Name: Salt Modern Stories Number: 8
These are tales from the post-industrial scablands – stories of austerity, poverty, masochism and migration. The people here are sick, lonely, lost, half-living in the aftermath of upheaval or trauma. A teacher obsessively canes himself. A neurologist forgets where home is. A starving woman sells hugs in an abandoned kiosk.
Yet sometimes, even in the twilit scablands, there’s also beauty, music, laughter. Sometimes a town square is filled with bubbles. Sometimes sisters dream they can fly. Sometimes an old man plays Bach to an empty street, two ailing actors see animal shapes in clouds, a cancer survivor searches for a winning lottery ticket in her rundown flat. And sometimes Gustav Mahler lives just round the corner, hoarding rare records in a Stoke terrace.
‘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
‘Jonathan Taylor’s important novel Melissa explores what happens when these stages do not succeed one another in a linear fashion, and when some stages (particularly acceptance) do not occur at all. Adopting an intricate structure inspired by the theme and variation technique in classical music composition, and apparently inspired by true events surrounding a collective musical hallucination, Melissa rejects the standard Hollywood narrative of adversity leading to joy.’ —Conor Farrington, The Lancet
‘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
‘★★★★★ 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