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Love in the Time of Chaos; The Guest; An Irishman Abroad

Interesting reads with much to commend them for those prepared to invest the time

Love in the Time of Chaos by Rosemary Jenkinson (Arlen House, €15)

“All the families in his street were bound with the light gag of a city that has kept too many secrets.” From the very first page, Jenkinson sucks the reader in with her formidable wit and astute cultural observations in this short story collection, set in contemporary Belfast. Against a backdrop of Brexit, The Covid-19 pandemic, a cost-of-living crisis and the lingering shadows of The Troubles, Jenkinson explores love, or what is perhaps more appropriately described as desire, in times of chaos. Hers are lusty, skin-hungry characters, seeking not only the touch of another but escape, forgiveness and ultimately, a better existence. Jenkinson is a confident writer, and has reason to be so, with a recent shortlist nomination for The Edge Hill Short Story Prize. — Brigid O’Dea

The Guest by Emma Cline (Chatto & Windus, £18.99)

The second novel following Cline’s bestselling debut, The Girls, is that rare literary accomplishment — a compelling beach read with incredible style and flair. In Long Island, a desperate young woman has connived her way into the luxurious protection of an older man. A misstep sees her dismissed but Alex stays on the island, using her instincts for what strangers desire in an attempt to survive. Cline is excellent at creating a multifaceted narrative that examines significant themes of sexual power dynamics, alienation and class with a deceptively light touch. Psychologically taut, drenched in atmosphere, and completely engrossing, this novel has all the menace and magic of a seductive seedy summer being exposed in the light. — Helen Cullen

An Irishman Abroad by Tarka King (Unicorn, £30)

Tarka King served in the British Household Cavalry during the height of the Troubles; on Garda advice, he and his wife ran their Monaghan farm for more than 10 years from exile in Dorset. He’s a descendant of the Leslie family of Castle Leslie and has led an adventurous life: idyllic childhood in Galway “in the heart of fox-hunting country”; public school in the UK; extensive foreign travel, Middle East military service, and back to Monaghan. He got into trouble with his military superiors for speaking of the need for major social reforms in Northern Ireland to end the conflict. His business career abroad is detailed, a shared love of horses often opening doors for him. This engaging memoir ends with his impassioned argument for restoring the derelict Ulster Canal. — Brian Maye