March is packed full of fabulous books and there’s an unintentional theme of parenting and work running through a lot of them. Everyone is trying to do the best for their kids in The Lover by Anna Raverat which details the aftermath of the discovery of an infidelity, and The Living by Anjali Joseph which shows us two very different shoemakers. Toxic parenting is very much on the menu in Hot Milk by Deborah Levy and The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier.
I’ve picked out two short story collections this month and would highly recommend making time in your life to be exhilarated by both Vertigo by Joanna Walsh and Treats by Lara Williams. Moving on to curling up on the sofa territory, any rainy weekends in March will be hugely brightened by After the Last Dance by Sarra Manning and The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace.
Two of this month’s authors pour their own lives on to the page with great effect. Harry Parker’s impressive debut novel Anatomy of a Soldier is partly based on his own experiences of being blown up in Afghanistan and Helen Stevenson’s memoir Love Like Salt is a beautiful and rather uplifting stroll through music and art that examines what it is like to be the mother of a child with a chronic illness.
Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker
The story of Captain Tom Barnes who is blown up in an unnamed modern warzone is told through 45 objects that surround him, including the medical instruments used to amputate his legs and save his life, his mother’s handbag and the medal he is awarded for service.
A powerful novel, partly inspired by the author’s own experiences.
The Living by Anjali Joseph
Love, sex, work and the joys and challenges of childrearing are all in play in this gentle novel that tenderly explores the lives of Claire, a single mum working in one of the last shoe factories in England and Arun, a grandfather who makes chappals – a type of sandal - at home in Kolhapur.
Lover by Anna Raverat
‘I liked it better when our family was together.’
A sad and funny novel about what happens when Kate discovers that her husband has been having what she calls an affair and what he thinks of as ‘an inappropriate friendship.’ Also brilliantly skewers the insanities and inanities of the corporate workplace.
Treats by Lara Williams
‘Are you showing or telling? It’s hard to say.’
A glorious collection of linked stories about 20-something life in the 21st century that casts a sharp yet compassionate eye over falling in love, breaking up, friendship and work. This is Williams' first book and I can’t wait for her to write another.
Hot Milk by Deborah Levy
‘I have been sleuthing my mother’s symptoms for as long as I can remember.’ Sofia and her mother, Rose, have come to Spain to visit a clinic that might shed light on the mystery of Rose’s intermittent paralysis.
Surrounded by scorched mountains, just up the road from The Beach of the Dead, a fierce and complex struggle ensues. Spectacularly menacing.
At the Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier
Ohio, 1838: Life is hard in the Black Swamp. As apple growers James and Sadie Goodenough lose a child to the fever every year, their fighting and Sadie’s drinking grow ever more dramatic, leading to a terrible climax.
Will the children who survive the fever be able to withstand the toxic legacy of their parents’ hatred?
Vertigo by Joanna Walsh
‘A friend told me to buy a red dress in Paris because I am leaving my husband.’
This beautifully wrought collection of stories made me think of tiny French cakes laid out in a patisserie: some tart, some sweet, some with a hidden centre, all beautifully constructed and each one exactly its own thing.
Love Like Salt by Helen Stevenson
The author’s daughter Clara has cystic fibrosis, a genetically inherited disease where salt cannot pass easily from one cell to the next, creating a range of difficulties.
This memoir is a richly intelligent journey though motherhood, music and art that explores how to live well when life deals out cards you don’t want.
After the Last Dance by Sarra Manning
From a dance hall in wartime London to a seedy Las Vegas bar, this is a highly absorbing and atmospheric story which interweaves the lives of two women. Rose dances the night away with GIs at Rainbow Corner and Jane asks the first man she sees to marry her. What connects them?
The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace
Martha Lost is always hoping that someone will come and claim her from the lost property office at Liverpool Lime Street where she has lived since being abandoned as a baby sixteen years ago.
A charming tale which asks how you can find a happy ending when you don’t know anything about your beginning.