Browser: Freckles has everything a greedy reader wants

Brief reviews of Freckles by Cecelia Ahern, Intimacies by Katie Kitamura, In Kiltumper by Niall Williams and Christine Breen

Freckles: It’s warm, at times hilarious but there is also a satisfying edge as it interrogates contemporary issues with a light touch, says Ruth McKee.  Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Freckles: It’s warm, at times hilarious but there is also a satisfying edge as it interrogates contemporary issues with a light touch, says Ruth McKee. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Freckles
By Cecelia Ahern
Harper Collins, £12.99
Allegra, called Freckles at school, likes routine; it helps her navigate an overwhelming world. She often says the wrong thing, struggles with social cues, but her job as a traffic warden gives her a sense of order that offers security. Leaving her father in Kerry she comes to Malahide to figure out who she is, and who is important to her. This book has everything a greedy reader wants: a moving story, absorbing characters, engaging writing, and is as much of a page-turner as you’d expect from a bestselling novelist. It’s warm, at times hilarious but there is also a satisfying edge as it interrogates contemporary issues with a light touch. There’s a cast of characters who fit every accent and background in Ireland, but it’s Freckles who you follow off the page. Wonderfully accomplished. – Ruth McKee

Intimacies
By Katie Kitamura
Jonathan Cape, £14.99
Katie Kitamura’s A Separation (2017) was a compelling tale concerning a woman searching for her missing husband in Greece. For her latest novel, the American author attended the International Criminal Court trial of Laurent Gbagbo, former president of Côte d’Ivoire. Her fictional President character, however, remains unnamed, and a disclaimer declares that the ICC is not being represented here. In the event, the 225-page tale (which featured on Barack Obama’s summer list of favoured books) is ponderous and unconvincing, chiefly in a sub-plot involving a mysterious physical assault. Likewise, the desultory affair and the few friendships depicted prove lukewarm. As for any such Hague trial, factual court transcripts would carry more impact than this trite, navel-gazing exercise. – Patrick Kehoe

In Kiltumper: A year in an Irish garden
Niall Williams & Christine Breen
Bloomsbury, £18.99
“Places not only become marked by people, but people by places too. Landmarked … spirit-marked … the relation is mutual and essential, because born of love.” The authors settled in Kiltumper, Co Clare, 35 years ago and this memoir of a year in their garden is a meditation on life, love and the importance of nature. Chapters devoted to each month of the year describe gardening work done in the particular month, combined with philosophical ruminations on its significance for their lives. Wind turbines are coming to the area, Christine is recovering from cancer, they are getting older, change is in the air and they wonder will they be able to continue their contented lives in this setting – all of which makes the meditations all the more poignant. – Brian Maye

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