Author Catherine Chidgey’s latest novel, Remote Sympathy, shortlisted for the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, tackles domestic drama and human connection.
Set in and around a concentration camp in Germany during the second world war and its aftermath, it asks us to question our ability to look the other way.
Here, Chidgey gives us her top five books about doing just that.
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Faces in the Water by Janet Frame
Through Frame’s luminous prose, this exposes the nightmarish realities of life in a psychiatric hospital in mid-20th century New Zealand. Given our enduring ability to ignore the distress of our most vulnerable, it remains achingly current.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
This wonderful debut is narrated by Jai, a nine-year-old Indian boy who teams up with friends to find a classmate missing from their shanty town neighbourhood. Drawing on real events, the search illuminates the fact that hundreds of children vanish in India every month while authorities and mainstream society stand idly by.
Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention by Donna Freitas
An unflinching account of the writer’s stalking at the hands of her graduate school mentor – a senior professor who was also a priest. Most galling, perhaps, is that when she finally felt courageous enough to speak up about it, her college silenced her.
The Mercy Seat by Elizabeth H Winthrop
Using a polyphonic structure that cycles through nine different narrators, Winthrop pulls off a stunning high-wire act. Centred around the looming execution of a young black man in Louisiana in 1943, multiple perspectives throw small-town apathy and wilful blindness into sharp relief.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
This devastating novel is one that…well, has never let me go. Both horrifying and tender, its singular dystopian vision of breathtaking indifference to suffering is only gradually revealed to both readers and characters. Unforgettable.
Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey is out now (Europa Books, £16.99)