Mini Book Reviews: A Tidy Ending | Idol | Companion Piece | Murder in the Neighborhood

A Tidy Ending by Joanna Cannon

I’ve read and adored all of Joanna Cannon’s previous novels so this new one was on my highly anticipated list for this year and I’m so pleased to say that I loved it! It follows Linda who is a bit socially awkward and who tries a bit too hard to be liked. She’s married to Terry who doesn’t show much respect for their home when he tracks dirt through the house after work, or respect for Linda when he spends his time picking his teeth in front of the TV. Linda becomes obsessed with finding out about Rebecca, the woman who lived in the house before them. She imagines what Rebecca’s life is like based on the catalogues that still arrive for her. This is all in the wake of a series of murders that have happened close to Linda and Terry’s street and seems to be a way of distracting Linda from the reality of what is going on. This novel is so good, it’s full of heart but also darkness. It’s funny and sad in equal measures but it’s such a page-turner. I had my suspicions of what was going on and it was brilliant reading to see if I was right and how it would all play out. This book is so good and I highly recommend it.

Idol by Louise O’Neill

Idol is a prescient novel that follows Samantha, a guru who has millions of teenage fans hanging on her every word and social media post. She’s open and frank about her life so one day when she shares an essay about her sexual awakening as a teenager the post goes viral. But then Lisa gets in touch to say she doesn’t remember that night the same way and Samantha’s life begins to unravel. This novel looks at how we create online personas and come to believe what we say on social media. It looks at the way different people can remember the same event completely differently. It also makes us question who has the right to tell a story and who owns what happens. I found this book so difficult to put down. It’s a compulsive novel that keeps you turning the pages whilst at the same time making you stop and pause for thought too. It’s a novel that has really stayed with me since I finished reading it and I highly recommend it.

Companion Piece by Ali Smith

I read and loved Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet so was delighted to discover Companion Piece, which sits alongside those novels. In this one it follows Sandy during the current pandemic when she is contacted, out of the blue, but a woman she hasn’t spoken to since her college days. Martina tells a story that has a conundrum around curfews and curlews. This leads to Sandy’s lockdown being interrupted by first Martina’s daughters, and later Martina herself. At the same time Sandy is coping with the fact that her father is in hospital, not covid-related, but still she can only speak to him via an ipad when the staff have time to help him. The novel captures the current times we’re living through. It looks at politics, gender, climate change; it’s about people and place, love and loneliness (and at times the wish to be alone). I really enjoyed this novel and I recommend it.

Murder in the Neighborhood by Ellen J. Green

I listened to the audiobook of this via NetGalley and I found it fascinating. It’s the story of Howard Unruh who in September 1949 shot thirteen people in twelve minutes on the block where he lived. The book is mainly told through the eyes of Raymond Havens, who was just twelve at the time and who witnessed the murders but who had also previously being something of a friend to Raymond. We also get passages from Howard’s diary, which give us a sense of who he was. I felt like the author gave a lot of information as to why Howard may have done what he did, and it felt like I was being pushed to have sympathy for him. I did feel like I understood more of who he was by the end but I didn’t feel any sympathy because what he did was horrific and there is no justification for that. I did feel for others whose points of view were spread throughout the book though. We hear testimony from the victim’s families, and from Howard’s mother. I found this book really interesting and if you like true crime then I would recommend it.

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