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Our high-quality Family Drama selection offers the heart-breaking and heart-warming conflicts and dramas directly from the hearth, telling the stories of these families that have been struck by tragedy, conflict and drama and their struggle to survive intact.
Set in 1980s Atlanta, Tayari Jones’s Silver Sparrow is a rich tour de force that sparkles with wit, warmth and candid lyricism. Exploring the weight of secrets and the complexities of love and family life through the compelling coming of age stories of sisters estranged by their father’s bigamy, this novel lingers long in the soul. “The truth is a strange thing. Like pornography, you know when you see it.” This potent proclamation cuts to the novel’s core, for Dana and her mother Gwen are the other wife, the other daughter, of bigamist James, and they know this truth while his first wife and daughter remain oblivious. Upset when James tells her that being his second daughter “You are the one that’s a secret,” Gwen poignantly informs Dana that rather than being secret, she’s simply “unknown. That little girl there doesn’t know she has a sister. You know everything.” Knowledge that she possesses the truth offers Dana consolation, of sorts. While James’s other family is financially better off, both wives have a distinct lack of agency. Indeed, the novel is sharp on showing how women often have to make their lives from what men decide, such as when Gwen remarks that when you’re four weeks late, “All you can do is give him the news and let him decide if he is going to leave or if he is going to stay.” The novel is also powerful on elemental love and the nature of memory, such as Dana’s response to being gifted a fur coat her father won in a card game: “To this day and for the rest of my life I will always have a soft spot for a man with rum on his breath.” In time, during her own tempestuous teenage years, Dana orchestrates encounters with her sister and they become friends, with tension rising as the secret threatens to detonate. With finely drawn, flawed characters that pull readers’ loyalties in different directions, this commanding, compassionate novel confirms the author’s exceptional gifts.
With its finely-evoked Haiti setting and interlacing of one woman’s search for her grandchild with another’s search for her absent mother, Island on the Edge of the World by Deborah Rodriguez, author of The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul and The Kabul Beauty School, comes heartily recommended for fans of thought-provoking family dramas. Estranged from her mum, Alice, and her poisonously controlling stepdad Jim, who’ve established a mission on Haiti - Charlie has been living with grandmother Bea for the past year. When psychic Bea dreams that something isn’t right with Alice, Charlie reluctantly agrees to travel to the island to check she’s OK. At the airport they meet Lizbeth, a widow who’s learned that she might have a grandchild on Haiti, where her son - also deceased - worked for an NGO. The novel really finds its flow when the three women set foot on the island and search for Lizbeth’s grandchild together, with Charlie additionally trying to find her mother, and perhaps also the strength to forgive her. Alongside the women’s personal quests, truths about Haitian history, culture and post-earthquake poverty are revealed through Mackenson, their driver, translator and all-round fountain of knowledge and help. His calm voice cuts through misconceptions about the island, exposing the debilitating effects of negligent international aid practices and ignorant “white saviours”. As a pacy race against time plays out in Port-au-Prince, Bea’s encounters with a flirtatious Frenchman and the bond she forms with Mambo Michèle, a Voudou priestess, deliver delightful moments of energy and light.
A thoughtfully intricate and fascinating novel which tells two stories in a most unusual way. Yoel Blum, grandfather and famous Israeli author, travels to Amsterdam and finds that everything he thought he knew about himself has been turned on its head. Setting forth into the history of his family and the Jewish community within Amsterdam during World War Two, Yoel Blum begins to understand himself and his relationships. This isn't a loud or boisterous tale, yet the clarity is piercing. The detail of the underground networks hiding Jewish children in the Second World War is full of impact. Emuna Elon has the most beautiful way with words, her descriptions took me by the hand and led me into their very midst. There are no speech marks or indications of changing time frames, however I never felt out of place. The translation from Hebrew has been completed with great skill by Anthony Berris and Linda Yechiel. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, this is a novel to read slowly, to experience, to become a part of. House on Endless Waters is a beautifully eloquent family mystery highlighting human tragedy and resilience.
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.
Like When We Collided and Open Road Summer, The Map from Here to There demonstrates Emery Lord’s talent for capturing the exhilaration and angst of characters on the cusp of adulthood. “I was beginning to think that half of growing up was figuring out when to let go and when to hold on,” Paige muses partway through her story journey, but being an anxiety prone over-thinker, that’s not an easy conundrum to crack. After the pain of her first boyfriend passing away a few years back, life has taken an upward turn. She has a set of supportive friends, she’s excited by the prospect of studying screenwriting, and she’s besotted with her new boyfriend Max. But having such an active life – working shifts at a cinema, applying to college, taking on a theatre internship, wanting to spend time with Max and her friends - begins to take its toll. Paige wants it all, but big decisions must be made, and the trouble is, saying yes to one thing (like choosing where to go to college) means saying no to another. When fatalism kicks in and affects her close relationships, Paige takes heart from her mom’s wise words: “As much as I love a pro-and-con list – and you know I do – sometimes you have to ignore all of that. Your gut instinct can say a lot.” Authentic, honest and shot through with empathy, this offers a helping hand to young adults navigating similarly confusing crossroads, alongside being an out and out entertaining story.
This debut novel was inspired by the author’s work creating Run the World, an organisation that empowers women and girls from marginalised backgrounds through sport and storytelling and the authenticity of this, at times harrowing story, is palpably evident. As is the skill of the accomplished writing which makes great use of typography and layout to really make every word count. This speeds the reader through the narrative, but it also cuts deep to reveal the emotions experienced by our narrator. Amber Rai is only ‘truly alive’ when running and shows great potential. But her alcoholic, abusive, misogynistic father refuses to allow her on the track. She has seen her older sister Ruby denied university and married off against her will and her downtrodden, abused mother is literally powerless to help, trapped as much by illiteracy and lack of English as the violence of her equally illiterate, unemployed husband. Amber has friends and teachers who believe in her, but she cannot explain what really goes on at home. She is a complex and believable character with very real flaws that she painfully recognises: ‘inflicting pain on others/halves your own hurt’. But the story is cleverly structured on The Anatomy of a Revolution and inspired by her reading about revolutions for history, Amber, Ruby and her mother gradually empower each other to take small steps to freedom. This is an important, rewarding, highly empathetic read which, despite the dark subject matter, offers hope but no simplistic solutions.
Set aside plenty of quality time, as once I started, this was a read in one beautiful, heartrending, fully immersive sitting for me. When Elissa is abducted, her hopes of escape flame into being after Elijah finds her hidden in the heart of Memory Wood. A truly fabulous opening sets the scene, I felt as though I knew Elijah, his very being is stamped on the pages, and yet there is so much that remains unknown. Knowing the abduction was coming set my heart pounding and added to the tension rather than dispersing it. While the seven days of the story slide backwards and forwards in part one, I was completely confident and very much in every moment. In part one chapters are headed by the day, and one of the characters, while in part two you know exactly when you are. Sam Lloyd’s words were so in tune and belonging to each child that I almost didn’t need to know who was heading the chapter. I was on edge and uncertain as to the outcome throughout, as the ending hurtled towards me I gasped and felt utterly consumed. The Memory Wood is one of those novels that I almost wanted to read from behind a cushion, and yet I couldn’t put it down. Chosen as a LoveReading star book, this is a must-read for me.
A masterful murder mystery, this folks, is how it is done! A celebrity wedding is taking place on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, but before the celebration finishes, a murder and a storm hit with full force. I’ve adored all of Lucy Foley’s novels, from historical to crime, she is one of my must-read authors. She has used the same fabulous format as in the bestselling The Hunting Party but this still feels fresh, original and very much its own wonderfully distinct creation. I slipped into the storyline, got to know all of the characters, and started to sleuth my way through the secrets and intrigue. And oh what intrigue! The immediate lead up to the reveal made my inner investigator rub gleeful hands. The reveal itself, well, I just want to stand up and applaud Lucy Foley! Addictive and immensely satisfying The Guest List has star quality stamped all over it. Lucy Foley is our Putting Authors in the Picture Feature for February. Check out her Q&A here!
A debut novel to enjoy slowly, to savour, to adore. Yes, this is a rather special and beautiful book, 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.
***WINNER OF THE BOOKER PRIZE 2019*** SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER This is Britain as you've never read it. This is Britain as it has never been told. From Newcastle to Cornwall, from the birth of the twentieth century to the teens of the twenty-first, Girl, Woman, Other follows a cast of twelve characters on their personal journeys through this country and the last hundred years. They're each looking for something - a shared past, an unexpected future, a place to call home, somewhere to fit in, a lover, a missed mother, a lost father, even just a touch of hope . . .
A thoughtful, emotionally challenging yet beautifully readable novel. Naomi Cottle is a talented investigator and finder of missing children, here she searches for her own sister who has been missing since they were both children. Rene Denfeld is a must-read author for me. Her debut The Enchanted (one of our Books of the Year in 2014) is still lodged in my heart and my mind, and a book I often recommend. This is the second in the Naomi Cottle series, however can easily be read as a standalone. I personally though, would make the obvious decision of starting with The Child Finder. Rene Denfeld’s working experience means that she has a knowledge of horrific crime that the majority of people won’t ever, and shouldn’t ever know. She champions the hidden, the shunned, and makes them human and relatable. Celia, the 12 year old street child, really did creep into my heart, and the social aspects of the novel hit home hard. The dramatic feeling of tension that Rene Denfeld created, remained throughout, and I really had no idea as to how this novel would end. The Butterfly Girl prods and provokes, yet is wonderfully descriptive and eloquently written and I just had to choose this as one of my Liz Robinson picks of the month.
Best friends since girlhood, and now in advanced age, Anna and George meet weekly to chat about their former mischiefs, regrets and day-to-day lives over a few glasses of wine. While their stories elicit many laughs, the dear friends have also experienced much sadness, with Anna raised by a critical, unloving mother and never finding the right man, and George having endured much tragedy. George lives comfortably now and has a loving, affectionate husband, though as the novel progresses she becomes more haunted by her losses, while Anna’s story takes a more uplifting trajectory when she agrees to look after a neighbour’s child and discovers the joys of making new friends, and even falls in love. “How odd I have reached an end and you are just beginning,” George poignantly observes of this unexpected turnaround. With a cast of endearing supporting characters, this novel radiates a lovely sense of community alongside being a touching tribute to the elemental importance of true friendship. Written with a lightness of touch and packed with funny, bittersweet life reflections, this will surely resonate with fans of warm-hearted, female-fronted fiction.
An absolutely fascinating and beautifully intimate tale set in Greece, covering the Second World War, Greek Civil War and beyond, from 1930 through to 1999. Themis looks back on her life with two of her grandchildren, as she grows up in a family split with opposing political views. Her beliefs take her into the Communist army after the Second World War, where Greek fights fellow Greek. While this novel is set around a hugely complex event in history, Victoria Hislop opens it up with skill. By concentrating on one woman, we enter a family tale told with a matter-of-factly simplicity, so the impact of what comes, hits with huge power. This compelling novel, which brings a slice of history so vividly to life, is a stark warning of what could yet come in our future. It is also a reminder that we never truly know the life someone has lived, as what is presented on the outside, could be very different to what has been lived inside. Warm yet chilling and disturbing, uncomplicated yet involved and detailed, Those Who Are Loved is a tale full of emotional impact.
A dramatic yet entirely believable and oh so readable cross-generational family drama. As her husband walks out, ghost writer Joely enters recluse Freda’s life to help her right a wrong. The latest Susan Lewis novel means it’s time to settle back and let yourself disappear into the pages. The prologue and first chapter set a trap for my interest and caught it as surely as could be. We start in the present day with Joely, then another story emerges, a memoir that is being written by Joely and Freda. I really did feel as though I was reading two separate books, and as the tales began to entwine, the mystery started to slowly reveal itself. As always, the intrigue, emotions, and revelations are all beautifully handled. By the way, there is a lovely link to Andee for those of you, who like me, have read The Detective Andee Lawrence Series. My Lies, Your Lies is a tale that opens up to reveal a riveting, satisfying and convincing tale.
The inconvenient Need to Belong introduces us to Alfie, an old man with no visitors, living in a care home. To combat his loneliness, he sneaks out to the local park every Saturday to feed the ducks, where he meets Fred a young boy, to whom Alfie tells his life story in order to impart some wisdom. This book really reminded me of books like Three Things About Elsie and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. I liked that the story also focuses on Julia, a nurse at the care home who wants to learn more about this rather grumpy old man. I thought that this was a heartwarming story about getting old, life and grief. Using the young Fred as a way to convey imparting wisdom to the next generation, is a brilliant idea and like in life, it’s just whether the younger generations as willing to listen. I would recommend this book to anyone who loved either the books that I have mentioned or the contemporary family saga stories that are similar on the market. A lovely read to curl up with and enjoy
Achingly painful and stunningly beautiful, be prepared to fall long and hard for We Begin at the End. This is a crime novel that will stay with me, and is now firmly ensconced on my list of favourite books. Duchess, full of awareness of the difficulties of life at just 13 years old, throws her family’s life into chaos when Vincent King is released from prison after 30 years. The first few sentences caught and held me, the prologue sets a shiver inducing scene. By the time the first chapter began I was already in thrall to Chris Whitaker’s writing. I felt, really felt the pain, the love, the joy, the desolation, each feeling clamouring to have its say. Duchess has stamped her way into my mind and will remain there, occasionally elbowing my attention into remembering. I adore her, she feels vibrantly alive to me. The ending felt truly perfect, and not that I would deface a book of course, but imagine ‘Highly Recommended’ stamped all over We Begin at the End. We have chosen this as a Book of the Month, Liz Pick of the Month, and a LoveReading Star Book too, because it is so completely gorgeous. I’m just sad that I don’t have the opportunity to experience it again for the very first time.
Ancient gods and the elemental spirit of an island are interwoven with modern reality in this remarkable debut that begins with a family impoverished by the decline of the sugar cane industry. In the pounding, poetic words of Augie, the father of the household: ”I was once the sugarcane. I was the cane and clacking and the sugar-sweet smoke of the reaping season.” Amidst escalating money struggles, a shiver of sharks save seven-year-old Nainoa from drowning, which the family embrace as a sign from Hawai’i’s ancient gods, especially when Nainoa also seems to have been bestowed with healing powers. Throughout the writing is majestically powerful, from punch-packing phrases that slam you in the gut, to monumental descriptions that rise, crash, roar and swell like Big Island waves, not least when life unravels again after Nainoi – now a young adult - and his siblings leave the island for various parts of the USA. Sister Kaui captures one of the novel’s core themes when, relocated to San Diego, she speaks of being, “A person of here and there, and not belonging in either place.” Meanwhile, in Portland, struggling with his healing gift, and the failings of this gift, Nainoa recalls the shark incident and memories call to him: “Home. Come home.” With its sweeping sense of myth, this multi-voiced family saga is a brilliant, involving exposition of how the places we inhabit also inhabit us at bone-deep level. It rings and rages with the wrath, revival, healing and hope of its characters.
Glorious, simply and beautifully glorious! Inspired by Shakespeare’s son Hamnet, this is the imagined story behind the writing of Hamlet, which was written between 1599 and 1601. Hamnet and Hamlet were apparently “entirely interchangeable in Stratford records in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries”. Maggie O’Farrell says she wanted to write this story for over thirty years. “What did it mean for a father to name a tragic hero after his ( ) son. What was this unusual act telling us?” The cover design is beautiful, it called to me. On opening, I slipped into and fell in love with this tale. Hamnet has an almost otherworldly feel, and yet is as earthy and believable as can be. Two time frames sit side by side, Hamnet becoming ill in 1596, and then the earlier story of Shakespeare and Agnes meeting and falling in love. The descriptions became clear bright images in my mind. I could feel the words, they echoed deep inside me, creating pools of emotion. I cried on finishing, all the feelings that Hamnet created slipped out of me and trickled down my cheeks. I adore Hamnet, it now sits on my list of favourite books, and will be one that I reread each year. Chosen as a Book of the Month, LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
A thought-provoking relationship tale with an edge. The relationships on offer here explore the nature of family, friends and colleagues, as well as love. While revenge headlines, this is a novel that focuses on empathy and compassion. Surgeon Rachel finds her world is turned upside down when she is targeted by a vengeful mother. This is very much a novel of two halves with author S. L. Russell ensuring tension kept intrigue company before leaving speculation and hope to take their place. The story grew on me, as did Rachel, and I felt this was a very deliberate decision taken by the author. There is an element of faith in this novel, I am not at all religious and was quite content and interested by the direction it took. The Healing Knife really is the most perfectly chosen title for a stimulating and thoughtful novel.
I always do so enjoy sinking into the latest Pam Rhodes, I can almost feel myself unwinding as the story unfolds. This is the first in a trilogy set in and around Hope Hall, administrator Kath is the all important cog in the wheel that keeps the hall at the centre of the community. All the trials and tribulations that face us can be found here, yet there is always hope waiting just around the corner. There is such a sense of community on offer, and at times I felt as though I was reading about my own village. In just a few words Pam Rhodes introduces all the characters, and I could imagine exactly who they were, I could hear the gossip, see the hugs, feel the support. There are smiles a plenty to be found, even during the sadness that sometimes visits the pages. With a gentle fondness Springtime at Hope Hall showcases the centre of a town, the heart of a community, and rather lovely it is too.
A quietly powerful book containing an inner core of steely strength. Set in the heart of Hitler’s hideaway lair the Wolfsschanze, this story focuses on Rosa, one of ten women chosen to taste his food in case of poison. Inspired by the true story of one of Hitler’s food tasters, and translated from Italian, this penetrating story concentrates on the intimate to highlight the truth of human behaviour and war. Author Rosella Postorino has the beautiful skill of pointing out the hidden in normality to allow a greater understanding. The seemingly simple story connected to my thoughts, she made me think in a different way, to consider the small things that can turn into an avalanche of awareness. There is one point where the very structure of the Nazi salute is dissected and the shock of realisation that hit has stayed with me. The Women at Hitler’s Table is fascinating, haunting, and a worthy read indeed.
A masterful murder mystery, this folks, is how it is done! A celebrity wedding is taking place on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, but before the celebration finishes, a murder and a storm hit with full force. I’ve adored all of Lucy Foley’s novels, from historical to crime, she is one of my must-read authors. She has used the same fabulous format as in the bestselling The Hunting Party but this still feels fresh, original and very much its own wonderfully distinct creation. I slipped into the storyline, got to know all of the characters, and started to sleuth my way through the secrets and intrigue. And oh what intrigue! The immediate lead up to the reveal made my inner investigator rub gleeful hands. The reveal itself, well, I just want to stand up and applaud Lucy Foley! Addictively readable and immensely satisfying The Guest List has star quality stamped all over it. Chosen as a LoveReading book of the month and LoveReading Star Book, we adore it! Lucy Foley is our Putting Authors in the Picture Feature for February. Check out her Q&A here!
Whether it’s Barbara Taylor Bradford’s window into the dark secrets of dynastic powerhouses, or the hard realities of Allison Pearson’s writing: the incisively humourous observations of Nick Hornby, or the light touch of Charlotte Bingham: the engrossing passion of Jojo Moyes, or the captivating worlds conjured by Jodi Picoult and Daisy Waugh, the range of fantastic stories in the Family Drama section is almost endless. Luckily our unique expert reviews and hand-picked recommendations are here to help match you with your perfect next read. Sign up to our monthly emails to stay in touch with the latest output from warm, wise Elizabeth Buchan, insightful Kate Atkinson, sensory-stimulating Joanna Harris, huge-scale Sidney Sheldon, magical Alice Hoffman and so many more in the varied family of fantastic authors of the genre.