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THE SMASH-UP by Ali Benjamin (Riverrun £18.99, 480 pp)

THE SMASH-UP 

by Ali Benjamin (Riverrun £18.99, 480 pp)

This amazing, dramatic, hilarious debut adult novel from a bestselling children’s writer is about modern America, and by extension modern everywhere.

Benjamin takes the storyline of Edith Wharton’s book Ethan Frome, about a tragic country love-triangle, and updates it to the world of fake news, cancel culture and #MeToo.

Hipsters Ethan and Zo have left NYC for rural Massachusetts, where country life is slowly destroying them. Zo endlessly orders housewares online and has joined a women’s group called All Them Witches.

Ethan, his once-brilliant marketing career in shreds, is becoming obsessed with their sexy, bolshy, live-in nanny.

To crown it all, their hyperactive child is in trouble at Rainbow Seed, her trendy private school.

Benjamin is an absolutely brilliant satirist and deftly juxtaposes the battlegrounds of marriage, parenthood and middle-class aspiration with the fight for truth and justice in the bigger political picture.

SPACE HOPPER by Helen Fisher (S&S £14.99, 352 pp)

SPACE HOPPER 

by Helen Fisher (S&S £14.99, 352 pp)

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented novels. A story about going back to the 1970s in a Space Hopper box would seem to fit that bill.

Faye’s mother disappeared when she was a child and the gap has always been there.

In the attic of her (grown-up) house one day, she finds an old box which proves a portal to the past. She returns to her childhood home and meets her mother.

Sounds odd but it works because of Fisher’s beautifully clear writing and the radiant sincerity of the heroine. After a couple of trips back, Faye and her blind friend Louis work out what’s happening, but not the answers to the physical and ethical questions that arise. Plus, Faye’s husband thinks she’s having an affair.

Love, childhood, motherhood; whether you can or should fix the past, it’s all in this amazing book.

YOU, ME AND THE SEA by Elizabeth Haynes (Myriad £8.99, 432 pp)

YOU, ME AND THE SEA 

by Elizabeth Haynes (Myriad £8.99, 432 pp)

Rachel has hit the emotional buffers, so a job in a Scottish island B&B is a handy escape from her problems. The downside is sharing a rundown lighthouse with hulking, taciturn Fraser and jumpy, skinny Lefty, his sidekick. All three of them are harbouring tragic secrets and once Fraser and Rachel fall for each other they must come to terms with the past. The wild weather mirrors the wild emotions; there’s a big moral sweep to the story which is refreshing.

The fact that Fraser is a brilliant cook and Rachel a demon cleaner provides a cosy counterpoint to the dramas.

The sex is quite graphic, there’s a lot about seabirds and a monster National Trust-type regional director adds a comic touch. An enjoyable, unusual love story.

To buy any book reviewed here, visit mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193 

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