Books to read in the sunshine
Muddy bookworm Kerry Potter picks this month's best books. Ignore your family and friends, and get stuck in!
Book Of The Month – The Cost Of Living by Deborah Levy
Levy has been writing books, poems and plays for 30 years but I must admit I only stumbled across her relatively recently when several different friends recommended her Man Booker Prize-nominated 2016 novel, Hot Milk, as a summer holiday read. (It’s a mother-daughter drama set in a Spanish beach house.) Anyway, better late than never. Her new one is a deeply personal, thoughtful memoir about life after divorce: “My marriage was the boat and I knew if I swam back to it, I would drown,” she writes. So, aged 50, she finds herself moving out of the comfy family home to an alien, decrepit London flat, starting afresh and musing on what happens when women don’t submit to society’s expectations of being a good (whatever that means) wife and mother. There’s no neatly tied-up plot, in fact nothing much really happens but it’s elegiac, elegant and the most beautiful writing you’ll read this month.
I’m also loving….
If you missed Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng when it came out in hardback last year, do grab the new paperback edition. You know you’re on to a winner when it’s been snapped up by Reese Witherspoon (her Instagram book club is brilliant) for a TV adaptation (see also: Big Little Lies). Set in a 1990s Desperate Housewives-style white picket fence suburb, it starts with a nice middle class family’s house burning down and just gets hotter from there. Cool down afterwards with a splash in The Lido, Libby Page’s buzz debut novel about how a South London community come together to save their outdoor pool – or plunge into a very different South London neighbourhood in Our House by thriller queen Louise Candlish. This one starts with a compelling premise – Fiona arrives home to her well-heeled street to discover another family are moving in… to her house. That she hasn’t sold.
In non-fiction news, I’ve been turning Japanese this month, courtesy of Japonisme by Erin Niimi Longhurst. This sleek little book delves into Far Eastern rituals and traditions, such as the shinrinyoku (forest bathing), tea ceremonies and calligraphy, and explores how they can make for a happier, calmer mind. On a more rambunctious tip comes Pixie Turner’s The Wellness Rebel. With a mission to “sort nutrition fact from fiction”, the straight-talking biochemist and food blogger has “nutribollocks” fads such as clean eating and superfoods in her sights, offering up 70 recipes along the way in this eminently sensible guide to eating healthily. And while we’re on that theme, Diana Henry is a fabulous veteran food writer and purveyor of gorgeous, clever cookbooks. Her latest, How To Eat A Peach, focuses on the art of menu planning. She pin-balls across seasons, cuisines, countries and foodie memories, sharing a series of autobiographical vignettes. It even has a tactile, fuzzy jacket like a peach skin. Delicious.
Words: Kerry Potter