Paperback reader

Gerrards Cross bookseller Rosy shares the paperback fiction she’s been escaping into recently.

Birdcage Walk by Helen Dunmore

This is the beautiful final novel from this masterful writer, who died in June.

It is 1792 and young bride Lizzie Fawkes has grown up in Radical circles, whose ideals are starkly at odds with those of her new husband, John Diner Tredevant, a Bristolian property developer who stands to lose everything from the social upheaval and the threat of war sweeping Europe.

The growing tension between Lizzie and Diner is almost physical, and this sinister historical literary thriller will chill you and move you at the same time.

The Dry by Jane Harper

This superbly written crime novel grabs you from the very first page and doesn’t let go.

Australia is in the grip of its worst drought in a century and tensions in the small country town of Kiewarra are already running high, when three members of the Hadler family are brutally murdered. It seems obvious that farmer Luke Hadler snapped due to his failing livelihood and killed his wife and young son before killing himself.

But policeman Aaron Falk – Luke’s childhood best friend who was driven out of town twenty years earlier – isn’t so sure and sets out to find out what really happened.

It was an absolutely gripping read; I was totally hooked and could almost feel the scorching heat and the oppressive small-town attitudes pressing down on me.

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

I’ve loved the Hogarth Shakespeare series so far – The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (The Winter’s Tale), Shylock is My Name by Howard Jacobson (The Merchant of Venice), and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (The Taming of the Shrew) – and this retelling of The Tempest is another delight.

Treacherously toppled from his post as artistic director of the Makeshiweg Festival on the eve of his production of The Tempest, Felix retreats to a backwoods hovel to lick his wounds, mourn his lost daughter and plot his revenge. Twelve years later he gets his chance, in the form of a theatre course at a nearby prison.

Prospero as a washed-up thespian getting his revenge on those who ousted him with the help of a bunch of convicts – brilliant.

Swing Time by Zadie Smith

Two young ‘brown’ girls meet in a dance class in West London in the 1980s – the unnamed narrator and Tracey – but only Tracey has talent. Their friendship lasts until their early twenties but it influences the course both of their lives take.

It’s quite difficult to describe what it’s actually about – it’s a beautifully-drawn chronicle of friendship, family breakdown, race, class, ambition and social change, but that doesn’t really do it justice. The characters’ struggles with self-improvement, identity, belonging and perceptions were pitch perfect.

The Good People by Hannah Kent

This is an absolutely stunning second offering from the author of the brilliant, bestselling Burial Rites.

In rural Ireland in 1825, Nora is bereft after the sudden death of her beloved husband, and finds herself alone and caring for her grandson, Micheal, who cannot speak or walk. Desperate to find out what’s wrong with him, and increasingly susceptible to the whispers about fairies, changelings and bad luck in the valley, Nora enlists the help of her serving girl Mary and local healer woman Nance.

Based on true events, this is thrilling, taut and deeply moving. It’s so beautifully written, you can feel the suspicion and the damp of the river on your skin.

The Fatal Tree by Jake Arnott

This is a dazzling, swaggering account of the most famous criminal couple in 1720s London (or Romeville as its known to its underworld inhabitants) – housebreaker and gaol-breaker Jack Sheppard and prostitute and pickpocket Edgworth Bess.

Bess gives the account of her life to a Grub Street hack from her cell in Newgate, and the seedy, colourful netherworld of taverns, dens and ‘molly houses’ is brought vividly to life with wonderful, evocative prose and the marvellous ‘flash’ language of the day.

Absolutely fantastic!

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