Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane (HarperCollins, April 2022)
Harriet's destructive, gaslighting ex Scott, Madchester wannabe and all-round toxin, spots her working at a wedding. When she tries to warn his new hairdresser girlfriend about his ways, Scott goes on the offensive and outs *her* as the abuser. This book shows how easily these things can happen and explains why Harriet and so many other women live in fear of this sort of aftermath. I didn't want it to end, unless the ending involved Scott being run over by a bus, but thankfully the ending was as good as the rest of it and I enjoyed every cathartic moment.
Breadsong: How Baking Changed Our Lives by Kitty and Al Tait (Bloomsbury, April 2022)
Flame-haired Kitty is nearly destroyed by terrible anxiety, then saved by baking, family and a picturesque Oxfordshire village. Sounds like a cosy cake novel, but it all happened, including a successful baking business set up from scratch. Another twist? At the time of the story, Kitty was fourteen years old. Told partly by Kitty and partly by her father Al who becomes a less reluctant baker as the tale goes on, there are (professional, tasty-looking and REAL) recipes, not your made-up biscuit stuff! It was lovely to get glimpses of the Cowley Road shops as well as Kitty's home village.
This is Not a Pity Memoir by Abi Morgan (John Murray Press, June 2022)
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. At first, I wasn't sure about the way Morgan describes her partner Jacob, with a reticence that made it sometimes difficult to see how they fell for each other. About half-way through the book, I realised why - not because of what Jacob is like but because of who he became after a medical crisis. Told with humour and self-awareness, this is an instantly impressive book and one to treasure.
The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh (Mantle, June 2022)
Obituary writer Leo discovers that his wife's name isn't Emma, but Emily; that she didn't graduate from the university she always mentioned to him; that she has a restraining order against her and other, even bigger secrets. When a local actress, Janice, goes missing, Leo is drawn into the story of her family, which turns out to be far closer to his than he'd ever imagined. With wonderful depictions of both North London and the Northumberland coastline, plus some warm, intelligent humour to lighten the difficult subject matter, this is a really lovely literary novel masquerading as a commercial romance.
Factory Girls by Michelle Gallen (John Murray Press, June 2022)
Teenage warrior queen Maeve Murray is keen to have a taste of independence before the D-Day of her A-level results, counting down the days before she leaves her beleaguered Northern Irish town for London. It's the 90s - the time of Whigfield, Oasis, Marlboro Lights, 'Molly's Lips' and Schindler's List. I laughed from start to finish but there was also the undertow of horror that comes with living in a war zone. I have never read anything quite like this novel, and would also bet that it includes the word 'flaps' more often than any other literary fiction of 2022. Slainte!
Double Booked by Lily Lindon (Head of Zeus, June 2022)
Gina is in a settled long-term relationship with ginger musician Doug and his Google Calendar. George’s gorgeous best friend Sophie is a proud lesbian influencer. Oh, and George and Gina are the same person. Georgina has never admitted to herself that she might be more like Sophie than she thinks, until a transformative night at The Glory, where she falls in love with music (again) and a woman (for the first time). Despite its emphasis on sexuality, this is really about adulthood and creative self-fulfilment - if she is not making music, Georgina is not fully herself, whoever she fancies!
First Time for Everything by Henry Fry (Orion, June 2022)
After an unforgettable afternoon at the STI clinic and getting the boot from his bougie straight flatmates, Daniel moves in with his fabulous friend Jacob (Big Edie to his Little one). I loved the app/media company Daniel works at (with the titles of the articles like 'Five Big Red Bank Holiday Fruits to Give You The Horn' etc). I loved the friendship between Daniel and Jacob and the rendition of the East London scene. I was delighted to see my own former editor Bobby Nayyar in the acknowledgements, and this debut benefits from his sensitive editing. XOXO Gossip Gay
The Setup by Lizzy Dent (Penguin, June 2022)
Mara Williams is an 'emo Elle Woods,' who puts too much stock in her horoscope. When she goes on holiday alone, she meets a glamorous, music-making man in Vienna and decides he's 'the one,' - but almost as soon as she's back home, her distracting new flatmate Ash is making himself known, and unlike Joe, he's right there in her living room ordering pizza for her. Mara takes charge of her job at the local lido, putting together a floating movie night. She thinks everything's coming together, but on the night Joe may be coming to town, she's not so sure...
More great Summer 2022 reads reviewed in my earlier blog (check out January’s entries for the full reviews): Welcome To Your Life, M is for Mummy, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, Single Bald Female, Idol, Memphis, The Poet, That Green-Eyed Girl - all absolute treats!
Going back a little, these two weren’t released this Summer but I did enjoy them greatly:
The Wedding Night by Harriet Walker
Like Monica Geller’s Torah-sized wedding book, this has Everything - intrigue, romance, mystery and top-quality writing. There are some classic wedding/hen night thrillers but this one keeps you guessing right to the end. Walker’s The New Girl is also worth a read.
This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes (John Murray Press, September 2021)
Full of dead celebrities, scurrilous stories, irrepressible flatulence and a surprising amount of sweetness, this unapologetic and strangely gentle book proved much harder to put down than most celebrity memoirs. From the author’s childhood in leafy Oxford through sexism-dodging in the Footlights to Blackadder, understudying for Barbara Windsor and strolling on Venice Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio, this is the story of an extraordinary woman who has never lost her essential sense of honour and rightness (or her taste for chopped liver).