There are a small number of publishers that I know – whether their books have immediate appeal or not – will always delight me and never let me down, and Honno will always feature in that elite group. But when author Jo Verity contacted me about her latest book, A Different River – published by Honno on 28th June, available in paperback and as an e-book – I hardly noticed the publisher because the book’s description immediately made it a “must read” for me. And given my new-found freedom to read without as many deadlines, the book leapt to the top of my reading list – and I’m so very glad it did, because I found it quite wonderful. My thanks to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.
Miriam had been freewheeling into a comfortable future, but after a bitter betrayal she’s stuck between the dual spectres of maternal servitude and obligation to her octogenarian parents.
A random encounter at the local arts centre presents her with job opportunity she would never have imagined in a million years. Mere weeks later, on a visit to her childhood home, she hears news that offers a chance to rewrite the past.
Given the luxury of hindsight, making the right decisions about her professional and private lives should be a breeze… But can Miriam’s instincts be trusted? There’s only one way to find out, she must pinch her nose and jump right in.
You might or might not agree that there are some books – because of their characters maybe, or the subjects they deal with – that have particular appeal for older readers. When I read that Miriam was 61, caught in that sandwich between being a daughter and a grandparent, looking at a fresh start and where her life might take her… well, I knew this was the book for me.
From the moment Miriam stands by the toilet with a box in her hands, the author had hooked me in. I loved the twists and turns of the story, Miriam’s unconventional decision on how to “escape”, her dealing with the various family issues, her relationships both romantic and otherwise – and the fact that what looks like the perfect outcome can still sometimes leave you with the feeling that maybe it isn’t enough.
The writing is wonderful – the situations, the feelings – and I was particularly struck by the authenticity of Miriam’s “voice”, so very real, so easy to identify with. I really liked the book’s construction too, with its occasional visits to those parts of Miriam’s earlier life that have shaped her present. On the book’s lovely cover there’s a quote from Stephen May – “I am amazed that Verity’s work is still such a secret”. I can only agree – her writing had already caught my eye, I have several of her previous books on my kindle, and Jo Verity is most definitely an author whose books I’ll be reading again. I loved this one.
About the author
Jo Verity is the author of five previous novels – Everything in the Garden (2005), Bells (2007), Sweets from Morocco (2009), Not Funny, Not Clever (2011) and Left and Leaving (2014) – all published by Honno. Her sixth novel, A Different River, was published on 28th June 2018.
Her short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and been broadcast on Radio 4. She won the Richard & Judy short story competition in 2003 and the Western Mail Short Story Prize in 2004.
Jo lives in Cardiff.