Cold New Climate, the debut novel of the young American author Isobel Wohl, begins with a Shirley Valentine-esque episode in which Lydia (who is not old) leaves her partner (who is not young) and his son, Caleb, to spend a few weeks alone in Greece, where she has an unfulfilling (and uncomfortably weird) one-night stand. Returning to New York and ready to commit wholeheartedly to her partner, she discovers that in her absence he has fallen in love with a woman of his own age. It’s a very neat set-up, briskly handled. The rest of the novel navigates the aftermath of the split, the emotional and practical changes in Lydia’s life and the burgeoning relationship between her and the troubled Caleb.
Wohl’s prose is laconic and detached, practically affectless at times, yet it pulls many tricks, not least in the way that carefully weighted, seemingly inconsequential details are introduced, the better to define the characters and their dilemmas. Here’s a passing moment in a cinema foyer when Lydia accompanies Caleb and