The Summer Book by Tove Janssen
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
Here is an interview with Michel Faber about Crimson Petal, where he says he used techniques that I very much like: structure and cinematography
It's so architectural. Everything is balanced and schematized and everything at the beginning is tied up at the end and all the events at the start are mirror images of things that happen at the end... It's deliberately very cinematic.
The Summer Book is a warm and touching book, that I can't imagine anyone regretting reading. Possibly people who don't like children, though it isn't sentimental at all. It's about a series of summers which a motherless girl spends with her grandma on a little lisland in the Gulf of Finland. It's low key, very easy to read, gently thoughtful, and well written.
The Crimson Petal and the White is a guts and all novel set in Victorian London. It concerns the intersection of the lives of a teenage prostitute and her 'benefactor' and his wife. It has a lot of sex in it, and some gruesome stuff, but no hideous violence. I said when I read 'under the skin' that Michel Faber does the female internal voice well, and I think this demonstrates his skill. I find the women more realistic than almost any I have read in books by men. The story is overlaid with a modern sensibility, which does not impose itself on the characters.
For example, we have a wife in her early twenties, whose neglected upbringing ensuers she doesn't kinow about menstruation. She has been 'controlling' what she thinks is a disease by starving herself - in other words she is anorexic, although the term is never used. During the first part of the novel she starts to eat again, and about a third of the way through you realise she is becoming pre-menstrual. Imagine how good the writing has to be, to convey realistically the feeling of PMT, which the person experiencing it does not recognise, and has no vocabulary to describe - and yet you, the female reader, understand to be happening. And not by utlising stupid over-emphasis like manic screaming fits, that a clumsy male writer may have employed.
I am about half way through this book so far and I am very impressed.