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Smart Women: The Best New Books of Spring 2022

Some great books published since January 2022, which you may have missed- or maybe you need a little prod to get around to them? I’d recommend them, either way!

While all these books deal with motherhood, it’s hardly ever the central theme. Even the books that focus more strongly on motherhood treat it as an option rather than the default - which I appreciate, as someone who enjoys a child-free life but loves children, especially if I can give them back at the end of the day!

Wahala by Nikki May (January 2022) Boo, Simi and Ronke are best friends, enjoying gossipy lunches in their local down-at-heel Nigerian café. When glamorous Isabel enters their lives, she turns everything upside down. An unputdownable tale of Nigerian-British culture and female friendship.

Sunny by Sukh Ojla (March 2022) I fell in love with Sunny immediately, and with this book's detailed descriptions of life in the Asian community in Gravesend, plus the ham-sandwich meal deals and gins-in-tins that Sunny relies on to keep going. When a spa weekend with the girls ends badly, Sunny must look inside herself and learn what she really wants from life.

Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes (February 2022) Welcome back, Rachel Walsh - older, wiser and still an unreliable narrator (with a micro-addiction to online shopping). Now working as a counsellor, Rachel’s life seems to be going well, until two new patients - posh Bronte (horse-loving in both senses of the word - she’s a heroin addict) and fey pill-popper Ella stir up memories for Rachel and make her realise she did something she’s never admitted to herself. When a man from Rachel’s past comes back into her life, we can only ask - is a ride out of the question?

P.S. I Hate You by Sophie Ranald (March 2022) Matt and Abbie have been together since Jennifer Lopez and Coldplay were in the charts. After twenty years together, two years of working at the same kitchen table in lockdown, and not talking about the empty room upstairs, Abbie worries that the magic has gone. A sweet second-chance romance.

The Exhibitionist by Charlotte Mendelson (March 2022) Meet the usual Mendelson suspects; a slightly-sexy mama recovering from illness and trauma, a powerless man who acts like king of his Hampstead castle, one sensible sibling and one with an impressive set of behavioural problems. While the dysfunctional family prepares for an exhibition of their patriarch’s work, mother Lucia, the sculptor and real talent, is being courted both by the Venice Biennale committee and a gorgeous, precisely drawn female politician.

French Braid by Anne Tyler (March 2022) This includes some tried-and-tested Anne Tyler themes: A woman, no longer feeling useful to her family, leaves them, but doesn't quite make it completely away or become truly successful in her own right; an artist slowly moves into their own studio; a young man comes to dinner with an unexpected female partner and her child. The Garrett family's story is told through a wide-ranging lens, with a sense of confidence but also distance, with parts of it unclear as though seen through mist and parts of it rendered with Tyler's usual laser-focus.

Never Simple by Liz Scheier (March 2022) A memoir of life with an audacious, mendacious single mother, Liz Scheier was subjected to a series of lies during her childhood. A former editor (it shows, in a good way) Scheier doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, whether that’s post-college lesbianism, donating a kidney out of goodwill (don’t worry, she’s not the woman in the Twitter story) or trying to find a New York apartment with a view of the park for a parent with borderline personality disorder.

Baby Love by Jacqueline Wilson (March 2022) Teenage pregnancy haunted Wilson’s earlier, out-of-print books. Baby Love is set in the 1960s, and like a lot of Wilson’s work, is concerned with issues of class and status as much as anything else. Sheltered only child Laura becomes friends with glamorous Nina Bertram, the doctor’s daughter (and her brother Dan, though to be honest she seems keener on Nina). An afternoon encounter with a French boy means Laura must make life-changing choices. Laura and her parents absolutely broke my heart, and Wilson seems to have mined her own childhood for class-consciousness, loneliness and memories of a hard-to-please mother.

A Line Above the Sky: On Mountains and Motherhood by Helen Mort (March 2022) Helen Mort, poet and author, combines her life story to date with another's, finding seductive and scary parallels between her life and that of climber and mother Alison Hargreaves, who disappeared during a storm while trying to climb a fierce mountain. Alison's son would suffer a similar fate as an adult. Not all of us are mothers, and only a handful of us will have done the type of climbing practised by Alison Hargreaves or even Helen Mort and her friends, yet this book is relatable, and truly original.

In Love by Amy Bloom (April 2022) 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. If you need a taste of Bloom’s writing, she has a beautiful article about planting a tree and family life in lockdown in the Guardian, which doesn’t appear in this touching book but which I’m sure will encourage people to read it.

(There are some other book bangers out this Spring that I've already reviewed, including Lessons in Chemistry, Impossible and Stepping Up. Check out my earlier blogs for a quick review of these).

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