Last week on Twitter I saw that Salt Publishing were doing a call for people to buy a book directly from them using the hashtag #justonebook. I like Salt publishing a lot. They have published some fantastic books, they do an annual anthology called Best British Short Stories – which is one of my more ambitious writerly aspirations – and they are based in Cromer, which is a lovely little seaside town in Norfolk of which I have some very happy memories. A set of happy memories that includes eating Jack Daniels flavoured ice cream down by the seafront, which was either the most wonderful thing I have ever tasted, or is simply another childhood memory that nostalgia has bent out of shape.
So wanting to support a small publisher that I admire a great deal I went over to their site and started looking for something to buy. I have to be honest, it never occurred to me before to buy books directly from the publisher. Normally I would just make a point of keeping an eye out for books I want when I am in bookshops. I think it would have been pretty easy to find most of the books on Salt’s catalogue that I liked the look of in one the bookshops near where I live, but I wanted to answer their call. I had a dig through their website and found quite a few books that I fancied but in the end I went for The Book Collector by Alice Thompson
It is about a young woman who marries a man and have a child together and settle into a comfortable, idyllic life. She loves to read, he likes to collect books, but one day she finds a secret book of fairy tales in a safe in his study and that seems to precipitate the gradual unravelling of her mind. Seeds of doubt are thrown in and so she (and we) are unable to tell what is really going on, what is real, what is delusion. And when her husband hires a nanny to look after the child everything seems to slip further and further out of her grasp.
It is brilliantly written and completely compelling. It has a creeping darkness that constantly wrong foots you as you read. There are some clever little references to gaslights through the first half of the book that made me feel like I had figured out what was going on, but then chapters later it had me doubting myself, making me think I had read to much into an incidental detail. Is the book collector gaslighting his delicate wife, or is Alice Thompson gaslighting me? Or neither? Or both?
I had intended to finish reading it before writing this post but I still have about fifty pages to go. I was going to try to fit it in through the day but life conspired to keep me from it. Some days are like that. But I will finish it soon and then there are a number of other books that I want to read from Salt. There is The Other Word, It Whispers by Stephanie Victoire, Two Sketches of Happiness by Simon Kinch, and The Clocks In This House All Tell Different Times by Xan Brooks. I actually can’t type all of the names of the ones that caught my eye because it would take too long. Just go over to Salt’s page and take a look for yourself.