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All relationships have their ups and downs, whether it’s struggles with a partner or difficulties in the family. Our Relationship Stories section shows the unique features of relationships in gloriously written technicolour.
Addie and her sister are about to embark on an epic road trip to a friend's wedding in rural Scotland. The playlist is all planned and the snacks are packed. But, not long after setting off, a car slams into the back of theirs. The driver is none other than Addie's ex, Dylan, who she's avoided since their traumatic break-up two years earlier. Dylan and his best mate are heading to the wedding too, and they've totalled their car, so Addie has no choice but to offer them a ride. The car is soon jam-packed full of luggage and secrets, and with four hundred miles ahead of them, Dylan and Addie can't avoid confronting the very messy history of their relationship... Will they make it to the wedding on time? And, more importantly... is this really the end of the road for Addie and Dylan?
Supple and immersive, Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half is an epic, elegant story of sisters and mothers, of identity, and divisive racist and colourist mentalities that tear communities, families and individuals asunder. It’s a breathtakingly beautiful book, peppered with lines that latch (“When he visited, Desiree felt like a girl again, the years falling away like meat off the bone”), and an exquisitely crafted plot that threads generations through time, and across America - the Deep South, California, New York, and back. “In Mallard, nobody married dark. Nobody left either.” But that’s exactly what identical twins Desiree and Stella do at the age of sixteen - they flee their “strange town” to start a new life in New Orleans. But after a time, Stella realises she can pass for white. After taking a job as a typist, she abandons Desiree for another new life as a white woman, eventually marrying her wealthy white boss who has no clue she’s black, and with whom she has a daughter who looks entirely white, to her relief. Meanwhile, Desiree’s path couldn’t be more different. She’s also married, with a “blueblack child”, and now, ten years after leaving, desperation forces her back to Mallard - she and her daughter need to escape domestic abuse. Through Stella’s fiercely emotive storyline we witness the most despicable bigotry when a Black family moves into her white neighbourhood. She’s agonisingly conflicted and tangled, especially when facing an unravelling of her fabricated identity. “She was one of the lucky ones. A husband who adored her, a happy daughter, a beautiful home. How could she complain about any of it?” And yet she’s desperately unfulfilled. Emptiness eats away at her; she feels like she doesn’t belong anywhere. As she says early on, she’s “split in two”. While following the sisters’ stories, Bennett brings in their daughters, and generations of secrets begin to bleed, creating a compelling, compassionate, consummately outstanding novel.
Hauntingly tender, and written with powerful grace, Clare Chambers’s Small Pleasures is an absolute joy from start to finish. It’s 1957 in suburban Kent, where Jean writes for a local newspaper with every aspect of her life still dominated by her contrary, controlling mother as Jean approaches forty. No post-work drinks with colleagues. No friends. No romance. Enter Gretchen Tilbury, an elegant Swiss woman who writes to the paper claiming her daughter was the result of a virgin birth. As Jean investigates the case, she becomes close to Gretchen, her kind, witty husband Howard, and the alleged miraculous daughter, all four of them finding comfortable joy in each other’s company. “You’ve stirred us out of our routine,” Howard remarks, to which Jean responds, “I would have thought it was the other way about.” While researching Gretchen’s youth, Jean inadvertently sends shockwaves through the Tilbury family when she reconnects Gretchen to a powerful figure from her past. At the same time, she and Howard find themselves falling for each other, both of them remaining faithful to Gretchen, graciously skirting their attraction - until it’s right to act. The novel features some of the most finely drawn, endearing characters I’ve encountered in recent contemporary fiction. For all her lonely frustration, Jean isn’t one to wallow. She’s pragmatic, with ripples of not-quite-regret lapping beneath her smooth, reasoned surface - a woman “who took pride in her ability to conceal unruly emotions.” Her domesticity pieces for the paper have something of Carrie Bradshaw’s musings about them, albeit without any in-your-face sex in the city (or the suburbs, in Jean’s case), with their apparently humdrum themes humorously paralleling soul-stirring events in her own life. Laying bare a quivering three-way tug between obligation, propriety and passion, and the inexplicable way thunderbolt-bonds are formed between similar-souled individuals, Jean’s conflicts and chance to love truly get under your skin. What a remarkable book, with a dagger-sharp climax that will pierce your heart.
A huggable, squeezable, gloriously uplifting debut and LoveReading Star Book that warmed my heart and made me smile. Amy Ashton sees beauty in things most people would throw away, her house is now overflowing with the items she has collected and bordering on dangerous. When she discovers a mystery that needs to be unravelled, she begins to confront her past. We meet a withdrawn and lonely Amy in the present, and then a second time frame joins the story, taking us back to 1998. Eleanor Ray releases information from the past with perfect timing, each new moment explaining and allowing access to Amy in the present. As each memory highlights a decision, my thoughts expanded and Amy began to take up residence in my heart. The surrounding characters are gorgeous (in particular Charles and his JCBs), and bring an energy that flows through the pages towards Amy. Radiating empathy and emotion Everything Is Beautiful is just what the world needs to take us forward into 2021. The LoveReading LitFest invited Eleanor Ray to the festival to talk about this wonderful debut Everything is Beautiful. You can view the event by subscribing to the LitFest programme for as little as £6 per month - or you can pay per view. For just £2, go, see Eleanor in conversation with Paul Blezard and find out all about why you should read this stunning debut.
“For the last thirty-two years, you’ve not once trotted out for a run around the block. And now you tell me with a straight face that you want to run a marathon.” So begins this scathingly amusing novel that sees 64-year-old Remington - recently forced to retire early after an unsavoury employment tribunal – develop an unhealthy obsession with extreme exercise and his hideously competitive trainer, Bambi. Remington’s wife, sixty-year-old Serenata has always been a solitary exerciser (“I find large numbers of people doing the same thing in one place a little repulsive”), so the fact that her “husband had joined the mindless lookalikes of the swollen herd” comes as a shock, and an insensitive affront too, given that she was recently compelled to give up a lifetime of running after a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both knees. Their spiteful bickering begins immediately, with neither party displaying themselves in a favourable light. Indeed, both characters are largely unlikeable, which makes their sniping all the more entertaining. Remington bemoans accusations of privilege, thus revealing said privilege: “I’m a little tired of being told how ‘privileged’ I am... How as a member of the ‘straight white patriarchy’ I have all the power. I’m supposedly so omnipotent, but I live in fear, less like a man than a mouse.” After (eventually) crossing the finish line of his first marathon, Remington signs-up for a gruelling triathlon, with his farcical persistence in spite of serious incidents and injuries making this novel both hilarious and excruciatingly cringe-worthy, albeit with an unexpectedly bittersweet upshot.
A beautifully gentle yet pointed, and amusing yet thoughtful, feel-good relationship tale. When head teacher and separated mum of two Lucy, meets butcher, babysitter, and aspiring DJ Joseph, their age gap is just one of the obstacles in their path to finding love. This isn’t an overly sensational or dramatic tale, it’s more subtle than that, though it does cover three years during and after the EU referendum. Don’t groan, as Nick Hornby looks back in the most mindful way possible. Thoughts are provoked and rich pickings are to be found, as lots of little lightbulb moments clicked on as I read. The plot settled in the lightest of dances through some pretty weighty subjects. It’s not shouty, or finger-pointy, a relationship is created within a set of circumstances that allows you to form your own thoughts. I feel Nick Hornby has written the perfect story for anyone suffering from Covid 19 blues. Just Like You is an incredibly uplifting, engaging and stimulating read, and I absolutely loved it.
Carole Johnstone's Mirrorland is a creepingly compelling psychological thriller of the highest order - a dark, suspenseful debut with haunting atmosphere and pitch-perfect pacing as thirty-something Cat returns to her childhood home after a twelve-year absence when her twin sister El is reported missing at sea. As children, the sisters spent most of their time in Mirrorland, an imaginary world located beneath the pantry stairs. The girls also grew up with their mother telling them they were special identical twins. The egg separated late, “which meant we were more than just two halves of the same whole.” To Cal, this also meant El was “my exact opposite. My reflection. My Mirror Twin.” While the police and El’s husband Ross are certain El is dead, Cal is sure she’s still alive - who else would be leading her on a treasure hunt around Mirrorland? The trail of clues draws Cal back to their childhood with tremendous edge-of-seat tension, back to Clown Café, Princess Tower and Kakadu Jungle, where she and El used to encounter Mouse, the Witch, the Tooth Fairy and Bluebeard. Where they dreamed of meeting their imagined pirate king father in an imagined future. Following this trail forces Cal to peel back - and confront - layers of trauma from the past, to remember that “bad things happened in this house… but that was a lot easier to forget when I was an ocean away from its walls." Chillingly atmospheric, this un-put-down-able page-turner is perfect for fans of Gillian Flynn and Erin Kelly, with the magic realist elements created by the sisters’ fantasy world giving it extra edge.
If you’re looking for a unique, transportive, immensely satisfying read then I’ll wave frantically and recommend you stop right here. Laura agrees to assess Will to establish if he is still capable of living on his own, she begins to suspect that Will isn't suffering from dementia and that his strange story may actually be true. Keith Stuart is the author of the truly beautiful Days of Wonder and A Boy Made of Blocks, books that touch emotions, encourage thoughts, and cast a spellbinding atmosphere. I was hugely excited to read his latest and it effortlessly joins the others as particular favourites of mine. Each of his novels have been completely different, yet there is a thread of connection. He opens a door to a side of being human that you might not have seen and encourages emotions to flood your heart and soul. The Frequency of Us takes a step outside of what is known, edging into fantastical and I joined the story with trust and belief. Laura and Will formed a connection with each other and in turn with me. Two time frames allow access to the past, creating intrigue and a mystery that just begs to be solved. The ending really spoke to me and set my feelings free to soar. The Frequency of Us is a mesmerising read full of love and hope, and I’m thrilled to recommend it as one of our LoveReading Star Books.
An evocative and satisfyingly engaging story focusing on family, friendship, and hope. Ellie knows she needs to step beyond the sanctuary offered by her home and garden, but she hasn’t left it for over two years. Sitting alongside the main story in 2018, we also visit Romanian state orphanages with journalist Harriet in 1990 and the two stories begin to merge. I so love Catherine Isaac’s writing, she has the gift of transporting you both in heart and mind. She encourages a connection to her characters, and makes them relatable, even when exploring darkness. This is as much about Ellie’s relationship with herself as it is with others. The story explores trauma in an open yet balanced way and encourages thoughts to expand. I similarly adored Messy, Wonderful Us which journeys to Italy and I described as both heart warming and achy. The World at my Feet just has so much heart, it really is a lovely read.
WOW! What a fabulous and enjoyable read - read it in one sitting as needed to know what happened next. A tale of time travel from 2020 to 1982 - and back again. Following the story of Tom when he meets Beth - such detail in lives during the pandemic of 2020 and lives in 1982. Don't want to give too much of the story away - can't recommended it highly enough. I have just ordered one of her other books I am so impressed. Jayne Burton, A LoveReading Ambassador
‘Love Stories for Hectic People’ is a collection of short stories exploring aspects of love that aren’t necessarily the ones that are focused on most often, the sides that aren’t “happy ever after”. Each flash fiction piece is distinct and the collection can be read from cover to cover or picked up and enjoyed in whichever order takes your fancy. The author’s writing helps to create an entire world in a few deceptively simple stories, each one felt thought through and complete to me, with the reader left at the end pondering about next steps and unspoken meaning. The perfect way to be left after a flash fiction piece in my opinion. Covering a number of aspects of relationships and sex, from the joy of it to deeper and darker issues of affairs, abortions and miscarriage. I highlight this to demonstrate the variety within these stories (as I’ve said, each have their own unique tale, setting and atmosphere) and also to mention in case any potential reader is sensitive to a particular topic. Quick to read through with plenty to come back to and contemplate, I think that this is a great collection of flash fiction.
Persephone's relationship with Hades has gone public and the resulting media storm disrupts her normal life and threatens to expose her as the Goddess of Spring. Hades, God of the Dead, is burdened by a hellish past that everyone's eager to expose in an effort to warn Persephone away. Things only get worse when a horrible tragedy leaves Persephone's heart in ruin and Hades refusing to help. Desperate, she takes matters into her own hands, striking bargains with severe consequences. Faced with a side of Hades she never knew and crushing loss, Persephone wonders if she can truly become Hades's queen. Contains mature themes.
Faced with losing everything, all that matters is Here and Now... Marigold has spent her life taking care of those around her, juggling family life with the running of the local shop, and being an all-round leader in her quiet yet welcoming community. When she finds herself forgetting things, everyone quickly puts it down to her age. But something about Marigold isn't quite right, and it's becoming harder for people to ignore. As Marigold's condition worsens, for the first time in their lives her family must find ways to care for the woman who has always cared for them. Desperate to show their support, the local community come together to celebrate Marigold, and to show her that losing your memories doesn't matter, when there are people who will remember them for you... Evocative, emotional and full of life, Here and Now is the most moving book you'll read this year - from Sunday Times bestselling author Santa Montefiore.
The story of a family and a special dress, handed down from mother to daughter, during times of fortune, loss, tragedy and victory, by the world's favourite storyteller, Danielle Steel. The Deveraux family were among the most important members of 1920s San Francisco society, and the wedding of their daughter Eleanor to wealthy banker Alexander Allen would be the highlight of the 1929 social calendar. The wedding, held in the family's magnificent Pacific Heights mansion, was everything they'd hoped, and Eleanor's dress was a triumph. Designed by one of the most famous fashion houses in Paris, it was exquisite in every way. But the dream life, along with the most perfect honeymoon in Europe, was about to come to an end when Alex received news of the Wall Street Crash. It appeared that the family had lost everything . . . In the years that followed, the Deveraux lived through periods of huge social and political change. What helped to unite them was the beautiful wedding dress, first worn by Eleanor, which remained a family heirloom and continued to hold a special place in the hearts of a family desperate to survive the turmoil and changing fortunes of the times.
Lissa loves her job as a nurse, but recently she's been doing a better job of looking after other people than looking after herself. After a traumatic incident at work leaves her feeling overwhelmed, she agrees to swap lives with someone in a quiet village in Scotland. Cormac is restless. Just out of the army, he's desperately in need of distraction, and there's precious little of it in Kirrinfief. Maybe three months in London is just what he needs. As Lissa and Cormac warm to their new lives, emailing back and forth about anything and everything, finally things seem to be falling into place. But each of them feel there's still a piece missing. What - or who - could it be? And what if it's currently five hundred miles away?
A thoroughly modern, wonderfully readable and clever romantic comedy that acts as a perfect pick-me-up. Tom, Dick, and Harry (well actually it’s Tom, Richard, and Harriet but who could resist!) find themselves in the most awkward of situations when they start dating. Estranged father and son Tom and Richard don’t share the same surname and when Harriet decides to date them both, by the time they realise, love has already worked its magic. I was hooked from the very first sentence, an entertaining web is woven as each distinct voice tells their own side of the story. The age range of characters is handled beautifully and there are a few knotty intrigues to unravel along the way. Simon Brooker writes with a truly witty pen, I smiled, laughed, and even exclaimed out loud. There are also sweet notes, canny moments, and a penetrating blast of reality. I genuinely had no idea where this diverting tale was going and I just want to applaud the ending, for me it was perfectly placed. Three’s A Crowd is a romantic comedy with bite, it’s a glorious blend of sweet and sharp, and sits very nicely in our LoveReading Star Books.
A simply gorgeous and emotional tale about love and all the different forms it can take. Jack and Clare have the chance to learn that leaving love behind can potentially allow it back into your heart. Just one thing to note, while this is a relationship tale, it comes with an edge so be prepared for some thought-provoking themes. The characters in A Thing Called Love make mistakes, find themselves on unexpected paths as thoughts alter and grow, and really put my feelings through the wringer! Jack, Clare, and Grace entered so fully into my heart that I truly cared about them, while certain other characters got so far into my head, that they evoked other strong feelings! I love how Nell Carter writes and she is on my list of favourite authors (under a different name). She has the ability to encourage feelings to falter, fall, and soar, all while writing with beautiful compassion. Plus she has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of what it is to be human. A Thing Called Love is a truly lovely novel that I can wholeheartedly recommend as a Liz Pick of the Month.
Totally, completely, and utterly gorgeous, this is a beautifully written historical relationship tale with real bite. And can I just qualify the word relationship - this is about the relationships with family, community, fear, nature, as well as the more obvious love. A work of fiction inspired by history, the story begins on Christmas Eve in 1617 when a sudden and violent storm takes the lives of forty fishermen, leaving the stunned women folk learning to survive on their remote northerly Norwegian island. Still reeling from the tragedy, their lives turn in the most frightening direction when the King brings in sorcery laws and a commissioner is installed to root out evil. This is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s debut adult novel, and I feel as though I have been waiting my reading life for it. The prologue hits with a huge sad inevitability. Kiran Millwood Hargrave writes with a sensitive and considerate pen, the descriptions are truly breathtaking. While there are some savage shocks in store, The Mercies is still a warm, thoughtful and touching read. Chosen as a Liz Robinson pick of the month, we also just had to include The Mercies as a LoveReading Star Book too. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
Hauntingly beautiful and full of slicing suspense, this contemporary thriller twisted itself into my thoughts and still hasn’t let go. 17 year old runaway and former foster child Nell Ballard finds herself in London on the doorstop of a new opportunity, but a dark secret is keeping her company. Sarah Hilary is well known for her outstanding DI Marnie Rome crime series (one of my favourites) and this is her first standalone novel. The writing is unmistakably her, yet travels in a different direction. She was inspired by Rebecca and The Handmaid’s Tale and her publisher perfectly describes Fragile as a: “psychological thriller with a modern Gothic twist”. She tackles subjects such as child exploitation and homelessness, opening a door and allowing apprehension and awareness in. She has the ability to look between, into the forgotten spaces, either in the outside world or within our own minds, and she successfully reveals what most of us are unable at first to see. There was an almost gentle poetic quality to the words before they ganged together to create uncertainty, concern, and tension. At times, as the quiet moments soothed my thoughts, I was lulled into a feeling of calm. The ending, oh that ending, it hit home hard, and I had to read it again, just to allow it to sink in. Fragile is an achingly dark, wonderfully atmospheric novel, and I will more than happily climb a few rooftops to shout about it.
Quirky yet insightful, bright yet wistful, amusing yet emotional… this is one heck of a thought-provoking and stimulating debut. When Rachel is told ‘everything happens for a reason’ after her son Luke is stillborn, she begins to search for proof, certain she is to blame. This is one of those books that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre, instead it straddles several, and actually stands quite rightly on its own two feet. Author Katie Allen is a journalist, and this story is deeply personal and painful to her, she said on twitter that after her baby died one person texted back: “everything happens for a reason”, and she had grappled with that ever since. Grief is a lonely and isolating place to be, yet this novel, while eye-opening, is also inclusive and encouraging. Letting her feelings out in a series of emails, Rachel is incredibly engaging, she took my hand and welcomed me into the pages. I quite honestly had no idea where this book was going to to take me, I didn’t try to guess and remained firmly in the the presence of the words as they entered my thoughts. Highly recommended and a LoveReading Star Book, Everything Happens for a Reason is full of contradictions that fuse into the most surprising, moving, and beautiful novel.
Our August 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. A Room Made of Leaves is inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth. They left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia when he was posted as Lieutenant to the penal colony of Sydney Town. This is Kate Grenville’s first novel in a decade, she is the author of the 2006 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Secret River. Elizabeth narrates, headstrong and wilful she nonetheless finds she is folding herself smaller and smaller in order to not be observed. Each chapter may be short but they are full of suppressed emotion, candour, and are as compelling as can be. The chapter headings, if all joined together, would create a story in themselves. As each word, as each sentence and chapter flowers, the inner being of Elizabeth opened to allow me to see, and also feel her emotions. The cover is gorgeous and the understanding of the title when it came, made the beauty resonate all the more. Australia is obviously much loved, and I in turn loved reading between the lines of history. Unique and spirited, A Room Made of Leaves truly is a beautiful novel, it also deservedly joins our LoveReading Star Books. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for A Room Made of Leaves. 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.
‘Ever Rest’ by Roz Morris is a beautifully well-written story that focuses on the after effects of the loss of a larger than life character. Rock musician Ashten dies on a mountain climbing expedition and his fiancée, bandmates and bodyguard have been left with a hole in their lives that has never been healed as twenty years on as the past is continually dragged back up each time a body is recovered. We learn more about Elza, Hugo, Steve and Robert, their history and connection to The Ashbirds and the paths their lives have taken since the band’s abrupt end. We see them struggle to get their lives back together while the spectre of Ash, and renown in general prevents them from finding complete normalcy. The thing that struck me the most in this narrative is how it handles the theme of fame. Someone, or a group of people can be very famous, known around the world even for a single thing or for the briefest time, and yet that single accomplishment can both haunt and define every other aspect of their lives. And if that period of fame ended in tragedy, then feelings of loss and grief seem destined to be ever present. In some ways it reminded me of documentaries and stories prevalent at the moment in recent celebrity history - breakdowns or struggles of reinvention, unsympathetic media portrayal and fans wanting to relive the single highest moment. I think the author did a great job in emphasising that there’s more to people than that. And each character in the book is filled out and made three dimensional flawlessly. I really enjoyed learning about each character, and while I found myself drawn to Elza’s story the most, I found it easy to settle into learning more about Robert, Hugo and Steve when it was their time to share their story. I think that ‘Ever Rest’ is an endearing story of loss, grief and acceptance in a unique setting of rock-star fame. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
Oh, this is almost too gorgeous for words, thoughtful and full of emotion, it’s a simply wonderful story that connected to my heart and soul. Cate Morris has no option other than to leave everything she knows and move to Hatters with her son Leo, will they be welcomed with open arms? Anstey Harris writes with beautiful eloquence, her debut novel The Truths of Triumphs of Grace Atherton was one of my picks of the month and a LoveReading Star Book, and I’ll let you into a not so secret secret, Where we Belong is too. I was completely charmed by the first sentence, settled in with joy and then the end of chapter one caused me to take a deep breath. This is emotionally intelligent writing and perfectly timed reveals of information lay in wait. Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World is just lovely, do I want to go there? Yes I most certainly do, so was captivated to learn that it is based on a real location. Where We Belong bewitched me with its secrets and beauty, Anstey Harris really is the most wonderful storyteller and I salute her. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
A wonderfully warm, bright book to escape into, to give yourself up to and just enjoy. Jodie Jackson leaves everything she knows for a houseboat in the Isle of Wight, she soon finds herself falling for the island and its inhabitants, but London is calling and won’t take no for an answer. I always look forward to reading the latest book by Carole Matthews, they wrap me up and give me a massive loving squeeze. Having said that, this isn’t syrupy sweet, oh no, some real life dilemmas and mistakes sneak in to ensure a feeling of connection, that this could be you, or someone you know. I loved Jodie’s voice and how she talks to the reader, it not only created a bond, I ended up feeling as though I had made a brand new friend. Pure, wonderful escapism, Sunny Days and Sea Breezes really is the most lovely relationship tale and I can thoroughly recommend picking up a copy and just allowing yourself to sink into the pages. We simply adored this book in the office and so it has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book as well as a Book of the Month. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
The new novel from Ruth Jones, co-creator of Gavin & Stacey and author of the smash-hit, number one bestselling debut, Never Greener. Friends forever is a difficult promise to keep... Meet Lana, Judith and Catrin. Best friends since primary school when they swore an oath on a Curly Wurly wrapper that they would always be there for each other, come what may. After the trip of a lifetime, the three girls are closer than ever. But an unexpected turn of events shakes the foundation of their friendship to its core, leaving their future in doubt - there's simply too much to forgive, let alone forget. An innocent childhood promise they once made now seems impossible to keep . . . Packed with all the heart and empathy that made Ruth's name as a screenwriter and now author, Us Three is a funny, moving and uplifting novel about life's complications, the power of friendship and how it defines us all. Prepare to meet characters you'll feel you've known all your life - prepare to meet Us Three.
Written in its unforgettable protagonist’s captivating Trinidadian voice, Lisa-Allen Agostini’s The Bread the Devil Knead is an exceptionally immersive read that resonates with the heart-wrenching rawness of a women’s lifelong abuse at the hands of men, and the seeds of her future liberation. Every perfectly-placed word, every perfectly-formed sentence rings with truth and strikes deep. Port of Spain boutique manager Alethea is about to turn forty. Thankfully, though, there’s one thing she can count on, “and that is my looks. I going on forty but you would never know it, because every morning and night God spare life I does cleanse and tone and moisturise from head to foot.” But while she has her looks and is philosophical about reaching this life landmark (“is just a number and the face you does see staring back at you in the mirror not as important as the memories in the mind behind it”), the trouble with Alethea is that “most of the memories was bad”, while her present-day life sees her frequently abused by her partner. She finds some solace in the arms of her boss, though, and in books: “This is how I does see the world: by reading books. I does go to London, Hong Kong, Siberia, even, when I read a book. I does meet all kind of people. Learn all kinds of words. Live all kinds of lives. Thank God for books.” Then, when her adopted brother, now a priest, returns after decades away, she begins to take a new path as secrets are laid bare and ways through a dark and tangled forest come to light. Through Alethea’s complex, damaged character Agostini lays bare complex, potent truths about sexual and violent abuse, racism and colourism. Mixed race and light of skin, she’s subjected to prejudice: “because my skin light colour they feel like I feel I better than them. That is bullshit”, and “People in this island does always surprise to know it have poor white people, but though we skin was light and we hair was straight we wasn’t really white and we didn’t have a penny to we name.” And she also sees that “even after Independence, after Black Power, after all that. Is still a kind of racial, colour-conscious place where people who look like me does get through” while darker skinned people “doesn’t get one shit.” Raw and achingly beautiful, this really is remarkable.
A really intelligent, intimate, and ultimately human story awaits in this fabulous crime novel. Within a few months, Rob is due for release from an open prison in Brixton, when he meets a woman while out on day release, he is determined to hide his background from her yet there are desperate secrets on both sides. This is such a beautifully written novel from Lottie Moggach, for a dark novel it is vibrant, almost visual in effect. It feels real, as though this could be happening somewhere close by, right now. There was an immediate sense of place when I started to read, the run of Brixton Hill from the prison to the charity shop where Rob works comes alive. I felt a palpable connection to the characters, even those just appearing for a few pages. The suspense is exquisitely handled, while the atmosphere of the prison keeps pace with the turmoil in Rob’s mind. As the story neared its conclusion the heightened tension pulsated from the page through to my fingertips. Brixton Hill is an absolute gem, and is both a Liz Pick of the Month and Star Book too. Loved it, I really really loved it.
More than just romance, Relationship Stories can really strike a chord with us, at every stage of life. Just like relationships themselves, these books and there authors come in all shapes, sizes, atmospheres and aspirations. So, if something was missing from your last relationship read … we’ll help you find it in your next one! Here you’ll find the warm and the wise (Maeve Binchy, Cathy Kelly, Rosamunde Pilcher), the deliciously sexy (Jilly Cooper, Veronica Henry), the humourous and honest (Nick Hornby), the insightful (Joanna Trollope) and the … Perhaps, though you’re looking for a new relationship? Why not try our’ Author Like for Like’ tool or make a date with our Book of the Month recommendations and find your perfect match … for now, at least!