LITERARY FICTION   | Daily Mail Online


(Atlantic £16.99, 400pp)

(Atlantic £16.99, 400pp)

by Colin Walsh

(Atlantic £16.99, 400pp)

‘We’re 15 and it’s the summer of our lives.’ So begins Walsh’s debut novel set in Kinlough, a small Irish coastal village where, for a few brief heady months, six inseparable teenagers hold the world in the palm of their hand. Later that year, one of them, the motherless, wild, mesmerising Kala, will go missing.

Fifteen years later, in 2018, her remains will be found on a building site and, not long afterwards, two more girls from the village will disappear.

Narrated by three of Kala’s former friends who, as adults, have long since lost contact with each other, Kala is a vividly spun web of a novel, in which allegiance, betrayal, complicity and the truth of what happened to Kala interweave as the secretive ugly tribal underbelly of Kinlough is gradually revealed.

Walsh, an acclaimed short story writer, sometimes loses control of a rapidly accelerating plot, but his pin-balling language seems to contain within it both the volatile ecstasy of being young, and the precipitous darkness that often accompanies it. A compulsive joy.

The Bee Sting

(Hamish Hamilton £18.99, 656pp)

(Hamish Hamilton £18.99, 656pp)

by Paul Murray

(Hamish Hamilton £18.99, 656pp)

This bumper novel is already gaining plaudits as the book of the summer, and if it’s a meaty, heart punching, expertly executed family saga you need this August, then you can stop the search now.

Told in turn from the point of view of the four members of the Barnes family, whose fortunes have been rocked by the collapse of patriarch Dickie’s second-hand car business in a tight knit Irish town, the novel resembles a literary magic trick whose deftly alternating perspectives on often loosely the same sequence of events will have you flicking back through the pages to see what clues you missed.

There’s Cass, who boozes and snogs her way through her Leavers exam revision; younger brother PJ, desperate not to add to his parents’ financial woes; magnetically beautiful mother Imelda, who was once engaged to her husband’s brother; and Dickie himself, whose failed business lies at the heart of the saga.

Murray delivers scarcely a duff sentence in a 600-page novel that’s pure unadulterated pleasure. It’s been compared to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections; I’d argue it’s better than that.

The Librarianist

(Bloomsbury £18.99, 352pp)

(Bloomsbury £18.99, 352pp)

by Patrick deWitt

(Bloomsbury £18.99, 352pp)

Shortlisted for the Booker for his pseudo western The Sisters Brothers, Canadian author deWitt is one of the great literary ventriloquists, producing funny, quirky, richly imagined novels shaped each time by a wildly different narrative voice.

He’s dialled it down for his latest novel, the story of a very normal, long ago divorced, retired librarian named Bob, whose magnificently uneventful life is overturned when he volunteers at a local retirement home stuffed with exactly the sort of endearing eccentrics you might expect from this sort of gently droll book.

Soon, though, deWitt is backpedalling to the beginning of Bob’s disastrously painful marriage and then back even further to his childhood, slowly expanding his portrait of a man essentially defined by an old-fashioned, unobtrusive decency.

Making the ordinary extraordinary is devilishly difficult, however, and I’m not sure this low-key register is best suited to DeWitt’s talents.

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