Forty-five-year-old Susan Green has her life in order. She's happily employed, happily single and happily childless. Her family leaves a lot to be desired but she manages to avoid them most of the time. But when her mother suddenly dies, Susan's antagonism with her brother Edward hits a new low, and as if that's not enough to contend with, there's also another bombshell that will rock Susan's cosy little world.
Much like Eleanor Oliphant and Don Tillman, Susan Green is one of those quirky, unusual, forthright yet finicky characters that stands out from the crowd. And in a story that particularly in the first third is somewhat slow-going, Susan is the saving grace. Indeed, if it wasn't for Susan's characterisation I would have struggled to get through the initial part of the novel, and although the story does pick up a bit in the second half, it is Susan who carries the book. By the end of the novel, however, I came away fairly satisfied and was glad I stuck with the book. There are some really nice moments of humour but it's not the sort of riotous, laugh-out-loud book I'd been expecting, and there are some more serious elements too which make this more of a rounded read. But it really is the author's characterisation, not only of Susan, but of her aunt and cousins, as well as friend Brigid that make this book memorable. (JC)
It's never too late to bloom in Sarah Haywood's debut novel, The Cactus. The summary says: "People aren't sure what to make of Susan Green - a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.
Family and colleagues find her stand-offish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that's all she needs. At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward - a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.
Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan's greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control. When she discovers that her mother's will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places." The Cactus is out in January 2018.