No matter what’s happening in your life, or the world, you can always turn to a good book for comfort or inspiration. Here’s everything I’ve read over the last month…
The Cactus by Sarah Haywood
Susan likes to keep her life in order and emotional attachments are definitely not on the agenda. She’s as prickly and unyielding as her collection of cacti – and just like them, she’s never truly bloomed. Then life throws a curveball at Susan when first her mother dies, and then she realises she’s pregnant (and single) at 45. Slowly, as we delve deeper in Susan’s past and present, her tightly ordered life begins to unravel with unexpected and delightful consequences. I really loved this feel-good book. It’s written in the first person, and for all her wry prickliness Susan is very likeable. If you enjoyed Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, then you’ll love this.
Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn
A captivating story about life in 1970s communist Romania. We meet Alina, a young woman whose life comes under frightening scrutiny by the secret services after her brother-in-law defects to the west. The subject matter is heavy, but the touch is light. I quickly became caught up in this fascinating novella with touches of magic realism. It’s a gem of book – so good that I read it one sitting and didn’t want it to end.
Songs in Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris
This absorbing novel is set over one hot, sticky summer in 1960s Vermont. We get to know everyone in the small town very well, although the main focus is vulnerable Marie Fermoyle, her three kids and her drunken ex-husband. Travelling salesman and trickster Omar Duvall worms his way into their lives which sickening inevitability. The action unfolds very slowly and tension gradually builds like the suffocating summer weather. Reading this long novel was a commitment – I gave this fascinating book about three weeks of my time and I’m not sorry. It’s out of print but Abe books has lots of second-hand copies for two or three pounds each.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
This novel is all about what happens when you lose sight of yourself and the dreams you once had. The story focuses on two ordinary couples, both drifting inexorably apart. I found Melissa’s story most compelling. She’s lost in a haze of domesticity after having her second child. As she drifts towards dissatisfaction and change, her partner Michael struggles to keep up. Everyone is desperately trying to work out what – and who – they want. There’s a lot of action in this short book, from infidelity and casual betrayal, to what (briefly) felt like a fully fledged horror story. The whole thing could have been really bleak but I was left feeling surprisingly satisfied, hopeful and glad to have discovered a new (to me) writer.