Shortlisted for the 2016 East Midland Book Awards
Melissa is set in 1999-2000. At roughly 2pm on 9th June 1999, on a small street in Hanford, Stoke-on-Trent, a young girl dies of leukaemia; at almost the same moment, everyone on the street experiences the same musical hallucination. The novel is about this death and accompanying phenomenon – and about their after-effects, as the girl's family gradually disintegrates over the following year.
‘Melissa is an intricate kaleidoscope of a novel that explores the inevitable decay of bodies, of houses, of minds and of families. And the unexpected beauty of what comes after.’ —Jenn Ashworth
‘Melissa is such a successfully ambitious book that riffs and ranges through medicine, mathematics and music. It's a flight of darkly comic fancy that takes off from the solidity of a Midlands housing estate and fires its satiric barbs at every form of society's cant. It's reminiscent of a Burslem Beckett.’ —Desmond Barry
‘A rare book: erudite, odd, and utterly engaging.’ —Jo Baker
‘★★★★★ Melissa avoids the sensational, sentimental, and over-emotional traps and offers an unblinkered view of a family trying to make sense of tragedy. So far, it's rather like Carys Bray's A Song For Issy Bradley, but whereas the Bradleys for all their differing opinions behave as a family, the Combs lack that cohesion and act as individuals, each filled with frustration, anger and grief. Melissa is definitely a darker yet quirkier read.’ —Our Book Reviews
‘This is an impressive novel, which successfully captures a wide range of themes and ideas. To me, while reading Melissa, I imagined the central story of the hallucination as the trunk of a tree while the aftermath on individual characters were like branches, heading off in different directions but always coming back to the central idea.
One of the reviews from the back cover of the book calls Melissa 'an intricate kaleidoscope of a novel' and I totally agree. This really is a must read, and deserves lots of readers.’ —Writer’s Little Helper
‘I thought Melissa was an intriguing, at times heartbreaking, read. It was at times scathing about modern life, at times brave about the human condition. It’s well worth a read, enjoyable and engaging.’ —Books from Basford
‘Original, strange, funny, profound.’ —Louis de Bernières
‘Entertaining Strangers made me laugh. If you are interested in landladies, eccentrics, philosophers, bad families, music, degenerates and ants, Jonathan Taylor’s entertaining and illuminating novel will make you laugh, too’ —Kate Pullinger
‘Gripping tale of deeply strange and obsessive characters, funny and horrifying, a great read.’ —Michele Hanson
‘A literary novel with prose like music. A novel that demands a reader response … A novel that deals with the crunchiness of living life on the edge.’ —Sophie Duffy
‘… an intriguing … investigation into the inescapability of personal and political history … many things to admire.’ —Times Literary Supplement
‘This quirky tragicomic novel … is a spiritual boost for the soul that reminds us of the importance of altruistic gestures …. It provides a great many laughs as well as a few surprises along the way.’ —Spirit & Destiny Magazine
‘… contender for best book of the year …. The poetic prose is witty and sharp …. Entertaining Strangers is an intelligent, funny and tragic book …. Highly recommended.’ —Jessica Patient, The View From Here Magazine