Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

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Jende and Neni, a couple from Cameroon, emigrate to America in the hope of fulfilling their dreams for a prosperous life together. They dream of interesting careers, enough money for a house and a car and a good education for their children. America is rich in opportunity, not like Cameroon. America is where their dreams will come true.

The reality of life as an immigrant without the correct papers is much harder. They often work two, if not more, jobs. They live in a tiny cockroach filled apartment and sleep in the same room as their son.

Things start to look up when Jende is hired as a chauffeur to Mr Edwards and his family. Mr Edwards works on Wall Street for Lehman’s. And as the sound of that company name builds tension for the reader, the interaction and interdependence of the two families forces us to question their seemingly obvious differences. Living fulfilled and happy lives is difficult no matter where you come from and how much money you have. Continue reading

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

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Helen and Ellie are identical twins. One day they decide to play a swapping game. Can they pretend to be each other and get away with it? It is fun to successfully pretend to be someone else until Ellie refuses to swap back. Will anyone ever believe Helen when she says she isn’t Ellie? And what happens when the person in charge of your identity takes it in new directions, directions you couldn’t emulate?

Beside Myself describes the swap from Helen’s perspective, stuck in the less well-adjusted Ellie’s persona – Ellie was less popular, more withdrawn, in counselling in school. When the now famous twin, masquerading as Helen, is sent into a comma after a car accident, the adult Helen is forced to confront the past.  

The premise itself is enough to grip a reader. The identity violation feels like a personal affront and we quickly understand the troubling impact the swap has had on Helen. If you box someone in, define them with no room for change or growth, all their energy soon turns to anger, forcing us to confront the complex relationship between trauma and mental illness. This takes Beside Myself out of the straightforward psychological thriller bracket into a novel that puts the British family under the microscope. Unsurprisingly, the power of the unsaid holds sway. Continue reading

Owl Song at Dawn by Emma Claire Sweeney

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Maeve runs Sea View Lodge in Morecambe. Nearly eighty years old, Maeve has lived there all her life. A guest house that once catered to civil servants in the war, builders afterwards and now specialises in accommodating travellers with disabilities, Sea View Lodge is filled with a history that Maeve has done her best to keep locked in the shed.

One day Vincent, a friend from her youth, turns up wanting a room and that history begins to break its chains. Continue reading

Tainted Love by Anna Chilvers

Tainted Love (published by Bluemoose Books) is set in the northern town of Hawden where old industry and woodland meet in an enchanting landscape.

Lauren is in love. She met her boyfriend Peter when they were children and he was hiding naked in the woods. Peter loves the woods: lives in them, runs in them with his strong legs and hooves, sleeps in a cave in the cold with his dad, the hair on their bodies thick enough to keep them warm.

Just as Peter is a little different, so is Lauren. Many of the people of Hawden are not quite human and as a woman and her son return to the town, Lauren uncovers the truth about her family. Why did her mother run off when she was a child? Her parents had seemed so in love but then her mother abandoned them and she and her dad moved in with Mr Lion.

Ali, a similar age to Lauren, is in Hawden looking for a place to lie low and hoping to find out more about her grandmother who once lived in the town. But what was her grandmother’s connection to Hawden and to Lauren’s history? Continue reading