My favourite books of the year so far. I loved The Gallows Pole by Ben Myers. Amazingly wet, cold, smelly sense of place, knee-deep in the mud of the Calder Valley. Crunchy prose and craggy characters that make Ben feel like a Mytholmroyd Cormac McCarthy. It’s all a bit male. Wouldn’t have minded him rewriting history a bit to slip a strong female character into the mix, but other than that, great stuff.
And then The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Beguiling. Not in a sweet, rom-com sort of way, more in a snake hypnotising you sort of way. You’re drawn in, fascinated by a story where not much actually happens, but the characters are big and the ideas are bigger. You start to feel like you’re living in Perry’s world, and you don’t really want to leave it.
But probably my favourite of the year so far – and I’ve no idea what year this actually came out – is Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, by Tom Franklin. Also, definitely, the best title I’ve seen this year. What is it about repetition? The Essex Serpent The Essex Serpent wouldn’t have worked. Anyway, two main characters, sort of friends in the past, estranged in the present, separated by race and guilt and a horrible crime that echoes through the decades. All taking place in Mississippi. It’s about five pages too long, but other than that, perfect.