THE PORPOISE by Mark Haddon (Chatto £18.99, 336 pp)
by Mark Haddon (Chatto £18.99, 336 pp)
Mark Haddon’s beguiling yet unsettling take on Shakespeare’s Pericles begins in the modern world — with a plane crash — then drifts into the fantastical, where ancient enchantments weave their spell over mythical figures.
Baby Angelica is the sole survivor of the crash, and her billionaire father Philippe raises her in splendid isolation, while also sexually abusing her.
Hope of rescue comes in the shape of the dashing Darius, a rich young acquaintance of her father’s. But he’s scared off by Philippe’s minder. Escaping on a friend’s boat, Darius is transformed into the Prince of Tyre, sailing on the seas of ancient times. He heads into battle, with pirates, ghosts and bewitching princesses.
Meanwhile, Angelica’s grip on life becomes increasingly tenuous as she casts herself adrift from the bleak realities of her existence, dreaming herself a new destiny.
CYGNET by Season Butler (Dialogue £14.99, 256 pp)
by Season Butler (Dialogue £14.99, 256 pp)
The narrator of this vivid, poetic debut is The Kid. She’s 17, scared of the sea, but living on an island, holed up in a house that is teetering over a cliff edge, its foundations eroded by the crashing tides.
It’s a telling metaphor for the state of her life; she is besieged on all sides while desperately clinging on to a semblance of normality.
Her junkie parents have abandoned her on Swan Island —– a separatist community of retirees who have eschewed the mainland and its youthful evils for the idylls of old age.
In contrast, The Kid is overflowing with the anxieties of adolescence, made all the more poignant by her acute self-awareness. She’s ‘sort of mysterious and damaged, a weird young thing in old lady clothes’.
Lonely, lost and melancholy, The Kid contemplates the shape of her future (and ours) in a sinking world.
THE BOOK OF DREAMS by Nina George (Scribner, £14.99, 400 pp)
THE BOOK OF DREAMS
by Nina George (Scribner, £14.99, 400 pp)
Henri Skinner, 45, an ex-war correspondent, is in an induced coma — a liminal state between life and death — following a car accident. In the waking world, his estranged 13-year-old son, Sam, strives to forge a connection with his father, attempting to inveigle his way into Henri’s submerged mind by using his special gifts.
Also anxious for Henri’s recovery is Eddie, his erstwhile lover, who cleverly recognises Henri as ‘always both running away from himself and searching for his true identity’.
She finds herself willing him to recover and remember their shared past.
It’s a delicate, dreamy, melancholy tale, where death hovers on the horizon and hope is constantly buffeted by the harsh medical realities and the uncertain outcome of Henri’s fractured mind.