A reserved but powerful effort from the accomplished British novelist.

BARCELONA DREAMING

Three people navigate love and heartbreak in early-21st-century Catalonia.

The latest novel from English author Thomson is made up of three interconnected stories. The first follows Amy, an Englishwoman who meets Abdel, a much younger Moroccan immigrant sex worker, after he’s been raped by a client. The two begin an affair that’s brought to an end after one of the woman’s neighbors assaults the young man; the incident has tragic consequences that upend the lives of both Amy and Abdel. The second section tells the heartbreaking story of Nacho, a businessman who lives with his girlfriend, Cristiani, and her young son, Aristides, in the Barcelona suburb of Castelldefels. Nacho favors the area for its “low-level buzz, a foxiness, a slightly sleazy cool.” He spends most of his time drinking at a club until he meets the soccer star Ronaldinho, who asks Nacho to teach him Spanish. As he spends time with the legendary midfielder, Cristiani and Aristides start drifting away from him; the section ends in an almost unbearably heartbreaking way, causing the reader to question everything that came before. The final installment follows Jordi, a translator who forms an unlikely friendship with his neighbor, a mysterious and sleazy businessman who’s convinced a piece of furniture he bought is possessed. The relationship causes strain with a childhood friend on whom the translator’s always had a crush. The stories are loosely connected—a character named Montse is Amy’s best friend, Nacho’s ex-wife, and a publisher who works with Jordi, and a few characters from certain sections pop up in others. Thomson’s prose is unadorned but effective—at one point, Amy muses of Abdel, “He made me feel younger just by being himself. Sometimes I felt younger than he was.” He writes with a cleareyed compassion and never forces moments; everything in the novel feels organic. Thomson inhabits the voices of his characters perfectly; each section is narrated in the first person, and each perspective feels unique. It’s a quiet and unassuming novel even in its most dramatic moments—fans of Thomson and of literary fiction are likely to find this trip to Barcelona well worth taking.

A reserved but powerful effort from the accomplished British novelist.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63542-042-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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