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With Your Crooked Heart is bestselling author Helen Dunmore's sixth novel.
Louise married Paul, brother to Johnnie . . .
Yet she doesn't get one man with this union - she gets two. Born twelve years apart in a one-bedroom flat in Barking, Paul and Johnnie are close: they're good at making money and make taking power look easy. But while Paul deals on contaminated land, Johnnie is adept at dealing in crime.
And when Louise's relationship with the brothers is further complicated by the birth of her daughter, Anna, it seems nothing can ever break this triangle. Until Johnnie's self-destructive streak begins to threaten them all . . .
'Rich, tense, tragic and almost unbearable reading' The Times
'Open a page at random and you're almost bound to find something gorgeous' Independent
'One of this country's most accomplished literary talents' Independent on Sunday
Helen Dunmore has published eleven novels with Penguin: Zennor in Darkness, which won the McKitterick Prize; Burning Bright; A Spell of Winter, which won the Orange Prize; Talking to the Dead; Your Blue-Eyed Boy; With Your Crooked Heart; The Siege, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Whitbread Novel of the Year Award and for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2002; Mourning Ruby; House of Orphan; Counting the Stars and The Betrayal, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2010. She is also a poet, children's novelist and short-story writer.
In sharp, elegant prose, Dunmore's latest novel explores "the roots that the past puts down in the present," and finds that it is impossible to escape the consequences of reckless actions. Real estate mogul Paul turns dilapidated buildings into luxury apartments, shedding the squalor of his childhood for the trappings of privileged London life, but he cannot save his brother, ne'er-do-well Johnnie, from the younger man's self-destructive tendencies. British writer Dunmore (Talking to the Dead; Your Blue-Eyed Boy) here plumbs familiar depths, exploring the anxieties of threatened children, the twisted family ties and the adulterous secrets that give her plots an almost gothic richness. Despite the weight of her material, Dunmore's eye for contemporary detail and her light, sensuous prose save her work from melodrama. Paul's wife, Louise, conceives Anna after a fleeting encounter with Johnnie. Ten years later, the secret infidelity continues to weigh on her; she grows fat and alcoholic, and Paul abandons her for icy Sonia. When he marries Sonia and moves with Anna to their new house in Yorkshire, Louise slips more deeply into drink and confides in Johnnie, himself mixed up in drugs and crime. Johnnie goes on the lam to flee vicious creditors, and Louise follows. Dunmore documents their ill-fated journey while tracking, in parallel, pensive Anna's coming-of-age. Adding authenticity, she supplies convincing details about the petty criminals who operate on the fringes of London's underworld, but the final focus is on Anna and the possibility of redemption that she represents. Dunmore's dreamy, lucid language makes this haunting novel as lovely as it is wrenching. FYI: Dunmore has written children's novels, short stories and poems; she won the first 1996 Orange Prize, for A Spell of Winter.