The Girls of Slender Means by Muriel Spark
Weird but interesting. This short novel is set in the 1945 in those shifting, unsettled days when Britain sat on the cusp of huge social change. We meet a group of young women lodging at the May of Teck Club, a boarding house for respectable girls of slender means. The girls know they’re riding the wave of change, but the sturdy old walls of the club aren’t quite ready for it yet. But can those same walls truly withstand such explosive change forever? Read on, and you’ll find out.
Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding
A bit of an anti-climax. It’s 23 years since Helen Fielding wrote Bridget Jones’ Diary. Listening to this edition of Radio 4’s book club reminded why it was time to re-read it. I’ve got to confess I felt a little underwhelmed. Maybe all the films have ruined it? It’s still funny and sparky, but it no longer feels so iconic. I think it’s mostly because Bridget moans all the time about being eight-and-a-half stone. To be honest, I’d love to be eight-stone-something and I didn’t need to be reminded of the fact on every page – even if is parody!
Porterhouse Blue by Tom Sharpe
Farcical and ever-so-slightly dull. This absurd comedy is set in a fictional 1970s Cambridge College. Academic politics turn sour when a new Master is appointed and things quickly get out of hand. Expect bowler hats, gowns and an unfortunate incident with a job lot of condoms. Would I recommend it? Not particularly, unless you like everything I’ve mentioned above – in which case, happy reading!
Upstairs at the Party by Linda Grant
An intriguing & beguiling coming-of-age story. Another novel set at a university town in the 70s. This time, the action takes place at a concrete campus up north. New student Adele is busy trying to re-invent herself and and fit in with her new friends. Everyone she meets is trying to do the same thing – they’re self-conscious, naive and desperate to break the mould. Linda Grant has a wonderful talent for evoking a particular time and place. This story will envelop you like a dusty old fur coat – when you eventually shrug it off you’ll be sorry to say goodbye.
The House of Shadows by Barbara Erskine
A good old-fashioned ghost story. Need a good page-turner to get you though the long winter nights? The House of Shadows is spooky story with a hearty dollop of bodice-ripping thrown in for good measure. When Joss inherits a big old house it feels like the prefect opportunity to start a new life with her husband and young son. Wrong! Things soon start to turn frightfully dark and Joss is drawn into her ancestors’ lives in ways she never dreamed possible. Full of suspense and thrills, but not scary enough to keep you awake at night!