Going away and not sure what books to pack in your suitcase or load on your kindle? The editors of Shiny New Books pick their favourite reads from the first half of 2014.
The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick
If you’re looking for a feel-good novel to read on the beach, this would really fit the bill. This is the story of Bartholemew Neil, who is grieving for his beloved mother, has never really connected with other people, but through a couple of rather unusual friends manages to find his way in the new, bewildering world. Sometimes sad, often funny, always thought-provoking, this is certainly the most heartwarming novel I’ve read this year.
Appointment with Yesterday by Celia Fremlin
Faber Finds, the publisher’s reprint section, has uncovered a series of novels by Fremlin, a hugely successful writer of psychological thrillers in the 1950s to 80s, whose books somehow fell off the radar. This one tells the story of Milly, who has left an unhappy marriage and taken on a new identity, but lives in dread of discovery. Fremlin manages to balance suspense with wit in a supremely readable way. I loved it, and indeed have loved all the novels of hers I have read.
The Love Charm of Bombs by Lara Feigel
Whether or not non-fiction is your preference, you will certainly love Lara Feigel’s fascinating story of the lives of a group of novelists who lived through WW2 in London. Elizabeth Bowen, Graham Greene, Henry Green and others got deeply involved in war work, but also felt liberated by the events of the war to pursue intense and adulterous love affairs. Brilliantly researched and highly readable, this sheds light on both history and on the literature produced during this period.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
An extraordinary, powerful novel which is based on the premise that it is possible to be reborn into the same body and relive the same life again and again. Immensely thought-provoking, it raises huge questions of good and evil, truth and lies, the meaning of life and the nature of death. Quite a dark novel, often reminiscent of spy or detective fiction, this is a real page-turner.
A social comedy set in Hampstead during the hot summer of 1989. A young Scot comes south and discovers that the ‘English’ are not quite what they seem. Joyously funny.
Seven Sisters from Dublin all with luxuriant hair take to the stage during Pre-Raphaelite times and have a ball.
For those who like a jaw-droppingly good twist, this novel set in an elite Vermont prep school has a brilliant one.
Can a new heart change an old reprobate? Maybe it can. This is a novel with true heart.
Recently awarded one of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prizes, Wood’s novel gives Papa’s four wives centre stage and you’ll sympathise with them all.
If you’re looking for a page-turner, your first bet might not be the biography of an early 20th-century poet, but this life is captivating, moving, and brilliantly told by Fitzgerald.
What would you do if you were told the world were ending? If the answer is ‘hole yourself up in a mansion and squabble with your relatives’, then you’ll love the unsettling, funny, and bizarre world Jackson creates.
A nuanced and beautiful exploration of the damaged and peculiar relationships between three generations of women.
Jansson’s debut collection of short stories, translated into English for the first time, demonstrates that she was in full control of her exceptional powers of observation right from the start.
Such a delightful, absorbing and authentic memoir account of Rakoff’s first job at an old-fashioned literary agency in New York. Prepare to rush out and get hold of J. D. Salinger books afterwards.
A century in the life of a mining family in South Yorkshire may not sound like a good beach read but this is a book you won’t be able to put down, full of characters whose fates you simply have to learn. Outstanding social history.
Life on the wrong side of the tracks in Montreal, as lived by the glamourous and eccentric Tremblay family. A wonderfully warm and witty coming of age story.
London theatre in the 1970, politics and passion intertwine as a group of friends fall in and out of love and luck as they try to make their ambitions come true.