40 LGBTQIA+ books to read this Pride Month and every month

It's Pride Month (hurrah) and whilst it is wonderful that this month we shine a light on, and celebrate, all things LGBTQIA+, here at LoveReading we celebrate diversity all year round.

Our Diverse Voices section celebrates a wide range of inclusive narratives. It's about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin. As a team, we read widely and make sure that we offer intersectional representation in our book recommendations.

This collection of books below features queer characters and shows us that our literary worlds can be as wonderfully diverse as the one we live in.

All of us deserve to see ourselves reflected in the pages of a great book. We've got something for everyone here so dive in and enjoy and let us know which are your faves.

In addition, on our sister website LoveReading4Kids, we have gathered together a collection of books which inspire and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, raise awareness and educate society. There we take you on a journey from picture books that reflect LGBTQIA+ family life to YA novels and non-fiction titles that explore sexuality, gender issues and romance. Take a look at the collection

If there's a book that you've enjoyed and you believe should be on this list, let us know in the comments below!

Young Mungo

Young Mungo

Author: Douglas Stuart Format: Hardback Release Date: 14/04/2022

Powerful, thought-provoking, and stunningly eloquent, this remarkable novel will be one of my books of the year. Two young men meet, under normal circumstances they would battle on different sides of the Glaswegian Catholic and Protestant divide, instead they fall in love. Although no date is given, this potentially takes place in the 90’s. Two different time frames slip into and through each other, with the past rushing to meet the present. Gangs of words squared up, pushing and shoving their way into my thoughts. While the focus remains on the main character Mungo, Booker prizewinner Douglas Stuart doesn’t skim the surface of the other characters, he took me deep down into who they truly were. Mungo will remain a part of me, he feels entirely real, and I lived every exquisitely written second alongside him. This travels into extremely dark places, and yet it’s full of love too. Family obligations, abuse, self-worth, violence, religion, toxic relationships, the struggle of being different, the purity of first love all swirl together, creating a darkly addictive pull that on occasion threatens to overwhelm. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, Young Mungo is a swaggeringly beautiful novel that I recommend, heart and soul.

Star Books
Double Booked

Double Booked

Author: Lily Lindon Format: Hardback Release Date: 09/06/2022

Of the many books birthed in the pandemic, Lily Lindon’s Double Booked is perhaps one of the funniest. Dubbed a queer romcom, the book is also a coming-of-age story for those who’ve outgrown their teens and are well on the way to adulthood. It makes Double Booked a refreshing take on self-discovery, a subject normally the preserve of the very young. We follow Gina as she takes on another self, George, in an attempt to live two different lives. Alongside the funnies is plenty of fizz. There’s an infectious energy to Lindon’s writing and every pages brims with real-life chat/goss/angst/love. As an editor working in publishing and someone who honed her comedic chops at Cambridge’s famous Footlights, the author is somewhat ‘double booking’ herself – and it’s paid off wonderfully. The LoveReading LitFest invited Lily Lindon to the festival to talk about Double Booked. The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival. What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member.

Debut Books of the Month
Vera Kelly Is Not A Mystery

Vera Kelly Is Not A Mystery

Author: Rosalie Knecht Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/04/2021

A wonderfully engaging blended mix of spy turned PI novel set in the USA during the 1960’s. When ex CIA spy Vera’s girlfriend leaves her and on the same day she is sacked, Vera decides to turn private investigator. Her first case involves a lost child and a Caribbean Island under authoritarian rule. I haven’t read the first in the series Who is Vera Kelly, yet felt incredibly comfortable stepping midway into the story. Though I have to say that the various mentions of the first book where she was stranded in Argentina during a coup, ensured I wanted to go back and meet her at the start. Vera is very much the star of this story, she survives on instinct and smarts, her vulnerabilities adding an edge. Rosalie Knecht creates a beautifully balanced story, with go-getter Vera marching through the interesting plot and her life during a time of political upheaval and action for LGBTQ rights. The ending arrived at unexpected speed, leaving me wanting to know more about this private investigator. Vera Kelly is Not a Mystery is a short, smart, rewarding detective novel with real heart.

eBooks of the Month
The Lion Tamer Who Lost

The Lion Tamer Who Lost

Author: Louise Beech Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/09/2018

An absolute wow of a relationship tale, gloriously beautiful yet it may well have broken my heart. Ben travels to Africa and volunteers at a lion reserve, as we remain with him in the present, we also look back to his past, where he meets Andrew, who keeps a Wish Box. When Louise writes it feels touchable, even if I have not experienced the emotions she describes I can feel them deep inside me. I remained in every moment, moving with the words, the feelings, knowing I was heading into unchartered territory, yet unable to pause, to stop reading. Another story heads each chapter, linking Ben and Andrew, yet creating a separate connection. As I neared the ending, I will admit to sobbing, the story hit me low in my stomach, unexpected, yet as true and real and felt as could be. Louise Beech has done it again, this will most definitely be on my list of favourite reads of the year. The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a relationship tale with a difference, it is tender, gripping, eloquent, and I want to shout about it from the rooftops.

Star Books
The Black Flamingo

The Black Flamingo

Author: Dean Atta Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/08/2019

Uplifting and dazzlingly unique, this coming-of-age treasure explores identity and sexuality with an emboldening message to remember that “you have the right to be you”. As a young Barbie-loving boy, mixed race Michael wonders if he’s “only half” of everything, to which his mother poignantly replies: “Don’t let anyone tell you/that you are half-black/and half-white. Half-Cypriot/ and half-Jamaican./ You are a full human being.” But he doesn’t feel like a whole human being. Dubbed a “queerdo and weirdo” by bullies and subjected to “batty bwoy” taunts through his teenage years, he leaves London for Brighton University with hope in his heart. But even here Michael feels “like Goldilocks; trying to find a group of people/the perfect fit for me”. He doesn’t feel black enough for the Caribbean Society, or Greek enough for Hellenic Society, or queer enough for the LBGT Society. Then Michael finally finds a fit at Drag Society where he becomes The Black Flamingo, “someone fabulous, wild and strong. With or without a costume on.” Michael’s journey is complex, moving and told with a raw vitality that makes the soul soar and the heart sing, with Anshika Khullar’s magnificent illustrations and the smart design adding further depth, prompting the reader to pause for thought as his story requires.

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Author: Emily Austin Format: Ebook Release Date: 08/07/2021

Meet Gilda. She cannot stop thinking about death. Desperate for relief from her anxious mind and alienated from her repressive family, she responds to a flyer for free therapy at a local church and finds herself abruptly hired to replace the deceased receptionist Grace. It's not the most obvious job - she's queer and an atheist for starters - and so in between trying to learn mass, hiding her new maybe-girlfriend and conducting an amateur investigation into Grace's death, Gilda must avoid revealing the truth of her mortifying existence. A blend of warmth, deadpan humour, and pitch-perfect observations about the human condition, Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead is a crackling exploration of what it takes to stay afloat in a world where your expiration - and the expiration of those you love - is the only certainty.

eBooks of the Month
This Monk Wears Heels Be Who You Are

This Monk Wears Heels Be Who You Are

Author: Kodo Nishimura Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/02/2022

This inspirational book is a beautifully presented, beautifully written, heartfelt and emotional insight into Kodo's journey and is "for anyone who has ever struggled to be honest with their heart".  Kodo Nishimura is a Buddhist monk, a makeup artist and a member of the LGBTQ+ community, proudly and openly since he was 26. Having grown up in a Tokyo temple where his father was a priest with an expectation that one day he would take over the family business, he spent half of his life "at the bottom of a colourless pit." Watching back a video of when he was younger performing dance routines he realised he loved himself much more back then: "where had the little me gone?" Expectations around behaviour, gender roles, and the challenges of high school meant he never found a friend or teacher who truly knew him. Misery fuelled his desire to get away, and his love of American culture drove him to the US to study. At 24 Kodo returned to Japan to start his training to become a monk and decided to come out to his mum and dad, and for the first time in his life the "invisible spider web" hanging over his head disappeared, it was "like jumping into a pool of peach soda, I could see the stars." Kodo has learned various lessons to inspire others on their journey complemented by insights from ancient Buddhist teachings. With relatable advice, tangible actions, and ideas based in Buddhist scripture, this will make you see everything in a different light, a colourful, bright light of awakening. With passages from Buddhist scriptures including the Amida Sutra, a sacred Buddhist text, Kodo reminds us that each flower shines with its own colour and is uniquely beautiful. He highlights the similarities between Buddhism and makeup - and how his role is to bring out and protect each person's special colours and help them truly shine. And that he does.  

Queer Life. Queer Love

Queer Life. Queer Love

Author: Golnoosh Nour, Matt Bates, Sarah Beal, Kate Beal Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/11/2021

Edited by Kate and Sarah Beal, the industry innovators behind Muswell Press, writer and poet Golnoosh Nour, and editor Matt Bates, who curates the publisher’s LGBTQI+ list, Queer Life, Queer Love is the glorious result of a global call-out for original submissions. Keen to not only push "the boundaries of gender and sexuality, but also the boundaries of literature itself," no constraints were set on the form submissions might take. And the result is a triumph - a showcase of variously stirring, subversive, intoxicating and moving poetry and prose, short stories and narrative non­-fiction that delivers the anthology’s desire to “honour a young, lost, queer life”, “to create more space to encourage and salute the diversity of queer writing, and to celebrate the richness of queer life experience”.  Among the anthology’s engaging non-fiction offerings we have Jonathan Kemp’s piece on identity and the early 1990s re-appropriation of the word “queer” as a “critical and disruptive force rather than a stinging insult”. Then there’s Sal Harris’ beautifully inventive writing on transition - its meaning, its reasons, its magic - and Katlego Kai Kolanyane-Kesupile’s punch-packing piece on being a Black transgender woman. The fiction and poetry is every bit as dazzling and varied, too - a striking, shifting kaleidoscope of lived experiences and wisdom that speaks to the soul. Brilliantly curated, the dynamic, diverse writings in Queer Life, Queer Love will have readers in their thrall.

Books of the Month
Cinderella Is Dead

Cinderella Is Dead

Author: Kalynn Bayron Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2020

In this rip-roaringly feminist re-imagining of Cinderella, our justice-seeking heroine, Sophia, seeks a princess rather than a prince, and bodice-ripping is done in the name of shedding the shackles of patriarchy. Giddily entertaining, and spiced with dagger-sharp dialogue and romantic attraction, one message beams bright through Sophia’s story - “do not be silent. Raise your voice. Be a light in the dark.” Though 200 years have passed since Cinderella’s time, a twisted version of her legacy lives on in Lille, where the present-day Prince Charming, King Manford, has decreed that girls must recite the fairy tale daily and, at the age of sixteen, they will be sent to the palace to be chosen by a man at a grand ball. Attending the ball is law, and, in the words of Erin, Sophia’s best friend and lover, “It is our only hope for making some kind of life”, for those not chosen are doomed to an even worse existence than being married off.  As Sophia’s father admits, “I’d rather see you unhappy than imprisoned or killed.” Such is the impossible situation. So, Sophia goes to the ball, still hoping to escape with Erin, still burning with anger that the “founding tenet of our laws is that women, no matter their standing, are at the mercy of the fickle whims of men.”  At the grandiose selection event, girls are put on show for the male suitors, some of them old enough to be Sophia’s grandfather, “but that doesn’t stop them from shamelessly ogling the young girls.” As shocking events unfold here, she flees and finds a sisterly comrade in flame-haired Constance, who also sets her heart alight. As the feminist fugitives go on the run, Constance reveals truths about Cinderella’s real story - a story that was suppressed and twisted into patriarchal propaganda by men in power. And so they embark on a quest to find the White Wood, the last known location of the original fairy godmother, who might just hold the key to further truths that will help Sophia rouse revolution.  What an inventive, entertaining and flamboyantly feminist treat this is.

Debut Books of the Month
The Circus Infinite

The Circus Infinite

Author: Khan Wong Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/03/2022

Taking the notion of running away to the circus to ingenious levels, Khan Wong’s The Circus Infinite soars with whip-smart storytelling skills and inventive ideas. Part political drama, part exploration of social dynamics, part out-there space story, this kaleidoscopic adventure showcases fantasy at its most powerfully allegorical. Jes is an asexual mixed-species fugitive on the run from The Institute that wants to analyse his gravitational powers. As a result, he takes himself off to The Circus Infinite on a pleasure moon, where he finds love and a new family and sense of togetherness with a band of alien acrobats, while deploying his own unique talents in an act. But it’s not long before a crime lord blackmails Jes into undertaking terrible tasks that utilise his skills, including torture. When the gangster lines up the circus to take the blame for a drugs deal, the community rallies round. With a fabulously painted world, lively writing, and sizzlingly imaginative story, The Circus Infinite is a coming of age charmer.

Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS

Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS

Author: Derek Frost Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/04/2021

Written with compassion and honesty, and suffused in a spirit of generosity and reaching out in the face of the devastating AIDS pandemic, Derek Frost’s Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS is ablaze with love and hope. With all proceeds being donated to the globally transformative Aids Ark charity the author co-founded with his husband, this memoir will change lives in multiple ways. “We do not choose to fall in love. There is no choice. Love finds us. Through love we find home in each other. That’s love. Love gifts you with unbelievable certainty. There can be few greater gifts than to find oneself truly loved”. So states Frost near the beginning of his powerful memoir, and love underpins everything that follows. After sharing his experience of growing up gay in the sixties, and coming out to his supportive parents, Frost recounts how he and his lifelong partner, here referred to as J, met and founded the legendary Heaven dance club. The couple travel together, fall in love, and fall in love with Key West where, in 1981, they “experience what must be one of the fullest expressions of gay liberation”. However, it’s here in this “perfect paradise” that a “hellish demon insidiously invades our lives”. A demon in the form of rumours around a “gay cancer” that turns out to be AIDS, and kills many of their friends. When J is diagnosed as HIV Positive in 1991, he’s essentially handed a death sentence: “What we feel is disbelief; a deep heavy sadness; a sense that all colour will drain away; that light will be extinguished and all will become dark”. But the couple tackle this shattering news with courage, fight and love, and they found Aids Ark, a charity dedicated to providing people in developing countries with life-saving anti-retroviral treatments. Charting a global health crisis through a stirringly personal account, Living and Loving in the Age of AIDS is consummately compelling.

Razorblade Tears

Razorblade Tears

Author: S. A. Cosby Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/05/2022

Hitting with hammer hard precision, thrilling storytelling is balanced with pointed social commentary in this fabulous novel set in the USA. Two fathers, both ex-cons, seek revenge for the murder of their sons. One of my favourite books from last year was S. A. Cosby’s debut Blacktop Wasteland which I read for the Crime Writers’ Association Gold Dagger Award judging, it spoke to us all and was a highly commended shortlisted title. So I came to this, his second book, with a huge sense of anticipation. The writing style is passionately and fiercely bold yet holds moments of quiet gentleness and real compassion. The characters rumble with authenticity and charged with emotion, I could see, hear, touch them. Delivering an all-consuming blast of violence, raw grief, and blistering regret, I was taken to an unknown place which made me feel the social issues on offer. The plot screams, really screams at the top of its voice as it races along and as with his first book I was left feeling stunned and emotionally drained after I had finished. This is a writer who is able to touch hearts and minds, all while offering an immensely entertaining read. Razorblade Tears is a provocative, powerful, beautiful novel that is both a LoveReading Star Book, and a Liz Pick of the Month.

Star Books
The Final Strife

The Final Strife

Author: Saara El-Arifi Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/06/2022

A debut that sings, in fact roars with strong vibrant themes, beautiful storytelling, and fabulous characters. Three women sit centre stage as the trials begin to find the next rulers of the Empire, each has different coloured blood and were born to very different roles. This is the first in the The Final Strife series, and Author Saara El-Arifi has created the most compelling world with roots in Ghanian folklore and Arabian myths. A vivid energy crackles into life from the start. The sense of place is immense, I saw, I felt, I believed. The three very different young women who lead in the story, in such different ways, have fascinating characters. The story flows through some thought-provoking topics, from oppression and rebellion through to drug addiction. Love can be found in its many guises including friendship as well as romance. While tyranny rules, this in an inclusive land in terms of relationships and diversity. I would say this is definitely not for younger teens due to content, but is suitable for those heading towards their twenties as well as adults. This first book sets up the continuing story rather wonderfully and I can’t wait to see where we head next. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, The Final Strife, so very clever, bold and provocative has set aflame a new world that promises much, highly recommended.

Star Books
Love and Other Thought Experiments

Love and Other Thought Experiments

Author: Sophie Ward Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/08/2020

Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2020 Rachel and Eliza are planning their future together. One night in bed Rachel wakes up terrified and tells Eliza that an ant has crawled into her eye and is stuck there. Rachel is certain; Eliza, a scientist, is sceptical. Suddenly their entire relationship is called into question. What follows is a uniquely imaginitive sequence of interlinked stories ranging across time, place and perspective to form a sparkling philosophical tale of love, lost and found across the universe.

Wild and Wicked Things

Wild and Wicked Things

Author: Francesca May Format: Hardback Release Date: 31/03/2022

Darkly suggestive and consuming, this historical fantasy novel offers a nod to The Great Gatsby. Annie Mason finds herself in an unknown world of blood magic and murder when she investigates her inheritance. This is set just after the First World War, where witchcraft, which had a huge influence in the war, has been all but banned. At the beginning I wondered if I had entered a realm already formed as I found myself hesitating and searching for information that wasn’t immediately available. However, I soon settled in and immersed myself in the stormy and decadent atmosphere, where the urge to live as large a life as possible after the effects of the war hits hard. The plot bubbled along in the background as the characters took centre stage. While Annie and Emmeline throbbed with energy as they explored their feelings for each other, the secondly characters added real depth and flavour before pulling the story together. Author Francesca May successfully evokes the excess of the time, and also balances the abuse, dark magic, and violence that can be found in the story with the innocence of Annie, love and friendship. Chosen as a Liz Pick of the Month, Wild and Wicked Things successfully steals into thoughts and thoroughly provokes feelings.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Falling in Love Montage

The Falling in Love Montage

Author: Ciara Smyth Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/06/2020

Falling in love, riding out change, figuring out what you want to do with your life – Ciara Smyth’s pitch perfect debut simmers with romance and deep-rooted dilemmas, delivered through witty dialogue and affecting emotional detail.   Seventeen-year-old Saoirse (pronounced ‘Seer-sha’- be sure to get it right) is on the cusp of crossing the Irish Sea to read history at Oxford. Except she’s not sure she wants to go. She has more than enough on her plate dealing with her dad’s remarriage, getting over breaking-up with her girlfriend, and coming to terms with her mum’s debilitating illness. She just wants to spend her summer watching horror movies and kissing girls – no strings attached. To that end, Saoirse goes to a mate’s end-of-exams party and gets it on with his cousin Ruby. Irresistibly drawn to Ruby’s good looks and good heart, Saoirse accepts her challenge to embark on a summer romance with all the serious bits left out, in finest romcom tradition. But, as Ruby sagely points out, “the thing about the falling in love montage…is that when it’s over, the characters have fallen in love”.   Super smart and funny (“If you are a girl inclined to deface school property, may I suggest the classic penis and balls, as you will avoid suspicion due to stereotyping”), Saoirse is lead fans of contemporary YA will love and root for - flaws and all - and her journey is a thoroughly entertaining, thought-provoking rollercoaster ride.

Debut Books of the Month
The Gravity of Us

The Gravity of Us

Author: Phil Stamper Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/05/2020

At seventeen, Brooklyn hipster Cal is a successful social media journalist accustomed to living in the public eye, with a whopping 435,000 followers on the FlashFame app. But even Cal isn’t ready for the unforgiving media storm he’s thrust into when his pilot dad is shortlisted for NASA’s Orpheus mission to Mars. Initially dead against leaving Brooklyn, Cal begins to wonder whether “maybe Clear Lake, Texas, has a story out there just waiting for me to uncover.” And then there’s handsome Leon, one of the other “Astrokids”, who’s set his heart pounding before they’ve even met.   On arrival, and immediately thrust into the spotlight by StarWatch reality TV show, Cal finds himself “admitting I like our new home, even this town”, which in turn “feels like I’m abandoning my old life.” Maybe this is down to his contradictory nature - Cal is anything but a straightforward teenager. He doesn’t think like one. He doesn’t speak like one. Indeed, his thought processes and dialogue can seem out of kilter with his age. He needs everything just-so, but at the same acts impulsively. For example, he can’t stop himself from broadcasting news about his dad to his followers, which - as predicted - results in him facing the wrath of StarWatch.    Cal’s settling-in has a lot to do with his rollercoaster romance with Leon. It’s starts out with the thrust of a rocket launch (“This crush is strong. This crush is too powerful. This crush will be the end of me”), and then comes a crash to earth alongside tragedy striking the mission. In the aftermath of this, Cal finds himself working to expose Starwatch’s agenda, both to clear his name and save the mission, and the truths revealed sure ain’t pretty.    Covering mental health issues (via Leon’s depression and Cal’s mom’s anxiety) alongside a whirlwind coming-of-age gay love story, The Gravity of Us is an entertaining YA debut that gives many underrepresented folk a chance to see themselves on the page, with the added kick of space exploration and media ruthlessness.

Debut Books of the Month
The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

Author: Sara Collins Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2019

The Old Bailey, 1826 and Frannie Langton stands in court accused of the brutal murder of her former master and mistress. But “there was love between me and her”, she tells the court as she relates her story from 1812, when she worked at Paradise plantation, Jamaica. With the skills of reading and writing “packed inside” her, “dangerous as gunpowder”, Frannie is taken to London and sent to work for a man named George Benham. His wife, the beautiful, eccentric Madame Marguerite Benham “stirred a feeling of wanting” in Frannie, and she becomes Madame’s lady’s maid and secretary - and more. But theirs is a complex, volatile relationship. “The truth is there was love as well as hate,” Frannie acknowledges. “The truth is, the love hurt worse”. Speaking at her trial, during which she recounts the inhumane racial experimentation undertaken by the master of Paradise, Frannie asks, “Sirs, I wonder...in the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more than you’ve been right?” She also questions the privileges and entitlements of gender: “how confident a man must be to write down his musings, expecting anybody else to be interested in reading them”.  Ablaze with drama, detail, tension and wit, and wise on the nature of agency and freedom, this comes highly recommended for fans of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Sarah Waters.  According to Frannie, “A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head”. By her definition, this novel is both these things - as potent as a poem, as addictive as a long, warm drink. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for The Confessions of Frannie Langton. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Star Books
Patsy

Patsy

Author: Nicole Dennis-Benn Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/07/2019

As impactful as the author’s Montego Bay-set debut (Here Comes the Sun), this stirring novel sees Patsy fulfill her dream of leaving Jamaica (and Tru, her five-year-old daughter), to join Cicely, her best friend and secret lover, in Brooklyn. But when Patsy reaches her land of milk and honey a chasm gapes between her expectations and the actualities of being an undocumented immigrant: “The job that she had at the Ministry in Kingston was by far a more dignified job than cleaning houses, than wiping the assess of other people’s children, walking a dog and picking up shit.” And Cicely doesn’t live up to expectations, either. “Yuh don’t have to keep up di act wid me,” Patsy says to her friend, whose situation is less than the idyll she’d painted for Patsy. Meanwhile, with the passing of a decade, Tru is becoming her own young woman, defying convention by playing football with boys, and binding her breasts to keep them hidden. Across the ocean, and down the years, mother and daughter have more in common than either might imagine. Traversing generations and cultures, exposing white privilege and homophobia, exploring sexuality, the pressures of motherhood and the raw struggles of womanhood, Patsy’s plight of fleeing one cage for another, her search for peace and passion, makes for a profoundly stirring and highly readable novel. Read our 'Book-aneers of the Caribbean' listicle to find more unforgettable books by Caribbean writers. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Star Books
Proud

Proud

Author: Various, Juno Dawson Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/03/2019

Compiled by YA author and broadcaster Juno Dawson, this inspiring anthology of illustrated short stories by LGBTQ+ writers shines a light on a kaleidoscopic array of experiences through an equally kaleidoscopic breadth of genres, themes and styles.  From Chinese lesbian fairytale The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So, to Simon James Green’s hilarious, heart-warming Penguins (who would’ve thought a pair of penguins could steal a person’s coming out thunder?!), this is a powerfully diverse collection. Alongside more established names, among them authors David Levithan and Jess Vallance, and illustrator David Roberts, special mention must go to the four new voices whose stories grace these pages – be sure to seek out what Karen Lawler, Michael Lee Richardson, Cynthia So and Kay Staples do next. These are stories of struggle and trouble, passion and promise, with much wit, warmth, wisdom and support shared along the way. And so it seems fitting to leave the last loud, proud, celebratory words to Dan from David Levithan’s queer youth choir story: “You hold your ground. You sing out loud and proud in defiance of all the people who want you to be quiet”.

Watch Us Rise

Watch Us Rise

Author: Renee Watson, Ellen Hagan Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/02/2019

Clued-up creative activists Chelsea and Jasmine attend a New York school that’s proud of its progressive approach, with classes and clubs called things like Science for Social Justice and Poets for Peace and Justice. But, while forward-thinking liberalism is supposed to lie at the heart of their school’s ethos, Jasmine and Chelsea are infuriated by its evident neglect of women’s rights: “It feels like everyone outside Amsterdam Heights is taking it seriously, but here, it’s like we think the work is done… But it’s not”. When Chelsea’s drama teacher tries to coax her to develop a stereotypical “sassy and angry” black female character, she’s inspired to set up the Write Like a Girl club with a punch-packing feminist blog that sets off a whole lot of buzz in the school community. Alongside attempts to silence the girls’ powerful voices and direct action, Jasmine faces painful personal loss, but they remain strong, firmly fixed on changing the status quo “from the inside out”. Insightful on gender inequity, and the intersection of gender and race, this comes highly recommended for fans of Angie Thomas. Chelsea and Jasmine’s story is a smart and awe-inspiring call to action, a vital novel with the power to empower a generation of young women, much like co-author Renée Watson’s previous book, Piecing Me Together. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

The Color Purple

The Color Purple

Author: Alice Walker Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/08/2017

Set in the deep American south between the wars, this is the classic tale of Celie, a young poor black girl. Raped repeatedly by her father, she loses two children and then is married off to a man who treats her no better than a slave. She is separated from her sister Nettie and dreams of becoming like the glamorous Shug Avery, a singer and rebellious black woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the support of women that enables her to leave the past behind and begin a new life. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

eBooks of the Month
Middlesex

Middlesex

Author: Jeffrey Eugenides Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/06/2013

February 2012 Guest Editor Joanna Trollope on Jeffrey Eugenides... He produces one amazing book every ten years or so…So over twenty years ago, it was The Virgin Suicides (brilliant) and about ten years ago, Middlesex (even better). He is that rare kind of writer who can make you believe, and make you laugh, and move you, and make you think, without apparently, seeming to do very much. I just love his stuff. I only wish he’d write a bit faster…

eBooks of the Month
Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

Author: Jeanette Winterson Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/09/2014

This is the story of Jeanette, adopted and brought up by her mother as one of God's elect. Zealous and passionate, she seems destined for life as a missionary, but then she falls for one of her converts. At sixteen, Jeanette decides to leave the church, her home and her family for the young woman she loves. Innovative, punchy and tender, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a few days' ride into the bizarre outposts of religious excess and human obsession.

eBooks of the Month
Rainbow Milk

Rainbow Milk

Author: Paul Mendez Format: Hardback Release Date: 17/06/2020

This ground-breaking and fearless debut shows how its young black protagonist tests the limits of sexual freedom. From the Eden of Jamaica to Wolverhampton in the 1950s, a Windrush couple and subsequent generations lament their decision to come to the UK.  By 2002 we meet their grandson Jesse McCarthy, a naive young black man struggling to make a living in London as a rent boy. It's a coming-of-age story that touches on Jesse's journey with sex, with race, with religion and we really do journey with him side by side. It's so wise and so accomplished that it's difficult to believe this is a debut. Paul Mendes is an exciting new voice and one we can't wait to read more of. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

The Outrage

The Outrage

Author: William Hussey Format: Paperback Release Date: 13/05/2021

Gabriel is a natural born rule-breaker. And his biggest crime of all? Being gay. Gabriel knows his sexuality must be kept secret from all but his closest friends, not only to protect himself, but to protect his boyfriend. Because Eric isn't just the boy who has stolen Gabriel's heart. He's the son of the chief inspector at Degenerate Investigations - the man who poses the single biggest threat to Gabriel's life. And the Protectorate are experts at exposing secrets.

Release

Release

Author: Patrick Ness Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/05/2018

***Recommended for 16+ due to content. Book of the Month for May 2018 | Shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2018 |In a Nutshell: love, truth and the power of release | A gripping, soulful novel about a life-changing day, which will surely change the lives of those who read it. "Where on earth had this day come from? And where was it headed?" remarks 17 year-old Adam as a single day unfurls wave after wave of shattering disruption: first a revelation from his brother, next an ultimatum from his foul boss, then a destabilising announcement from his beloved best friend. And alongside Adam's unraveling, there’s the mesmerising narrative of the ghost of a murdered girl who’s risen from a lake in search of release.   Partly modeled on two of the author’s most admired books (Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever), with this remarkable novel Ness once again demonstrates his profound understanding of the complexities of being a young adult, and of the human condition more generally. Adam’s story is pinpricked with truly nerve-touching moments, perhaps most poignantly between him and the overbearing father he fears coming-out to. At one point his dad reveals that he wishes Adam could be honest with him, and then Adam begins to let go. While revealing truths can be excruciatingly painful, doing so might also bring refreshing, life-affirming release. Heartbreaking, intense and acutely honest, this novel casts a subtle spell of hope.

eBooks of the Month
Wranglestone

Wranglestone

Author: Darren Charlton Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2020

Set in a world that’s become “a walking graveyard”, this edge-of-your-seat thriller teems with cinematic chills and the tender love between two teenage boys. Indeed, author Darren Charlton has hit the nail on the head in describing his debut as The Walking Dead meets Brokeback Mountain.   “Clock it. Kill it. Rid the world of it” - this is how encounters with the zombie Restless Ones must be handled, a mantra soon-to-be-sixteen-year-old Peter struggles to follow. Too trusting, and infinitely better with a darning needle than an axe or gun, he’s something of a liability to the community, especially as another winter sets in, for “winter was the one season every Lake Lander feared. Not because Montana was about to get colder than an eagle’s gaze. But because the Dead could make it across the lake’s frozen waters.” When the community comes under serious threat during their annual First Fall party, Peter winds up as zombie bait with his at-one-with-the-wilds boyfriend Connor responsible for wrangling the Restless Ones like a post-apocalyptic cowboy. On the mainland, the young lovers uncover an earth-shattering secret and it’s not long before Connor’s situation is seriously comprised, leading to Peter stepping-up and standing tall. Gripping and graphically gory, this dynamic debut is dystopian horror with a difference, for it pulsates not only with terror and visceral violence, but also with love, affection and emotional atmosphere.

The Mercies

The Mercies

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2021

Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fishermen, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.

Star Books
Floored

Floored

Author: Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt Format: Paperback Release Date: 12/07/2018

In a Nutshell: Seminal seven-authored feast of fate, friendship and growing up This sparky collaborative novel by a glorious gaggle of top YA authors (Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood) centres around six memorable young adults whose paths cross at a TV broadcasting house: “The swot, the fraud, the dutiful daughter, the child star, the fan girl and the asshole”, all strangers who, “for whatever reason...ended up in the same lift at the same time.” Given their wildly different backgrounds, which range from working class Sasha to “asshole” posh boy Hugo, it’s unlikely they’d have met in anything but unusual circumstances. Indeed, their lives become bound together by a life-changing event that happens in the lift and compels them to meet year after year to mark the intense, affecting experience. The narratives are cleverly and seamlessly interwoven, with the same events told from different perspectives: Through recounting each character’s highs and lows, and the complications of their relationships with each other, this novel explores big issues with engaging authenticity - Alzheimer’s, grief, misogyny, shifting sexuality, falling in love, sliding out of love, and true friendship (i.e. the kind that doesn’t judge). Humorous lines are launched from all angles too, a personal favourite being Velvet’s “I look like I’m in bad fancy dress as a greasy-haired teenage version of Theresa May”. As the years pass, all six experience seismic shifts in how they see the world; transformations that start as an “excruciating, unreachable itch” and lead to “the realization that there’s more to life”. Gripping, entertaining and emotionally smart, this has the power to make readers laugh, cry, think and fall in love with YA fiction. ~ Joanne Owen

All the Invisible Things

All the Invisible Things

Author: Orlagh Collins Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/03/2019

This authentic YA page-turner about making sense of the whirlwind that is growing-up fizzes with heart, humanity and honest true-to-life experiences.For the past few years Vetty, her dad and little sister Ariel have been living with her aunt, trying to get themselves back on track after the death of her mum. Now they’re moving home to Camden, Vetty is hopeful that “soon I’ll be back to me”, not least because she’ll be reunited with best-friend-since-childhood Pez. But on her return, things are agonizingly strained between them. “It’s like we’ve skipped from kids to something else but it’s not at all clear which steps we’ve missed”. On top of this painful gulf, Vetty is struggling with her sexuality, trying to make sense of the fact that she’s attracted to boys and girls, while Pez is consumed by a struggle of his own that’s effecting all his relationships. Sexuality, love and friendship are explored in all their giddy complexity as Vetty, Pez and their wider circle of friends try to make sense of the world and their place within it. Every bit as life-affirmingly authentic as the author’s debut, No Filter, this comes thoroughly recommended for fans of Holly Bourne, Sara Barnard and Non Pratt.

Loveless

Loveless

Author: Alice Oseman Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/07/2020

Through the tangled identity struggles of authentic characters you’ll truly care about, Alice Oseman’s Loveless extends an understanding hand to aromantic asexuals (people who experience little-to-no romantic or sexual attraction, also known as aro-ace) while guiding all readers through fears of being alone and dealing with the pressure to hook up. Moreover, it’s a thoroughly entertaining, gripping page-turner that shows finding happiness isn’t dependent on romantic love.   Georgia is desperate to experience her first kiss before she and her two best friends head to Durham University. After being made to feel “weird” and “disgusting” when she confesses to her peers that she’s never kissed anyone, Georgia seizes an opportunity to snog the one and only crush she’s ever had. When this goes spectacularly wrong in a scene that sizzles with tension and scorching comic timing, it hits her that “I hadn’t ever fancied anyone,” that the reality of kissing and romance “disgusts me.” But still she resolves to “try harder. I wanted forever love. I didn’t want to be loveless.”   At Durham, while still struggling to find love, Georgia finds new friends in her outwardly confident, sexually active roommate, and Sunil, president of her college’s LBGTQ society. Sunil’s compassion and personal experiences help her discover who she is, to realise that she’s not alone in not feeling sexual or romantic attraction. Georgia’s journey to discovery is far from smooth, though, with many friendship-threatening, edge-of-your-seat errors made along the way.

Our Own Private Universe

Our Own Private Universe

Author: Robin Talley Format: Paperback Release Date: 09/02/2017

In a Nutshell: Personal awakenings on a transformational summer trip  |  An insightful coming-of-age story about a bisexual teenager’s first experience of love in all its dizzying bliss and complexity. Fifteen-year-old Aki is determined to stop putting things off, and determined to stop living hypothetically: “If I wanted my life to change, then I had to do something. Or at least try.” With that firmly in mind, Aki and best friend Lori make a pact “to have a fling” during their summer trip to Mexico with her dad’s church mission. And that’s where she meets Christa. While Aki’s known that she’s bi for a while, she’d “never known it was possible for a person to look as cute as Christa did”, and the attraction is mutual. But, as the hypothetical starts to get very real and very intense, the young women have some serious complications to deal with, not least the fact that Christa might just have a boyfriend back home, and very strict parents she’s terrified of coming out to. Alongside its elegant portrayal of sexual awakening and safe sex, the novel also explores Aki’s inspirational political stirrings (she oversees a big debate at the summer camp, and becomes passionate about health care issues). As Aki remarks near the end of the tale, “I could do anything. All of us could. We were only as limited as we let ourselves be”, which is a rather wonderful message of hope to come away with. ~ Joanne Owen

eBooks of the Month
Fall Out

Fall Out

Author: C. G. Moore Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/06/2020

Telling the affecting story of sixteen-year-old Cal’s battles with homophobic bullies, family upheavals, mental health and heartbreak, this hard-hitting page-turner pulls no punches from the opening coming-out scene that results in Cal’s mum needing medical attention and an almighty clash with his dad. Reeling from strife at home and school, along with a series of ill-advised one-night stands, Cal’s life seems to take an upward turn when he falls for handsome, wealthy Matt. But since the course of passion and romance rarely runs smooth, thank goodness Cal’s best friend Em and her joyous Scotch-drinking, straight-talking nan are there when he needs them.   Exploring themes of homophobia, self-harm, complex family dynamics, friendship, and intergenerational bonds with clarity and sensitivity, Fall Out is underpinned by a warm message of hope and the possibilities of starting afresh. As Cal says, “You can’t pave over the faults; you can’t wash away the past but sometimes, when you make mistakes, you get a second chance.”

Debut Books of the Month
Giovanni's Room

Giovanni's Room

Author: James Baldwin Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2007

First published in 1956 and recounting a tormented love affair in Paris between the American narrator, David, and Giovanni, an Italian bartender, this is a classic of gay literature. Unable to repress their impulses, they are tortured by their sexual identity and it's just such a raw, heart-breaking read because of it. Beautifully written by Baldwin, the sense of shame and despair eeks out of every page and whilst it's a harrowing read at times, it's an important read and ultimately a hopeful one. Highly recommended. Included in our '35 LGBTQ books to read this Pride Month and every month' Collection.

Rubyfruit Jungle

Rubyfruit Jungle

Author: Rita May Brown Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/07/2015

A classic coming-of-age story as Molly Bolt realises she'll have to be tough to survive 1950 America and stay true to herself. Molly Bolt is a young lady with a big character. Beautiful, funny and bright, Molly is a force to be reckoned with; in her dealings with boyfriends and girlfriends, in the rocky relationship with her mother and in her determination to pursue her career, she will fight for her right to happiness. Charming, proud and inspiring, Molly is the girl who refuses to be put in a box. The inspiration for Rita from Educating Rita this novel by Rita Mae Brown confronts prejudice and injustice with power and humanity. Molly is an exuberant character that lives life with gusto - and you can't help but love her, laugh with her and cry with her.  Included in our '35 LGBTQ books to read this Pride Month and every month' collection.

Maurice

Maurice

Author: E. M. Forster Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/07/2005

Published posthumously in 1971, this novel remains one of the great queer romances to this day. Forster understood that his homage to same-sex love, if published when he completed it in 1914, would probably end his career. Thus, Maurice languished in a drawer for fifty-seven years, the author requesting it be published only after his death. Set in early 1910s England, the Maurice tells the story of Maurice Hall and his best friend Clive, and the life they attempt to build together in London, which is ultimately destroyed by societal conventions. As Maurice makes his way through a traditional English education, he projects an outer confidence that masks troubling questions about his own identity. Frustrated and unfulfilled, a product of the bourgeoisie he will grow to despise, he has difficulty acknowledging his nascent attraction to men. At Cambridge he meets Clive, who opens his eyes to a less conventional view of the nature of love. Yet when Maurice is confronted by the societal pressures of life beyond university, self-doubt and heartbreak threaten his quest for happiness.  A brilliant and beautiful gay classic.   Included in our '35 LGBTQ Books to Read this Pride Month and Every Month' collection.

In at the Deep End

In at the Deep End

Author: Kate Davies Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/07/2019

Until recently, Julia hadn't had sex in three years. But now: a one-night stand is accusing her of breaking his penis; a sexually confident lesbian is making eyes at her over confrontational modern art; and she's wondering whether trimming her pubes makes her a bad feminist. Julia's about to learn that she's been looking for love - and satisfaction - in all the wrong places.... Frank, filthy and very, very funny, In at the Deep End is a brilliant debut from a major new talent. #ImInAtTheDeepEnd

Audiobooks of the Month
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz Format: Paperback Release Date: 14/08/2014

This book has so much to enjoy and characters that will stay with you long after you've finished reading. As two teens work to discover their place in the world, this coming of age story follows Ari and Dante from when they meet at a swimming pool as their friendship changes and strengthens over the years as they work out who they want to be.  Included in our '35 LGBTQ books to read this Pride Month and every month' collection.

Under the Udala Trees

Under the Udala Trees

Author: Chinelo Okparanta Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/01/2017

Included in our '35 LGBTQ books to read this Pride Month and every month' collection.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author: Oscar Wilde Format: Paperback Release Date: 30/01/2003

Included in our '35 LGBTQ books to read this Pride Month and every month' collection.

Detransition, Baby

Detransition, Baby

Author: Torrey Peters Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/01/2021

Reese nearly had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York, a job she didn't hate. She'd scraped together a life previous generations of trans women could only dream of; the only thing missing was a child. Then everything fell apart and three years on Reese is still in self-destruct mode, avoiding her loneliness by sleeping with married men. When her ex calls to ask if she wants to be a mother, Reese finds herself intrigued. After being attacked in the street, Amy de-transitioned to become Ames, changed jobs and, thinking he was infertile, started an affair with his boss Katrina. Now Katrina's pregnant. Could the three of them form an unconventional family - and raise the baby together?

Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide

Sensible Footwear: A Girl's Guide

Author: Kate Charlesworth Format: Paperback Release Date: 11/06/2021

Included in our '35 LGBTQ books to read this Pride Month and every month' collecton.

Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy

Author: David Levithan Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2013

The unforgettable debut novel by co-author with John Green of Will Grayson, Will Grayson. To be together with someone for twenty years seems like an eternity. I can't seem to manage twenty days... How do you stay together? Paul has been gay his whole life and he's confident about almost everything. He doesn't have to hide his feelings like best friend Tony or even cope with loving the wrong guy like his other best friend Joni. But heartbreak can happen to anyone. Falling in love changes everything.

As Far as You'll Take Me

As Far as You'll Take Me

Author: Phil Stamper Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/03/2021

Wearing its heartfelt messages proudly on its sleeve, this coming-of-age nail-biter sees a gay American teenager in London struggle to find the sweet spot between embracing new experiences and self-care. “Being a gay kid with sometimes shitty parents isn’t easy” - so Marty sums up his situation as he moves from his “conservative shithole of a town” in Kentucky to London, hoping to make it as a musician. He arrives giddily excited, on the verge of a new life, but also seized by anxiety when he’s met at the airport by his cousin’s handsome musician mate, Pierce. Marty’s first months in London are a whirlwind of first-time experiences - busking in public, drinking in pubs, going on road-trips, falling head-over-heels in love. But navigating a new life in a new city with debilitating anxiety and overwhelming romantic awakenings sure ain’t easy. Then there’s the crushing disapproval from his religious parents, and toxic trouble courtesy of his best friend back home. Alongside the principle refrains of finding yourself, finding your tribe, and the life-enriching power of music, this theme-focussed novel also tackles toxic friendships, and explores anxiety, homophobia, body image and eating disorders with bold honesty. It’s nothing but direct and driven by empathy and compassion, much like the author’s debut, The Gravity of Us.

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles

Author: Madeline Miller Format: Paperback Release Date: 21/09/2017

A beautiful new limited edition paperback of The Song of Achilles, published as part of the Bloomsbury Modern Classics list. The god touches his finger to the arrow's fletching. Then he breathes, a puff of air - as if to send dandelions flying, to push toy boats over water. And the arrow flies, straight and silent, in a curving, downward arc towards Achilles' back.A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War - a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart. Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012. The Bloomsbury Modern Classic Series Restless by William Boyd Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale The Little Friend by Donna Tartt  

eBooks of the Month
The Binding

The Binding

Author: Bridget Collins Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/12/2019

Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion. 

Audiobooks of the Month
Briefly, A Delicious Life

Briefly, A Delicious Life

Author: Nell Stevens Format: Hardback Release Date: 23/06/2022

A ravishing riff on the real-life relationship between writer George Sand and composer Frédéric Chopin, Nell Stevens’ Briefly, A Delicious Life glows with Mediterranean heat, avant-garde verve, and a yearning that burns. Set in 1838, and narrated by Blanca, the ghost of a witty, whip-smart fourteen-year-old girl who died in a Mallorca monastery in 1473, this character-driven charmer is suffused in beauty, and casts a captivating spell. Frédéric Chopin, George Sand and her children have travelled to a monastery in Mallorca to convalesce and create. Sand is a striking woman in man’s clothes, whose arrival incites a stir on the island as it stirs Blanca’s heart and desires. As the unconventional couple struggle with the villagers’ judgements, and to find creative satisfaction, Blanca recounts her story, her experiences of falling for the beauty of women. And now she’s in love with Sand, who doesn’t know she exists, and cannot reciprocate. This wildly inventive scenario plays out ingeniously — though outlandish, through Blanca’s age-old wisdom and youthful spirit, and through the visual, sensual language, it feels real. We see and sense flurries of birds and leaves. We feel the prickle and heat of flesh and the sun. What a moving, magical, hauntingly memorable story.

The Dance Tree

The Dance Tree

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave Format: Hardback Release Date: 12/05/2022

Inspired by an extraordinary historic phenomena that saw the women of Strasbourg infected with a dancing plague in 1518, Kiran Millwood Hargraves’ The Dance Tree captivates and charms as it lays bare insights into “a mass religious trance instigated by the unique pressures and beliefs of the time”, as the author explains in her afterword. Taking in grief for unborn children, and prejudice against outsiders and same-sex love, it’s a beautifully-written story about individuals seeking safe spaces to be themselves in a hostile, limiting age. Pregnant for the thirteenth time, bee-keeper Lisbet lives outside Strasbourg with her husband and mother-in-law, and the support of her friend Ida. Still grieving for her twelve children who didn’t survive to full-term, Lisbet “loves each lost child though they are not here”, and honours them with the dance tree she’s made in the woods — the tree is adorned with ribbons for each of her losses. Then, against a viscerally-evoked backdrop of searing heat (“the certain descent of Strasbourg into another circle of hell”), Lisbet’s sister-in-law Nethe returns from being exiled to the mountains as punishment for an unknown crime. Under the patriarchal gaze of the Twenty-One who govern the city, a woman driven to a dancing frenzy is joined by dozens more dancers, “loose-haired and wide-eyed”, moaning, radiant and whirling with bloodied feet. The Twenty-One bring in musicians, hoping to “play out the devils”. Two of them board with Lisbet, with Eren the Turkish lute player stirring her in body and soul. As the dance plague intensifies, we learn of women who are punished for loving each other, for their “love as deep and natural as the roots we walk on”. At the same time, Lisbet, Ida and Nethe share secrets and become “bonded tight as roots in earth”, with the dance tree poignantly marking their safe space, anchoring them just as it seems the world is crumbling. By turns fascinating, exhilarating and moving, this beautiful novel dances and whirls to its own distinctive tune, and gives fine voice to characters who will capture readers’ hearts.

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