When to Walk, By Rebecca Gowers

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The Independent Culture

Ramble, the narrator of When to Walk, has "gimpy legs" as a result of the cruel twin hit of septic arthritis and a dysfunctional pelvis, and writes hack travel pieces on places she's never been to for magazines she despises. She has an extravagantly senile grandmother, a pair of mysterious criminals for neighbours, and a husband who orchestrates music for bad films – and who, one lunchtime, calmly tells Ramble that their marriage is over and buggers off.

The first-person narration is engaging, sometimes bleak but never self-pitying, written in a sharp, lapidary style. The story is adorned with neat little insights and discussions of arcane vocabulary and etymologies ("shock-headed" refers to shocks of wheat, not electric shocks). The novel charts the rediscovery of the self which often follows the break-up of a relationship, and would be especially enjoyed by readers in that position. But anyone who likes witty, spiky, clever and psychologically acute fiction will like it too.