Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase is all that you want if you are in the mood for a touch of coastal British gothic à la du Maurier’s Rebecca. There are precocious, enchanting children, a perfect dead parent, a weak live parent, an unspeakable step-parent, a too attractive step-brother, terrible tragedy, true love, a big, elegantly dilapidated house and an air of mystery. And that is just the bit set in the late 1960s. More than three decades later, Lorna and Jon are on the hunt for a special place to hold their wedding. Lorna is drawn to the now even-more falling down old pile, and starts ferreting about in its secrets and gloomy hallways – which makes all the rabbits run. I liked it, it was just what I was in the mood for: light fiction with a dark undertow, not silly or stupid, with characters that are all just a bit too intense to be real yet are nonetheless worth caring about.
The Edible Atlas: Around the World in 39 Cuisines by Mina Holland is very interesting. Holland discusses the history and development of each cuisine’s various stand-out ingredients, techniques and flavours, and follows each chapter up with a suggested larder list and a recipe or two that encapsulate the nature of the cuisine she has just introduced you to. She includes some interesting personal anecdotes and writes amiably and straightforwardly, demystifying with good humour and sage advice. If you are interested in cooking this is really worth a read.
Rebecca Solnit’s essays are always thought-provoking. A Field Guide to Getting Lost is an excellent selection of prose pieces on various aspects of being lost, losing and loss in its many forms. The writing is beautiful, personal with glimpses of Solnit’s life and memories, meandering backwards and forwards, as from these close and everyday reflections she illuminates certain big truths about humans and the world we have created.
…and finally, I read Liza Marklund’s new Scandi Noir crime novel, Without a Trace, featuring tabloid reporter Annika Bengtzon. You – and the police – think this is about one sort of crime, a well-worn motive, when radical politician Ingemar is found beaten almost to death, his wife missing and their children taken into care. In fact it is about another sort of crime altogether, an unexpected motive, which is a real surprise. This is very good crime writing, with tight plotting and timely political and social observations (the descriptions of working in the new 24-hour digital content news day are really interesting), it is nicely chilling and mysterious until the end.