Three Reasons I Loved 'Clay' by Melissa Harrison:
1. Clay is a novel featuring about multiple characters all living near the same park in London, and one of its themes seems to be the importance of our relationship with nature, even (or especially) in a city setting. There are several lyrical passages describing the natural world and the changing seasons which reminded me of Virginia Woolf's The Waves. But the nature in Clay isn't over-romanticised - this is very much an urban twenty first century novel, set in a landscape of laundrettes and fired chicken shops as well as parks and gardens. The plot and characters still drive the novel, as they should, and so it never feels sanctimonious or preachy, despite its well thought out and timely theme.
2. The cover is just great - see right (although stupid me, I bought it as an ebook!) and this was a smashing book to be reading whilst the snow was falling, snug inside with a glass of port.
3. The ending really is genuinely moving and one of the most memorable I've read for a long time. Harrison does sadness (not trendy angst or cool existential ennui, but simple everyday sadness) really well. A lot of novels, particularly of the kind that get marketed as 'literary fiction' * often seem to falter at the end, as if the writer has run out of fuel before working out how to end the damn thing. Thankfully that's not the case here. Read it yourself and find out.
You can find out more about Clay here.
* let's for once not get into the genre vs. literary quagmire, eh?