Reads in January 2024

Saint Maybe – Anne Tyler, £9.99 paperback

When eighteen-year-old Ian Bedloe pricks the bubble of his family’s optimistic self-deception, his brother Danny drives into a wall, his sister-in-law falls apart, and his parents age before his eyes. Consumed by guilt Ian finds the hope of forgiveness at the Church of the Second Chance, and leaves college to cope with the three children he has inherited and his own embarrassing religion. Twenty years on, Ian’s prospects of a second chance are receding fast when, out of the heart of the domesticity that has engulfed him, strides a new figure who will bring him new life.

Mansfield Park – Jane Austen, £6.99 paperback

Fanny Price’s rich relatives offer her a home at Mansfield Park so that she can be properly brought up. However, Fanny’s childhood is a lonely one as she is never allowed to forget her place. Her only ally is her cousin Edmund. But when the glamorous and exciting Henry and Mary Crawford arrive in the area, Edmund starts to grow close to Mary and Fanny finds herself dealing with feelings she has never experienced before.

Tin Man – Sarah Winman, £9.99 paperback

This is almost a love story. But it’s not as simple as that. It begins with two boys, Ellis and Michael,who are inseparable. And the boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives, and it changes nothing and everything. Incredible characters, heartbreaking relationships, and all about finding a way forward whist suffering huge loss, a moving read.

Penguin Lost – Andrey Kurkov, £9.99 paperback

Discover the darkly funny follow-up to cult classic Death and the Penguin. Viktor – last seen in Death and the Penguin fleeing Mafia vengeance on an Antarctica-bound flight booked for Penguin Misha – seizes a heaven-sent opportunity to return to Kiev with a new identity. Clear now as to the enormity of abandoning Misha, then convalescent from a heart-transplant, Viktor determines to make amends. Viktor falls in with a Mafia boss who engages him to help in his election campaign, then introduces him to men who might further his search for Misha, said to be in a private zoo in Chechnya. What ensues is for Viktor both a quest and an odyssey of atonement, and, for the reader, an experience as rich, topical and illuminating as Death and the Penguin.

John Henry’s Walk – Alan Plowright, no longer in print – available online second hand

An account of a long distance walk undertaken in 1875 by John Henry and his friend. Full of interesting snippets of local history and hilarious anecdotes.

Last Night in Montreal – Emily St John Mandel, £9.99 paperback

Lilia has been leaving people behind her entire life. Haunted by her inability to remember her early childhood, and by a mysterious shadow that seems to dog her wherever she goes, Lilia moves restlessly from city to city, abandoning lovers and friends along the way. But then she meets Eli, and he’s not ready to let her go, not without a fight. Gorgeously written, charged with tension and foreboding, Emily St. John Mandel’s Last Night in Montreal is the story of a life spent at the centre of a criminal investigation. It is a novel about identity, love and amnesia, the depths and limits of family bonds and – ultimately – about the nature of obsession.

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