Need a holiday read? Something to settle down with outside when the sun actually shines? Or an excuse to stay in and protect yourself from the rays? Here are some of my favourite books being published in July (click on the titles for full reviews). Expect tense friendships, exposure of class differences, and eccentric tales of unusual characters.
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig – Highly anticipated new book by Matt Haig about the perils of immortality when you’re an anxious overthinker.
Watling Streetby John Higgs – History, anecdotes, politics, and society are all covered in this book about the famous Roman road running across England and Wales. Endearing popular history.
Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory – Like a Wes Anderson film in book form, this is the story of a family of psychics and con artists who want to restore their good name. An enchanting summer read.
The Party by Elizabeth Day – A gripping novel about the dark sides of privilege, exposing career politicians and the licences of the rich whilst telling a story of a lifelong yet unequal friendship and its secrets.
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley – A historical novel about a journey into Peru in the nineteenth-century with an unlikely friendship at its core and a look at understanding others’ beliefs.
The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen – When old and privileged childhood friends end up together on a Greek island, their lives and relationships start to unravel. A tense and ominous literary thriller.
Hings by Chris McQueer – Provocative, hilarious, and darkly surreal short stories focused on working class Scotland, everyday life, and the mundane mixed with the downright weird. Far too enjoyable.
Privilege falling part on a Greek island: The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen
The Destroyers is a tense and ominous novel about childhood friendship and about the lengths people go to protect their power and assets. Ian Bledsoe flees the death of his disliked father to the Greek island retreat of his old schoolfriend, Charlie, whose life seems untroubled by worry or money troubles, the opposite of Ian’s own. The situation on Patmos is far from idyllic, however, with social tensions and shady dealings that start coming out of the woodwork just as Ian thinks he might have found a refuge. This literary thriller becomes a complicated web of priorities as Ian tries to work out just what is going on which Charlie.
Bollen’s writing style is full of witty observations and the narrative becomes gripping as the strands really start to take off, all held together from the perspective of Ian. He is a classic friend figure, a fellow rich schoolfriend of Charlie’s who is now saddled with a lack of inheritance and an inferiority complex about life. The importance of Ian and Charlie’s childhood game Destroyers adds a vivid touch, a thread of danger running from the start until the imagined threat starts to appear real. The novel shows the modern world as a place divided and tense, with the refugee crisis, the collapse of the Greek economy, and the thread of extremist violence all forming the backdrop of the story. At times this seems a little irrelevant – Ian’s time in Panama is shown in perhaps too much detail – but what Bollen creates is a thriller about privilege and power that focuses more on characters and on the society that made them who they are.
Comparisons to Tartt’s The Goldfinch are easily made, though Ian does not feel similar to her protagonist and Bollen’s style isn’t as distinctive. However, the tense world evoked – one in which modern threats recreate old problems – is similar and the complicated formation of Ian and Charlie’s now-rekindled friendship feels similar to her work. The Destroyers is for anyone looking for a modern novel that looks deep at self-interest and self-presentation amongst a privileged world whilst also keeping up a tense, thriller narrative.