LastDaysofSummerThis debut novel came along at the right time to be the kind of refresher that I was looking for. It’s July in Texas: jasper Curtis is released from prison after ten years, to move in with his sister Lizzie and her two daughters. Jasper is an interloper, in his family and the outside world: we don’t know exactly what he did to end up in prison; Lizzie doesn’t know whether she’s about to find her brother or a criminal; Jasper’s nieces don’t know him at all.

What I particularly like about Vanessa Ronan’s book is the way she builds up a sense of menace through her prose. Here, for example, is Lizzie overhearing an approaching truck:

Rumbling sound of the engine low as thunder and as distant, but uninterrupted and now quickly coming closer, growing louder, faster than any storm. Cobalt blue. Bright, shiny, new. Puts her rusted Chevy parked out front to shame. Lizzie turns the faucet off. Dries her hands on a dish towel. Places it, crumpled, on the counter beside her.

It’s the jagged rhythms of long and short sentences that makes this passage work for me; the fragments of action, colour and image. It disturbs the sense of a coherent, easily understood world – paving the way for the darker events to come.

Book details (Foyles affiliate link)

The Last Days of Summer (2016) by Vanessa Ronan, Penguin Ireland paperback