A journalist rang the other day to ask what everybody was reading this summer. There are always trends going on in publishing but because of the time lag between writing and the finished copy arriving in bookshops, an avalanche of copycats arrive just too late to sell in the quantities the optimistic publisher desires.
There seem to be a number of novels around at the moment with unreliable female narrators. Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson was published back in 2011, about a woman who experiences total amnesia every morning when she wakes up. This was followed by a number of books by women with mental illness (such as How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman), and with dementia (Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey). The bestseller of 2015 so far has been The Girl on The Train by Paula Hawkins. It is about a woman who witnesses something suspicious from a train but whose alcoholism and blackouts make her testimony highly unreliable. The genre is not new (cf Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea) but seems to have gathered fresh impetus – expect many more over the next year…..
Another fictional trend is the “older person’s quest”. It started with the ultimate OAP, The Hundred Year Old Man by the Swede Jonas Jonasson, continued with the equally successful The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce, and has now spread outside Europe. Australia has produced Lost and Found by Brooke Davis and likewise from Canada the charming Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper. The latter has the advantage in combining both trends in that Etta who is travelling across the country to the sea is also struggling with dementia.