30 May / When the World Was Steady by Claire Messud [in Library Journal]
Following the collapse of her marriage, not-quite-50-year-old Emmy arrives in Bali from Sydney, Australia, where she’s built her life after leaving her native England almost three decades prior. Now unfettered, she finds herself in the hostel-like home of local guide (and lothario) Buddy, all the while avoiding the various illicit dramas happening inside and beyond the compound.
Back in London, Emmy’s older sister Virginia still lives with their mother, Melody, who perhaps is more manipulative than muddled by age. Virginia’s evangelical fervor is a desperate anecdote to middle-aged loneliness, but even that devotion is soon shattered. At Melody’s coercing, mother and daughter embark on their own island getaway to Skye, one of Scotland’s Inner Hebrides.
Originally published in 1994, Claire Messud’s (The Woman Upstairs) first novel makes its audio debut voiced by Shiromi Arserio. While her adaptation of both sisters is solid, Arserio is most affecting as some of the less prominent characters, including the acerbic, self-absorbed, wholly aware Melody.
Verdict: Messud’s fan base has grown substantially since her debut; libraries should be prepared for renewed interest in her first novel in all formats.