“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng

I reviewed Celeste Ng’s EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU earlier this month in the Irish Times crime fiction column, a book that reminded me in many ways of Megan Abbott’s THE END OF EVERYTHING, which is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last decade or so. The review of Celeste’s book runs a lot like this:
Opening in 1977 in Middlewood, Ohio, Celeste Ing’s debut Everything I Never Told You (Black Friars) begins with a dramatic declaration: “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.” The 16-year-old Chinese-American daughter of James and Marilyn Lee, Lydia is discovered drowned in a local lake, but as the police investigation proceeds it remains unclear as to whether Lydia died as a result of murder, suicide or a tragic accident. Indeed, rather than advance the plot to the point where a motive and perpetrator are revealed, Celeste Ing is far more interested in exploring who Lydia Lee really was behind the various masks she wore to deceive her parents, her siblings and her high school friends. Ethnicity and assimilation (or the lack of it) is crucial to Lydia’s story: James Lee is a Chinese-American professor of American culture who has spent his entire life trying to blend in to a society that instinctively labels him as an outsider, while her mother, Marilyn, was frustrated in her youth in her ambition to become a doctor, and channels her aspirations through her daughter. What emerges is a heartbreaking portrait of a teenage girl struggling to cope with unbearable and conflicting pressures brought to bear by her parents, while also trying to deal with the more prosaic but no less difficult issues of adolescence, in a story that brings to mind Megan Abbott’s subversive take on the crime novel. Ranging back and forth from the 1970s to the 1950s – when James and Marilyn first met, and the seeds of Lydia’s tragedy were first sown – Everything I Never Told You is an affecting, compelling tale of quiet desperation. ~ Declan Burke
  For the rest of the column, which includes the current offerings from Paula Hawkins, Harri Nykänen and Rob Kitchin, clickety-click here

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