A wide variety of recommendations for readers far and wide, from times past to times ahead, in familiar and unfamiliar places, about people we know, people we think we know and people like whom we never knew existed. To read them all would be to witness that which ties us all together.
The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
A fantastic work of historical fiction based on the real life espionage network of female spies called ‘The Alice Network’ during WWI. The book boasts a duel narrative, on set during WWI about Eve Gardner – an allied spy working in German occupied France – and the other set in 1947, depicting 19-year-old Charlie, an American searching for her cousin who disappeared at the end of 1945. The two stories weave together in an intriguing and unexpected way, making for an enjoyable and also enlightening read.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Murata is a Japanese, award-winning author. This is her tenth novel, and the first to be translated into English. The two main characters Keiko and Shiraha are both unapologetically unconventional. Murata does not judge her characters, she lets them speak for themselves. Her writing style is succinct, beautiful and has great clarity. This is a book that will stay with you for a long time. A truly enjoyable read.
Dig by A.S. King
What a sprawling, important book this is. It’s an uncomfortable read about multi-generational racism, poverty and family trauma, but it’s meant to make you feel that way – that’s why it’s so powerful. It also features an extensive cast of vibrant, interesting characters, and it’s mind-bending and weird, but in the absolute best way. You won’t regret reading it.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Evelyn Hugo is an enigma, a larger than life Hollywood beauty who entrances audiences on and off screen. This novel follows her interactions with Monique, a small-time journalist who Hugo handpicks to write her tell-all biography. This story spun a captivating tale about the ugly truths behind the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and showed just how much orchestration it takes to create a movie star.
This book was so immersive I felt as if Evelyn was a real person and that I was reading the tell-all biography of someone like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn. An excellent and witty character-driven story about discovering what is truly important in life.
The Only Story by Julian Barnes
This is a love story; not in the sense of one that just scratches the surface of romantic love, but a deep love story told in hindsight with the acuity that only maturity and time can give it. Exquisitely narrated it delves into the darker connotations of love and the hold it has on the novel’s protagonist. Feelings of passion, regret, shame, consequence, sadness, obligation and responsibility are all featured in Paul’s recollection of the one great love of his life. But it’s also about memories and our ability at recollection to distort the truth. That only with time and maturity comes a sense of clarity and the ability to compartmentalise and yet still question those experiences and the inevitability of how they shape who we are.
It’s hard to tell whether the cover art is streaked with Paul’s tears or that of the reader having finished, such is the novel’s poignant narrative. So beautiful and pained.
Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce
This is a lovely read! Pearce transports you to London in the 1940s, where Emmeline Lake wants to do her part for the war effort. She volunteers at the Auxiliary Fire Service, and her dream is to be a War Correspondent – but life doesn’t always take us on the path we imagine.
This is a moving, but surprisingly funny novel that brilliantly displays the effects of war on the perhaps unassuming victims – those on the Home Front. Filled with heart and charm, this book shows the power of love, kindness, and friendship.
The History of Bees by Maja Lunde
An interesting read which takes you through the past, present and future of the survival of bees and the part humans play in their survival or demise. Maja’s story follows William the biologist and seed merchant in 1851, George, a bee keeper and farmer in 2007, and Tao, a human pollinator in 2098. A great read which gets you thinking about the importance of bees in our farming and food production.
Things to Make and Break by May-Lan Tan
This is now my favourite short story collection. Gritty, clever, surprising; May-Lan Tan does not waste a single word in this book. Her stories are thought-provoking and her prose is rhythmic. Her characters are incredibly honest, and there were phrases and sentences in this book that so perfectly summarised or evoked an emotion or experience that I felt as if I’d had the breath knocked out of me. This is a collection that I will treasure: annotate and underline, read again and again.