Five brand-new book recommendations for a day dedicated to love in all its forms!
I read some beautiful books this January! Not all of them were suitable to accompany chocolates and champagne, but here are five with a beautiful take on love. These are stories of unconventional relationships, romance, loss and humanity - and they’ll last longer in your mind than a box of Galaxy hearts and an avocado-shaped plushy toy from WH Smith.
Here are five brand-new recommendations, plus five from the Archives.
For Galentine’s/Just Had a Massive Breakup Day
Really Good, Actually (Monica Heisey, Fourth Estate) NEW
Decent comedies are rare, but I laughed out loud during this one. I wasn’t surprised to see that this author worked on the left-field shows Schitt’s Creek and Workin’ Moms as this was sweet, funny and interesting- and very Canadian. Adorable, curvy Maggie breaks up with her husband embarrassingly soon after they get hitched. She navigates the breakup about as well as the heroine of Bridesmaids (and most women, if they’re being honest). The lines about sexy pics, hired dresses and the heroine’s deranged Google searches had me roaring with laughter but there’s a very recognisable grief here too.
For Star-Crossed Lovers
Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Fourth Estate)
When high-school sweethearts Obinze and Ifemelu meet in miitary-occupied Lagos, they know they’ve met the One, but the world outside Nigeria has other ideas. After both of them are bruised by poverty and humiliation in the US and UK, Obinze returns to Nigeria and becomes a ‘big man,’ with a beautiful wife and daughter. Then Ifemelu, having achieved a degree of safety and prestige in Boston, decides to come home too. You'll be rooting for them as much as you ever rooted for Lizzy and Darcy, because, as well as many things, Americanah is a good old-fashioned love story.
Yours, Mine and Ours (Sinead Moriarty, Penguin)
Anna and James are in love and happy to move into their new four-bedroom house with their two families, but their kids are less keen. Anna's new sushi-eating, designer-clad stepdaughter Bella is making trouble, and her younger son Jack is confused and acting out. I also liked the secondary characters, Anna's ex Conor (a self-pitying alpha male who gets it together when he meets no-nonsense Milly) and Bella's accounting-whizz mum Ingrid, who neglects her daughter while trying to provide the material security she lacked in her own childhood. A sweet, solid read from this trusted author, perfect for relaxing with.
For Smart, Sexy Older Women
Vladimir (Julia May Jonas, Pan Macmillan)
Our narrator, a popular, bad-ass English professor at an American university, has been navigating choppy waters on campus since a series of indiscretions came to light involving her husband John, also a professor and the department Chair. Tired of the balancing act, her literary obscurity and her well-meaning but naive students, she becomes obsessed with a new young professor, Vlad, and his beautiful, troubled wife Cynthia. Even the desire and the ability to write comes back to her - but where is it all going to end? Knowing, saucy and erotic, this is an absolute treat, particularly for women over forty.
For Anyone Grieving
The Light of the World, A Memoir (Elizabeth Alexander, Grand Central Publishing)
Grief is the price we pay for love, as they say, and this uplifting little book is proof of that. Elizabeth and Fikre meet in early middle age and enjoy a decade of devotion together, with their two beautiful boys, until his sudden death. Almost like a series of postcards sent from the edge of confusion and loss (you can tell the author is a poet), this a story that it's a privilege to read, full of the consoling joys of art, food, poetry and family life as well as a reminder to make the most of every day of love.
From the Archive: some of last year’s best romances, including a few spicy ones!
You Made a Fool of Death with Your Beauty (Akwaeke Emezi, Faber and Faber)
When young widow Feyi follows friend-with-benefits Nasir to the paradise where he and his sister grew up, she is hoping to achieve her artistic dreams as part of an exhibition there. She isn’t expecting to fall hard for Alim Blake, Nasir’s charismatic father. A magical, sensual novel full of life-force.
This Time Tomorrow (Emma Straub, Penguin)
On her fortieth birthday, Alice has a few too many drinks and wakes up next day in her childhood bed, sixteen again and ready for a day of hanging out with her dad. Alice tries out some new paths her life might have taken – including what would have been if she’d married the boy who got away.
In Love (Amy Bloom, Granta)
The mistress of relationship stories turns her focus to her own life. This short, touching memoir covers her relationship with second husband Brian, and his choice to end his life at Dignitas after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Get some tissues.
The Secret Lives of Church Ladies (Deesha Philyaw, Pushkin Press)
Two parish spinsters meet once a year for a night of passion and potato salad. Five sisters and their bossy grandmother write to the half-sister they've never met. A lesbian couple from the South struggle with the snow in their new town. Sexy, and as tasty as the peach cobblers and crab-bakes in its pages, Philyaw's church ladies are frank, bawdy and frequently lustful.
This is Not a Pity Memoir (Abi Morgan, Hachette UK)
I have recently become addicted to Abi Morgan's The Split. If this had happened to one of her characters, it would have seemed like a stretch, but it's true - and compelling as an exploration of both the limitations and power of love.
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