The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Bone

Samantha Shannon was born in West London in 1991. She started writing novels at the age of fifteen and studied English Language and Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford, specialising in Emily Dickinson and Film Studies. In 2013, she published The Bone Season, the first novel in a seven-book series of fantasy novels.

I’m always wary of reading books declared to be, “the new Harry Potter,” but I was intrigued by reading a few pages and I wanted to learn more about the 19 year old heroine, Paige, and the dystopian environment of an alternative 2059 underground London. In fact, early in the book, Paige is drugged and taken to the prison of Oxford, a city that has been hidden for 200 years. Conditions are a mixture of pseudo-Victorian, modern and imaginary but you quickly accept the environment. The key to the story is clairvoyance and the “aether.”

Paige is put into the care of Warden, a Rephaim. He is not human but his character is reminiscent of Rochester in Jane Eyre. Paige has the courage and determination of Katniss in The Hunger Games but she insists on fighting everyone and everything which results in monotonous injuries.

This is by no means a perfect novel but it is intriguing and full of vivid characters and though long is compulsive reading.  Now two years later she has published her second novel The Mime Order and, “Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided.”

Piano from a 4th Storey Window

Jenny Morton Potts

Lawrence Fyre is a flamboyant optimist, running a book shop in the Lanes in Brighton called “Sargasso Sea.”  Marin Strang, a shy but self-composed teacher of Spanish, was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness but now she appears to be running away, not just from her father but also from life itself, as she flits from one temporary job to another.  And then she comes across Laurence.  At her instigation, they start a relationship which goes through twists and turns and ups and downs as fate, family and circumstance impinge on their time together.

This intriguing story is written mostly as a stream of consciousness in the form of thoughts, emails, memories, conversations and dreams.  There is enough narrative to follow the novel but some concepts such as the imaginary servant, Lolita and “The Ladies and Gentleman” who watch, applaud & disapprove of Lawrie’s actions are difficult to fathom.

The title of this novel, taken from Ani Difranco’s song, “And love is a piano dropped from a fourth storey window and you were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” is a good metaphor for the events that occur.  All life is described; love-making, death, tragedy, humour, modern technology, dysfunctional families and friendship.  The tongue in cheek humour between Marin and Lawrence makes their love for each other much more believable than the technical accuracies of their sex life.

This is not an easy book to get into.  At first I saw Lawrence as a much older man than Marin, due to his eccentricity, but later I began to think I was wrong.  As a reader you find yourself lost in Marin’s feelings of worthlessness.  There are many different characters to understand from their large group of friends in Brighton and later we meet Lawrie’s extended family in the Orkneys.  His nephew Cyrus, possibly aspergic, is remarkably amenable to major life changes while Marin copes with her loneliness by composing unsent emails.

If you make the effort to come to grips with this extraordinary relationship and the way the tale is expounded it is a rewarding read, although like me, you may have to go back to re-read some parts of the text.

Rosie's Book Review team 1

Concealment by Rose Edmunds

Conceal

In “Concealment” we meet high flying achiever, Amy Robinson, Head of the Entrepreneurs’ Tax Advising Group in a large finance company.  But “nothing is but what is not.”  Amy hides a secret from her youth and she is determined to appear normal, despite the voice in her head.

If that were not enough, Amy has to refuse bonuses and deny promotions at the bid of her boss Ed Smithers, earning the enmity of staff in her department.  Next day, after an unpleasant experience with Ryan Kelly, her ex brother-in-law she learns that his girlfriend, Isabelle, an employee from her department has suddenly disappeared.  Amy’s suspicions move from one colleague to another, following on from Ryan’s words that Isabelle had found discrepancies in the accounting of a slate quarry which is about to be acquired.

Amy takes over preparations for the acquisition, which means she has to speak to Greg, her ex-husband, who is leader of the Corporate Finance team.  She wonders if Isabelle’s rapid promotion by Ed Smithers was because of a liaison or to keep her quiet.  As Smithers increasingly undermines Amy’s authority she is glad to have the sympathetic ear of her only friend Lisa, who also has reason to distrust Smithers.

But Amy’s behaviour seems to be becoming increasingly odd.  The voice in her head now has substance in the figure of her younger self, who berates her for not managing her childhood more effectively.  As murder is followed by a suicide, is Amy suffering from paranoia or is she really in danger?

The novel moves rapidly, as Amy stumbles from one disaster to another revealing the source of the mystery.  Does she have the strength to extract herself from an impossible situation and prove to Detective Chief Inspector Dave Carmody that she is telling the truth?  There is treachery and confusion in a story I couldn’t put down!

Rosie's Book Review team 1

To learn more about why Rose wrote Concealment read this blog https://aloverofbooks.wordpress.com/2015/08/17/guest-post-by-rose-edmunds/#comment-1228