local supermarket as it’s being published by Penguin.

* Which illustrates why I have such a massive to-read pile.  I like so many different books. And if I had bought myself this, it would probably have sat of the shelf for years because of the backlog because it’s not obviously a book that I’d like.  Then you’d get another of my patented posts saying that I loved it and I can’t believe how long it sat on the shelf and why didn’t I read it sooner.  I know.  I’m a nightmare.

** I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there isn’t any blood or gore or ghosts.  It’s not that sort of book.  But you know what I mean.

Book of the Week: The Ship

So.  I have joined a book group*.  Or rather I have been allowed to join a book group (thanks Curtis Brown!) and this week’s BotW is our book group read from January.

Antonia Honeywell’s first novel, The Ship, tells the story of a future where the world has descended into chaos – the food has run out, natural resources are exhausted, where people routinely disappear without trace, and you can only continue to exist if your identity card remains valid – forcing you to jump through hoops to keep it up to date.  Lalla has grown up sheltered and protected by her father – who has been assembling a new life for them as her mother shows her around the British Museum.  But when the new life – on board a former cruise ship where her father has had picked all the other residents – gets underway, Lalla grows uneasy – about her future and their destination.

Antonia Honeywell's The Ship

Isn’t the cover gorgeous? I would definitely pick it up in a shop

Now I’m not usually a big reader of dystopian future novels.  I studied The Handmaid’s Tale at A-level – and read Brave New World, Children of Men and 1984 alongside that – but it’s not an area of fiction that I tend to pick up.  But I really, really enjoyed this.  It’s taut and full of suspense and keeps the reader guessing all the way through.  It leads the reader with questions – and it provoked a lot of debate at the (online) book group.

I don’t really want to say too much else about the book – because it’ll spoil it for you, but it’s definitely worth a read.  It paints a very believable picture of a possible future – but it’s one that I sincerely hope never comes to pass.  There are interesting characters – with flaws and secrets for the reader to uncover.  One of the blurbs describes it as Hunger Games meets Handmaid’s Tale – and I think I could get on board with that as a broad summary of what is a really interesting and complex book.

It has a beautiful cover – but I know that if I’d picked this up in the bookshop and brought it home it would have spent a long time sitting on the shelf waiting to be read – as I’m terrible for picking “light” fiction over books I perceive as harder work.  But the book group deadline meant I read this – and I really enjoyed it.  So clearly externally imposed deadlines will work on me – in a way that targets I set myself don’t!

Anyway, The Ship is out in Hardback on February 19th – preorder it on Kindle, from Amazon, Foyles and Waterstones.

*If you’re thinking that it’s odd that I’m not already in a book group, I work a job that has a 24/7 rota pattern making being able to be free on a specific night hard to guaranteed, and I live 80 miles away from where I work, which means I have a long commute – and friends split between home and work.  It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare…