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Books for the Bank Holiday and Beyond

What’s on your TBR pile this Bank Holiday? If you fancy a doorstop of a book with both entertainment and meaning, I’ve got you covered!

Not all of these books are out yet, but you can check out my previous blog for a few recent releases, including Piglet, Diva and Learning to Think, all out now. Mrs. Quinn’s Rise to Fame is just published if you fancy a cheeky cake-themed download and Did I Ever Tell You? is still a little while off, but worth the wait. 

Comfort Eating - Grace Dent, Guardian Faber, out now

This memoir is a paean to butter, cheese, potatoes in all their forms, gravy and school puddings (pink and green custard! Chocolate sponge slabs, jam and desiccated coconut! Cornflakes where there probably shouldn't be any)! I picked this book up and couldn't put it down until I'd read the last e-numbered page. As evocative as Nigel Slater's Toast, it has plenty to appeal to '80s and '90s kids, particularly those lucky enough to be brought up in the North East. Happy memories of Dairylea, Scampi Fries and Angel Delight kept me reading (and going to the kitchen, looking in vain for cheese).

The Lagos Wife - Vanessa Walters, Penguin, out now

This multi-layered, double-perspective novel - split between Nicole and her aunt Claudine - gives an illuminating insight into Nigeria in 2014. Nicole Oruwari doesn't know who to trust. Having moved to Lagos with her husband and two young sons, Nicole realises that she is disposable, and has to reckon with her own legacy of trauma and abuse. When her husband's father is a Big Man in Nigeria, can Nicole ever be free? And even if she achieved freedom, could she take her two boys with her? An enlightening read, and a glimpse into a different world that kept me turning the pages.

The Chain - Chimene Suleyman, W&N, 28th March 2024

Possibly the most important book of the year already, The Chain is a hypnotic testament as haunting as the Fleetwood Mac banger than inspires its title. Sustaining the riff, 'If you don't love me now,' throughout its pages, poet and author Suleyman has produced a clear-eyed memoir of the traps laid for women, the lies we're told and taught to tell ourselves. As powerful as Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream House, The Chain is unsparing, witty and fuelled by an anger older than time, offering us all the possibility of rebuilding and redemption.

My Favourite Mistake - Marian Keyes, Penguin, 11th April 2024

Anna is my favourite of the beloved Walsh sisters, closely followed by Rachel, so this wasn't a hard sell. Marian Keyes is mistress of the 'other side of the story,' having turned two of her former side characters ('lickarse' Margaret and 'space-case,' Anna) into dynamic, sexy heroines of their own stories in Angels and Anybody Out There (my favourite, which this is a follow-up to). A celebration of family and best girlfriends, it's great to see Rachel and Brigid hanging out again, but will Anna get to reconnect with former best friend Jacqui, and maybe some new love? Fingers crossed...

You Are Here - David Nicholls, Hodder and Stoughton, 23rd April 2024

A sweet, poignant story of midlife and potential new beginnings. Marnie is a thirty-eight-year-old copy-editor, working on someone else’s sex-filled book set in Beverly Hills. Her life has been shaped, not for the better, by an early divorce, a financial rip-off and lockdown. Michael is a forty-two-year-old geography teacher, whose monologues about erupting lava are regularly interrupted by schoolboy hysterics, and who harbours a secret about the night that left him literally scarred. Can these two find love among the lakes on a walking weekend? Bonus points for good jokes, more flawlessly written female characters and delightfully accurate depictions of copy-editing.

The Second Chance - Charlotte Butterfield, Avon, 9th May 2024

Hedonist Nell is told that she is going to die in her early forties, so has always lived in the present. When she wakes up in a hotel after what's meant to be her date of death, she has to re-evaluate things quickly...and find the people she wrote to before checking in. She doesn't even have any clean pants. I loved the characters including Nell's business-minded ex-boyfriend, her potential new man, her golf-loving, philandering dad, and her mother and sister who have been waiting for her to come back, but aren't sure what to do with her once she does.

Blue Sisters - Coco Mellors, 4th Estate, 21st May 2024

If you liked Cleopatra and Frankenstein, you'll love this. And I loved Cleo and Frank! Like Frank, the Blue sisters have a predisposition to drugs and alcohol, with the exception of second-eldest Bonnie, whose addictions are to boxing and her coach (think Million Dollar Baby with a happier ending). I loved the great depictions of Hampstead and oldest sister Avery's house, plus Avery in general, and her surprise crush on a young British performance poet. Wonder if he's based on anyone I know? Another thoroughly enjoyable read, with some transcendental moments that's sure to win Coco Mellors well-deserved new fans.

Experienced - Kate Young, 4th Estate, 6th June 2024

Bette, a plus-sized romantic-comedy addict (tick, tick, tick) loves her job, loves living in Bristol (and why wouldn't she)? and loves her girlfriend Mei. Mei thinks Bette may not be 'experienced' enough, so she sends Bette off on a voyage of sexual self-discovery that might not be the best idea either of them have ever had...or is it? With more bonking than Jilly Cooper (who is enthusiastically referenced) delicious food, supportive straight friends and general queer silliness, Experienced is a glimpse into the life that we all deserve - and the life that Bette deserves, once she admits it to herself.

Plaything - Bea Setton, Transworld, 27 June 2024

When PhD student Anna and her new boyfriend move in together suddenly, she becomes obsessed with his beautiful, elegant French ex-girlfriend. Plaything captures the hallucinogenic nature of the early days of lockdown, and how the pandemic (plus romantic and sexual jealousy and a random theft of laboratory guinea pigs) sets the scene for a traumatic climax. I thought the writing was excellent and well-sustained, and having lived in a university town myself and gone through lockdown along with the rest of the UK, I quite enjoyed revisiting this weird world - though, like university, it's not somewhere you'd want to stay.

Death at the Sign of the Rook - Kate Atkinson, Transworld, 29th August 2024

Jackson Brodie is now a grandad, even if he does have a macho jeep with heated seats. Even though he's escaped babysitting duty, Jackson can't resist the urge to come to the aid of damsels in distress. When a troupe of amateur actors (including their 'cancelled by the woke brigade' director) rock up at the local hall for a Murder Mystery evening, madness ensues as snow comes down and there's an actual escaped criminal on the loose. Vintage Jackson; though he's mellowed out of his bad-ass earlier incarnations, chaos (and women from his past) always seem to find him.

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