Book Review: The Future Can’t Wait

The Future Can’t Wait, by Angelena Boden, is a story about a mother who cannot bring herself to grant her grown-up daughter independence. When the young woman, having completed her university finals, decides to cut contact with her family and move away, the mother falls apart. Her life, it seems, had been entirely predicated on ensuring her child developed into the person the mother desired as a friend and companion.

The story opens a few weeks before the daughter’s final exams. Rani is an intelligent young woman studying astro-physics and expected to achieve a first. Against her much older brother’s advice – Adam is now a doctor practicing in America – she attended her local university and continued to live in the family home under her mother’s watchful eye. Rani is of mixed race, her Iranian father having left to return to his homeland when she was young. Her British mother, Kendra, remarried David who was a highly regarded if somewhat eccentric professor. David is now retired, pursuing hobbies in his garden workshops. He has always appeared to get on well with his step-children.

When Rani starts to rebel against the many restrictions her mother has imposed, Kendra puts it down to the pressure of upcoming exams. Having been berated by her mother in the past for wearing dresses deemed unsuitable as too revealing, Rani decides to purchase loose fitting clothes and wear a headscarf. Unbeknown to her mother she is a member of the Persian Society at university where she is learning more about her heritage and has made new friends. Her mother firmly believes Rani has no interest in religion or politics and struggles to accept a side to her daughter she has not approved.

Kendra teaches GCSE psychology and has a particular interest in the development of the teenage brain. She offers her friend, Sheila, sensible advice in dealing with her children but cannot seem to accept such wisdom herself. When Rani moves to London to take up an internship the young woman ensures that her family do not have her new address. A few weeks later she deletes her email account. Unable to contact her daughter, Kendra descends into a state similar to grief. When Rani sends a letter informing her family that she is fine, doing what she wants with her life but will no longer keep in touch, Kendra becomes further unhinged.

David and Adam advise Kendra to grant Rani the time and space she needs, assuring the frantic mother that her daughter will return when she is ready. Kendra cannot accept this. She reads horoscopes, contacts psychics, purchases tarot cards, and phones premium phone lines that promise help in finding missing persons. She runs up debts in her quest to find a reason for her daughter’s defection other than her own dominating behaviour.

David bears the brunt of his wife’s spiral into cognitive dissonance and addiction. In losing control of her daughter she also loses control of herself. She has the support of David, Sheila and Adam but resents the truths they tell her. Sheila cannot understand why the previously sensible Kendra has become so obsessed by charlatans and woo woo practitioners:

“What do you want them to do? Tell you where Rani is so you can drag her home by the hair?”

David is upset at the large amounts of money Kendra is wasting, unable to comprehend how she can believe these people can help when it is her behaviour that drove Rani away:

“I’ve watched how you’ve over involved yourself in her life. Telling her what to wear, organising her study times even at university, vetting her friends.”

The loving mother who coddled and smothered her daughter now starts to neglect her other child. Adam is making his own enquiries into his sister’s possible whereabouts but questions how much he can share with his mother who has become increasingly unstable. Kendra risks her job with her behaviour and turns to a stranger for comfort (why does she comply when a restaurant he takes her to demands that she hand over her phone?). Even when David becomes ill she berates him for not doing more to act in a way he has never done because now this would suit her.

In a country-wide climate of growing fear over terrorism Kendra is concerned that her daughter may have become radicalised. When the police suggest the same she rages against the accusation. Despite being desperate to find her daughter she ignores a photograph that could be of Rani and therefore offer a potential lead – she is concerned that the police are making racist assumptions. When Sheila suggests that she turn to social media to see if Rani’s friend network can help, Kendra rejects this sensible suggestion as she does not consider it to be her thing. When a couple of Rani’s friends approach Kendra in town she frightens them away with her erratic behaviour.

I read this book wanting to shake some sense into Kendra. We do not own our children and a mother’s job is to prepare their offspring for survival away from the nest. Kendra’s idea of love appeared to be focused on being loved herself.

The study of addiction, grief and denial were interesting facets in what is an intense and emotional tale. The synopsis of the book describes it as a ‘gripping story of a mother’s love for her daughter’ and in reviewing it I recognise how harsh I have been. As a mother I cannot imagine the pain of having one of my children sever all contact. Kendra’s story may well resonate with those whose children are more like rebellious Rani than the ever supportive Adam. I did wonder at the ongoing relationship Kendra would have with Adam’s partner given her apparent need to influence offspring’s behaviour.

My lack of sympathy doubtless stems from my own parental relationships – we bring to each book we read our personal experiences. This is a powerfully written and engaging story that could feed much interesting discussion. I applaud the author’s ability to generate strong feelings in her readers.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.


Book Review: Seeking Eden

Seeking Eden, by Beverley Harvey, is not the sort of book I would normally read. I suspect it may fall under the genre of women’s fiction – although I consider the descriptor soap opera fiction to be more fitting, women liking a broader range of books than some seem to believe. The story centres around a middle aged married couple, Kate and Neil, who move out of London to a new build housing estate in suburban Kent. Kate is a copy-writer and Neil works in advertising. Naturally they are both beautiful people.

After the move Kate works from home, although she has plenty of time for other pursuits. Neil finds the lengthy commute to the city exhausting so takes a room in a friend’s flat, coming back to their new home for weekends. Kate is lonely without him and misses the bustle of their previous life, her old friends showing little interest now that she is less readily available. She gets a dog for company and joins a gym. Slowly she starts to make new friends.

Ben is a one hit musician and an old flame of Kate’s. When he gets in touch after many years, in an attempt to win her back despite her marriage, she is tempted. With Neil away during the week it is easy for her to meet up with Ben, something she comes to regret.

Kate befriends Lisa, another siren, and ex-wife of a successful footballer. Lisa is scornful when she becomes the object of a local shopkeeper’s mid-life fantasies. His wife suffers from depression and he is struggling to cope with her moods. Their daughter has recently moved out of the family home leaving it bereft.

Alongside this cast of characters are Kate’s sister and confidant, Alice, and a bevy of well groomed acquaintances. Over the course of a couple of years there are affairs, misunderstandings and a death. Jobs evolve effortlessly, although behaviours ensure personal lives do not run smooth. The action is played out against the backdrop of a quietly affluent housing estate that the cool London crowd regard with disdain – I found this particular prejudice illuminating.

The writing is polished and the plot as tangled as people have a tendency to be. Much is made of personal presentation, including of partners, regarded as desirable accessories.

For those who enjoy gossip, about acquaintances and others, this was like a catch-up with a distant friend. It is effortless entertainment, and there is nothing wrong with that.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

Book Review: Nemesister

Nemesister, by Sophie Jonas-Hill, is the first book in a proposed series of American Gothic thrillers. The story opens in a remote and run-down lodge hidden within the swamps of Louisiana. The protagonist is a young woman who arrives at this place badly injured, with no recollection of who she is or why she is here. In her hand is a gun, in her pocket a leaflet. She can find no other clues to her identity.

As she stumbles into the damp-ridden shack a man appears who introduces himself to her as Red. She is terrified of him but has no idea why. Red offers her water and then a bed on the couch. When she wakes from exhausted sleep he has tended to her wounds. Despite these efforts the woman remains wary. With injured feet and no means of transport she has little choice but to stay. Red tells her that his truck requires attention, that once mended he will take her to the nearest town as she has requested.

Over the course of the following twenty-four hours Red tells the woman about himself. He was a soldier, had a wife, and is at the shack to meet his brother for a spot of fishing. He is not always consistent in what he says. The woman feels a strong urge to escape but when unknown assailants fire shots at the house, the doors are locked and the key pocketed by Red.

The woman’s memory returns gradually with brief flashbacks to scenes that as yet make little sense. It is unclear if she is remembering what happened to her or to others, and who those others are to her. Within the shack are clues, but the more she uncovers the less she understands. Then what happened to her sister returns.

From the first page the tale unsettles. Despite the unremitting tension it takes some time before the flashbacks coalesce and characters gain form and context, enabling greater reader engagement. From here the pace picks up as backstories are presented and woven together. The drip-fed details now make disturbing sense.

The writing is taut and polished. Each of the cast’s true motives keep the reader guessing to the end. Dark and disquieting throughout, this is an intense, compelling read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

Book Review: The Lighterman

The Lighterman, by Simon Michael, is the third book in the author’s Charles Holborne series of crime thrillers (I review the first two here and here). Set in 1960s London, in and around the historic law courts at the Old Bailey, Holborne is once again working as a barrister from chambers where his Jewish heritage is disdained. Family background is an important backdrop to the story. The key case being dealt with involves Holborne’s cousin, Izzy, with whom he worked on the Thames during the Second World War.

Following events from the previous intalments in the series, Holborne is on the Kray twins death list. The metropolitan police are unwilling to help as they still believe Holborne was complicit in the murder of his wife and therefore deserves whatever comes his way. With blackmail and bribery rife on both sides of the law he must risk all to save Izzy and himself.

Holborne is in a relationship with Sally who is unhappy with being sidelined when work continually demands her lover’s time and attention. Despite a tentative reconciliation with his family, his harpy mother’s continuing complaints about his life choices remain a thorn in Holborne’s side.

I began to understand some of the bad feeling harboured against Jews, that it is their rejection of assimilation, a refusal to accept a different way of living for the next generation, just as is the case for many other orthodox religions. Holborne chose to break away but cannot shake the feelings of guilt this has caused, stoked by his mother’s criticism. These personal conflicts are well presented within the context of a fast moving plot.

With Ronnie Kray determined to punish Holborne and a judge eager to support the river police, one of whom Izzy is accused of murdering, Holborne is forced to take matters into his own hands. He puts his career in danger to gather his evidence and must then go to court and give the performance of his life. This representation of a barrister’s role and thought processes remains a highlight as in the previous books.

The writing throughout is slick and engaging, the plot well developed with a strong sense of time and place. The ending sets up an interesting dilemma for subsequent intalments in the series to explore.

On a personal level I struggled to warm to the protagonist. Holborne is described as strong and muscular, able to hold his own in a fight. He works out by running and boxing. He has a high sex drive. Although portrayed as a tough, east end lad made good, with a moral compass that isn’t as strong as he would like where justice, as he sees it, is involved, his exploits reminded me too much of the typical male, all action hero. I had to remind myself that this was 1960s Britain and women were even more objectified than today. Sally is no shrinking violet but Holborne’s interest in her appears largely sexual and selfish.

An enjoyable read for those who like their heroes physically strong, their justice warriors slightly flawed. It is a well written page turner strengthened by its setting within the rarefied world of the courts of law.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

This post is a stop on The Lighterman Blog Tour. Do check out the other blogs taking part, detailed below.

Book Review: The Speech

The Speech, by Andrew Smith, is set over a ten day period in April 1968 during which Enoch Powell, as local MP, gave his infamous Rivers of Blood speech. It is written from a variety of points of view thereby enabling the reader to gain a better understand of each of the protagonists. The era is evoked with a perceptive wit, whilst the story told – the machinations surrounding a Jamaican immigrant’s wrongful arrest for GBH – reminds how little certain people have progressed.

“He moved on to the effects on the “native population” of the granting of rights to so many immigrants – people were confronted by crowded maternity wards and their children forced to study in overflowing classrooms. Their neighbourhoods were being transformed against their will. He applied words to the British public such as “defeated” and attributed to them the feeling that they were “unwanted”. Powerful words […] painted a scene of utter degredation of ordinary native citizens as a result of immigration”

The tale opens with some background to Powell’s ancestry and upbringing, wryly salient given the opinions he developed. By 1968 he had been Wolverhampton South West’s MP for eighteen years and was serving in a shadow cabinet led by Ted Heath, who he wished to usurp. Powell’s constituency home is in a neighbourhood becoming popular with an increasing immigrant population and he is concerned about the effect this will have on property value.

Powell is supported in his local Tory party office by the intelligent and loyal Mrs Georgina Verington-Delaunay, known as Georgy. Whilst she acknowledges the strengths of Powell’s work ethic and values, she is increasingly disquieted by his beligerance. His regard for the days of Empire and conviction that England should not change frustrate her efforts to demonstrate the benefits of enabling recent arrivals to integrate.

Meanwhile, Wolverhampton art student, Frank McCann, is in his favourite bar examining a set of photographic prints taken at the previous day’s student demonstration in support of racial equality. The bartender points out that every face in his photos is white, suggesting that the images would be more powerful if a darker skinned person were portrayed. Frank accepts a wager from a couple of fellow students, disparaging his talents, that he will successfully doctor a print to replace one of the marchers with the image of a Jamaican friend, Nelson Clark, in a manner that makes the change undetectable. This challenge sets in motion a series of events that result in Nelson’s incarceration. Frank, with the help of his strong minded girlfriend, Christine, must then try to find a way to persuade the police, who are all too eager to prove Nelson guilty, that the photo they are using as evidence is a fake.

Racism, intolerance and hatred are never going to be comfortable subjects to read about but the warmth and humour of the narrative, and the breadth of characters populating each page, make this an engaging tale. Even Powell comes across with a degree of poignancy, notwithstanding his damaging rhetoric. It is sad that, despite improvements in many other areas, his ilk are still being listened to today.

The author uses dialogue to expand on arguments which, although succinct and well constructed, did not always segue with plot progression. The denouement relied on a stroke of luck, admittedly a familiar device. These were minor niggles in a work that offers an entertaining story as well as an evocative history of a period this country should by now have learned from. This is an intelligent and recommended read.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane.

Book Review: Electric Souk

Electric Souk, by Rose McGinty, tells the story of a young, single, Irish woman’s experiences working in Arabia during the period of regional uprisings known as the Arab Spring. It is a story of expatriates, culture clashes, clandestine friendships and betrayals. In the simmering heat of a desert city, nothing is quite as it first appears.

Aisling Finn leaves the grey and damp of Ireland following the breakdown of a lengthy love affair. Drawn by the lure of sunshine and a lucrative contract she ignores her mother’s warnings of the potential dangers in a fiercely segregated, veiled land. Her Grandaddy understands Aisling’s need for adventure.

‘Woman, let her go will you.’ Grandaddy roared from his chair by the stove, ‘I remember when I was a young’ un my mother, and her mother before her, were always covered from head to toe in black. My mother was a clever woman, but she was dead behind the eyes from peeling spuds all day. We had our own Taliban, those fecking Christian Brothers.’

Aisling takes some time to acclimatise to expatriate life with its raucous parties, illicit activities and conspicuous wealth. Many of the woman look on her with disdain while the men veer between charm and sleaze. Although her work at the National Health Board is well regarded by colleagues, she discovers that powerful rivalries are ubiquitous and vicious. With everyone there to make money, trust is a rare commodity.

Aisling wishes to experience life outside the gilded city but requires male escorts and female chaperones if she is to stay within the law. Those who offer to accompany her invariably have ulterior motives and she finds herself enmeshed in schemes she does not fully understand. When she declines advances, the spurned warn of dangerous consequences.

News filters in of protests and uprisings in the region leading to a clamp down on previously overlooked activities. Foreign workers are blamed for sewing the seeds of discontent amongst the locals. With their privileged way of life under threat, governments are eager for scapegoats to punish as a warning to others. Aisling finds herself caught between her new western and eastern friends with little idea who, if any, she can rely on.

The plot is fast moving with a taut, hungry prose that evokes the precarious simulation of high-class living conjured out of a hostile desert. The Arabian family Aisling becomes involved with are discomfited when she acts like a western woman yet many of their compatriots yearn to enjoy the freedoms she takes for granted. Men from both cultures regard her as a pawn to be subjugated, by whatever means, to further their own dangerous games.

This was a fascinating look at an area known to offer luxurious conditions for visitors willing to look only at the glittering facade, possible because of a hidden army of mistreated workers. The arms and oil trades are considered too important for other nations to attempt interventions, whatever the human cost. If foreign worker contracts are truly as tightly controlled as portrayed here I wonder why anyone would choose to go, whatever the reward. Nonetheless, this provides a searing backdrop for a compelling tale.

My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Urbane. 

Rounding off the Urbane Book Blast with a Giveaway


I hope that you have enjoyed reading the reviews, interviews and guest posts from Urbane Publications and their authors over the past couple of weeks. You now have a chance to win one of the books featured, and you may choose which one you would like to receive. If you would like a reminder about my thoughts on each, click on the titles below.

Once you have decided on your choice of book, this is what you have to do to enter the giveaway:

  1. Follow me on Twitter: Jackie Law (@followthehens)
  2. Tweet me the title of the Urbane book you would most like to receive from those reviewed this month (pictured above) using the hashtag #UrbaneBlast
  3. Do this before 8am GMT on Wednesday 21st December 2016, after which I will randomly draw a winner.

The giveaway is open internationally.

Thank you to Matthew at Urbane for providing the prize.


You may wish to consider joining the Urbane Book Club. For £99.99 you’ll receive a print and ebook edition of every new Urbane title published from the date you join for an entire year – Urbane currently publishes around 5 books a month. You’ll receive a 75% discount on any further purchases of Urbane titles through the Urbane website, including the entire backlist – all with free p&p in the UK. There are other benefits to joining, including opportunities to meet the authors. Check out the details by clicking here.


Ordinary words made extraordinary