No matter what’s happening in your life, or the world, you can always turn to a good book for comfort or inspiration. I always find time in my day to read. It’s the last thing I do before bed, and it’s no exaggeration to say I’d be lost without it.
Here’s everything I’ve read over the last month:
Living the Dream by Lauren Barry. A witty little book about reaching the end of your twenties and realising you’re still not living the dream. Will Emma and Clem take the leap to pursue the careers they dream of? Will they escape the world of flat-shares, crap offices and grotty bar work? Their adventures kept me amused and entertained for a few days.
A Friend of the Family by Titia Sutherland. This was an interesting one. I bought it in a charity shop and the premise is that slightly dated concept where middle-class people talk about families and marriages. However, It surprised me. None of the characters were at all likeable, and there was compelling physiological drama running through it. A good page-turner, although my main criticism is that the characters were all very dated and posh, circa 1995. Out of print, but you’ll pick up a second-hand copy on Abebooks or Amazon.
Hidden Lives, a family memoir by Margaret Forster. This is a truly excellent read. It’s the autobiographical story of Margaret, her mother and her grandmother. Three generations of women – one born in the nineteenth century, one in the early twentieth and one in the thirties. It’s a beautifully written examination of how women’s lives and expectations have changed dramatically during that period. The book takes us from giving up work when you married and back-breaking housework to the scandal of children born out-of-wedlock – and then onto Margaret’s liberating coming of age at university in the 50s.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I loved this story about a classic American community called Shaker Heights, with a deliberately stereotypical family at its heart. The arrival of photographer Mia, and her daughter Pearl, kicks off subtle ripples through the town with far-reaching consequences. Very, very readable and perfect for autumn evenings. The characters are all well-rounded and very human – Ng managed to make me empathise with each of them in turn, no matter how unlikeable they were. Definitely one for your book group, if you have one.
The Sweets of Pimlico by A. N. Wilson. I’m not sure where to start with this one. It was published in 1977 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. It’s about the complex relationship between Evelyn and the men in her life. It’s weird. Very weird. I read it all, but I can’t say I enjoyed it. It’s out of print (not surprised). If confusing tales of ageing German aristocrats, incest and IRA bombings are your thing, then go for it.
The Perfectly Imperfect Woman by Milly Johnson. After some disastrous events in her personal life Marnie retreats to a small village in Yorkshire. There she encounters a cast of amusing characters – from the eccentric lady of the manor and the vicar to the brooding Scandinavian gardener. Ok, this book does have a cake on the front cover, but it was a good read than wasn’t too saccharine. A bit Katie Fforde-like with a very likeable heroine. Great if you need a well-written and comforting book that’s not too deep.
The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald. I downloaded this onto my kindle after seeing episode one of the new TV adaptation. After watching it, I felt compelled to find out what happens without having to commit to weeks of tense viewing. The book is a quick, tightly paced read that had me gripped from page one. The plot plays out in a more satisfying direction that the adaptation (you actually find out the biggest revelation early on). You’ll read it in a day – although maybe avoid it if you’ve just had a baby as it’s quite upsetting.
A good variety, although all but one was by a female writer. Perhaps I have a bit of a gender bias going on? I’ve discovered I’m not an A. N. Wilson fan, but tell me about some other male writers I should try, please. I shall try to include more next month.
And finally, if you only read one of my recommendations, make it Margaret Forster’s Hidden Lives – it’s a gem.