Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose
The debut novel Midwinter by Fiona Melrose was so well received it was longlisted for the 2017 Baileys Women’s Prize for 2017 and was one of my books for 2016. It’s voice still to this day resonates with as it was so beautifully written. Fiona Melrose returns with her second novel Johannesburg and the cover alone (Neil Gower) is just breath-taking.
The premise for Johannesburg is that it is set just over one day, and that day being 6th December 2013 the story follows Gin Brandt who grew up in South Africa and became an artist and moved to New York. But this is a time for celebration as it is her mother’s 80th birthday and Gin returns home to the place of her birth to be with her family.
But also there is great sadness, the world will at the same time hear of the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95. The world is about to mourn the loss of this great man. There is so much within this book to absorb and not just the storyline. The characters that make up this astonishing novel really make the story come alive. Whether it is the mother and daughter coming together and trying to understand the past as well as the present to the housekeeper and domestic servant a past love and there is also a homeless man who was badly injured while protesting on worker’s rights. It is all here. With each character they each in turn bring something to the story which brings it to life.
The more you read through this novel the more your mind may start to play a little trick with you. Many will have read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Wolf. In Johannesburg, Fiona Melrose has paid the ultimate tribute to Mrs Dalloway. This is true homage to a classic story and Melrose throws her heart and soul into her second novel. Ambitious? Yes, without any doubt. The next question is does she pull it off? In my view this is an extraordinary novel that at times is just runs with emotion just like the city itself on that very day when hearts and minds all met a day of history. Fiona Melrose tells it straight as she tells us of a troubled and divided city, with all its inequalities and prejudices and the violence that haunts this city. There is so much to take in through the pages of Johannesburg and I am not giving any clues as to how the story proceeds. This is a book that will linger with you for some time after you have finishes reading. I am delighted to HIGHLY RECOMMEND Johannesburg and a book for your Summer reading.
Thank you to Helen Upton for the advanced review copy of Johannesburg
Johannesburg by Fiona Melrose was published by Corsair on 3rd August and is available through through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Midwinter by Fiona Melrose
The Last Word Review
At this time of year, I am extremely fortunate to see a beautiful fox most mornings on the field close to my home sometimes at close quarters and in the astonishing debut novel Midwinter by Fiona Melrose there is a fox on the stunning cover and also plays a part within the storyline itself.
This is a story of a father and son both living in Suffolk and the land is the work for they are farmers. A story of Landyn Midwinter and his son Vale. At the very core of this novel is Cecilia wife and mother. Some years before she died in horrifically while they were all living in Zambia and both father and son have to come to terms with their loss and it has been simmering beneath the surface now for too long.
To say that times are hard is an understatement, this is their home, their livelihood even their very existence. The competition is from bigger ventures trying to squeeze them off the land. This is their birthright, their heritage. For Landryn and Vale they are struggling not just in keeping the farm going in difficult economic times but trying to keep their emotions under control sometimes bubbles to the surface and the pair clash harshly and often. For Landryn the land is his solace where he can retreat to and on the farm there is fox and this fox plays a key role as the father finds he is drawn to the vixen and there is a bond between the two.
Midwinter is an incredibly beautiful book and for me it was hypnotic as I was drawn to the poetic prose of Fiona Melrose. It is a story of a tragic loss in horrific circumstances and what follows when communication breaks down as can happen. At times this story may seem brutal as we feel helpless to act for father and son and also as Landryn faces economic ruin as bankruptcy stalks the farm as he tries desperately to save their heritage.
The way in which Melrose tells the story of both Landryn and Vale from both their perspectives and how they both deal with grief and pain as well as how they deal with each other is portrayed brilliantly you can almost smell the earth at the turn of every page and this is also the case with her descriptions of the land of Suffolk and Zambia, it is a story to hold onto in its refreshing honesty of life that is the human despair as we witness Vale resorting to finding the answers in drink. Of course the answers never are here they just manifest and get out of control.
Midwinter is a book I am delighted to recommend it is a book for dark winters evenings. It is a book to treasure and would be ideal one day to see this on the small screen. It really is that good. An incredible debut novel.
Fiona Melrose is already hard at work on her second novel and I for one look forward to seeing how she follows this.
Thank you to Corsair Books and Jo Unwin for the advanced review copy.
Midwinter by Fiona Melrose is published by Corsair and is now available in Hardback through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.