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40+ Novels That Feature Friendship

Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” Wise words from Mark Twain, and a sentiment we couldn’t agree with more.

Following on from that, given their vital importance in our lives, it’s little wonder that so many magnificent books explore friendship relationships in all their varied, complex forms. Some strangers enter our lives as rays of light we instinctively sense will transform us. In the words of a wonderstruck Winnie the Pooh, “I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.” Such seminal encounters may well result in the kind of lifelong friendship Alice Walker describes in The Way Forward is With a Broken Heart: “How precious it was to be able to know another person over many years. There was an incomparable richness in it”. 

Then there are the best buddies you’d do anything for, and they for you, as adorably explained in Charlotte’s Web: “Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” “You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing”. (Anyone else seem to have a little something in their eye?!). Jane Austen expresses a similar sentiment in Northanger Abbey: “There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends”.

Friends are also the people who truly get us, who remain steadfast when the chips are down, and piece us back together when we break, as beautifully expressed by Maya Angelou in Beloved: “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.

We’ll end with more wise words on the subject, this time from Isabel Allende: “True friendship resists time, distance, and silence”. Given that we haven’t been able to see much of our mates for the past year, this feels especially poignant right now, and full of truths to take heart from. The same can be said of many books in the collection that follows - from uplifting stories of finding solace in a new social circle, to life-affirming accounts of community spirit, to riveting reflections from lifelong friends.

Conversations with Friends

Conversations with Friends

Author: Sally Rooney Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/03/2018

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 A searing, sometimes painful, yet fully rich and fascinating read. 21 year old student Frances, and her ex-girlfriend Bobbi are interviewed by Melissa about their spoken word performances. They are invited to enter Melissa’s world, they meet her actor husband, their friends, join parties, even a holiday, yet as friendships form and blossom, one particular relationship threatens all. Sally Rooney writes with a beautifully observant pen, she sees beneath the skin, testing, sifting through thoughts and feelings. Frances is one of the most intriguing characters I have met, incredibly bright and witty, she places herself on the edge of things, and can be frustrating, vulnerable, yet sharply aware and considered. I found myself analysing my thoughts as this dance of nerves and feelings began to close.  ‘Conversations with Friends’ can be uncomfortable and comforting in equal measures, this isn’t a neatly bound experience, instead it’s complicated, riveting, exciting, and certainly doesn’t end when the final page is turned.

Audiobooks of the Month
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Author: Gail Honeyman Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/01/2018

Shortlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2018 | Category Winner for the Costa Book Awards 2017, First Novel Award |   It is the standard reply when people ask,  “How are you?” ....you say “I’m fine.” Well, Eleanor is most definitely not fine and has not been since she was 10 years old. Shifted from one foster home to another, she does eventually go to university where she ends up in an abusive relationship. On graduation she gets a job in the accounts department of a graphic designer and there she is when we meet her, aged 31 and desperately lonely. Eleanor is on the spectrum with her life overshadowed by some dreadful childhood tragedy which has left her face badly scarred. She keeps her head down at work and spends the weekends with two bottles of vodka. She speaks to her mother on the telephone on a Wednesday and dreads the call. We are uncertain as to whether her mother is in prison or an asylum. Life ticks by until her works’ computer needs attention and enter one geeky IT man. How he and others break down her barriers is beautifully done. Very slowly we learn more about Eleanor and her past. Very slowly a future develops but once the geek (Raymond) arrives the novel is by no means slow. It becomes a page-turning, compulsive read of great charm.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Familiars

The Familiars

Author: Stacey Halls Format: Paperback Release Date: 19/09/2019

A stunningly beautiful, courageous read, one that crosses through time to 1612, when witchcraft allegations went hand in hand with fear, power and corruption. This is a work of fiction based on real people, local residents, Pendle witches and all. Let me tell you about the cover of this book, which really is very gorgeous indeed. The green leaves sooth, with fiery bursts of orange-red and gold, I then noticed the fox, the ring, pendant, feather… and last of all, the noose, which of course once I had seen, reached out and became all I could see. I tell you this, because the cover reminds me of how I felt about the book, mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started gnaw at my awareness. The persecution of the women hammered home while an otherworldly existence lodged itself in my thoughts, and remains there. Deceptively powerful, moving and provocative, Stacey Hall writes with an eloquent pen. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd. 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.

Debut Books of the Month
Girl, Woman, Other

Girl, Woman, Other

Author: Bernardine Evaristo Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/03/2020

This is an astounding novel telling the stories of twelve characters living across the country and through the years.  Each character is vivid as they take centre stage to share their story with us. Whether it's the sassy, argumentative Yazz, or the devastating narratives of Carole and Dominique. This book is filled with humour, culture and passion and I think it is a must-read for everyone. Composed as poetic prose, Bernadine Evaristo's lyricism throughout makes the sections flow, hammers home key points and gives each character their own unique tone. This is a book that will stop you in your tracks as you find out more about the characters but will also stop you reading as you contemplate the beauty in Evaristo's style of writing. "It's a novel about who we are now". Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Audiobooks of the Month
Americanah

Americanah

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/02/2014

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction 2014. Shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction. On the surface this is a love story, a coming-of-age novel and a tale of friendship. But Adichie did not allow her work to be just that. Most of the book, related in seven parts, is from the girl Ifemelu’s point of view but we do get significant bits from the boy Obinze’s side too. So across three countries, Nigeria, the USA and the UK, we get a strong portrait of racism, gender stereotyping, corruption and exploitation. Well written with a fascinating insight into part of the new, vibrant Nigeria, we are given a picture which will both fascinate and annoy readers. As students the two flee Nigertia. Ifemelu to a tough time in America until she eventually finds fame as a writer and Obinze to London and the change of British citizenship curtailed by deportation. Back in Nigeria he becomes wealthy. At the end of this fine book the two have their lives to sort out. March 2014 Book of the Month. 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.

Books of the Month
Queenie

Queenie

Author: Candice Carty-Williams Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2020

A sharp and smart debut novel, containing real heart (both ache and joy). 25 year old Queenie is on a break from her boyfriend, can’t concentrate at work, and is having a hard time balancing her life. Feeling trapped as she moves in with her grandparents, she soon finds her life closing down. Within a few pages I was settled in my chair and didn’t budge as I read this in one wonderfully heady sitting. Popping backwards and forwards in time Candice Carty-Williams opens a doorway into Queenie’s soul. She created a connection for me to reach out and touch and I felt as though I had become a part of Queenie’s life. I was there with her as things went wrong, wanted to reassure, vent, be there to support her. There are parts that tiptoed across my awareness, spiking stray thoughts. Elsewhere is raw and unflinching making my senses burn, before a moment later I was tipped into a sunshiny smile and chortle. While Queenie herself breaks down stereotypes about black women, her friend Cassandra doesn’t do the same with  regards to Jewish stereotypes. Big bad life in all its pain and glory stamps across the page. Queenie is a bold, fiercely provocative and thought-provoking read.

Swing Time

Swing Time

Author: Zadie Smith Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/07/2017

Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

eBooks of the Month
Eggshells

Eggshells

Author: Caitriona Lally Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/09/2018

Vivian is one of life’s outsiders; an orphan oddity adrift from the world, whose parents told her she was a Changeling. She posts her aunt’s ashes to her aunt’s friends, and then to strangers from the phone book. She advertises for a friend who “Must Answer to Penelope: Pennies Need Not Apply.” Against the odds, a Penelope responds, and a bond is formed but still, Vivian wanders Dublin, doing the strange things that make perfect sense to her, but arouse alarm in others and the question, “Is everything, alright?”  This charming, unsettling, magical story about loneliness, reaching out, friendship and hope is laced with dark humour and whimsy. It is at once briskly amusing and deeply moving, and makes a marvellous companion to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine.

Star Books
The Music Shop

The Music Shop

Author: Rachel Joyce Format: Hardback Release Date: 13/07/2017

A heartrending love story. An ode to vinyl. A poignant evocation of a community of shopkeepers in the late eighties. Like the music beloved by its protagonist, this pitch-perfect novel has an ineffable power to uplift the soul. At the heart of the story - and of run-down Unity Street - is Frank, steadfastly selling vinyl (no cassettes, and definitely no CDs) from his decaying shop: “With vinyl, you couldn’t just sit there like a lemon. You had to GET UP OFF YOUR ARSE and TAKE PART”. The polar opposite of Black Books’s Bernard Black, Frank is one of life’s altruists. He “knew what people needed even when they didn't know it themselves”. But, while his music recommendations transform and heal the loves of countless customers, Frank has neglected to partake in his own life. That is, until a well-dressed woman wearing a distinctive pea-green coat faints outside his shop. Ilse Brauchmann radiates movie-star magnetism, and Frank immediately falls for her, as does pretty much everyone on Unity Street. Ilse sets Frank’s heart-a-pounding, and his nerves-a-tingling, but his past pains (particularly his relationship with his music-obsessed mother) have left him emotionally impotent, and he’s at risk of losing his once-in-a-blue-moon chance to truly take part in life. The groove of this gloriously life-affirming novel gets under the skin and lingers long after the final sentence has been savoured. It’s a newly-heard riff you can’t get out of your head, and the favourite album you’ll return to in times of need. I loved it.  Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

eBooks 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
Sarong Party Girls

Sarong Party Girls

Author: Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/08/2019

Written in Singlish - “a tossed salad of the different languages and Chinese dialects that the country’s multiethnic population speaks” - this exhilarating novel follows brazen Jazzy’s mission to marry a wealthy “ang moh” (white) man. Almost 27, she warns her friends that ”if we don’t get married, engaged or even nail down a boyfriend soon—my god, we might as well go ahead and book a room at Singapore Casket… But luckily for us, we still have one big hope: ang moh guys”, because “if you wear a tight tight dress or short short skirt, these ang mohs will still steam over you”. To this end, Jazzy’s life is an intense cycle of spending her days working for a newspaper editor who likes to “rubba rubba” his employees, followed by long nights at fancy clubs. Through her predatory attitude and enduring of a whole lot of objectification, this novel is razor-sharp on male entitlement, inequality, racial stereotypes and global capitalism. Indeed, Jazzy wasn’t always a Sarong Party Girl herself: “I would see women who are so obviously going after guys just for status and really look down on them. What kind of woman is so pathetic to chase after a husband just for the kind of handbag, car or condo they can buy them?” And then one night, it seems that enough is enough. Jazzy has an epiphany at dawn after a one hell of a wake-up call night out. What a fresh, funny and wildly acerbic treat this is. 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.

Debut Books of the Month
Hold

Hold

Author: Michael Donkor Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/05/2019

Crossing cultures, continents and generations, this exquisitely involving exploration of frictions between family and friends, of love, loss and the criss-crossing complexities of life truly had me in its hold. In Ghana, sensible housegirl Belinda performs her domestic duties to perfection, with irrepressible eleven-year-old Mary shadowing her work. Mary brims with childish obstinacy, and with a daringly direct wisdom beyond her years. She’ll stamp her feet and curl her lip for attention or sympathy, but she’s also gloriously curious, a devoted, proud, joyously forceful bundle of humanity. Then Belinda is summoned to Brixton to befriend Amma, a privileged and troubled young woman. Amma initially refuses to play ball. She’s childishly rude, but they learn from each other and even confide their deepest secrets. When tragedy strikes, Amma rages: “The cruelty of the fucking world is proved fucking every day. The unfairness of life is just, like, unbelievable”. Ultimately, though, both young women evolve and broaden their outlook on the world and who they are. Alongside the heartfelt human drama, there’s much humour too, such as when Belinda describes Britain to Mary – it’s a peculiar place where cats “sleep in the bed with the white people” and “they kiss the animal as if it hasn’t roamed around the town eating sewage.” Her assessment of TV host Kilroy-Silk is hilarious too. He may seem “fully white”, but his “face is more orange then usual”.  Poignant, finely-observed, funny and eloquent, this is an exceptional debut. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

A Little Life

A Little Life

Author: Hanya Yanagihara Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/03/2016

Brace yourself for the most astonishing, challenging, upsetting and profoundly moving book in many a season. An epic about love and friendship in the twenty-first century that goes into some of the darkest places fiction has ever travelled and yet somehow improbably breaks through into the light. When four graduates from a small Massachusetts college move to New York to make their way, they're broke, adrift, and buoyed only by their friendship and ambition. There is kind, handsome Willem, an aspiring actor; JB, a quick-witted, sometimes cruel Brooklyn-born painter seeking entry to the art world; Malcolm, a frustrated architect at a prominent firm; and withdrawn, brilliant, enigmatic Jude, who serves as their centre of gravity. Over the decades, their relationships deepen and darken, tinged by addiction, success, and pride. Yet their greatest challenge, each comes to realize, is Jude himself, by midlife a terrifyingly talented litigator yet an increasingly broken man, his mind and body scarred by an unspeakable childhood, and haunted by what he fears is a degree of trauma that he'll not only be unable to overcome - but that will define his life forever.

eBooks of the Month
My Brilliant Friend

My Brilliant Friend

Author: Elena Ferrante Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/03/2020

From one of Italy's most acclaimed authors, comes this ravishing and generous-hearted novel about a friendship that lasts a lifetime. The story of Elena and Lila begins in the 1950s in a poor but vibrant neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples. Growing up on these tough streets the two girls learn to rely on each other ahead of anyone or anything else, as their friendship, beautifully and meticulously rendered, becomes a not always perfect shelter from hardship. Ferrante has created a memorable portrait of two women, but My Brilliant Friend is also the story of a nation. Through the lives of Elena and Lila, Ferrante gives her readers the story of a city and a country undergoing momentous change. 

Trainspotting

Trainspotting

Author: Irvine Welsh Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/08/2011

I tried this before the film came out and found the Scottish dialect difficult to cope with and gave up.  Then I saw the film and was able to return to the book with their voices in my head and found it to be very different and absolutely brilliant; not for the faint-hearted.   Listen to an audio extract by clicking on the orange arrow below. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh by Random House Audiobooks

eBooks of the Month
Arlington Park

Arlington Park

Author: Rachel Cusk Format: Paperback (b Format) Release Date: 03/05/2007

Set over the course of one day this is a snapshot of suburban life seen through the eyes of five women, all married, financially secure and mothers. Their lives should be perfect but none of them are particularly happy. The women muse over their lives while carrying out the mundane duties of day to day living. Cusk’s ability to focus on the dullest of actions, such as filling the fridge or parking the car, draws out the frustration these women feel at how humdrum their lives have become. Although there is a lot of resentment and dissatisfaction among these women Cusk still manages to fill the book with humour, albeit quite dark humour.

eBooks of the Month
The Silence of the Girls

The Silence of the Girls

Author: Pat Barker Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/08/2018

In The Iliad, the Trojan War is a battle between men over Helen, a stolen woman. The Silence of the Girls centres on another stolen woman, Briseis, queen of one of Troy’s neighboring kingdoms until Achilles pillaged her city, murdered her husband and made her his concubine. And she’s not the only one. Countless women have been snatched from their homes and face the same subjugation, and this powerful novel chimes with a chorus of women’s voices from all walks of life.  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. Briseis herself is an engaging narrator, her words vital, visceral and potent: “Blood, shit and brains – and there he is, the son of Peleus, half beast, half god, driving on to glory.” Her enforced move from queen to captive sees her fight for freedom in a blaze of witty, relatable commentary: “I’m supposed to just put up with it and say nothing, and if I do try to talk about it, it’s ‘Silence becomes a woman’”. And her disclosure that Achilles was called “the butcher” through a sea of oft-cited indulgent praise for him reveals a key thread of this novel. Namely, that accounts of history are often one-sided and therefore do not tell the entire truth. Gripping, smart and brilliantly imaginative, this is a richly relevant re-telling.

House of Beauty

House of Beauty

Author: Melba Escobar Format: Hardback Release Date: 08/03/2018

Set in the author’s home city of Bogotá, Colombia, this absorbing, pacey women-centered novel has a brutal murder at its core, and offers sharply observed insights into corruption and double standards around class, gender and race, as seen through the eyes of two unforgettable female protagonists. Gripping, brutal, honest, insightful, this is smart crime fiction with social conscience. Karen has moved to the city to earn money to send home to her young son. She works at the high-end House of Beauty salon, playing the role of confidante alongside her waxing and massage services. When one of Karen’s clients, a teenage girl, is found dead, the girl’s mother turns to Karen for information since she was one of the last people to see the girl alive. Then there’s psychoanalyst Claire, another of Karen’s clients, who’s recently returned to Bogotá after living in France for years. The women’s inner and outer lives, their struggles, desires, and increasingly dangerous predicaments are explored and played-out against the salon backdrop and beyond, as Karen becomes embroiled in the city’s criminal underworld. The writing is smart, the story riveting, and the author is truly gifted at character portraiture, and incisive in her exposition of misogyny. ~ Joanne Owen

Star Books
Northanger Abbey

Northanger Abbey

Author: Jane Austen Format: Hardback Release Date: 27/03/2014

Full to the brim with ready wit and arch social commentary, this amusing and intelligent book is as relevant today as it was when published nearly 200 years ago. If you haven't previously read any of Austen’s works, this is the perfect place to start, it’s one of her lesser known but more stimulating and provocative novels. Quite literally a book of two halves, we have a story of a young woman learning the difference between reality and fantasy and then a consummate commentary from the author on the literary world at the time. Austen introduces an almost anti-heroine, a kind, caring but not particularly captivating Catherine, then surrounds her with four fascinatingly different characters who range from compassionate, intelligent and gracious to self obsessed, mercenary and petulant. As well as the engaging story, you also discover an author who appears to be somewhat on the warpath. She actually talks to you from the page, her views are so clear, you could be having a face-to-face discussion with her. If you already know Northanger Abbey, reacquaint yourself with this fascinating novel.  This actual edition is charming, a perfect size for the hand bag and one to treasure.  It also has an interesting Introduction by Val McDermid who has just recently, with approval from the Austen Society, published a terrifically good reimagining in a contemporary setting of Northanger Abbey.

eBooks of the Month
Three Things About Elsie

Three Things About Elsie

Author: Joanna Cannon Format: Hardback Release Date: 11/01/2018

January 2018 Book of the Month Abundant in moving insights into identity and memory, this charming slice of humanity is as elegantly formed and sweetly satisfying as the Battenberg cake depicted on its cover. Eighty-four-year-old Florence (Flo to her best friend Elsie) has fallen in her flat and, as she awaits help, wondering whether she’s “reached the end of her story”, her musings reveal a long-buried secret. “Everyone’s life has a secret, something they never talk about,” she remarks. “It’s what you do with your secret that really matters”, and what Elsie does with hers is determined by the unlikely reappearance of a man from her and Elsie’s past. Florence’s reflections on she how hasn’t done enough with her life, how life takes you down paths you hadn’t intended to wander, are wholly heartrending. She wanted to be a scientist, to devise a world-changing invention, but instead she and Elsie ended up in a factory for the entirety of their working lives. While there’s loss and sadness as the twisting tale unfolds, this is also a tonic for the soul - upliftingly wistful, poignantly funny, and the relationship between Flo and Elsie is wonderful. At once a bittersweet ode to the elderly and the passing of time, and a compelling mystery, this proves that sometimes it’s entirely appropriate to judge a book by its cover. I adored it.  

eBooks of the Month
The Girls

The Girls

Author: Emma Cline Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/05/2017

If you're lost, they'll find you... Evie Boyd is fourteen and desperate to be noticed. It's the summer of 1969 and restless, empty days stretch ahead of her. Until she sees them. The girls. Hair long and uncombed, jewelry catching the sun. And at their centre, Suzanne, black-haired and beautiful. If not for Suzanne, she might not have gone. But, intoxicated by her and the life she promises, Evie follows the girls back to the decaying ranch where they live. Was there a warning? A sign of what was coming? Or did Evie know already that there was no way back? 

The Secret History

The Secret History

Author: Donna Tartt Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/07/1993

A misfit at an exclusive New England college, Richard finds kindred spirits in the five eccentric students of his ancient Greek class. But his new friends have a horrific secret. When blackmail and violence threaten to blow their privileged lives apart, they drag Richard into the nightmare that engulfs them. And soon they enter a terrifying heart of darkness from which they may never return.

eBooks of the Month
The Juniper Gin Joint

The Juniper Gin Joint

Author: Lizzie Lovell Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/07/2018

Gin-inspired joie de vivre and fresh starts abound in this surefire summer tonic for fans of Jenny Colgan. This spritely, lighthearted tale of loss, love and picking up the pieces with gin-infused panache sees soon-to-be-fifty-year-old Jen (Juniper to her loveably eccentric dad) take on the council when the museum she works in faces closure at the hands of a slimy local businessman and councillor she has history with. Jen has been having a tough time of late, what with her husband abandoning her for a younger woman, her son off travelling in Canada, her mum’s death and her daughter recently departed for uni. But with the support of her characterful colleagues and family, not to mention “sexy silver fox” Tom, Jen finds renewed vigor for life when they hatch a plan to save the museum by transforming it into a gin distillery.  Serving up a cocktail of Victoria Wood-esque quips and droll domestic observations with a chaser of romance, this makes for a funny sunny day read.

Bunny

Bunny

Author: Mona Awad Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/02/2020

We call them Bunnies because that is what they call each other. Seriously. Bunny. Samantha Heather Mackey is an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at Warren University. In fact, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort - a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other 'Bunny'. But then the Bunnies issue her with an invitation and Samantha finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door, across the threshold, and down their rabbit hole. Blending sharp satire with fairytale horror, Bunny is a spellbinding trip of a novel from one of fiction's most original new voices.

Portrait in Sepia

Portrait in Sepia

Author: Isabel Allende Format: Paperback Release Date: 08/07/2002

Best selling international author, Isabel Allende tackles her homeland head-on in this staggering, epic romance. 'Portrait in Sepia' is both a magnificent historical novel set at the end of the nineteenth century in Chile and a marvellous family saga peopled by characters from 'Daughter of Fortune' and 'The House of the Spirits', two of Allende's most celebrated novels. As a young girl, Aurora del Valle suffered a brutal trauma that has shaped her character and erased from her mind all recollection of the first five years of her life. Raised by her ambitious grandmother, the regal and commanding Paulina del Valle, she grows up in a privileged environment, free of the limitations that circumscribe the lives of women at that time, but tormented by terrible nightmares. When she finds herself alone at the end of an unhappy love affair, she decides to explore the mystery of her past, to discover what it was, exactly, all those years ago, that had such a devastating effect on her young life. Richly detailed, epic in scope, this engrossing story of the dark power of hidden secrets is intimate in its probing of human character, and thrilling in the way it illuminates the complexity of family ties.

Beloved

Beloved

Author: Toni Morrison Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/12/2007

July 2013 Guest Editor Cath Staincliffe on Beloved... Probably the most powerful book I’ve ever read.  Morrison gives us a searing indictment of slavery and racism in a beautifully written and harrowing story about a woman and her children haunted by a child ghost in the aftermath of the American civil war.  This was one of those novels that made me desperate to try to write myself.     A 2011 World Book Night selection.  Our Editorial Guru, Sarah Broadhurst, has suggested others book and authors that would be perfect for you to read next or to pass on the recommendation - so your gift will keep on giving enjoyment. Her selection for this title is: Alice Walker. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.

Audiobooks of the Month
Little Women

Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott Format: Hardback Release Date: 07/09/2018

July 2010 Good Housekeeping selection. On My Bookshelf by Lynda La Plante... Little Women by Louisa May Alcott inspired me when I was very young. Years later I watched the film starring Katherine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor, and was taken aback at how the characters were transported to the screen.

The Confession

The Confession

Author: Jessie Burton Format: Paperback Release Date: 03/09/2020

A Sunday Times bestseller and Richard and Judy Bookclub pick, The Confession is an absorbing tale of secrets and self-discovery from Jessie Burton, the million-copy bestselling author of The Miniaturist and The Muse. When Elise Morceau meets the writer Constance Holden, she quickly falls under her spell. Connie is sophisticated, bold and alluring - everything Elise feels she is not. She follows Connie to LA, but in this city of strange dreams and razzle-dazzle, Elise feels even more out of her depth and makes an impulsive decision that will change her life forever. Three decades later, Rose Simmons is trying to uncover the story of her mother, who disappeared when she was a baby. Having learned that the last person to see her was a now reclusive novelist, Rose finds herself at the door of Constance Holden's house in search of a confession . . .

Saving Missy

Saving Missy

Author: Beth Morrey Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/03/2021

A debut novel to read slowly, to savour, to adore. Yes, this is a rather special and beautiful read, and I want to climb a few rooftops to shout about it. Missy Carmichael is lonely, she lives by herself in a huge house, when opportunities arise for friendship and more, can she reach out and take them? I admit to having fallen in love with Missy, she isn’t perfect and she makes mistakes (who doesn’t!), yet there is something about her that tiptoed into my heart and soul and has taken up residence. So often we just see a snapshot of someone, a moment or period in their life, however not here. Beth Morrey has not only brought her to life, but by also dipping into the past, we discover the gems that make Missy, well, Missy! The surrounding characters are a wonderfully quirky bunch, and Bob is an absolute delight. I laughed and I cried (oh how I cried). Saving Missy meanders gently, poignantly, beautifully, to what was for me, a perfect ending. I adored meeting Missy and so have chosen this lovely debut novel as one of our star books.  Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Lido

The Lido

Author: Libby Page Format: Paperback Release Date: 04/04/2019

April 2018 Debut of the Month Ahh, this is just so, so lovely… a debut that made me smile, weep, and smile some more. Rosemary is 86, she has lived in Brixton all her life, watching as Brixton has changed a building at a time, from fruit and veg shops to trendy bars. 26 year old journalist Kate is surrounded by people, yet feels completely and utterly alone, when the local lido is threatened by closure, an alliance and unexpected friendship is formed. Libby Page has a lovely quick-witted, gently quirky writing style, surprising me with observations and unexpected detail (adored the fox!). I loved travelling through memories, getting to know Rosemary and Kate, and seeing the small snapshots of the lives they touch. While it is a truly beautiful read, part of the beauty is in the emotion I felt, pain and heartache is embraced, hugged, soothed. ‘The Lido’ is a deliciously warm and entertaining slice of wonderful, and I absolutely adored it.

Star Books
Dear Mrs Bird

Dear Mrs Bird

Author: A. J. Pearce Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/12/2018

What a truly beautiful read this is, light, bright and cheerful (yet not at all frothy), there are also some heartachingly deep and dark depths waiting to be discovered. It’s 1941 and Emmeline desperately wants to become a war correspondent, she somehow finds herself working for an agony aunt and begins to secretly reply to the letters Mrs Bird refuses to answer. Emmeline tells her own tale in the most wonderfully spirited tone of voice, I could hear her so clearly, and immediately warmed to her energy and courage. A.J. Peace weaves the story of sparkling, heartfelt friendship quite marvellously through the air raids, dances, blackouts and rationing. I found myself immersed in 1941, I opened my eyes and my heart to the characters and evocative descriptions. Part of me wanted to encourage Emmeline, to clap and smile as her subterfuge escaped notice, while the other part offered caution, a number of ‘eeeks’, and I had a cushion ready to hide behind just in case. Dear Mrs Bird is just so gloriously readable, it really is an entertaining, affectionate discovery of delight and I’m keeping my fingers firmly crossed that there is more to come from the gorgeous Emmeline.

Star Books
The Prisoner's Wife

The Prisoner's Wife

Author: Maggie Brookes Format: Hardback Release Date: 16/04/2020

Set in one of the most harrowing times in history, this powerfully beautiful relationship and friendship story shines a blazing torch on the very best that humanity has to offer. When British prisoner of war Bill, while on work duty from a labour camp in the depths of Czechoslovakia in 1944, meets farmer Izabela, love blossoms. They secretly marry, go on the run and determine that they will never be separated, not even if captured by the German army. Based on a true story it feels as though Maggie Brookes was destined to meet Sidney Reed who told her this tale, and that as a historical documentary researcher and producer for the BBC she was perfectly placed to write this as a novel. The prologue starts with the couple on the run from the German army, Izabela has disguised herself as a man, and by pretending to be mute when finally captured, is taken with Bill to a prisoner of war camp. Setting the scene so thoroughly heightened my emotions as chapter one then took me back to their first meeting. I’ve already read a number of novels and non-fiction books relating to this time, including one of the books Maggie Brookes mentions as further reading. My prior reading and knowing what was to come from the prologue, still in no way prepared me for what Bill and Izabela were to face. This intimate, vivid and compelling account reaches through the nightmare and finds true love and friendship, all of which is written beautifully by the author. The Prisoner’s Wife meets horror head on, so prepare yourself, but it also filled me with hope, and this comes as highly recommended by me.

Audiobooks of the Month
The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

Author: Anstey Harris Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/07/2019

If ever there was a book to fall completely in love with, this is it. Grace Atherton keeps certain parts of her deeply buried from everyone, yet it is the revelation of a joint secret that causes her life as she knows it to stop, how can she possibly restart it again? The first few sentences told me I was in for a real treat, I was intrigued, delighted in the style of writing, and then the end of first chapter… it was completely unexpected and caused my stomach to squirm. While this is a book to read with joy, it isn’t a gooey ride, it made me flinch, question and delve into thoughts. Anstey Harris has conjured such beautiful descriptions, they created a fully realised and vivid picture in my mind.  Music and friendship pay a hugely important part in this book, the joy of each deeply embedded in the page, the words releasing themselves into my soul. I will admit to knowing next to nothing about cellos and violins, yet somehow I felt as though I did, I understood, I felt, I loved each instrument. I absolutely adore The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton, it is completely magical and I suspect that each time I read it (it is a book to return to), a slightly different story will await me. Highly recommended.

Debut Books of the Month
The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes

Author: Ruth Hogan Format: Hardback Release Date: 03/05/2018

From the bestselling author of The Keeper of Lost Things, Ruth Hogan, comes another irresistible novel of unexpected friendships, second chances ... and dark secrets. Gloriously gorgeous in every way.  After tragedy crashed into her life, Masha often sits on the bottom of the pool at the local lido, unable to look forward, to join in. Sally Red Shoes and Kitty Muriel nudge Masha’s awareness, and life begins to look interesting again. I absolutely adored ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ which was one of my books of the year 2017, so looked forward with relish to Ruth Hogan’s next offering. ‘The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes’ is just as special, and cements this particular author as one of my firm favourites. Ruth Hogan has the very special ability to look beyond the veil of unremarkable to find a sometimes painful, yet beautifully quirky existence. Each character (and I include the dogs in this), is fully realised and absolutely essential to the storyline. Kitty and Sally are so stuffed full of life I found myself wanting them in my life too. Words such as enchanting, captivating, and charming are spilling out of my mind, yet this is not a sickly sweet tale, also added to the mix are poignant, emotional, heart-ache…and I both laughed and cried, sometimes at the same time. Quite simply, ‘The Particular Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes’ is a must-read, and I adored every single second of it. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Star Books
Messy, Wonderful Us

Messy, Wonderful Us

Author: Catherine Isaac Format: Paperback Release Date: 05/03/2020

Both heart warming and achy, how gorgeously unpredictable and wonderful is this! Secrets spill and emotions spin when best friends Alice and Ed fly to Italy to find out the truth about her mother. I think I stepped into this novel expecting a relationship story, I also found a beautifully balanced and convincing tale of family mystery and intrigue. Catherine Isaac gradually completed the intricate jigsaw surrounding Alice and Ed, ensuring my attention was well and truly snared while also allowing me to enjoy the gentle unravelling of the story. Italy unveils its charm as another tale travels alongside Alice and Ed’s journey, revealing hidden thoughts and feelings. I love it when I read a book and have absolutely no idea where the ending is going to take me. I ranged from apprehensive to enchanted and inspired, while an overall feeling of hope kept me company throughout. I absolutely adored the unexpected and delightful Messy, Wonderful Us and so was compelled to choose it as a Liz Robinson pick of the month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The 24-Hour Cafe

The 24-Hour Cafe

Author: Libby Page Format: Paperback Release Date: 18/02/2021

An affectionate, heartfelt, uplifting novel about the wonders of friendship and having a dream. Spend a full day at the 24-hour Cafe in London, meet the staff, and the customers too, sit for a while, observe, enjoy. I adored Libby Page’s first novel The Lido, rest assured this is equally as gorgeous, and a truly lovely, lovely read. The story unfolds beautifully, starting at midnight we meet Hannah and Mona, friends, flatmates, and waitresses who will be working double shifts to cover the 24 hours. Stella’s cafe is a little community in its own right, small stories are contained within, with perfectly observed characters entering and exiting the cafe. I felt so invested in all of them, yet it is the two waiting staff who really touched me. As Hannah’s shift comes to an end and Mona’s starts, this simple, yet full and rich story opens up and flies. The 24-Hour Cafe is full of compassion and warmth, yet it doesn’t shy away from the darker side of life. It has been chosen as a Liz Robinson Pick of the Month because it celebrates friendship and dreams in the best possible way. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Cows

The Cows

Author: Dawn O'Porter Format: Paperback Release Date: 22/03/2018

April 2018 Debut of the Month Oh my word, this is an eyebrow raising, mouth openingly good read. A contemporary tale about three women, muddling and battling their way through this world as best they can. Emotional growing pains can occur at any age, life doesn't run smoothly, and these three women hold out the hand of friendship to all of us. We see and feel deeply hidden thoughts, witness shockingly embarrassing moments, and I found myself wincing at their pain, snorting with laughter, and cheering them on. Dawn O’Porter has written a stonkingly good read, I stayed up well past my bedtime into the early hours in order to finish it in one sitting. My feelings went into free fall and occasionally tied themselves up in knots as I read. ‘The Cows’ slams with impact, slaps adversity in the face, and offers supportive understanding in our modern world. Highly recommended! 

eBooks of the Month
The One in a Million Boy

The One in a Million Boy

Author: Monica Wood Format: Hardback Release Date: 05/04/2016

One of our Books of the Year 2016. April 2016 Book of the Month. Absolutely enchanting, and not in a sugary syrupy sweet way, oh no, instead this is earthy and vibrant and real. Miss Ona Vitkus is 104 years old, she lives on her own, relatively undisturbed, and then the 11 year old boy turns up on her doorstep. The two become unlikely friends, with world records, birds and life histories becoming main topics of conversation. Monica Wood writes with beautiful empathy, she doesn't judge, or even provoke, she sets this gorgeous story in motion and allows you, as the reader along on the journey. I particularly loved the transcripts of the tape recordings, it just consists of “shards” of thoughts, and the replies of Miss Vitkus to questions, however the boy is there, his presence is undeniable and the pages simply overflow with his energy. ‘The One-In-A-Million Boy’ is about a meeting of minds and hearts, of friendship and living life, it’s a particularly lovely and charming read, and you might just raise your eyebrow at a world record or two along the way. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.

Books of the Month
The Last House Guest

The Last House Guest

Author: Megan Miranda Format: Paperback Release Date: 20/06/2019

A clever, oh so clever read, where the story sits simmering, creating pools of tension and unsettling bursts of awareness. The police rule Sadie’s death a suicide, however a year later, questions are being asked and her friend Avery may well have to provide answers, can she clear her name? I was thrilled when The Last House Guest arrived in the post. Megan Miranda’s books are a must-read for me. A provocative, sharp, beautifully readable journey awaits each time. The story slides between 2017 and 2018, encouraging questions to kiss questions. The more I found out, the more I realised I didn’t know. Avery is a fascinating character, she sits on the edge of two groups, leaving her stranded. My thoughts tossed and turned as I read, I felt slightly unsettled as I waited, wanting to know the truth. The ending is a high-octane rush of a ride and I found myself perched on the very edge of my seat. Focusing on friendship, and how well we ever truly know someone, The Last House Guest has a commanding energy and is a compelling read.   

eBooks of the Month
Swan Song

Swan Song

Author: Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott Format: Paperback Release Date: 27/06/2019

The clever, seductive, fact and fictional blended story of Truman Capote and the women he placed (and came to rely on) at the very centre of his life. Truman Capote (author of works including novella Breakfast at Tiffany’s and non fiction piece In Cold Blood) could call among his friends and confidants the wealthy, famous and social elite. Their secrets were released to the world when he wrote a fictional piece that aired an awful lot of real life dirty laundry. Swan Song darts through the years, backwards and forwards, releasing information, filling in this breathtaking story. Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott apparently took ten years to research, and four years to write Swan Song. Capote’s swans are deliciously stimulating, and speak as one, revealing betrayal, scandal and lives full of emotional and physical excess. It is so wonderfully gossipy and fascinating, it’s all too easy to forget this is a novel (even though seeped in fact). Swan Song is a beguiling, fascinating dream of a read, and comes as highly recommended by me. 

Debut Books of the Month
The Hunting Party

The Hunting Party

Author: Lucy Foley Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/10/2019

A thoroughly modern, entertaining and seductive murder mystery, it felt as though I was reading a fabulously delicious and very guilty secret! It is New Years Eve in the Scottish Highlands, nine friends gather for a celebration, one is victim of murder, deep snow prevents the police from arriving and the killer from leaving. This is Lucy Foley’s debut crime novel, I love her writing style and have simply gobbled up all of her historical fiction. My attention was well and truly snared when I read the premise of The Hunting Party, I snatched it up, and oh boy, was it worth it! Skating between ‘now,’ set after and ‘earlier’ set before the murder, the two time frames hurtle towards each other until they implode in quite spectacular style. This is one of those novels where I veered from being sure I knew where it was going, to realisation that I really didn’t… I almost felt as though I overheard too much, knew too much, and nearly started to fear for my own wellbeing. The mystery element certainly gave my mind a workout and the relationships are written quite beautifully too. I adore this change in direction by Lucy Foley, a wonderfully rewarding and fascinating read awaits if you dare to join The Hunting Party. Highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.

Books of the Month
Seven Lies

Seven Lies

Author: Elizabeth Kay Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/10/2020

Well! This is an absolute corker of a debut, different and intelligent, it wormed its way into my thoughts and then proceeded to hunt them down. Narrator Jane tells of her friendship with Marnie, and the seven lies that change that friendship forever. This is Jane’s chance to be honest, and if she had told the truth to start with, Marnie’s husband might still be alive. The introduction to each lie hits with hammer hard precision, there are truths waiting ready to trip you up. Elizabeth Kay has the ability to blur lines, and I found myself stopping, questioning, considering my thoughts. She quite simply made me look at things in a different way. I write notes as I read, and these were peppered with ‘Crikey!’, ‘Blimey!’, and an awful lot of exclamation marks! Provocative, thoughtful, and so very clever, Seven Lies deserves to be a huge hit. A debut of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, Seven Lies comes with a tremendous thumbs up from me. 

Star Books
The Last Wife

The Last Wife

Author: Karen Hamilton Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/12/2020

A cunning, creeping, slow-burning family drama. When Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness, she asked her best friend Marie to fulfil her final wishes. As Marie steps forward into a life she has always envied and wanted, she discovers that Nina had some damaging secrets. Marie narrates, she’s not particularly loveable, or even likeable, and I really enjoyed how that made me doubt, question, and hold back from forming an opinion of her. It felt as though Marie was being honest with her feelings, but not her thoughts, and that created huge uncertainty. As the atmosphere and my suspicion settled, a change of direction elbowed its way in which added an extra dimension. The Last Wife almost slithers along, delivering bites of tension and suspense, ensuring an interesting read.

Books of the Month
Just My Luck

Just My Luck

Author: Adele Parks Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/12/2020

Oooh, juicy and gossipy sliding into captivating and provocative, this is such an entertaining read! An £18 million lottery win fractures 15 year old friendships, alters family relationships, and changes lives forever. Adele Parks really does know how to tell a story, and she has the ability to shine a light into the darkest recesses of what it is to be human. Two plot lines run side by side, the sinister side of greed is examined in both, and as the story unfolds the links become clear. They aren’t always the most likeable bunch, I do so love it when a character (deliberately) gets under my skin and annoys the heck out of me! There’s nothing like a goodly burst of indignation or side-eye towards the more frustrating members of this cast! With surprises and revelations galore, Just My Luck is an absolute romp of a read, and I just had to add it as a Liz Pick of the Month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
The Shadow Friend

The Shadow Friend

Author: Alex North Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/04/2021

Delivering a creepy premise, chilling atmosphere, and intricately built suspense, this is a satisfying psychological thriller. As a teenager twenty-five years ago Paul left town after a murder, and he heads home just as a copycat killer strikes. I completely fell for Alex North’s last book, The Whisper Man which held the most deliciously supernatural undertones and was a LoveReading Star Book. On the strength of that, The Shadow Friend jumped straight on to my list of reads I was looking forward to. Two time frames, ’now’ and ‘before’ ensure child and adulthood are very different places yet by the end of part one, the background and foreground have met and set the scene. I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of foreboding, of waiting, of understanding edging into the corner of thoughts before disappearing again. There were several surprises to be discovered along the way and the tiptoeing tension and haunting dream sequences ensured I was desperate to find out what happened. The ending was very neat and rather nicely wraps everything up. The Shadow Friend is a twisty, intriguing, and rewarding tale and has been chosen as one of my Liz Picks of the month.

Liz Robinson's Picks of the Month
Little Lies

Little Lies

Author: Liane Moriarty Format: Paperback Release Date: 07/05/2015

Fabulously different and remarkably clever, this page-turner of an intimate yet scandalous tale keeps you guessing right up to the very end. Having been told that something awful has happened at the school Quiz Night, you are then whisked back in time to the beginning of the school year, where friendships are forged, tantrums thrown and bullying takes it’s first sneaky tormenting steps (and that’s just the parents). The author is adept at taking an everyday situation and adding little pops of difficult and uncomfortable. Nobody’s life is quite as it would outwardly seem and as you peek around the curtain of conformity you are drawn into the twisted web of rumours, facts and lies.  As Trivia Night looms, you are kept quite literally on the edge of your seat, squirming with anticipation and fear for these wonderfully complete and complicated characters. This is quite simply, a deliciously entertaining read. ~ Liz Robinson   One of our Books of the Year 2014.   A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher... ‘Liane Moriarty was THE success story of 2013 and we are absolutely thrilled to be following up on the phenomenal The Husband's Secret with a novel which packs, if it’s possible, an even more powerful punch. Little Lies is the story of three very different woman brought together by a cataclysmic event in the small Sydney suburb in which they live. Set in the present day and the recent past, we are invited into the lives of Maddie, Jane and Celeste in between hearing testimony and interviews with the police who, it appears, are investigating a murder. But who’s dead, who did it and why? I don’t know if I can put into words how completely brilliant this novel is. I’m blown away and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished it. The characters are incredibly well drawn and the plot takes us into such unexpected directions – Liane Moriarty really is a first-class writer, almost a magician as she conjures up twist and turn galore at the same time as developing real flesh and blood characters who make the same mistakes we do. A wonderful, genius, funny, dark, heartbreaking read.' - Maxine Hitchcock, Publishing Director, Penguin Group

eBooks of the Month

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