Happy Spring! What is it they say? March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, and it has certainly done that! It’s the last day of the month and it has been a gloriously sunny day here in Northumberland and I’ve spent my day in the garden with my Kindle, so I am a very happy bookworm.
March has been another quiet month but I did get my first vaccine so I am one step closer to life getting back to normal. I’ve kept myself busy though and have read lots, done some cross stitching and watched three seasons of This Is Us, so it’s not been completely unproductive.
One thing I did notice when pulling together the books I read in March was that many of them are about family, motherhood and finding your place. This wasn’t particularly intentional, but I have really enjoyed reading so many different perspectives and voices. I wonder what next month will bring.
We’re only a couple of days away from Easter and I am pleased to say that (so far) I have stuck to my promise to not buy any books during lent. It’s my birthday next week though and I am anticipating some book vouchers and my favourite bookshop, Forum Books, is opening a shop near me shortly so I am sure I will be making up for lost time!
Read on to see which books I read and received in March. As ever, my hugest thanks to the publishers and publicists who have approved my requests on Netgalley and sent me books to review.
Books I Read
The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane
I loved this wonderful piece of historical fiction which took me to rural 1950s Ireland and New York and explores family and motherhood.
While Paris Slept by Ruth Druart
This is a heart wrenching read set in France during World War 2 and in 1950s California. It examines both the horror of war and the long term impact of a single decision made under extraordinary circumstances.
Hotel Cartagena by Simone Buchholz
I love Chastity Riley, the protagonist of this wonderful series of books by Simone Buchholz and this latest slice of German Noir is short, sharp and perfectly formed.
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
I have a complicated relationship with Ishiguro. The Remains of the Day is one of my favourite novels but I didn’t love Never Let Me Go and The Buried Giant but I’d heard so many great things about Klara and the Sun that I borrowed it from the library.
It was OK. I enjoyed it and read it in a couple of days but didn’t love it like others seemed to have done. I think though, that this is one of those books which needs a discussion, perhaps at a book club or as part of an A Level or Degree. It is possible that I’d end up adoring it if I studied it.
Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson
I absolutely adore Peter Swanson, he is one of my favourites but I was a little disappointed by Every Vow You Break. It had all the hallmarks of a great Swanson but I struggled with some of the content matter.
Skyward Inn by Aliya Whiteley
This was a little outside my genre but I absolutely loved it. A bit dystopia, a bit sci-fi but with a lot of heart. Set in an imagined future where we have won a war with a far off planet it examines family, other-ism and love.
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
Recently longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this is a wonderful book about twins orphaned by the sudden death of their mother. It is a beautiful read with some gorgeous descriptions of nature and it examines isolation and loneliness in a eloquent and sensitive way.
The Wife Lie by Anya Mora
Last Night by Mhairi McFarlane
I adore Mhairi McFarlane’s books, she is such a witty writer who writes the most fabulous characters. Heroines you root for and people you detest with the every fibre of your being.
Last Night is wonderful. It really is. It examines grief and is a love letter to friendship and has all of her trademark heart and humour.
Another Life by Jodie Chapman
This is a gorgeous novel about love, family and loss. Set in multiple timelines it examines the life of Nick his deep and unwavering love for Anna and the obstacles in their path.
I’ll have a full review soon.
Books I Received
Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge
Published on 18th March by Michael Joseph
Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy. But she suspects she’s done something bad.
She rolls over towards her husband, Niall.
But it’s not Niall who’s lying beside her. In fact, she’s never seen this man before.
And he’s dead . . .
As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, Detective Jonah Sheens and his team mark her as their prime suspect.
But she’s not the only one with something to hide . . .
Did she do it?
And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again?
This Nowhere Place by Natasha Bell
Published on 18th March by Michael Joseph
Ten years ago, Mo arrived at the white cliffs of Dover, befriended by teenagers Cali and Jude.
They thought they’d save each other, yet within months their friendship would see two of them dead and the third scarred for life.
Now documentary maker Tarek and his film crew are in town, asking difficult questions about what happened that summer.
Because in the shadow of the white cliffs it’s easy for people and their stories to get lost . . .
And as Tarek will discover, the truth is something that must be unburied carefully.
Or it might just it bury you . . .
This is How We Are Human by Louise Beech
Published by Orenda Books on 10th June
Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely.
Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.
Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.
When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.
A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with an emotional core that will warm and break your heart.
The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl, Translated by Don Bartlett
Published by Orenda Book on 13th May
Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there’s a civil war in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.
When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.
But all is not what it seems, and when Jack is accused of murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.
Both a fascinating portrait of Oslo’s interwar years, with Nazis operating secretly on Norwegian soil and militant socialists readying workers for war, The Assistant is also a stunningly sophisticated, tension-packed thriller – the darkest of hard-boiled Nordic Noir – from one of Norway’s most acclaimed crime writers.
Still Life by Sarah Winman
Published by 4th Estate on 10th June
1944, in the ruined wine cellar of a Tuscan villa, as the Allied troops advance and bombs fall around them, two strangers meet and share an extraordinary evening together.
Ulysses Temper is a young British soldier, Evelyn Skinner is a sexagenarian art historian and possible spy. She has come to Italy to salvage paintings from the wreckage and relive memories of the time she encountered EM Forster and had her heart stolen by an Italian maid in a particular Florentine room with a view.
These two unlikely people find kindred spirits in each other and Evelyn’s talk of truth and beauty plants a seed in Ulysses’ mind that will shape the trajectory of his life – and of those who love him – for the next four decades.
Moving from the Tuscan Hills and piazzas of Florence, to the smog of London’s East End, Still Life is a sweeping, joyful, richly-peopled novel about beauty, love, family and fate.
Another Life by Jodie Chapman
Published by Michael Joseph on 1st April
Nick and Anna work the same summer job at their local cinema. Anna is mysterious, beautiful, and from a very different world to Nick.
She’s grown up preparing for the end of days, in a tightly-controlled existence where Christmas, getting drunk and sex before marriage are all off-limits.
So when Nick comes into her life, Anna falls passionately in love. Their shared world burns with poetry and music, cigarettes and conversation – hints of the people they hope to become.
But Anna, on the cusp of adulthood, is afraid to give up everything she’s ever believed in, and everyone she’s ever loved. She walks away, and Nick doesn’t stop her.
Years later, a tragedy draws Anna back into Nick’s life.
But rekindling their relationship leaves Anna and Nick facing a terrible choice between a love that’s endured decades, and the promises they’ve made to others along the way.
Highway Blue by Ailsa McFarlane
Published by Vintage on 6th May
Anne Marie is adrift San Padua, living a precarious life of shift-work and shared apartments. Her husband Cal left her on their first anniversary and two years later, she can’t move on.
When he shows up suddenly on her doorstep, clearly in some kind of trouble, she reluctantly agrees to a drink. But later that night a gun goes off in an alley near the shore and the young couple flee together, crammed into a beat up car with their broken past. Their ill-at-ease odyssey takes them across a shimmering American landscape and through the darker seams of the country, towards a city that may or may not represent salvation.
Highway Blue is a story of being lost and found; of love, in all its forms; and of how the pursuit of love is, in its turn, a kind of redemption.
Vanished by James Delargey
Published by Simon & Schuster on 15th April
The Kane family, Lorcan, Naiyana and their young son, relocate from Perth to Kallayee, an abandoned mining town in the Great Victoria Desert to start over again, free from their chequered past.
The town seems like the perfect getaway: Peaceful. Quiet. Remote. Somewhere they won’t be found.
But life in Kallayee isn’t quite as straightforward as they hope. There are noises in the earth, mysterious shadows and tracks in the dust as if the town is coming back to life.
But the family can’t leave. No one can talk sense into them.
And now, no one can talk to them at all.
They’ve simply vanished.
Now it’s up to Detective Emmaline Taylor to find them… before it’s too late.
Wild Pets by Amber Medland
Published by Faber & Faber on 1st July
Wild Pets follows Iris, Ezra and Nance in the years after university. They fall in and out of bed with each other, reread The Art of War, grieve the closing of Fabric and write book proposals on the history of salt, while submerging their nights in drink and drugs. Confronting adulthood with high wit and low behaviour against contemporary political and social turmoil, these young men and women seem to have everything going for them. So why are they still swimming desperately against the tide?
A bold, honest novel, Wild Pets is about the fragility of mental health, power imbalances in friendship and sex, and creative ambition fused with destruction – and the lingering power of first loves.
Thanks for reading! Please do let me know in the comments beneath if you’ve read any of these books or if any have caught your eye!