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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Love In Extremis

The World Below - Sue Miller

In San Fransisco fifty-two year old Catherine is attempting to remake her life after the collapse of her second marriage. When her aunt dies, Catherine inherits her grandmother's house in New England. Could this offer the chance of a new beginning? She quits her job and travels across the country to the old house where her mother's mental instability meant that she spent many years of her childhood sheltering in the apparent tranquillity of her grandparents' world.

Here she begins a process of remembering her childhood while at the same time slowly unpicking the truth about her grandmother's life from a bundle of letters she discovers in the attic. It soon becomes clear that her grandparents' relationship, which had seemed so stable and unremarkable when Catherine had been a child, was far more complex and turbulent than she could ever have imagined.

This is a beautifully written book, full of reflection and with a luminous quality to the writing, particularly in those scenes set in the sanatorium where Georgia, Catherine's grandmother, is sent to recover from tuberculosis and where the imminence of death makes the inmates so hungry for life that they snatch at love with frantic greediness.

Immensely absorbing and wonderfully observed, this is the kind of fiction that does not merely entertain but seems to actually enlarge your world and increase your understanding of what it is to be human. I was filled with dismay when I found I had reached the end.