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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.
A smirky, fabulously quirky, poignant novel and an absolute joy to read. It is 1980, Lizzie is 18, she starts a new job working for a dentist, moves into her own flat, and thinks she may have got herself a boyfriend (but isn’t entirely sure). Lizzie is a total delight, her courage, spirit and pithy observations mix into a heady cocktail alongside her apprehension and doubt. The other characters are beautifully realised in their own right, every utterance perfectly placed, it is difficult to pick just one out as when I called them forward in my mind, they clambered over each in a riot of energy. Nina Stibbe excels in the small, in fact the incy wincy details that are so beautifully observed you didn’t know they were missing until you read them, and could see and feel the entire picture. The understanding of human frailty and poignancy of human absurdity is so wonderfully explored. There is something compelling about the writing that lodged in my mind, and took up residence in my heart. I snorted (yes actually snorted) out loud with laughter and while heartache and break is never far away, thoroughly loved every word of Reasons To Be Cheerful which earns it one of my picks of the month… it’s just gorgeous!
It’s no secret that I am a fan of Dinah Jefferies and this is as beautifully and vividly readable as one would expect. Slip back into history and join Belle Hatton who travels to Burma in 1936 to become a nightclub singer, accompanying her is a newspaper clipping suggesting her parents left Ragoon 25 years previously in mysterious circumstances. Two time frames sit side by side, in 1921 we meet Belle’s mother, lost and traumatised, while in 1936 Belle finds her life increasingly in danger. I adore the descriptive detailing, you can almost close your eyes and take in a deep breath of a bygone era. The colour of the place and people just pops with intensity. Belle begins a relationship with a man, yet it doesn’t take centre stage, it is important but certainly not the be all and end all of this particular story. There is one unforgettable moment, using an event from history that is shockingly dramatic and provocative, I saw with Belle’s eyes, felt the pain and fear. I feel as though I could pick up a Dinah Jefferies book without knowing the author and would instinctively know it was hers, each book is completely individual yet the style of the author remains. The Missing Sister is richly and expressively eye-catching, it swept me up into the pages, releasing me only at the very satisfying ending.
I was completely and utterly consumed by this debut, it slowly took hold, crept into my thoughts, drew me in, and then refused to let me go. I really didn’t want to stop reading, and even now Cora Burns enters my mind and stops for a while. Cora Burns born in gaol and raised in a workhouse, finds herself in gaol once again before a scientist takes her on as a servant, just what exactly is his current experiment? The story starts in savage darkness, then spins forward in time before rolling between 1865, 1874 and 1885, slowly answering questions yet creating more. Carolyn Kirby has created the most deeply felt and amazing character in Cora (to me she isn’t a character but as real as real can be). There were times when I almost didn’t want to read her story, I wanted to shut my eyes, hum, and put my hands to my ears, and yet I simply couldn’t stop, the words haunted me, called to me, devoured me. The Conviction of Cora Burns enthralling, fascinating and so incredibly worthwhile, developed into the most unexpectedly fierce and beautiful read (I think you will understand if you step between the pages), and so just has to be one of my picks of the month.
Does a Harlan Coben novel really need an introduction… if you’ve not read this wordsmith’s work before then yes, of course it does! I have to say that I am never disappointed, his are thrilling novels that you can completely disappear into as they spear emotions and provoke thoughts. In Run Away a father searches for his daughter, she ran, and he has been searching ever since, when he finds her, he and the rest of his much-loved family find themselves in terrible danger. The first chapter snared my imagination, you know when you fall so deeply into a book that nothing else exists, well that was me. Each character dove into my awareness, so clearly defined, I could hear them and feel for them, even if I feared them. I didn’t want to stop reading and so waved hello to the very early hours (tip: start in good time if you don’t want to pull an all-nighter!). Run Away is a pure, addictive reading feast for the eyes and mind, if you haven’t yet tried A Harlan Coben, now is the perfect time.
As eight-year-old girls, three friends made a marriage pact. Now approaching thirty, Dahlia is the only one who remains unmarried and the pressure to conform, to accept a husband, is crippling. Dahlia is desperate to be “unfettered by customs and bonds and the burden of ancestry”, and it’s clear to her that life is much easier for young boys who “would have freedoms my sister and I never contemplated...the freedom to live their lives without constant scrutiny...the freedom to not marry without shame or guilt.” While Dahlia has conformed to her parents’ idea of a suitable career, she remains steadfast in her refusal to marry a man she does not love, and still harbours a desire to pursue her artistic talents, while battling familial and peer pressure, while haunted by the abuse inflicted on her by a family friend. Dahlia’s intimate, introspective narrative evokes a sense of constriction and conflict with remarkable potency, and readers will applaud her courage and acts of defiance. Thought-provoking, long-lingering and simmering with the strength of the human spirit, this is a powerfully assured debut.
What an addictive and powerful book this is, I gobbled it up in one heady sitting and then sat and had a good ponder as certain aspects of this read knocked at the door to my consciousness. Two people have spent the last twenty-two years trying to forget, but someone is determined, no matter what, that they will remember. The first few pages really set the scene in a simple yet clever way, then I was hit by a wallop of an opening. Each chapter is headed by a character and a date, two main time frames are explored, time is sliced, spliced, offering a doorway to answers. As I read my mind explored possibilities, evaluated decisions, examined each character, their thoughts, their feelings. C. J. Cook balances the plot beautifully, keeping it taut, yet encouraging exploration in the moment. ‘The Blame Game’ (which is an absolutely perfect title) is a dramatic, enthralling and ultimately very satisfying read.
Goosebumps still compete in a race down my arms when I think about The Snakes, it is remarkable, truly remarkable, so please just trust me when I say this is a must-read. Bea and Dan rent out their flat so they can travel, stopping off at her brother’s hotel in France on route. When Bea’s parents unexpectedly visit, Dan can’t understand why Bea has kept them at arms length and refused their financial help all of these years, surely it can’t hurt to get to know them? Sadie Jones is a master storyteller, apparently simple sentences gang together to create a slicing tension. There is a purity to the writing, even though the very darkest of human attributes are so wonderfully and tellingly observed as the tale unfolds. This isn’t a comfortable read, but gosh it’s compelling, I sat and read it in one heady afternoon. I felt on high alert, my mind unclouded as I tasted, tested, scrutinised both the thoughts of the characters, and my own. ‘The Snakes’ is powerful and provocative, not in a shouty, boastful way, it slid into my mind, creating and filling secret spaces, and when I reached the last few pages, and read the final words, I just stopped and sat in wondering heart-hammering silence. This is one of my picks of the month, in fact I already know that The Snakes will be one of my picks of the year.
A feverishly seductive story, it whispers, cajoles, beckons from history until the past forcefully assaults the present. When Ruth’s estranged father dies she returns to Edinburgh and discovers the hidden diary of her ancestor Thomas Erskine. Fascinated by his story Ruth finds herself in extraordinary danger when she starts to delve into the past. The prologue offers a warning, while the first chapter thoroughly sets the scene in 1760 as 10 year old Thomas witnesses a murder and sees the shadow of the dead man as it leaves the body. Barbara Erskine has based the story on her own family history, she paints a picture with a beautiful delicate balance and inner strength as the drama starts to unfold. Ruth’s story stands resolute in this time, and with a delicious shiver of fear I let the story take me where it willed. I always knew where I was, even as the past pushed ever closer. Spellbinding and gorgeously readable, as all becomes clear The Ghost Tree really is the most perfect title - highly recommended.
A stunningly beautiful, courageous story, 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. Mysterious, yet almost gentle, I let the words take me, I felt myself floating, and then bites of uncertainty and disquiet started to 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 has created a beautifully eloquent tale. Opening a window into a vivid feast of a read, as a debut novel The Familiars stands out from the crowd.
A sharp, dramatic and thrilling tale, prepare the edge of your seat as you might be spending some time there! Maggie wakes to living nightmare, her daughter died in the accident that placed Maggie in a coma, her husband has disappeared, and Maggie remembers nothing about the incident. The prologue in Crown Court, immediately sets the scene and encourages intrigue to run amok. The first few chapters, so short, yet so full of tension ensured my brain tasted and tested every word as I read. Nuala Ellwood intricately sews little pieces of information into the pages, just waiting for you to discover them. Letters appear every few chapters, heart-aching moments in time. I existed in two spaces, part of me just reading and thoroughly enjoying the story, the other exploring and examining thoughts and feelings in detail. Day of the Accident slams with impact, gave my brain a huge workout and is a thoroughly captivating read.
As a young woman, Kiki lived and loved in Turkey, but returned to America after not taking to the isolated, ramshackle farm she and her husband moved to. Some thirty years on - single, widely read, worldly wise, but endowed with an endearing lack of pretension - Kiki connects deeper with her niece Reyna. When Reyna pulls out of driving for a criminal scheme her ex-con boyfriend is involved in, her act of defiance sets a succession of life-changing events in motion, waves that surge far and transform lives around the globe. The structure deftly weaves together different sets of people who are loosely linked by strands of shared experiences and events, such as the German travellers Kiki met on her former husband’s farm in Turkey. The stories of the various narrators are powerful, mesmeric and smoothly readable - I shall be seeking out everything this author has written.
A complete and absolute delight, this is a treasure of a read. Tom and his fifteen year old daughter Hannah believe in the magic of the theatre, of creating moments in time that live forever in the memory, when everything comes under threat, can magic prevail? This is one of those wonderful occasions where I just read for the pure spellbinding pleasure of reading. No notes, no overthinking, just cosying in a chair with a beautiful book. The first paragraph took my hand and welcomed me in. Keith Stuart takes ordinary and allows you to see wonder, captures the unimaginable and transforms it to touchable, greets heartache and encourages thoughtful contemplation… and his words are so gorgeously readable. Either Tom or Hannah head each chapter, their voices distinct, clear, vivid in my mind’s eye. Just as a note, I did cry, I had a little wobble as I read (you’ll know when you get there) and had to have a few minutes before I carried on reading, yet Days of Wonder is full of joy, hope, love and is a truly, deeply beautiful read - highly recommended.
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.
The normal, the extraordinary, the highest ups and very deepest downs, this absolutely gorgeous book is about life, in all of its wonderful, charming, heartbreaking glory. I’m very conscious about the fact that I will probably gush with enthusiasm because I quite simply adored it, sorry (not sorry), you’ll just have to go with me on this one. Erin and Dom marry in 1996, and her father gives them an empty book, a book to write what can not be said, an opportunity to create honesty, love, commitment, and so we are introduced to The Book of Love. Little excerpts from the book start each chapter, we hear from either Erin or Dom as we view their life, travelling in time from now which is 2017, and then, which starts in 1996 and travels forward to meet now. I will warn you that I whimpered and cried, I also smiled, laughed, and felt the joy of this couple, but there are points when I really really cried. Fionnuala Kearney allows you to get to know Erin and Dom without judgement getting in the way, she writes with huge compassion and brings their story to vibrant life, this is glorious writing, just glorious. I gobbled up the words, which join together to create a simple, touchable, beautiful tale. The Book of Love is one of my picks of the month, yes, yes, I loved it!
If you enjoy a dramatic yet unpretentious family tale with bickering relatives and plenty of scandal then this could well be the book for you. Patricia is left bereft when her husband dies, particularly when it appears that a scandal is attached. A number of relationships are in the spotlight, from London to France and Sweden, each connected and matter-of-factly told. The simplicity of telling ensured I remained at a distance, each person is as contrary and contradictory as people are in real life. The characters fluttered and sometimes zipped between feelings, and while the outcome for some was in little doubt, it was interesting to see how they fielded the detritus life threw at them. With compassion and no judgement His Guilty Secret looks at guilt and innocence, and at how each can shape and destroy lives.
A pithy, twisty, challenging tale with a cracking concept. After the murder of a teenage girl in a small Norwegian town, people start pointing the finger of blame at her former boyfriend. Back in 2015 author Thomas Enger had the idea for the book but wasn’t sure whether to head in the direction of writing it for young adults, or as adult crime fiction, his wife suggested both. The YA book came first in Norwegian, then Orenda picked up on the YA to Adult crossover and Thomas has written Inborn (in English). The prologue is two pages of chilling intrigue, allowing a glimpse of hope and possibility before it’s cut down. The chapters flick backwards and forwards in time, with ‘now’ set in court, and ‘then’ slipping inevitably forwards from the violence of the prologue through to the court date. Little spiky hooks of bait made my thoughts toss and turn. I questioned everyone, joined the towns people in their doubt, felt the pain, suspicion, uncertainty. The ending caught in my throat, piercing, then shattering my crime-sleuthing thoughts. Inborn is so very readable, it also provoked and sliced at my feelings, made me stop, made me think, it really is very clever indeed.
My advice is to step off the cliff edge of suspense and just let yourself go in this dramatic tale. Anonymous letters begin to arrive for Eli who is seven months pregnant, and her life as she knows it changes forever. Each chapter is headed by a name, each woman tells her own story… discloses, explains, justifies. The first sentence arrives with a punch, I was immediately hooked and my mind started to examine my thoughts as each word landed. Claire Allan writes with immense compassion, harmful intentions and deeds were balanced by an appreciation that the darkness is composed of all shades of light. Information was slowly exposed, adding to the tension and then there was that specific moment in time when all stopped as I realised what was happening. The additional knowledge cranked up the suspense and I sat wanting to read faster and faster yet soak up each sentence. Clever, sharply edged and provocative Apple of My Eye also succeeds in being highly entertaining, resulting in a thrilling read.
An absolutely exquisite moment in reading time, and one to cherish. Concentrating on Leo and Lottie, from the world at war in 1916 to survival beyond, this is the last in the ‘West Country Trilogy’, however, The Redeemed can easily be read as standalone as I’ve stepped straight into the final book and adored it. I will admit that I do desperately want to read the first two now, and believe I will be able to do so without feeling as though I have missed out on the reading journey. Tim Pears writes with wonderful clarity, small details create a fully painted picture, every word matters and is perfectly placed. Life on board the battlecruiser came to stark realistic life while back in the West Country the farming community committed to the cycle of life. Leo and Lottie live in their moment, in their time, yet their story feels gracefully ageless and everlasting. With joy and heartache waiting to be discovered The Redeemed is an eloquent, gorgeous and fully satisfying read, it is quite simply, beautiful.
YOU'RE NOT THE ONLY ONE WATCHING You're back home after four years working abroad, new husband in tow. You're keen to find a place of your own. But for now you're crashing in your big brother's spare room. That's when you meet the man next door. He's the head teacher at the local school. Twice your age. Extraordinarily attractive. You find yourself watching him. All the time. But you never dreamed that your innocent crush might become a deadly obsession. Or that someone is watching you.
Just gorgeous… this is an emotional and quite, quite beautiful read. After a particularly traumatic time at home, 13 year old Sal and her younger sister Peppa escape into the wilds of Scotland. Sal has spent a long time preparing, the wilderness beckons them, can they survive on their own? Sal tells their story, the first chapter is so clever, I started to realise what had been happening, and then a few carefully chosen, yet almost casually thrown away words, sent a shockwave running through me. I could clearly hear Sal’s voice, she is so individual and distinctive, her words entered my mind and expanded, filling my heart. Mick Kitson encourages the Scottish countryside to sing with intensity, while you can hear Sal, you can see and feel the clean and natural space she and Peppa find themselves in. Kindness flows from unexpected places, and love is behind every word shared by Sal, even in the darkness. Simple, beautiful, provocative yet touching, this is an outstanding debut, and a read I will return to again and again. Highly recommended and one of my picks of the month.
Tragedy Begins at Home
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.
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