On my summer reading list for Locus Online, I praised Clare Dudman's One Day the Ice Will Reveal All Its Dead, which is not just the best first novel I've read in ten years but one of my favorite novels of the past decade, period.
Now she has a new novel out, which my wife has read and says is every bit as strong as One Day. Here's the synopsis on Amazon.co.uk of 98 Reasons for Being:
"In 1852, a girl named Hannah Meyer, an inhabitant of Frankfurt?s notorious Jewish ghetto, is admitted to the town asylum. She has been silent for weeks, she will not sleep or eat, and wagging tongues have resulted in a diagnosis of nymphomania. Ignoring this, Hannah?s mother begs the asylum?s new doctor to treat her. He is the revolutionary Dr Heinrich Hoffmann, physician, alienist, reforming politician and author of the famous book of children?s rhymes, "Struwwelpeter". Hoffman uses all the methods at his disposal, from ice packs and blood letting to electrodes, in an increasingly obsessed effort to cure Hannah. Nothing works, until he resorts to talking - telling her anecdotes from his youth, revealing the case-histories of Hannah?s fellow patients, confessing to his troubled home life. Only then does Hannah begin to respond, and gradually yield her tale of love, transgression and prejudice. As Hoffman uncovers the secret of one human mind he also starts to make sense of his own: what is important, what will last and what aspects of him will remain - what, in the end, are his real reasons for being."
As with her previous book, this isn't fantasy but is related to fantasy in a way I can't quite put into words. The books are dreamlike in some ways, intricately structured, and the use of detail is quite beautiful. I'm reading 98 Reasons right now and so far it is indeed every bit as good as her first novel. I can't recommend these books highly enough. (98 Reasons won't be available in the U.S. until March 2005.)