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Read these this summer

Page-turning escapism coming right up. Staycaying, Euro jaunt or chilling at home, here's what you should be reading this summer.

Navigating your way through Summer 2020 is tricky. Whether you’re staycaying, jetting off or sunbathing in your back garden, choosing new literature to read from your lounger is one of life’s small pleasures. I like to cover all bases, so include books I missed earlier in the year alongside shiny new ones; established authors and debut writers. Fortunately, the lovely peeps at Cookham’s brilliant indie The Little Bookshop have poured over their shelves to deliver 11 of the best – plus a few bonus books to the kids quiet or a few hours.

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield

Rodham by Curtis Sittenfield book cover

Smart, diligent, and a bit plain. Then Hillary goes to college, and her star rises. At Yale Law School, she continues to be a leader and catches the eye of driven, handsome and charismatic Bill. But when he asks her to marry him, Hillary gives him a firm ‘No’. How might things have turned out for them, America and the world, if Hillary Rodham had really turned down Bill Clinton? With her sharp but compassionate eye, Sittenfeld explores the loneliness, moral ambivalence and iron determination that characterise the quest for high office, as well as the painful compromises demanded of female ambition in a world ruled by men. 

Queen Bee by Jane Fallon

Welcome to The Close, a street of mansions, where Stella is Queen Bee… It is here that Laura, seeking time out after her marriage falls apart, rents a tiny studio. Unfortunately, her arrival upsets Stella who fears Laura has designs on her fiancé, Al. When Laura stumbles on the big secret Al’s hiding, Stella’s perfectly controlled world, and Laura’s future, are threatened. Taking a chance on beating Al at his own twisted game, these two strangers are fast becoming friends. But has Laura forgotten that revenge comes with a sting in the tail?

Sisters, by Michelle Frances

Abby and Ellie were never close as kids. Now in their 30s, they each harbour deep-rooted resentment for the other. Abby for her sister’s beauty and status as Mum’s favourite and Ellie’s chewed up with envy over Abby’s perfect husband and picture perfect home – an Italian villa on the island of Elba (we’re pretty envious too). When Abby invites Ellie to stay, both sisters it as a chance to relax and put aside their differences. But with their mum there too, all the simmering tensions bubble to the surface. And Ellie suspects Abby and their mother are keeping a dangerous secret…

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves a badly-paid job in Hong Kong teaching English grammar to rich kids. Then there’s Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room. And then there’s Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks – money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections. Exciting times ensue.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at 16, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past.
Brit Bennett produces a story that is looks well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations.

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

The Caseys are a glam family. Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together. They’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie – who has the most money – insists on it. But scratch the surface and conditions are murkier. While some people clash, others like each other too much… Everything stays under control until Ed’s wife Cara gets concussion and can’t stop spilling secrets. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, and the everything starts to unravel, leaving all the adults wondering if it’s time to finally grow up?

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce

It’s 1950. In a devastating moment of clarity, Margery Benson abandons her dead-end job and advertises for an assistant to accompany her on an expedition. This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story but it is also about what it means to be a woman and a tender exploration of a friendship that defies all boundaries.

Summer by Ali Smith

The unmissable finale to Ali Smith’s dazzling literary tour de force: the Seasonal quartet concludes in 2020 with Summer. In the present, Sacha knows the world’s in trouble. Her brother Robert just is trouble. Their mother and father are having trouble.This is a story about people on the brink of change. They’re family, but they think they’re strangers. So: where does family begin? And what do people who think they’ve got nothing in common have in common? Summer.

A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020. One of The Guardian‘s and Times Literary Supplement‘s Best Books of 2019’ In A Thousand Ships, broadcaster and classicist Natalie Haynes retells the story of the Trojan War from an all-female perspective, for fans of Madeline Miller and Pat Barker. This was never the story of one woman, or two. It was the story of them all.

The Lying Room by Nicci French

Neve Connolly looks down at a murdered man. She doesn’t call the police. ‘You know, it’s funny,’ Detective Inspector Hitching said, ‘Whoever I see, they keep saying, talk to Neve Connolly, she’ll know. She’s the one people talk to. She’s the one people confide in.’ A trusted colleague and friend. A mother. A wife. Neve Connolly is all these things. She has also made mistakes. One that is now spiralling out of control. Bringing those around her into immense danger. A liar. A cheat. A threat. Neve Connolly is all these things.
Could she be a murderer?

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

Women Don’t Owe You Pretty is the ultimate book for anyone who wants to challenge the out-dated narratives supplied to us by the patriarchy. Through Florence’s story you will learn how to protect your energy, discover that you are the love of your own life, and realise that today is a wonderful day to dump them. Florence Given is here to remind you that you owe men nothing, least of all pretty. WARNING: Contains explicit content (and loads of uncomfortable truths). 

KEEP THE KIDS QUIET…

Collage of three children's books

Polish your parental halo and get your kids stuck into a sensational summer read. First up, The Unadoptables by Hana Tooke, is a funny and absurd adventure story about the power of friendship (ages 8-13). Or perhaps page-turnerWild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley – a beautifully written time slip story about a boy who runs away and ancient forest on the edge of town. And finally, a sun-drenched coming-of-age story, The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff. At first, you think it’s going to be a quintessential holiday romance, but it’s so much more.

Browse the bookshelves at The Little Bookshop, 16 High St, Cookham SL6 9SJ. Alternatively, call (01628 520434or email the shop for collection or home delivery.

For more cultural exploits, sashay this way for Muddy recommended film, TV and theatre.

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