Things We Nearly Knew

Picador, London, 2018. ISBN 978-1509842421, 288 pp (hardback)


“Illusion is a parasite upon reality, and the other way about. They’re symbiotic. If you can’t define reality, how can you define illusion? They’re different facets of the same thing.”

There’s a bar at the crossroads on the way out of town. Or the way in, depending on whether you’re coming or going. Marcie and her husband have run it for years. After thirty years of marriage, there aren’t many secrets left between them. Couples often say that, don’t they? But it’s not always true.

Arlene appeared in the bar one day, not long before Franky Albertino came back to town, hoping that she’d find a man called Jack. Franky was hoping that people might have forgotten the mess he’d left behind him the first time around. Franky’s problem had always been women. Women and money. What Arlene’s problem is isn’t clear. It’s obvious she has a history, but who doesn’t?

As Arlene gets closer to finding Jack – her father? her lover? – the bar becomes the scene of a great unravelling; secrets buried a lifetime ago are dragged into the light. In Things We Nearly Knew, Jim Powell invites us to consider how much we know about the people we love and asks, finally: would you want to know the truth?


[Read more from the reviews]

“Powell’s characterisation is intelligent and perceptive… A thoroughly enjoyable piece of storytelling, well turned out in every sense. If the rest of 2018’s reading is as good as this I’ll be delighted.” – Susan Osborne, A Life in Books, 10 January 2018

“If you didn’t know Jim Powell was British, you wouldn’t guess from this hard-boiled slice of Americana… If it overcooks – just a bit – it makes up for it with a wry charm that grips you right to the sombre finish.” – Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail, 5 January 2018

“Things that never happened become as much facts as things that did,” says one of the cast of mystery-shrouded characters in Jim Powell’s engrossing third novel… The tales they weave about each other tie the reader in knots, and Powell enjoys pulling the bind tighter. “I know you want the loose ends tied up, but life’s a muddle.” Indeed. – Ian Shine, Financial Times, 3 February 2018

“The writing is concise with an almost abrasive view of human interactions. There is a distancing from emotion, a numbing of the senses. The mysteries are solved with an outlook of stoicism for the pain life brings, and leaves in its wake. This is a compelling read but a somewhat bleak perspective. – Jackie Law, Bookmunch, 5 February 2018

“Jim Powell’s accessible third novel plays out in a scrubby bar on the edge of a middling American town… The plot is expertly spun out… It is an engrossing read.” – Leaf Arbuthnot, Sunday Times, 31 December 2017