Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller

CWW

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is :  The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller.

Memory

From the Costa-Winning, Women’s Prize-shortlisted author of Unsettled Ground: a gripping, haunting novel about memory, love and survival, for readers of Never Let me Go and Leave the World Behind

Neffy is a young woman running away from grief and guilt and the one big mistake that has derailed her career. When she answers the call to volunteer in a controlled vaccine trial, it offers her a way to pay off her many debts and, perhaps, to make up for the past.

But when the London streets below her window fall silent, and all external communications cease, only Neffy and four other volunteers remain in the unit. With food running out, and a growing sense that the strangers she is with may be holding back secrets, Neffy has questions that no-one can answer. Does safety lie inside or beyond the unit? And who, or what is out there?

While she weighs up her choices, she is introduced to a pioneering and controversial technology which allows her to revisit memories from her life before: a childhood divided between her enigmatic mother and her father in his small hotel in Greece. Intoxicated by the freedom of the past and the chance to reunite with those she loves, she increasingly turns away from her perilous present. But in this new world where survival rests on the bonds between strangers, is she jeopardising any chance of a future?

The Memory of Animals is a taut and emotionally charged novel about freedom and captivity, survival and sacrifice and whether you can save anyone before you save yourself.

Expected publication : April 2023

Advertisement

Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Posted On 16 August 2018

Filed under Book Reviews
Tags: ,

Comments Dropped 25 responses

bitter orangeI really enjoyed Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller and so I danced a little jig of joy when I was approved for a copy of Bitter Orange.

Much to my delight Fuller has managed to once again come up with a gem of a novel.  Completely different in terms of style and plot than her debut novel, Bitter Orange speaks of hot summers days during the year of 1969 when a rather introverted woman becomes friends with the decadent couple who share the same building.

Immediately you have a sense of impending doom and that initial suspicion grows, nurtured by the ever increasing sense of tension that Fuller’s prose creates until things come to a dramatic finale.

As the book starts out we make the acquaintance of Frances, now an elderly lady whose health is failing and who as she lies, awaiting death, reminisces with a visiting priest about the Summer of ’69 and the events that took place following the death of her mother.

Frances was 40 when her mother passed away and having spent the majority of her adulthood as a full time carer her life has a feeling of lost opportunity, a certain sadness coupled with the naivety and awkwardness that she now feels in any social situation and reflect her lack of experience.  Luckily Frances receives a job offer which involves her spending a number of months in a dilapidated mansion where she will report back to the owner on any noteworthy architectural finds in the extensive grounds.  Unexpectedly, on arrival, and having believed that she would be the only person residing at Lynton House she discovers another couple already in situ.  Cara, beautiful and exotic, who argues in Italian and loves cooking extravagant meals and Peter, handsome and aloof.  The couple, well Peter, has similarly been employed by the owner to check out the fixtures, fittings and any furniture of worth.  Frances finds herself immediately in awe of the couple and when they seemingly take her under their wing, inviting her to spend her evenings dining with them she becomes a little bit besotted with the pair.  Obsessions, of course, have a way of spiralling out of control and in terms of this little group it soon becomes apparent that something is very much amiss.

The setting for Bitter Orange is just gorgeous.  A crumbling mansion, still with many of it’s original features proudly displayed and with a rich history.  It’s a gothic delight.  The gardens are extensive with all sorts of out buildings, lakes and ornamental bridges all surrounded by overgrown grass, flowers and shrubs just waiting to encroach further and reclaim the space – the whole description just had me wanting to find this place and run around it with abandon trying to discover secrets.

Then we have our characters.  They all have secrets.  There’s a good deal of twisting and turning going on here and coupled with unreliable narrators, good storytellers and a large dollop of wishful thinking things are set to become a hot mess.  I have to give a little shout out to Cara in particular.  The moments when she’s weaving tales of her childhood in Ireland are quite mesmerising and I too could have spent a whole afternoon listening to her whilst partaking of a picnic by the lake.

To be honest, I can’t fault this book at all.  It’s written in a style that I just love, the characters are so easy to picture and the whole ensemble has an almost casual or accidental elegance and the cherry on the icing is that the story is infused with tension that steadily mounts. There are some real quality moments here where you feel either dread, embarrassment or you want to squirm on behalf of one or others of the characters or implore them to stop.

I can’t really say too much more to be honest and so I find this quite a short review which is in no way a reflection on my feelings for the book.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, it’s not my usual fantasy laden read so be warned of that – this may be a gothic  story set in a run down country house but there isn’t a ghost, or dragon, in sight.

Anyway, I think if you like nuggets such as Rebecca or The Secret History – and to be clear, I am in no way, shape or form, comparing the content, more the literary style – then I think you’ll enjoy Fuller’s work.  For me she’s an author to keep an eye on and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

 

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller.  I loved Our Endless Numbered Days

Bitter Orange‘A twisty, thorny, darkly atmospheric page turner about loneliness and belonging’ Gabriel Tallent, author of My Absolute Darling

From the attic of a dilapidated English country house, she sees them – Cara first: dark and beautiful, clinging to a marble fountain of Cupid, and Peter, an Apollo. It is 1969 and they are spending the summer in the rooms below hers while Frances writes a report on the follies in the garden for the absent American owner. But she is distracted. Beneath a floorboard in her bathroom, she discovers a peephole which gives her access to her neighbours’ private lives.

To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to spend time with her. It is the first occasion that she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes till the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.

But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up – and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

26230625I want to call this book beautiful but it almost feels like a contradiction in terms.  Instead I’ll clarify by saying this is a beautifully written story and Claire Fuller has created a wonderful narrator in the form of Peggy or Punzel as she will become known throughout the book. I was totally glued to the page as Peggy recounted her tale.

This book tells the story of Peggy who at the age of 17 has finally returned to her family home after a nine year period of living in the wilds with her father.  At the start of the book Peggy takes us back to the long hot summer of 1976 when, at the age of 8, she’s starting to become more cognisant of the things around her.  Her mother, Ute, is a famous pianist though now living a fairly suburban existence and seemingly, although this is never openly related in the book, a little bored with this pedestrian life.  Ute comes across as a very strong personality even though she spends little time in the novel.  Peggy’s father James spends his days with a bunch of characters talking about and planning for doomsday.  James is effectively trying to plan a retreat for his family in preparation for a future apocalypse.  I must confess that at the start of the story I found James and Ute a rather unlikely couple but then the story of their initial romance is laid out and made more easy to see.

Anyway, Peggy recounts the summer of ’76 and the eventual sequence of events, albeit hazy and broken in her mind, to when her father took her away from the family home on a trip that began as something of a camping adventure. The two of them travelled across Europe until they eventually found the remote cabin of James’ dreams, Die Hutte, nestled up against the mountains, surrounded with a dark forest.  The very thing of fairy tales although this ramshackle and forsaken retreat is anything but a fairytale dream though.  This will be their home for the next 9 years until Peggy eventually succeeds in finding a way home.

Now, that may seem like a massive spoiler but it really isn’t.  We find out within the first few pages that Peggy is once again at home following a lengthy absence and this is when she begins to recount her tale.  The main thrust of the story is the experience from start to finish and I can say that this is a thoroughly gripping story.

If somebody told me that reading the stories of a father and daughter, living on their own wiles in the remotes of Bavaria would be compelling I probably wouldn’t have believed it but the wonderful writing style of Fuller that is given free rein through the voice of Peggy is frankly just an excellent combination.

At the start of this adventure James sells an idea to Peggy.  Peggy believes that they are the only two survivors in the world and they’re nestled here alone trying to stay alive.  The summer of course feels almost idyllic with the two gathering the fruits of the forest and living off nature’s bounty.  Unfortunately James hasn’t really considered the hardship of winter and that first year the two come very close to death.

The beauty of the story is Fuller’s ability to take us down what starts off as an idyllic path and to then gently tease out a different story and a darker and more twisted route.  Of course there’s never anything really overt, just occasional episodes that make you raise your eyebrows.  You find yourself having niggles and questions at the back of your mind but the author tugs you away from them by using a parallel story of the then and now.  I enjoyed the way this dual timeline is used although to be frank I was pretty much always desperate to return to the forest, I was always a little scared for Peggy and wanted to check back in on her.

Peggy is a really excellent character and I really did feel for her.  Her life is definitely one of hardship.  There are moments of delight of course but the two have their work cut out just managing day to day and on top of that preparing for the changing seasons.  We watch as the atmosphere becomes claustrophobic.  The rebelliousness starts to creep in and worse than that the slow descent into mental illness.

I really don’t want to say too much more. I think that most readers won’t be surprised by certain elements of the book as I know I certainly wasn’t but the revelations or twists are very thought provoking and I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the story now that it’s finished.  You realise on completion that a trail of breadcrumbs had indeed been left by the author and that your nagging suspicions were  picking up those crumbs before they could be eaten by the forest critters but sometimes you missed a few here and then and wandered around again a while looking for the trail.

I think this is a very clever, beautifully written, thought provoking novel.  It certainly looks at issues that could be uncomfortable to some readers although the beauty of the novel is that none of the things you fear the worst are ever really elaborated upon.  Peggy treats us to her adventure and it is a tale of childish naivety growing into rebellious adolescence.

A fairytale adventure gone wrong and in my opinion a great read told by a talented author.

I received a copy of this courtesy of the publisher through Netgalley for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.