A CHILDREN'S BIBLE by Lydia Millet (Norton £ 13.99, 240pp)
A CHILDREN'S BIBLE
By Lydia Millet
(Norton £ 13.99, 240 pages per minute)
The pandemic intensified the resonance of this brilliant escapade at the end of the day with the Pulitzer prize winner Millet. We start in a lakeside mansion in the United States where a group of wealthy guys spend their summer with their children.
But while the latter are supernaturally mature, the former are soon doolal of drinks and drugs.
It's the same lack of responsibility that led to the climate crisis, as teenage storyteller Evie and her colleagues know well. However, if a devastating storm wipes out the area's infrastructure, survival becomes a very real problem.
Millet's title refers to the book that Evie's adorable younger brother loves, and as the apocalyptic events change for the stranger, biblical echoes emerge.
The withering sardonic Evie has numerous Zinging lines in this ingeniously inventive novel that don't hit a beat in terms of their message, but never sacrifice entertainment.
What's more, if the conclusion doesn't leave you with goose bumps, you should probably check your pulse.
HEAVEN AND EARTH by Paolo Giordano (W&N £ 14.99, 416pp)
HEAVEN AND EARTH
By Paolo Giordano
(W&N £ 14.99, 416 pages per minute)
If you're longing for an Italian break, this could be the remedy: heaven and earth are so deeply rooted in the idyllic Puglia that you can almost feel the red floor under your sandals.
One summer, teenage girl Teresa met three boys from a nearby farmhouse: spoiled Nicola, his cousin Bern, and Albino Tommaso. The trio is part of a religious sect led by Nicolas Vater – but Bern and Teresa soon get involved.
But the boys' bond is much deeper than they can know and tensions in a tragedy arise in adulthood.
Theology, infertility and extremist environmental activism combine in Giordano's novel, the taut first third of which has the elevated atmosphere of a fever dream.
Unfortunately, the melodramatic rest is slowly consuming their stamina with lengthy exposure monologues: this may have been a European bestseller, but the characters were definitely more invested than I was in their intricate mythology.
THE VANISHING SKY by L. Annette Binder (Bloomsbury Circus £ 14.99, 288 pages)
THE VANISHING SKY
By L. Annette Binder
(Bloomsbury Circus £ 14.99, 288 pages per minute)
Nothing seems to change in the pretty German city of Heidenfeld: generations live in the same half-timbered houses and pray in the same churches every Sunday. But that's 1945, and normality is a tense pretext.
Concern has made the housewife Etta fat, even though food is scarce: worry about her oldest Max, who has been at the top for two years; for her youngest Georg now in the Hitler School; and for her husband Josef, who is determined to serve despite his walking stick.
And Etta's relief when Max is sent home is short-lived because of his devastating shock. In the meantime, Georg plans to desert and knows that if he gets caught, he will be hanged.
Binder was born in Germany himself and arouses great sympathy for Etta and her painfully broken family, while opening unusual perspectives on the terrible conflict.
Written in deliberately even prose that is still shattering, it is an intimate tragedy that is all the more powerful as it rejects the end that we fervently hope for.
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