SUMMER READING

Summer is here and that means more reading time!  Our booksellers have picked their favourite reads, a mixture of fiction, non-fiction and children’s, that are perfect for sitting out in the garden with the sunshine or relaxing with by a poolside while on holiday.  We hope you enjoy our reviews below and remember, this is just a small selection of the many gorgeous books out there.

Fiction


Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson 

(Reviewed by Sarah)

The beautifully written story of two young black people who fall in love had me regularly stopping to catch my breath. The poetic prose is something to be savoured and taken time over.

At its core the book is about what it means to be a Black British male living in a society that tries to squeeze you into a box they have created but in which you do not fit. All the while it also celebrates black art, creativity and thought. This is a novel that will stay with you.

The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

A debut novel where wild swimming and nature writing are the backdrop for a dark family drama, spiked with delicious wit.

The Paper Palace (a gently decaying summer house in the backwoods of Cape Cod) has witnessed years of life, love and secrets.  One August morning, Elle heads to her sanctuary, the pond, diving into the freezing water, she relives the shocking, passionate encounter of the previous night. Over twenty four hours we live her present and her past, a complex love story where the author relishes pulling back the layers.  Perfect for fans of Where the Crawdads Sing.

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson

(Reviewed by Fran)

A beautiful novel that delves into, and weaves together, the troubled lives of the residents of a small Canadian town. It is a story of longing – for lost loves, children and places – and discovering solace in the places and people we least expect.

A story of resilience, community and friendship, this is a great summer read and you won’t want to leave Solace.

Iron Annie by Luke Cassidy

(Reviewed by Vivian)

Once Aoife enters your life and brings with her the irresistibly enigmatic Iron Annie, you’ll find it impossible to forget them.

Aoife narrates her life amid the underbelly of small-town Ireland with an extraordinarily vivid voice. The story sings off the page, every wild, wanton, sexy, drug fuelled moment of it. A remarkably accomplished and enjoyable debut.

A Net For Small Fishes by Lucy Jago

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

The court of James I is no place for the weak.  Frances Howard has brains, beauty and a powerful family, Anne Turner has wit and ingenuity, but no position.  While their unlikely friendship brings Anne the excitement and notice she craves, danger lurks in its wake.

This is a richly realised, gripping historical novel, perfect for fans of The Favourite.

The Firekeepers Daughter by Angela Boulley

(Reviewed by Sarah)

Although this book is deemed to be a Young Adult novel, I would recommend it for everyone. This amazing book will have you on the edge of your seat. It is a thrilling page turner but also a heart wrenching education about Native American traditions, history and the lack of justice that indigenous women receive. A tale of love between individuals and within the Ojibwe community. This is a book that goes beyond the classic “whodunnit” but leaves you feeling as though you are not ready to say goodbye by the time the last page creeps up on you.

Slow Horses by Mick Herron

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

If you’ve enjoyed the new TV series starring Gary Oldman and Kristen Scott Thomas, it’s well worth reading the original text.  The writing is luxuriously enjoyable, packed with gruesome wit at the extreme ‘management style’ of Jackson Lamb, errant head of the place failed spooks go to be bored into submission (or resignation).

The Island of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak

(Reviewed by Vivian)

Two teenagers from different cultures and different religions are forced apart by war. So far so, sadly, familiar. But the setting is Cyprus. The lovers are Defne, a Turkish Muslim and Kostas, a Greek Christian, and the story is narrated in parts by an ancient fig tree which grows through the roof of the tavern where they meet in safety and secrecy. A mesmerising and magical tale.

Still Life by Sarah Winman

(Reviewed by Sarah)

This is a novel for the person who believes in fate. The writing is poetic, the story enchanting and the message left behind is beautiful.  As the characters all orbit around one another, they show their love and admiration in a myriad of ways and this is what holds their chosen family together. Through the unexpected and exciting twists and turns that life brings, as well as the grief and loss that often goes along with it, Winman has woven together a tale that is a testament to love and celebrates beauty in all its forms.

Rose Nicolson by Andrew Greig

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

Escape into the dangerous waters of Scotland, 1574.  Queen Mary has fled Scotland, to raise an army from the French. Her son and heir Jamie is held under protection in Stirling Castle.  Power is held like shifting sands in this riven land. It’s a deadly time for young student Will Fowler, short of stature, low of birth but mightily ambitious, to make his name.

This is a book to sweep you away to another place and time, look up and you’ll be surprised to find yourself warm and safe in the 21st Century.  Thoroughly enjoyable.

Case Study by Graham Macrae Burnet

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

Fans of Macrae Burnet’s previous novel, His Bloody Project, will relish Case Study, a razor sharp psychological thriller, where the author messes with the reader as much as the characters.

An unworldly young woman suspects charismatic psychotherapist Collins Braithwaite of involvement in the death of her sister. Determined to find out more, she becomes a client of his using a false identity. But she soon finds herself drawn into a world in which she can no longer be certain of anything.

Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

(Reviewed by Vivian)

Do you remember being drawn to families on the edge? The ones whose children seemed exotic, whose parents welcomed you in and treated you like an adult? Where both the house and family had an air of mystery?

Jane Lestrange engages with that world as she joins the Hunters at Vanes, their West Country home, during the sweltering summer of 1989. The consequences are devastating, the novel dark and compelling.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

(Reviewed by Rosamund) – only in Hardback

Be kind to yourself and pick up a copy of Lessons in Chemistry, it is a joy.

Elizabeth Zott is a character to fall in love with – clever, direct and (often unwittingly) very funny.  A born scientist in a world that struggles with the very idea of a woman in the job, she is as surprised as anyone to find herself a single mother starring in a cookery show.  Not everyone is happy with her style – educating and empowering her female audience about the correct measure of sodium chloride to add.

Top tip, try not to read it too quickly, you will miss Elizabeth.

The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

(Reviewed by Rosamund) – only in Hardback

Aged four, Christabel meets the arrival of her stepmother with a sceptical expression and a mouthful of grubby snow, standing in front of her home, Chilcombe Manor.  Their relationship never really warms, but it is the love between siblings, Christabel, Flossie (aka ‘the veg’) and Digby that is at the heart of this glorious novel. The children bring themselves up in an eccentric country house populated by oblivious, partying grown ups, finding education and entertainment in creating their Whalebone Theatre in a world soon to be broken apart by WWII.

Non-Fiction


Invisible Child by Andrea Elliott

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

I was at first put off this book by its length and seemingly bleak subject matter.  Luckily a mild dose of Covid gave me the time to dive in, and I’m so grateful I did.  Invisible Child is one of those eye-opening, life-changing books that you want to press into the hands of everyone you meet.  If you loved Educated by Tara Westover, please read Invisible Child, you won’t regret meeting Dasani or her family.

Finding Freedom in the Lost Kitchen by Erin French

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

Erin French grew up barefoot on a 25-acre farm in Maine, fell in love with food as a teenager working the line at her dad’s diner and found her calling as a professional chef at her tiny restaurant The Lost Kitchen.  This is one young woman’s story of hard graft, heartache and outstanding resilience and success.  Read this and you’ll want to book a place at her table in Maine.  Perfect for fans of Wild by Sheryl Strayed…

Picturebook Makers by Sam McCullen

(Reviewed by Fran)

An essential read for anyone in love with picture books. This book showcases the best contemporary illustration and delves into the creative process and insights of well-established creators such as Shaun Tan, Jon Klassen and Beatrice Alemagna alongside some less known but exceptionally skilled names. Perfect for dipping into for inspiration or just pure visual enjoyment.

The Familia Grande by Camilla Kouchner

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

Camille Koucher was in her forties before she felt able (or at liberty) to write her story of family abuse, suicide, shame and guilt.  But stay with me, this is an extraordinary memoir that reads like a novel, suffused with the glamour of upmarket French family holidays, marked by the dread that the truth will emerge.

Perfect for those who like to mix a little darkness into their reading

Escape Artist by Jonathan Freedland

(Reviewed by Rosamund) – only in Hardback

Rudolf Vrba was one of only four Jews to break out of Auschwitz successfully.  After some serendipitous journalistic research, author Jonathan Freedland happened upon Vrba’s first wife, who shared her memories (along with a suitcase of letters), bringing this remarkable story to life.  A highly intelligent young man with an uncanny photographic memory, nineteen year old Vrba was able to produce a priceless thirty-two page document detailing all he had witnessed.  Eventually it landed on the desks of Roosevelt, Churchill and the Pope, saving over 200,000 lives.  He remained outspoken and angry about the horrors until his death in 2006, refusing to play the role of heroic survivor.

This extraordinary book puts Vrba in his rightful place as one of the true heroes of WWII.  It also reads like a heartstopping thriller.

Children’s


The Light in Everything by Katya Balen

(Reviewed by Sarah)

From the author of October, October, and winner of the Carnegie Medal, comes a heartfelt story about making room for new friends, family and happiness in your life. We follow the lives of two children, Zofia and Tom, who could not be more different, as they try to have their families blend together. The subtlety that Balen uses to highlight children’s mental health is wonderful and her writing pulls at the heartstrings. It is beautifully told with tenderness and care.

The Shark and the Scar by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

(Reviewed by Vivian)

Jay Danagher has survived a shark attack and has the scar to prove it. His memory of the attack is fragmented, and his dad has forbidden him from talking about it. He also seems to have persuaded everyone in the hospital not to mention it either.

With no-one willing to talk to him, Jay must trust that his father is telling the truth, after all, why would he be lying?

Escape to the River Sea by Emma Carroll

(Reviewed by Rosamund)

Fans of Eva Ibbotson will be thrilled to discover Emma Carroll’s companion book to the classic Journey to the River Sea.  Rosa Sweetman is a young Kindertransport girl, longing to be reunited with her family, but feeling isolated and bored at her host family’s crumbling country estate in the north of England.  She jumps at the chance to accompany a friend of the family, Yara Fielding, as she returns home to the Amazon.  So begins an exciting adventure that brings unexpected friendships and great jeopardy, deep in the heart of the rainforest.

Like a Charm by Elle McNicoll

(Reviewed by Sarah)

The perfect read for the child who loves finding things out of the ordinary. The fantastic heroine, Ramya, who is proudly neurodivergent, does not fit in.  She would rather do things her own way than follow adult advice. Then, after her grandfather opens up a whole new world of hidden folk to her, she must fully embrace who she is, trust her instincts and help the unseen side of Edinburgh. Full of heart, magic, creativity and loveable characters, Elle McNicoll has written another tremendous adventure.

Archie Snufflekins by Katie Harnett

(Reviewed by Fran)

Perfect for fans of beautifully illustrated picture books and cat lovers! Archie has a very busy schedule and lots of friends to visit on Blossom Street, but there’s one person that’s harder to reach than most. This is a heart-warming story about making friends and how the smallest actions can make a big difference. Harnett’s illustrations are infused with joy and humour.

The Night Flower by Lara Hawthorne

(Reviewed by Fran)

Hawthorne’s illustrations exquisitely explore the beauty of the natural world in the Sonoran desert and introduce us to the plants and animals that call it home. It’s colourful, charming and full of facts about peculiar creatures, this picture book will appeal to anyone fascinated by the natural world.