Dickens and three more up-to-date novels

With Christmas over we must continue to enjoy ourselves and forget about the nonsense self-interested politicians have visited upon us, and no doubt propose further to visit upon us in 2022, like some ghost of Christmas yet-to-come. We know from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that Scrooge was just having a nightmare in his futuristic vision and everything worked out well in the end. It did not bring back those already doomed but the main character eventually saw the light. Herald the day for the rest of society.

Let’s not concentrate on the miserly businessmen of the world, more on those giving parties, like the Fezziwigs, a reasonably well-to-do family, and the more humble Cratchits, comprising among others the badly-used clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his weak and lame son, Tiny Tim. Despite misfortunes aplenty these good folk still knew how to celebrate the festive season.

We may at the moment be characters in a nightmare world. We may be abused for refusing to comply. We may have been working very long hours to expose the nightmare to those who have accepted it as a truth. But we must maintain our calm rationale for the times ahead.

As Rudyard Kipling wrote:

If you can keep your head when all around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, 
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too. 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run 
Yours is the world, and everything that’s in it, and which is more, you’ll be a man, my son.

True, the quote excludes women and daughters. So here I intend to redress that imbalance with three recommended novels by two women novelists: Rosamund Upton and Sarah Ménage.

Looking for relief from the constant media pummelling of already-damaged eardrums, with lies about viruses and vaccines in an attempt to change people’s innate genetic code using gene therapies, I picked up a book from the shelves of the woman of the house. Sometimes, it would appear, escape is just not possible from the new impositions. At least the first novel would indicate that.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton (2010)

Beatrice is the sister around whom this novel centres. There is another sister who disappears, Tess. Tess is a painter and the character of a search for a missing person. Has she been abducted? Has she been murdered? Where is she? Why is Beatrice the only one who considers something sinister has taken place?

What role has a rather perverse Tory minister’s son in the affair? Or Tess’s married art-lecturer with whom she has had an affair? Or the inventor of the gene-therapy process that could be a cure for cystic fibrosis?

Although Beatrice is the narrator she literally dictates her story to a more-than- understanding public prosecutor, Mr Wright, whose manner is as intuitive and insightful as a modern-day Father Brown.

Having provided some sort of résumé of the novel a few quotes should give a flavour to further generate interest. All quotes have a message. No mention is made of who says what.

“She said that the baby would be injected with a healthy gene to replace the cystic fibrosis gene. And it would be done while he was still in the womb.”

“. . . Viruses are often used as vectors because they are good at infecting cells in the body and so they carry in the new gene at the same time.”

“But people have died in these gene therapy trials, Tess. All their organs failing.”

“He told me that in humans an IQ gene codes for two totally different things. It affects not only memory capacity but also lung function.”

“Genetic enhancements, that’s where the real money lies, isn’t it? As soon as it becomes legal it’ll be huge. . .”

Although published more than a decade ago there are numerous clues as to the current criminal activities of Big Pharma, and the governments they own in today’s corporate media fabrications, even though these gene therapies are still not legal. Money trumps all, and fiction is starting to look more real than reality.

“How to make life nice” by Sarah Ménage (2016)

Earlier this year I came across a novelist I had never heard of through a group I am involved in. She claimed to be a “wordsmith” which sparked my interest enough to check if her claim was true. And when I found that it was, I felt I had, at least in my mind, discovered a new novelist. Of course, I had not discovered her. She was already there. I just had not heard of her.

“How to make life nice” tells the story of a woman, Georgina, in the prime of life for whom joie de vivre is a little too short on joi, and for whom, considering the imposters Triumph and Disaster, there had been too little of the former and too much of the latter. Her parents’ deaths left Georgie with the added burden of sorting out uncatalogued boxes of artefacts and belongings in order to sell the family home. She sets about this with dedication, methodology and rising anger that she is doing this all on her own.

It is the belongings which bring back memories, and new discoveries in the form of letters, photographs, an old school tie, and other paraphernalia, each of which help put together a back-story from which arise multiple questions. What “special service” had their German au pair, Freida’s father, done for her own father? Why had Freida been invited to England to teach the children music? As the mysteries unravel and the plot thickens the reader becomes engrossed in a well-seasoned hotch-potch of connected incident which go towards making the story as believable and entertaining as it is crafted.

It is amusing and complex.

Finding a novel as good as this is a rarity. There were times when I laughed out loud, times when my eyes opened wide with surprise, but all-in-all it brought pleasure and entertainment in a year where governments of the world have tried to rob people of that pleasure and entertainment over a fake “pandemic”.

Having read “How to make life nice” I had no hesitation in ordering a copy of her next novel.

“The glass girl” by Sarah Ménage (2018)

This is my favourite. It shines with humour, wisdom, human interaction, human absurdity, relationships – physical and emotional – hope, despair and challenge. It traces the history of a woman whose father hid a glass relic for his young daughter to find, a relic which would fire a lifetime of enthusiasm for all things glass. But there is one thing missing from the life of Annabel Waites, who never wanted children until it was almost too late, and that is, a child.

When she and her partner go their separate ways Annie starts a frantic search for a suitable man to become the father of her craved-for offspring. During this quest she encounters men from several walks of life, but when her sister is suddenly hospitalised, she is asked, and almost honour-bound, to accommodate her teenage niece, Jodie, who is keen to get away from the strictures of home life while studying for her exams.

A well as testing the age-gap relationship between niece and aunt it introduces an extra element for Annie – competition in the man-market – and at the same time a duty to protect.

An intelligent novel, strong on plot, with sharp insight in character depiction this work of fiction is worthy of further attention. It fulfils Tolstoy’s observation that all families are dysfunctional in their own way, and the humour, which, unless you are made of different material from me, will catch you unawares and, as with Sarah Ménage’s former novel, make you laugh out loud. For aspiring academics it would make a good thesis, or dissertation project, discussed alongside Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie.”

Sarah Ménage is also a singer-songwriter.

“Sister” is published by Piatkus.

“How to make life nice” and “The Glass Menagerie” are published by better & better.


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