Books we read in May 2022

It’s been a long time since we blogged on here. Life has got in the way, and so has the re-opening of the shop. We’d like to say a HUGE thanks to all of the people who have come back to the shop, and to those of you who continue to order books directly from us, and from bookshop.org – we certainly wouldn’t have survived this far without you.

But now let’s get down to the important stuff – BOOKS! Here are all the books we read during May.

One Good Thing – Alexandra Potter, £14.99, Hardback

In life, nothing is certain. Just when you think you have it all figured out, something can happen to change the course of everything. Liv Brooks is still in shock. Newly-divorced and facing an uncertain future, she impulsively swaps her London Life for the sweeping hills of the Yorkshire Dales, determined to make a fresh start. But fresh starts are harder than they look and feeling lost and lonely she decides to adopt Harry, an old dog from the local shelter to keep her company. Liv soon discovers she isn’t the only one in need of a new beginning. On their daily walks around the village, they meet: Valentine, an old man suffering from loneliness; Stanley, a little boy who is scared of everyone; Maya, a teenager who is angry at everyone and everything. As she gets to know them, things slowly start to change for Liv. This is a novel about friendship, finding happiness and living the life unexpected. And how when everything falls apart, all you need is one good thing to turn your life around and make it worth living again.

Assembly – Natasha Brown, £8.99, paperback

Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Step out into a world of Go Home vans. Go to Oxbridge, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy a flat. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet. And keep going.

The narrator of Assembly is a Black British woman. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself.

As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Bronte, £6.99, paperback

Gilbert Markham is fascinated by Helen Graham, the beautiful and enigmatic woman who has recently moved into Wildfell Hall. He is swift to befriend her and steadfastly refutes the local gossip calling her character and behaviour into question. Yet he soon has cause to regret his infatuation, and grave doubts and misgivings begin to arise in his mind. It is only when Helen presents Gilbert with her diary and instructs him to read it that the shocking truth about her past life becomes clear.

The first edition of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was so successful that it sold out in weeks, yet the novel was mired in controversy for its fierce defence of women’s rights and what many contemporary critics viewed as its shocking and immoral subject matter. Incredibly modern.

The Echo Chamber – John Boyne, £9.99, paperback

What a thing of wonder a mobile phone is. Six ounces of metal, glass and plastic, fashioned into a sleek, shiny, precious object. At once, a gateway to other worlds – and a treacherous weapon in the hands of the unwary, the unwitting, the inept. The Cleverley family live a gilded life, little realising how precarious their privilege is, just one tweet away from disaster. George, the patriarch, is a stalwart of television interviewing, a ‘national treasure’ (his words), his wife Beverley, a celebrated novelist (although not as celebrated as she would like), and their children, Nelson, Elizabeth, Achilles, various degrees of catastrophe waiting to happen.

Together they will go on a journey of discovery through the Hogarthian jungle of the modern living where past presumptions count for nothing and carefully curated reputations can be destroyed in an instant. Along the way they will learn how volatile, how outraged, how unforgiving the world can be when you step from the proscribed path. Powered by John Boyne’s characteristic humour and razor-sharp observation, The Echo Chamber is a satiric helter skelter, a dizzying downward spiral of action and consequence, poised somewhere between farce, absurdity and oblivion.

Should we fall behind – Sharon Duggal, £9.99, paperback

Jimmy Noone walks from one side of a sprawling city to the other, looking for Betwa, a friend he found and lost on the bustling city streets. Jimmy becomes the catalyst for lost lives colliding, exposing stories of tenderness, devotion, displacement and tragedy, and the subtle threads of commonality which intersect them all, making the invisible, visible again. Very moving and pwerful.

I am not your Eve – Devika Ponnambalam, £12.99, hardback

A polyphonic novel of Teha’amana, Tahitian muse and child-bride to Paul Gaugin. The book is told from her point of view, using myths and legends of the Tahitian islands. We also hear from his British daughter, who misses her father and who is trying to understand what he is doing and why it is so upsetting for her mother. An uncomfortable, challenging, brilliant read, that raises as many questions as it tries to answer.

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