In brief: Perfect Tunes; The Crown in Crisis; Chances Are – review

Hephzibah Anderson
·2-min read
<span>Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Evening Standard/Getty Images

Perfect Tunes

Emily Gould
Scribner, £14.99, pp288

The premise is as familiar as a pop song refrain: at the start of the millennium, a malleable, twentysomething midwesterner moves to the East Village with her guitar, a lyric-filled notebook and a heart full of yearning. Her name is Laura and though aspects of Gould’s subtle, astute second novel initially seem predictable, she’s soon catapulted into another world altogether by unplanned solo motherhood. As the years pass, this becomes a story of the challenges women face trying to nurture both their children and their own creativity. Generous and truthful – painfully so on occasion – it captures something of the elusive buoyancy of those “perfect tunes”.

The Crown in Crisis: Countdown to the Abdication

Alexander Larman
Weidenfeld & Nicolson, £20, pp352

In 1936, Britain was consumed by an unprecedented constitutional crisis. With a playboy king and his American mistress for protagonists, a supporting cast of socialites and politicians, not to mention rumoured Nazi sympathies, it’s little wonder this saga continues to fascinate. Observer contributor Larman’s retelling zips along, infusing a well-known narrative with impressive suspense. His scholarly rummaging has turned up fresh insights, too, notably into the role played by MI5. Not only was the secret service bugging Edward VIII’s phone, it seemingly allowed one of its informants to make an assassination attempt. It’s an enduringly relevant chapter of British history, brought to life with panache.

Chances Are

Richard Russo
Allen & Unwin, £8.99, pp320

Martha’s Vineyard is the setting for a novel in which three 66-year-old men, Vietnam-era college friends, meet for a reunion. They gathered there decades earlier when a fourth student was with them: Jacy Rockafellow, the girl they were all crushing on. As it turns out, that was the last time any of them saw her, and though they long ago moved on – one became a musician, another a real estate broker, a third a publisher – her disappearance obsesses them still. Enriched by Pulitzer-winning Russo’s hallmark themes – father-son relationships, small-town snobbery and unrequited love – it’s an eloquent excavation of long-buried secrets.

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