The first book on my list has just been longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and is the best book of the year for me. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is set in New York and is not an easy read in any way but is a searing experience that will leave you feeling changed. If you fancy stepping back in time, I’d suggest a visit to London during the Blitz with Noonday by Pat Barker or take a hop to Kenya and jump in a plane with Paula McLain who gives us the life of aviatrix Beryl Markham in Circling the Sun. For smart, contemporary thrillers, turn the pages with Sophie Hannah in A Game for All the Family or live through every mother’s worst nightmare in Gilly MacMillan’s Burnt Paper Sky. Finally, I can offer you literary comfort food with the sweetly warm journey of a chef in Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J Ryan Stradal.
Wishing you many happy reading hours.
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Willem, Jude, JB and Malcolm are trying to make careers for themselves in New York. This starts off feeling like a well written but fairly run of the mill post-college novel but shifts as we realise that it is beautiful, damaged Jude and his struggle to accept his past who dominates the story and the lives of his friends. Astonishing.
Noonday by Pat Barker
London in the blitz: Elinor Brooke (who we know from Life Class and Toby’s Room) drives an ambulance through the bomb-strewn streets where marriages fall apart as people seek quick comfort from strangers. This is the first time the author of The Regeneration Trilogy has written about the Second World War and it’s a triumph.
The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop
The portrait of a 1960s marriage between an artist and an academic. Charlotte and Henry leave a damp house in England for the promise of life in Australia but their new home is infested with cockroaches and weevils and the blistering sun shines a harsh light on their fragile relationship.
Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
Aviatrix Beryl Markham was brought up in Kenya by her father after her mother left them to go back to England. She fights with the local boys, is tamed by a governess and gets mixed up with the Happy Valley set but her destiny is in the skies…
A Game for All the Family by Sophie Hannah
Nearly destroyed by her career, Justine decides to change her life and the whole family leave London behind to move to a beautiful house in Devon. At first it seems like a perfect new beginning but then weird things happen and the anonymous phone calls start… Deliciously creepy.
Hodder & Stoughton
Burnt Paper Sky by Gilly Macmillan
When Rachel lets her son, Ben, run ahead of her in the woods, he disappears and the tabloids then paint her as a terrible mother. All Rachel wants is Ben’s safe return but is she telling the truth? Perceptive and scary on the way women can be treated on social media.
Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes
Flawed and vulnerable people walk through these darkly sparkling stories about family and friendship. One woman visits her estranged mother in Mexico carrying a suitcase of lingerie for her to sell there, another must navigate slut shaming. This is the author’s first publication and she is one to watch.
Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont
Smart, funny and sad story of art and adultery. Jack’s wife is used to ignoring his affairs but when his most recent lover sends a box of all their explicit correspondence to his home, it ends up in the hands of 11-year-old Kay and the whole family implodes.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J Ryan Stradal
Enigmatic supper club hostess Eva Thorvald is one of the finest chefs in the world but how did she get there, who helped her and what food did she eat along the way? A warm and enjoyable read about life, love, food, family… and chilli eating contests.
The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
Steig Larsson, author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books, died before they were published and never saw their huge, global success. This fourth novel to feature Lisbeth Salander has been written with the approval of Larsson’s father and brother and is strictly under embargo until publication. Will Lisbeth conquer hearts again?