I usually use this slot to plug books by friends and family. But I’m making an exception this time. Partly because I met Sarah Butler at the January Short Stories Aloud & she was absolutely delightful, but partly because I think this is a great first novel, and in this day and age, first time novelists need all the help they can get. I was lucky enough to get the last copy that was on sale that night which meant I read it before publication day, which is always a bit of a thrill. And I’m delighted to say it lived up to the all my expectations.
Ten things is my kind of book. It’s set in London, and perfectly captures both the murk and the magnificence of my wonderful home city. In addition, it deals with fathers and daughters, grief and loss, the complexity of family life, the meaning of home: all subjects close to my heart. It alternates between the viewpoints of two protagonists, Alice and Daniel. As the novel opens Alice is returning from Mongolia to be at the side of her dying father. We discover that she has always found it hard to settle, struggles to connect with her sisters, and is mourning the loss of a relationship that was always doomed. The second narrator, Daniel, is a homeless man, with angina. Obsessed by the thought of the daughter he has never met, he criss-crosses London in search of her. A creative, sensitive person, who is also synaesthetic (seeing names and people in colour) Daniel too mourns lost love, as he seeks out the daughter who doesn’t even know he exists.
I don’t want to say anymore, as this is a novel that should be read with minimum pre-knowledge. Suffice to say,it is a finely crafted book, with believable, sympathetic characters. Though there are moments of total heartbreak, I found it ultimately hopeful – however transient we may be, we can always connect with each other if we are willing. Ten things is my choice for my book club this month – and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Coincidentally, Sarah Butler has literally just tweeted her latest short story, check it out – it’s brilliant