What we read in June

Dying in the Wool – Frances Brody – £8.99 paperback

Yorkshire, 1922. Bridgestead is a quiet village. Pretty and remote, nothing exceptional happens, except for the day when Joshua Braithwaite goes missing in dramatic circumstances, never to be heard of again. Now Joshua’s daughter is getting married and wants one last attempt at finding her father. Has he run off with his mistress, or was he murdered for his mounting coffers? Kate Shackleton has always loved solving puzzles, so who better to get to the bottom of Joshua’s mysterious disappearance? But as Kate taps into the lives of the Bridgestead dwellers, she opens cracks that some would kill to keep closed. Very enjoyable and well plotted.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen – £5.99 paperback

Pride and Prejudice, which opens with one of the most famous sentences in English Literature, is an ironic novel of manners. In it the garrulous and empty-headed Mrs Bennet has only one aim – that of finding a good match for each of her five daughters. In this she is mocked by her cynical and indolent husband. With its wit, its social precision and, above all, its irresistible heroine, Pride and Prejudice has proved one of the most enduringly popular novels in the English language. Reading it for what must be the fourth or fifth time, I felt very different about the events this time around. I was horrified as to why on earth was Wickham rewarded for running off with a girl just turned sixteen, and I finally understood why Lizzie changed her mind about Darcy! Age and experience really coloured my view.

Tall Bones – Anna Bailey – £12.99 hardback

When seventeen-year-old Emma leaves her best friend Abi at a party in the woods, she believes, like most girls her age, that their lives are just beginning. Many things will happen that night, but Emma will never see her friend again. Abi’s disappearance cracks open the facade of the small town of Whistling Ridge, its intimate history of long-held grudges and resentment. Even within Abi’s family, there are questions to be asked – of Noah, the older brother whom Abi betrayed, of Jude, the shining younger sibling who hides his battle scars, of Dolly, her mother and Samuel, her father – both in thrall to the fire and brimstone preacher who holds the entire town in his grasp. Then there is Rat, the outsider, whose presence in the town both unsettles and excites those around him. Anything could happen in Whistling Ridge, this tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark – the truth of what really happened that night out at the Tall Bones….Full of tropes and cliches but very well done. Enjoyable to read even though it’s a familiar story that plays out.

Lean Fall Stand – Jon McGregor – £14.99 hardback

When an Antarctic research expedition goes wrong, the consequences are far-reaching – for the men involved and for their families back home. Robert ‘Doc’ Wright, a veteran of Antarctic field work, holds the clues to what happened, but he is no longer able to communicate them. While Anna, his wife, navigates the sharp contours of her new life as a carer, Robert is forced to learn a whole new way to be in the world. A stunning novel that uses language and words to dramatic effect – not just for their meanings – but for the way that the language and words feel. SO atmospheric.

Summerwater – Sarah Moss – £8.99 paperback

It is the summer solstice, but in a faded Scottish cabin park the rain is unrelenting. Twelve people on holiday with their families look on as the skies remain resolutely grey. A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a teenage boy chances the dark waters of the loch in his kayak; a retired couple head out despite the downpour, driving too fast on the familiar bends. But there are newcomers too, and one particular family, a mother and daughter with the wrong clothes and the wrong manners, start to draw the attention of the others. Who are they? Where are they from? Should they be here at all? As darkness finally falls, something is unravelling. A perfect snap-shot of the lives of a disparate community of holiday makers. Told with an unsettling edge.

Mayflies – Andrew O’Hagan – £8.99 paperback

Everyone has a Tully Dawson: the friend who defines your life. In the summer of 1986, James and Tully ignite a friendship based on music, films and the rebel spirit. With school over, they rush towards a magical weekend of youthful excess in Manchester played out against the greatest soundtrack ever recorded. And there a vow is made: to go at life differently. Thirty years on, the phone rings. Tully has news. A beautiful book about how to live life to the full, no matter how long or short that life might be. Had real resonance with me due to it’s setting and era. Loved it.

Lost Cat – Mary Gaitskill – £8.99 paperback

Reads like a long, chatty, honest essay that reflects on life, loss and how we form relationships.

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