Summer and books. Two of my favourite things. Throw in a deckchair/picnic rug/beach towel and I’m in heaven. Holidays and books are the perfect marriage. I have considerably less time to indulge than I used to (aha, so this is why people go on holiday with their parents/where there’s a kids’ club), but I still squeeze books into my day whenever I have the chance. Here’s what I suggest (very politely) you might like to add to your reading list this summer.
The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild
I’ve just started this – and it’s one of the most charming, beguiling and amusing books I’ve read this year. I quite agree with Elizabeth Gilbert, who describes it as “deliciousness”.
Annie McDee is single with a highly unsuitable love interest – in an attempt to woe him, she buys a grimy painting unearthed from the darkest corner of a junk shop. Being a rotter, he stands her up – and so this painting (which is, it transpires, a lost masterpiece) – becomes her property, and she finds herself inveigled in the dark, frequently hilarious art world.. And what hot property it is. Annie is the only character who cares about the painting for itself. The villains of the piece (and there are plenty in which to delight – it’s a veritable feast) are avariciously hungry to own it.
Mystery, thriller, love story – it’s all of these. It also has a gloriously satirical edge. I am in love with it already.
(If it’s comedy you’re after, then I also heartily recommend Nina Love, Nina Stibbe’s Paradise Lodge, probably the funniest book ever to set in a nursing home.)
This Must Be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell
Dear Maggie. A new novel from you is always a treat. You are, as ever, unfailingly brilliant. This is magnificent.
Daniel O’Sullivan has, it’s fair to say, a lot of issues. A tricksy, ex-film-star wife. Children from a former relationship who he never sees. A difficult relationship with his father – who is about to turn 90, so Daniel sets off from the wilds of Ireland to New York for the birthday celebrations.
This is the cue for a journey through Daniel’s life – his choices and his relationships. It’s a tour de force – she writes with such grace and insight, but it flows so well, her characters draw you in so comprehensively, you don’t notice until you’ve finished reading. Then you draw a breath of wonder.
The Muse by Jessie Burton
If, like me (and, oh, pretty much everyone else) you loved Burton’s debut, The Miniaturist, this will make you jump up and down with delight.
With not one but four heroines (“I’m greedy with heroines”, Burton has said), this tale spans years (1930s Spain and London in the swinging 1960s). Again, there’s a painting (and mystery) at the heart of the novel – along with secrets, love, aspiration, obsession, creativity and identity. And women – we know how brilliantly Burton draws female characters.
Has Burton done it again? Decidedly so.
The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton
I read this after I bumped into the author having coffee with a mutual acquaintance one morning (I was manhandling a buggy, a small boy and a coffee – they came to my rescue) and then Corrie Jackson (author of Breaking Dead – review coming soon!) told me they shared a publisher. Of course, it was meant to be.
Oh, but it’s dark. It takes a scenario familiar to many of us – the hot house of an all-girls’ school (although mine was far less grand, ambitious and, erm, expensive than this one) and the intense friendships between teenage girls. Josephine Grey – bright, brilliant, beautiful, head girl, equally fabulous best friend, Freya – has it all. Except….she doesn’t. Her mother is schizophrenic. Her father preoccupied by his high-level job at Downing Street. Her demons are chasing her. And when something happens which will change the course of their lives. A fascinating take on trauma, tragedy and the claustrophobic intensity of female friendships.
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