APPLES NEVER FALL by Liane Moriarty (Michael Joseph £20, 464 pp)


by Liane Moriarty (Michael Joseph £20, 464 pp)

This is a tour de force of a novel; brilliantly plotted and superbly written. The Delaney siblings are in freefall because their mother Joy has disappeared.

Is Savannah, the strange, fey girl who appeared from nowhere and moved in with their parents, involved? The action flashes back and forth in time, rather like a tennis ball, which is apt because the Delaneys are a big tennis family.

Their father, Stan, was coach to the stars; is one of them connected to Joy’s absence too? Gradually the full story emerges, one of ambitious parents, pressurised children, the price of success and the unreliability of memory.

No detail of family life and marriage escapes Moriarty’s all-seeing eye and every sentence is packed with wit and insight. The tension builds to a conclusion alive with ingenious twists. Smart, sharp and utterly riveting.


by J David Simons (Back Page Press £9.99)

A funny and touching read that I galloped through at a single sitting, relishing the spot-on send-up of the literary world. Writer Jake has won a top award but success feels sour. An affair has wrecked his marriage to beautiful, brilliant Francesca. Relations with son Oliver are also strained, not least because he’s managed to get arrested on Dad’s awards night.

A series of similar unfortunate events make the evening a comic farce and are interspersed with more sobering episodes from the past. These explore Jake’s difficult childhood, marriage and ultimately catastrophic rivalry with his best friend.

I especially loved Jake’s Withnail period, writing his novel off-grid in a remote caravan, visited only by the farmer’s fantasist wife.

ORPHANS OF THE STORM by Celia Imrie (Bloomsbury £14.99, 416 pp)


by Celia Imrie (Bloomsbury £14.99, 416 pp)

This Titanic tale fictionalises a real-life family, the Navratils of Nice, who were on the fatal voyage.

Our heroine is Marcella, lured into marriage with slippery tailor Michael with whom she has two sons. When the marriage breaks down, he absconds with the boys and takes a ship to America — guess which one . . .

The complex backstory means that we’re halfway through before we get on board, where giddy young New Yorker Margaret Hays becomes a significant presence. She too was real, and had a dramatic role to play in the catastrophe.

I liked the Margaret bits best because of their interesting and unusual angle on Titanic life; luxurious but dull before the iceberg struck.

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