Contemporary literary fiction is so disappointing to me, so often, but I keep going back to it because sometimes you'll find a gem like Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss. Also it is short, and that is an admirable quality in a book when your time for leisure reading is limited.
Somewhere in northern England, seventeen-year-old Sylvie is on holiday with her parents. Sylvie's dad is a huge history buff and wilderness survivalist, which is why nobody in the family has bathed in several days. They're too busy foraging hazelnuts and mussels like their Bronze Age forebears.
It sounds like the setup for a comedic novel, and while there are moments of hilarity, that's not the primary emotion at work here. This is a dark, violent, ugly story about domestic violence.
Sarah Moss reminds me of was Kate Atkinson, but as I was reading reviews, I found a better comparison: Flannery O’Connor. I think that's about right, Flannery O'Connor with some Shirley Jackson. It's about bad men hurting their families, and how individuals and communities perpetuate violence, and in the middle of all this you find yourself snort-laughing because Sylvie said something droll.
This is another one where I recommend the audiobook if you can get it. The working class v. posh accents play a role, and narrator Christine Hewitt does an outstanding job.
When Covid first hit, I started doing book talks on social media as a way to keep in touch with people. I never got out of the habit. I don't discuss books by my clients, and if I don't like a book, I won't discuss it at all. While I will sometimes focus on craft or offer gentle critical perspectives, as a matter of professional courtesy, I don't trash writers. Unless they're dead. Then the gloves come off.