The Children Act by Ian McEwan
It’s three years since I left the law to become an editor, so I wasn’t sure what I’d make of this short novel set firmly in the legal world. I loved it. McEwan’s genius lies in his ability to make the reader feel the complexity and weight of life-changing decisions made by judges in our courts, and how those decisions impact on the lives of all concerned and yet, at the same time, he keeps the narrative light and compelling. You’ll never look at a judge the same way again!
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The cover told me it was Agatha Christie meets The Girl on the Train. I didn’t see much Christie in there (except in a very general sense of investigation) but it was certainly The Girl on the Train – just on a boat instead. Don’t let that put you off though. It’s a really good read and it certainly has enough about it to make sure it’s not simply dismissed as an imitation.
Emma by Alexander McCall Smith
A warm, witty, clever and very satisfying retelling and updating of Jane Austen’s classic novel. I can’t recommend this highly enough to anyone. And Austen fans needn’t worry – it’s just wonderful.
Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid
Perhaps one of Austen’s lesser-known novels, but don’t let this put you off Val McDermid’s retelling. This novel is an absolute bundle of fun with great characters, lots of gothic silliness and a happy ending. I loved it.
Jim Reaper: Son of Grim by Rachel Delahaye
Poor Jim’s world is blown apart one day when he discovers that his dad is not the ‘normal’ accountant he’s been pretending to be all this time. Once Jim starts to notice strange things, he can see that there’s something of the night about his dad, but he just can’t put his finger on it. And then it all slots into place and life – or death – will never be the same again. Witty, clever, pacey. Great.
A Spot of Folly by Ruth Rendell
A collection of short stories, some better than others, but overall a cracking read and something in there to keep almost every reader entertained.
The Path Through the Trees by Christopher Milne
The second of Christopher Milne’s autobiographical books, covering his time as a soldier in World War Two and running his bookshop in Dartmouth. Engaging and poignant.
The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
This intriguing and imaginative book is full of hope and positivity. A good pace, well-drawn plot, believable characters and a satisfying ending. Hargrave’s world-building was entirely unobtrusive. I can’t wait to read more of her work.
Well, living just down the road from the setting of this book clearly I was obliged to read it. Hurley’s debut novel, The Loney, was chilling and often unsettling reading and I wondered whether his second novel would have the same power. Oh yes! It certainly did, if not more so. A small and isolated farming community still has room in their rituals and belief systems for Old Nick. Will he outwit them or can they keep him at bay?
A retelling of King Lear as part of the Hogarth Shakespeare Series. Dunbar (King Lear) has lost his international media business to his unscrupulous daughters in a boardroom coup and is wandering around the Lake District, having escaped from the nursing home his daughters banished him to. Everyone is looking for him. But who will find him first? Brilliant. I loved it. Told with razor-sharp wit and great empathy.
I absolutely loved this witty, warm and honest account of Emily Morris’s twenties when she was left, literally, holding the baby. I have to say that although I wasn’t in Emily’s difficult position – which she handles brilliantly, by the way – so much of the book resonated with me and I found it a relief to know that I hadn’t been the only mum who struggled to get out of the house before late afternoon (sometimes at all), who felt out of place next to the other mums at baby groups, who felt judged and was hounded out of cafes by grumpy old people. If Emily has raised her son with even a fraction of the warmth and humanity that emanates from her in waves through the pages of her book, he’ll be a wonderful human being.
A lovely hardback book with a gorgeous cover and just a nice size to slip into your bag and take with you. Having said that, it’s best read on a cold, dark night by the light of a dim lamp – or better still, a candle! Perfect for October, the stories are intriguing and unsettling. The last one left me feeling particularly chilled. Highly recommended for some spooky reading.
This is the first of Christopher Milne’s series of autobiographical books about his childhood and beyond. It is well known, of course, that his relationship with Winnie-the-Pooh was a love–hate one. This book sets out some of the reasons for this. Milne feels that both his father and some of his works were misunderstood and he sets the record, at least partially, straight. An engaging read, easy to digest and yet interesting enough to keep the pages turning, the book is shot through with an emotional depth that stayed with me after I’d closed the pages. Mind you, I didn’t get past the quote right at the start before I was welling up:
So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.
Gets me every time.
I love Arthurian tales and I love Tolkien so what could possibly go wrong? Absolutely nothing. It’s a fragment, sadly; he got distracted with some book called The Lord of the Rings, or something like that, and he never finished it. A great pity. But there’s enough of the poem (oh yes, did I mention that it’s a poem? Using the Old English alliterative metre?) to get a good sense of its tone and majesty. Loved it.
It’s all about the cider. Well, actually, that’s not altogether true, although cider does feature quite prominently! The first of the Merrily Watkins series, this novel asks some serious questions about how the church should handle issues of a supernatural nature. Merrily is the new vicar grappling with the hostility in the village – towards her, towards fellow villagers, towards progress… She’s an appealing figure, flawed and exhausted, a struggling single mum and servant of God. The novel is a good mix of reality and other-worldliness. Oh, and did I mention the cider?
‘A collection of fanciful, satirical and surprising parodies … and pastiches …’ says the cover. And it is. Some of my favourites include Dan Brown visiting a cash dispenser and the Brontës placing lonely hearts ads. It’s a lot of fun in a nice small book.
I was drawn to this book by the title, which is taken from one of my favourite plays, J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, in which Peter says that he does not fear death because to die would be ‘an awfully big adventure.’ The story revolves around Stella, a young trainee taken on at a Liverpool theatre which is staging, among other productions – yes, you guessed it! – Peter Pan. One review on the cover states that this is ‘Vintage bittersweet Bainbridge’. Bittersweet is certainly a good description. Bainbridge does not spare the punches; her work is gritty and often brutal. She’s razor-sharp. There is humour, but don’t look for any happy endings. A very interesting insight into life in a rep theatre in the 1950s.
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