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.
Beginning as a young French woman moves to Morocco after WWII, Leila Slimani’s The Country of Others, the first in a trilogy, parallels a personal struggle to lead a free life with a nation’s fight for independence. It’s a beautiful, immersive story of conflicts between genders, cultures, classes and generations that sweeps you into its lyrical detail and honesty. After the Liberation, a free-spirited French woman leaves Alsace for a new life with Amine, her Moroccan husband, who’d served as a soldier in France. As Mathilde later explains (the novel is not strictly chronological — episodes from the past are related through perfectly-placed recollections), “She’d been walled up for four years with no new clothes to wear, no new books to read, and Amine was the answer to all her payers. She was nineteen and hungry for life and the war had taken it from her”. Mathilde’s initial optimism at being greeted by her husband, who looked “more handsome than ever, under a sky so profoundly blue that it looked as though it had been washed in the sea”, soon sours. As Amine struggles to make a success of his farm, Mathilde is scorned by the French community for marrying a Moroccan, with their daughter mocked at school for her hair and old clothes. Amine is also tangled in conflicts. As Morocco’s fight for independence intensifies, he feels solidarity with his workers. But, as a landowner, he’s not one of them, and as a Moroccan he’s reviled by the French. And, while he adores his French wife, he’s prone to treating her badly and feels ashamed of her refusal to be subjugated: “What madness was this? How could he have thought he’d be able to live with a European woman as emancipated as Mathilde?” Despite these differences, husband and wife “shared the same aspirations for the progress of mankind: less hunger, less pain. They were both passionate about modernity”, but the political climate increasingly threatens to destabilise what firm ground they have. Brilliantly translated from French by Sam Taylor, this novel crackles with love and resilience.
Haunting and powerful Take My Hand burrowed its way into my awareness and will stay with me. Newly qualified nurse Civil Townsend is set to truly take care of her African American community, but a shocking discovery tests her resolve and courage. This skilful blend of fact and fiction is set in 2016 and early 1970’s Alabama, and the sense of place and time is extraordinary. The writing brings to life the characters and period, and surround the facts of the case so that it is all too easy to see, believe, begin to comprehend the enormity of actions taken. Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez explains the case in the Author’s Note and why she wrote a novel rather than non fiction. Not only does she bring a horrifying time in the not too distant past to life, she also highlights current issues too. This is a superbly readable and rewarding book, with a moral and ethical messaging that soaks into and carries through each page. Deep breath time, I want to shout about this novel, yes, it is at times painful, but it is also imbued with hope and just had to be included as a LoveReading Star Book, Take My Hand is provocative, emotional, and so relevant it hurts.
Inspired by an extraordinary historic phenomena that saw the women of Strasbourg infected with a dancing plague in 1518, Kiran Millwood Hargraves’ The Dance Tree captivates and charms as it lays bare insights into “a mass religious trance instigated by the unique pressures and beliefs of the time”, as the author explains in her afterword. Taking in grief for unborn children, and prejudice against outsiders and same-sex love, it’s a beautifully-written story about individuals seeking safe spaces to be themselves in a hostile, limiting age. Pregnant for the thirteenth time, bee-keeper Lisbet lives outside Strasbourg with her husband and mother-in-law, and the support of her friend Ida. Still grieving for her twelve children who didn’t survive to full-term, Lisbet “loves each lost child though they are not here”, and honours them with the dance tree she’s made in the woods — the tree is adorned with ribbons for each of her losses. Then, against a viscerally-evoked backdrop of searing heat (“the certain descent of Strasbourg into another circle of hell”), Lisbet’s sister-in-law Nethe returns from being exiled to the mountains as punishment for an unknown crime. Under the patriarchal gaze of the Twenty-One who govern the city, a woman driven to a dancing frenzy is joined by dozens more dancers, “loose-haired and wide-eyed”, moaning, radiant and whirling with bloodied feet. The Twenty-One bring in musicians, hoping to “play out the devils”. Two of them board with Lisbet, with Eren the Turkish lute player stirring her in body and soul. As the dance plague intensifies, we learn of women who are punished for loving each other, for their “love as deep and natural as the roots we walk on”. At the same time, Lisbet, Ida and Nethe share secrets and become “bonded tight as roots in earth”, with the dance tree poignantly marking their safe space, anchoring them just as it seems the world is crumbling. By turns fascinating, exhilarating and moving, this beautiful novel dances and whirls to its own distinctive tune, and gives fine voice to characters who will capture readers’ hearts.
What a thing of wonder a mobile phone is. Six ounces of metal, glass and plastic, fashioned into a sleek, shiny, precious object. At once, a gateway to other worlds - and a treacherous weapon in the hands of the unwary, the unwitting, the inept. The Cleverley family live a gilded life, little realising how precarious their privilege is, just one tweet away from disaster. George, the patriarch, is a stalwart of television interviewing, a 'national treasure' (his words), his wife Beverley, a celebrated novelist (although not as celebrated as she would like), and their children, Nelson, Elizabeth, Achilles, various degrees of catastrophe waiting to happen. Together they will go on a journey of discovery through the Hogarthian jungle of the modern living where past presumptions count for nothing and carefully curated reputations can be destroyed in an instant. Along the way they will learn how volatile, how outraged, how unforgiving the world can be when you step from the proscribed path. Powered by John Boyne's characteristic humour and razor-sharp observation, The Echo Chamber is a satiric helter skelter, a dizzying downward spiral of action and consequence, poised somewhere between farce, absurdity and oblivion. To err is maybe to be human but to really foul things up you only need a phone.
Thought-provoking, challenging, and hugely compassionate, this historical family drama pierces emotions as it combines fact and fiction. Eleanor and Edward Hamilton have a bright future in the eugenics movement, however their world begins to crumble when their daughter is diagnosed with epilepsy. Author Louise Fein takes a difficult subject and creates a world that feels all too real. The eugenics movement, which was widespread in the UK and US before it moved to Nazi Germany is difficult to fully process. The thoughts of the time seem so very distant, and yet look around today and more than echoes remain which ensures this is a riveting yet disturbing theme. The personification of epilepsy as it travels alongside the family is interesting and creates an intimacy. The main characters feel incredibly authentic, they couldn’t be anything other than flawed, yet the writing is such that you can still connect with them. The inclusion of real characters alongside what has obviously been meticulous research ensures this novel creates an unsettling edge, and yet hope blossoms. The fascinating Author’s Note brings even more understanding. The Hidden Child is a touching and powerfully compelling story as it explores a time in history that should never be forgotten.
Satisfying, convincing, and rewarding, the final book of the Ration Book series is appropriately set in the last months of the war. Even more appropriately the focus is matriarch Queenie (a particular favourite of mine), and we float between her early life in Ireland, and the Queenie in her 70’s of the Second World War. If you haven’t yet started, I would recommend going back to the beginning of this series with A Ration Book Dream as A Ration Book Victory is a coming together of storylines and characters. It is obvious that Jean Fullerton has a passion as well as well researched knowledge about this period. You can feel the life on the home front, the ploys to stretch your food, the fear for loved ones fighting, living life on the edge waiting for a silent V2 to explode into your life. As ever, the characters feel vibrantly real and the plot ticks along highlighting Queenie’s life. Her strength of will is apparent as we visit her in Ireland, and the feelings she still holds for her first love are heartbreaking. The trademark humour surrounding this character is very much on show, often coming out punching as a result of her fiery nature when protecting the people she loves. For those who have adored this series from the beginning, A Ration Book Victory is a fitting end to a compelling and poignant wartime family saga.
It’s hard to believe it’s a debut as the challenging subject matter of depression is handled with such a deft touch. So dark, it’s pitch, pitch black. Yet so so sensitive. It’s a masterclass in ascerbic narration and perfectly pitches the dark and the light. When we first meet Martha, she talks about her husband Patrick with such disdain, such boredom and he comments that Martha can supply anyone with an inventory of his flaws. But then everyone thinks he’s perfection, so sweet, so kind, living his life in the middle setting with Martha swinging between the extremes. So where does it all go wrong? Narrated in the aftermath of their separation, Martha is forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, eccentric, bohemian parents this book is filled with laughs and tears. At the heart of the novel is long term mental illness, the crushing depression with which Martha has battled since childhood, a depression which comes in waves for weeks or months at a time. However, it’s never named in the book; what is more important is Martha’s quest to know herself, to work out who is she is and why she never seems able to find contentment. It’s hilarious. It’s brilliant. It’s a sharp observational and witty book of huge talent and I can’t wait to read more of what Meg Mason has to offer.
When loved ones from the past reappear in our lives unexpectedly, they have a habit of shaking things up. And not always for the bad. For Eden Hall, the return of an old childhood friend - five years after the death of her beloved Andy – forces her to re-evaluate emotional connections to the past and the relationships that will shape her future. Her late husband’s family have been nothing short of perfect. But when Eden and daughter Lila show signs of moving on, ties with her controlling in-laws become strained. Will Eden have the resilience to put her own happiness first? And will she ever let go of her one true love? Sheila O’Flanagan is a masterful storyteller who delves into female relationships, and the female experience, with authenticity and energy. The friendship between Eden and an elderly patient is particularly special, and for a Desperate Housewives measure of sex, gossip and flirtation, the women of Sycamore Grove, O’Flanagan’s fictional Dublin neighbourhood, are the perfect tonic! Their short, sassy WhatsApp messages offer light relief to the heart-breaking love letters Eden pens to her dead husband. What Eden Did Next is a captivating exploration of how friendship and love can help us overcome adversity. How lives really can be rebuilt after trauma. And why we should always, always listen to our heart. A gorgeously uplifting, romantic read for the new season.
Lola Jaye’s The Attic Child is a truly exceptional novel. An utterly immersive dual-narrative experience that will break your heart as it lays bare atrocious abuses of power and privilege. An illuminating story that enriches understanding of Black British history with tremendous courage and storytelling verve – I can’t recommend it highly enough. In 1903, following the murder of his father at the hands of Belgian oppressors, 11-year-old Dikembe leaves his Congolese village with an English explorer, Mr Richard. The youngest of five siblings, Dikembe’s beloved mama saw this as a means of protecting him from the oppressors, a way of offering him a future. On arrival, Dikembe poignantly states, “Walking into that house was the beginning of an ending that would change everything about my life forever. Starting with my name”. Renamed Celestine, he assumes he’s here to work, but the servants address him as “Master Celestine”, and he’s told he will live a “splendid existence” as Mr Richard’s companion. But that’s soon undercut when Richard declares, “You are my prized possession from the Congo! The most valuable, and one I will make sure is looked after and taken care of to the best of my abilities”. Though ostensibly free, Celestine is powerless, a possession. While people heed Richard’s incorrect accounts of Africa, “no one ever saw who I was or what my life had been before”. And, though afforded the privilege of a fine education, Celestine’s loneliness and desperation to return home are painfully palpable, and his situation worsens when Richard dies. The novel’s second powerful narrative shifts to 1993, when 30-year-old Lowra inherits Richard’s former house. With him generally esteemed as a great explorer and philanthropist, selling the house is subject to review by heritage bodies, but for Lowra, it’s a place of painful memories. Like Celestine, she was confined in the house as a child, which was when she discovered an old porcelain doll, a beaded claw necklace and writings on the wall. As Lowra states while deep into her quest to discover who the objects belonged to, “we were two children born in different centuries; lost and alive yet connected by a set of experiences I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy”. The discoveries she makes expose horrifying abuses of power, but also tremendous dignity in the face of such abuses, a sense of pride and justice, and a man who devoted his life to empowering others through education and employment. Sweeping, haunting, and deeply affecting, this really is outstanding.
Emotions are running high in the coastal town of Kesterly-on-Sea. It’s the height of a pandemic; an important friendship is in tatters and more than one marriage hangs in the balance. But for high-flying couple Jeannie and Guy Symonds, life couldn’t be sweeter. Until 6 January 2021 - the day Jeannie mysteriously disappears. Fans of Susan Lewis won’t be disappointed, those new to her books will be sucked right in. This is a novel that exudes suspense, sexual tension and a cast of perfectly developed characters who all have their own stories to tell and secrets to hide. With each chapter comes a new revelation or encounter that has you questioning what you know and who you believe, who you are rooting for and who you are slowly beginning to mistrust. This is page-turning, nail-biting stuff! Thankfully, Trainee Investigator, Cara Jakes, and Detective Andee Lawrence – a much-loved figure from Lewis’ earlier novels – are on hand to help us unravel the truth. The camaraderie between the newbie detective and Lawrence, along with various other female relationships in the novel, adds real warmth to this otherwise bleak world. A world in which the mistakes of the past are never forgotten and negative childhood experiences are woven into the very fabric of our futures. Who’s Lying Now? is a piece of wonderfully crafted crime fiction – but it also captures the very real world inhabited by us all in pandemic times. Add it to your reading list!
Discover a hugely squishy, compassionate, and affectionate hug in book form. After her divorce, Liv leaves London behind for the Yorkshire Dales and discovers new beginnings aren’t that easy to find. While main character Liv narrates her own story, we also enter the lives of other characters from across the generations, and in dog form. Their stories surround Liv and as friendships begin to blossom, I fell in love with all of them (particularly Harry who rather steals the show!). Life in all its impossible, heart-breaking, fabulous glory sweeps across the pages, and took me with it. I love how Alexandra Potter balances different themes, characters, and the plot. You’ll greet dementia, grief, aging, teenage angst, fear, courage, friendship, autism, and love. I laughed, cried, raised my eyebrows, kept my fingers crossed, and basically felt as though I was a part of this little gang. For the feel-good factor alone I would have chosen this novel as a Liz Pick of the Month, but there’s more than that to discover within the pages. With oodles of warmth and charm One Good Thing is a lovely, thoughtful, and rewarding read.
A PAGE-TURNING SUMMERTIME READ FOR FANS OF WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING AND LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE On a perfect August morning, Elle Bishop heads out for a swim in the pond below 'The Paper Palace' - her family's holiday home in Cape Cod. As she dives beneath the water she relives the passionate encounter she had the night before, against the side of the house that knows all her darkest secrets, while her husband and mother chatted to their guests inside... So begins a story that unfolds over twenty-four hours and fifty years, as Elle's shocking betrayal leads her to a life-changing decision.
The chilling Sunday Times bestseller perfect for fans of Knives Out. The new unputdownable thriller from the multi-million-copy bestselling author of THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR. In this family, everyone is keeping secrets - even the dead. In the quiet, wealthy enclave of Brecken Hill, an older couple is brutally murdered hours after a tense Easter dinner with their three adult children. Who, of course, are devastated. Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you'd know. Wouldn't you?
Darkly compelling, and provocative, yet with bright pockets highlighting the power of self-awareness and love, Quicksand of Memory walks into thoughts and shakes up feelings. Revenge means everything and when Jenna and Luke fall head over heels for each other, not everyone is happy for them. Author Michael J Malone is a trained therapist, this book explores the affects of traumatic events, how the past can alter the future with devastating results, and the emotions raised feel authentic, feel real. From the outset whiplike tendrils of disquiet creep their way into the story. The connections between the characters simmer just below boiling point, and as the flames built, I sat in fear for what was to come. While the plot succeeds in maintaining tension and suspense, it is the characters who really come to the fore. Luke and Nathan’s relationship in particular nurtures and protects a necessary balance that ensures the focal point remains sharply in focus through to the end. Thoroughly rattling and provoking emotions, Quicksand of Memory is an intense and absorbing novel.
Sometimes your biggest mistake can also be a blessing . . . Madison has always known she had a different father to her siblings. But it wasn't until she turned eighteen that she learned his name. And now she wants to meet the man who shares her fair hair and blue eyes. Robert is a very lucky man. A big house, beautiful wife, three handsome sons. Eighteen years ago, he made a mistake. A brief fling that resulted in a daughter nobody else knows about. Robert must finally tell his family the truth. Will they ever be able to forgive him and accept Madison as one of their own?
Powerful, thought-provoking, and stunningly eloquent, this remarkable novel will be one of my books of the year. Two young men meet, under normal circumstances they would battle on different sides of the Glaswegian Catholic and Protestant divide, instead they fall in love. Although no date is given, this potentially takes place in the 90’s. Two different time frames slip into and through each other, with the past rushing to meet the present. Gangs of words squared up, pushing and shoving their way into my thoughts. While the focus remains on the main character Mungo, Booker prizewinner Douglas Stuart doesn’t skim the surface of the other characters, he took me deep down into who they truly were. Mungo will remain a part of me, he feels entirely real, and I lived every exquisitely written second alongside him. This travels into extremely dark places, and yet it’s full of love too. Family obligations, abuse, self-worth, violence, religion, toxic relationships, the struggle of being different, the purity of first love all swirl together, creating a darkly addictive pull that on occasion threatens to overwhelm. A LoveReading Star Book and Liz Pick of the Month, Young Mungo is a swaggeringly beautiful novel that I recommend, heart and soul.
Two brothers divided over the future of a country on the brink of revolution. An epic story of nautical adventure and a battle for freedom by the master of adventure fiction. 1774 Rob Courtney is growing up in Fort Auspice, Nativity Bay, a trading outpost on the east coast of Africa and has always dreamed of going to sea. When his grandfather Jim Courtney dies, and the mysterious Captain Marston calls into the fort, Robert's passion is ignited and he stows away on Marston's ship as it sails to England. Arriving in London, Rob is seduced by its charms and makes friends with a group of fast-living men and ends up in terrible debt. Desperate and penniless, Rob can see no way out. That is until the navy comes calling. Rob enlists and is taken downriver to join a ship ready to cross the Atlantic and join the growing war against the rebellious American colonists. Meanwhile, in America, Theo Courtney's two sons are coming of age in a society ever more divided between those loyal to the crown, and those who seek independence for the American colonies. Even the family is divided, with Theo's oldest son Cal an ardent American patriot, while Theo himself feels a strong tie to his mother country, England. When he sees his younger brother, Aidan, killed in a fierce battle with the British troops, Cal vows he will not rest until he has avenged his brother's death by driving the British out of America - once and for all . . . A powerful new thriller by the master of adventure fiction, Wilbur Smith, of families divided and a country on the brink of revolution.
What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales? When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius-his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse. Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.
This fabulous crime thriller is full, absolutely stuffed full to overflowing with intense, smart, powerful writing. A local family goes missing in suspicious circumstances, the police, their friends and neighbours rush to fill in the gaps of their disappearance in order to find them. The novel runs along different timelines, revealing stories from both before and after the Holden’s were found to be missing. A number of different strands open up, running alongside each other, but in themselves independent. It feels as though there are enough stories here to fill several separate novels, yet it doesn’t ever feel cluttered. Fiona Cummins keeps the characters, time frames, and plot all spinning up in the air with aplomb, any that drop and smash open are done so deliberately and I found myself on tenterhooks, waiting for the next to fall. The darkness grows, stealing across the pages, almost overwhelming in its intensity. The words crept into my thoughts, suggesting, encouraging suspicion and questions to grow and expand. Even though I had been led to expect some of the events taking place, I was still shocked when they did, and that is the skill of the writing here. I found myself on that wonderful reading clifftop of suspense before falling out into the heart-stopping void, and so I’ve chosen Into the Dark as a Liz Pick of the Month. This breath-stealing novel offers dramatic, satisfying, pure reading pleasure, so we also declare it a LoveReading Star Book.
Set against the sizzling backdrop of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s first royal tour to Australia, this is historical fiction simmering with the drama of banquets and betrayal, seduction and scandal! For identical twins Daisy and Violet Chettle, stepping aboard the royal ship marks the start of a new chapter in their lives. A chance to serve at the very highest level, and the opportunity to leave behind the tragedies of their own shared past. Daisy won’t stop at anything for a taste of the high life – much to her sister’s outrage. But when Violet’s own secrets catch up with her on the other side of the world, their fragile relationship grows ever more turbulent. Andrew Mackie has created a tantalising world inhabited by characters that are both desirable and despicable, often behaving badly behind the façade of regal splendor. The consequences are heartbreaking, unexpected and sometimes comical - but that’s all part of the book’s charm. You’re never quite sure how the drama will unfold from chapter to chapter! The Journey after the Crown is most definitely a piece of fiction. But isn’t it thrilling to imagine how life behind the scenes of the real tour of 1954 may have played out? Mackie has given the Queen’s landmark trip the Bridgerton treatment to brilliant effect; the writing sparkles like Queen Elizabeth’s sumptuous wardrobe and the secrets concealed below deck match the intensity of the adoring crowds and landscape above.
THE BRAND NEW NOVEL FROM THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR Pure escapism on every page, The Distant Shores tells the story of a family torn apart, and the woman who will bring them back together. Margot Hart travels to Ireland to write a biography of the famous Deverill family. She knows she must speak to the current Lord Deverill - JP - if she is to uncover the secrets of the past. A notorious recluse, JP won't be an easy man to crack. But Margot is determined - and she is not a woman who is easily put off. What she never expected was to form a close bond with JP and be drawn into his family disputes. Shouldering the blame for running up debts that forced him to sell the family castle, JP is isolated and vulnerable. With help from his handsome son Colm, it seems as though Margot might be the only one who can restore JP's fortunes. Will the family ever succeed in healing rifts that have been centuries in the making?
Haunting and compelling, Amanda Bestor-Siegal’s The Caretakers unveils the secrets of the inhabitants of a wealthy Paris suburb, with the spectre of the 2015 terrorist attacks as a backdrop, and the unthinkably tragic death of a child at home at its heart. We’re introduced to the set of characters when a young American au pair is arrested on suspicion of killing one of the children in her care. Her host family live in an affluent suburb on the edge of Paris, where hiring an au pair is pretty much de rigueur, where cracks glint beneath the polished veneer. Both the wealthy women and au pairs lay bare complex issues around class, privilege, coming-of-age and midlife shifts on both sides of the Atlantic as the novel slips in time and place to reveal the events that led to the au pair’s arrest. Revenge is exacted in the form of affairs. People hide secrets of their past. These are a collection of lost, lonely souls, with their backstories adding further depth, among them a story of Czech immigrants in the US, and a French woman hiding her provincial past. Exuding the enthralling pace of a thriller and the emotional depth of a literary family drama, The Caretakers is a thoroughly thought-provoking, un-put-down-able read.
“Once a research chemist, Elizabeth Zott was a woman with flawless skin and an unmistakable demeanour of someone who was not average and never would be”. So we are introduced to gloriously unconventional Elizabeth near the opening of Bonnie Garmus’ Lessons in Chemistry, an enchanting, uproariously witty novel that I cannot recommend highly enough — think a funny, feminist Mad Men set in the world of science, in a “patriarchal society founded on the idea that women were less. Less capable. Less intelligent”. With her doctoral career cut short after daring to defend herself against the groping hands of a tutor, in 1951 Elizabeth is working as a chemistry researcher, surrounded by men who overlook her work and treat her with sexist disdain. One of her colleagues is Calvin, an introverted, socially awkward Nobel-prize nominated scientist with a penchant for holding grudges, which is one of the things Elizabeth first admires in him, for “Elizabeth Zott held grudges too”, especially against a society that all but forbade women to do anything of importance. Elizabeth and Calvin strike up a sparring working relationship, start dating, and move in together — unmarried (the horror!). She suggests paying her share of the rent by cooking dinner, declaring that “Cooking is a serious science. In fact, it’s chemistry”. Meanwhile, while the unique chemistry between the couple is a delight to devour. Some years later, Elizabeth finds herself single again, and a single mother to boot. And it’s through her daughter (specifically, the delicious, nutritious lunches she cooks for her) that she’s offered a slot on a TV cookery show. True to form, Elizabeth refuses to play ball with the producer, declaring that “There’s nothing average about the average housewife”, and using the show to deliver cracking advice: “Courage is the root of change…Do not allow your talents to lie dormant, ladies. Design your own future”. Guaranteed to have you roaring with laughter, weeping in empathy, and fist-pumping the sheer joy of Elizabeth’s indomitable spirit, Lessons in Chemistry is a revitalising, stirring triumph.
Tender and comic, with a devilishly addictive wry tone and incredibly drawn characters, reading Katherine Heiny's Early Morning Riser is akin to being transported to the beating heart of an eccentric, entirely relatable small-town community. It really does make for a headily blissful reading experience, as befits a story that delves deep into the heart of all forms of love and human connections. Despite having had a whole lot of girlfriends who are everywhere around town (and beyond), Jane can’t help but fall for charismatic woodworker Duncan, though she’s less happy about the constant presence of his ex-wife, and it look like their love might be lost when he says he has no intention of getting married a second time. Then, a tragic accident sees them reunite in a way that will transform their lives forever, when they’re brought together with Jimmy, Duncan’s developmentally-challenged employee, in a truly unexpected, wondrous way. Witty, with exquisitely fitting, perfectly-placed imagery, such as this evocation of Jane snatching a moment of peace on the fraught eve of her ill-fated wedding day, “The sky was lavender-colored now. The sun had set, but the light lingered, like a child reluctant to go to bed”, Early Morning Riser is a magical, absorbing feat of fiction, and incredibly funny with it.
From the author of the modern classic A Little Life, a bold, brilliant novel spanning three centuries and three different versions of the American experiment, about lovers, family, loss and the elusive promise of utopia. In an alternate version of 1893 America, New York is part of the Free States, where people may live and love whomever they please (or so it seems). The fragile young scion of a distinguished family resists betrothal to a worthy suitor, drawn to a charming music teacher of no means. In a 1993 Manhattan besieged by the AIDS epidemic, a young Hawaiian man lives with his much older, wealthier partner, hiding his troubled childhood and the fate of his father. And in 2093, in a world riven by plagues and governed by totalitarian rule, a powerful scientist's damaged granddaughter tries to navigate life without him - and solve the mystery of her husband's disappearances. These three sections are joined in an enthralling and ingenious symphony, as recurring notes and themes deepen and enrich one another: A townhouse in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village; illness, and treatments that come at a terrible cost; wealth and squalor; the weak and the strong; race; the definition of family, and of nationhood; the dangerous righteousness of the powerful, and of revolutionaries; the longing to find a place in an earthly paradise, and the gradual realization that it can't exist. What unites not just the characters, but these Americas, are their reckonings with the qualities that make us human: Fear. Love. Shame. Need. Loneliness. To Paradise is a fin-de-siecle novel of marvellous literary effect, but above all it is a work of emotional genius. The great power of this remarkable novel is driven by Yanagihara's understanding of the aching desire to protect those we love - partners, lovers, children, friends, family and even our fellow citizens - and the pain that ensues when we cannot.
Loss and grief across the generations is the focus of ‘A Man of Understanding’ by Diana Janney. When Rufus (renamed Blue) loses his parents he travels to Mallorca to stay with a grandparent he’s never met before, his Granga Horatio. A challenging new relationship begins and the pair slowly bond, learn about each other and figure out how to communicate through their love of poetry, art and culture. This is a well-written and flowing story and the poetry included is elegant - simple yet beautiful. The narrative drew me in and as I read I was urging both Blue and Horatio to just talk to one another and be honest, settling back slightly when the breakthrough moments happened and they gradually overcame their communication struggles. Blue’s friend John Thompson brings an interesting new dynamic. I think I liked his character the most as I found his clear minded straight-forwardness was sometimes a refreshing palate cleanser in between Blue and Horatio’s more vague and metaphorical style. This is a story of bereavement and a story of healing. ‘A Man of Understanding’ follows a road with several bumps, twists and turns but is ultimately a heart-warming tale. Charlotte Walker, A LoveReading Ambassador
The major new novel from the beloved prize-winning author -- a brilliantly perceptive, painfully true and funny journey deep into one family's foibles, from the 1950s right up to the changed world of today When the kids are grown and Mercy Garrett gradually moves herself out of the family home, everyone determines not to notice. Over at her studio, she wants space and silence. She won't allow any family clutter. Not even their cat, Desmond. Yet it is a clutter of untidy moments that forms the Garretts' family life over the decades, from giving a child a ride to a painstaking Easter lunch, a fateful train journey to an unexpected homecoming. And it all begins in 1959, with a family holiday to a cabin by a lake. It's the only one the Garretts will ever take, but its effects will ripple through the generations.
The longer the marriage, the harder truth becomes . . . Meet the Hanrahan family, gathering for a momentous weekend as famous artist and notorious egoist Ray Hanrahan prepares for a new exhibition of his art - the first in many decades - and one he is sure will burnish his reputation for good. His three children will be there: beautiful Leah, always her father's biggest champion; sensitive Patrick, who has finally decided to strike out on his own; and insecure Jess, the youngest, who has her own momentous decision to make . . . And what of Lucia, Ray's steadfast and selfless wife? She is an artist, too, but has always had to put her roles as wife and mother first. What will happen if she decides to change? For Lucia is hiding secrets of her own, and as the weekend unfolds and the exhibition approaches, she must finally make a choice. The Exhibitionist is the extraordinary fifth novel from Charlotte Mendelson, a dazzling exploration of art, sacrifice, toxic family politics, queer desire, and personal freedom.
If you’ve read the Sam Shephard series, you’ll know all about Vanda Symon, New Zealand’s Queen of Crime. If you’ve not read them, please do, they are cracking. Faceless is jam-packed with suspense, utterly gripping and I promise you’ll clench all the way through. Certain bits I felt I stopped breathing altogether! And don’t get me started on the final few chapters… Billy is a vulnerable, homeless artist who turns tricks to fund her art. When Bradley, a stressed, middle-aged man picks up Billy, his frustration leads him down a path, and pushes him into acting to prove he’s not weak, he lashes out and kidnaps Billy. Pals from the streets, Max is forced to come out of the shadows to find his only friend, confront his demons and boy, he’s committed. Your heart breaks as you follow Billy’s ordeal and as her plight becomes more and more desperate. Symon’s powerful storytelling delivers an emotional rollercoaster of a thriller, and doesn’t let you go. You follow the jaw-dropping journey as the faceless street dwellers become real people and we understand what led them to the streets; a thought-provoking thriller that will have your heart racing.
In a quaint seaside resort, a charming bakery holds the key to another world... Curl up and escape with Jenny Colgan When she is given the opportunity to move to a remote tidal island off the Cornish Coast, Marisa Rossi decides some peace and quiet might be just what she needs. Since the death of her beloved grandfather back in Italy, she's been struggling to find a way out of her grief. Perhaps this will be the perfect place for her to recuperate. But Mount Polbearne is a far cry from the sleepy little place she was imagining. Between her noisy piano-teaching Russian neighbour and the hustle and bustle of a busy community, Marisa finds solitude is not so easy to come by. Especially when she finds herself somehow involved with a tiny local bakery desperately in need of some new zest to save it . . .
Light and bright yet tackling difficult subjects with compassion, this is a ray of reading sunshine. 50 years old and single, flight attendant Jen dips her toe in on-line dating waters in an attempt to find a partner after she wins an exclusive romantic holiday. It’s always rather fabulous when menopausal women star in the leading role, the sense of affinity, the smirk of recognition! Fiona Gibson creates layers of fun, warmth, empathy, tenderness, and affection as she builds the tale around the rather wonderful Jen. Anyone who has ever tried on-line dating will smile and even wince in sympathy as she learns to navigate that very peculiar world! Friendship is the major theme on offer here, proper loving, supportive, heartfelt friendship, and it’s rather lovely to feel as though you are being welcomed in to that special group as your read. I particularly enjoyed the fact that this story didn’t have a foregone conclusion, I was kept guessing until I settled into the ending with a feeling of satisfaction. Amusing, thoughtful, and uplifting, The Woman Who Took a Chance is heart-warming delight and Liz Pick of the Month.
Telling an absorbing, boldly honest story of resilience as it charts a girl’s life from rural Jamaica through her struggles to survive and thrive in London, Yvonne Bailey-Smith’s The Day I Fell Off My Island is a storytelling triumph. Shot-through with the stirring conviction that a person can come to control their own destiny, it’s told in elegant style, with perfectly-placed Jamaican patois making the story even richer. It’s 1968 and 13-year-old Erna is living in the care of her loving Grandma Melba and Grandpa Sippa with her three younger half-siblings. Erna’s world revolves entirely around her family and remote Jamaican village, until her mother visits them ahead of making a big move to England. After she leaves, life settles until Erna’s siblings are taken to live in London by their father, a man Grandma Melba calls the “Ugly Satan Devil Man”, leaving Erna bereft. After meeting her own father for the first time, Erna is also uprooted from her beloved island and finds England to be “an unfriendly, upside down world that made little sense.” In time though, despite racist attitudes initially curtailing her education, and despite enduring toxic masculinity and a traumatic home life, Erna begins to feel like she’s in control of her own destiny, echoing words of advice once said by her father: “Wi run things. Things nuh run wi”. Alongside exploring the trauma of being uprooted, The Day I Fell Off My Island is also incisive on the complexities of returning home, such as when Erna feels she’s seen as a “jumped-up islander who had lived abroad and now thought I was better than everyone else”. But, while Erna’s sense of displacement is powerfully palpable, so too are her triumphs. What a stirring, beautifully-told story. I certainly won’t forget Erna in a hurry.
This is a story about taking a leap of faith And believing the unbelievable They say those we love never truly leave us, and I've found that to be true. But not in the way you might expect. In fact, none of this is what you'd expect. I've been visiting my mother who died when I was eight. And I'm talking about flesh and blood, tea-and-biscuits-on-the-table visiting here. Right now, you probably think I'm going mad. Let me explain... Although Faye is happy with her life, the loss of her mother as a child weighs on her mind even more now that she is a mother herself. So she is amazed when, in an extraordinary turn of events, she finds herself back in her childhood home in the 1970s. Faced with the chance to finally seek answers to her questions - but away from her own family - how much is she willing to give up for another moment with her mother? For fans of The Time Traveler's Wife comes an original and heartwarming story about bittersweet memories, how the past shapes the future, and a love so strong it makes you do things that are slightly bonkers.
In Finding Ashley, a deeply moving novel from the number one bestseller Danielle Steel, two estranged sisters get the chance to reconnect and right the wrongs of the past. Melissa Henderson leads a quiet life. Once a bestselling author, she now pours all her energy into renovating a Victorian house in the foothills of rural New England. Six years ago, her life was derailed by tragedy and she stopped writing. The house has given her new purpose. When her beloved home appears on the news, Melissa receives a call from her estranged sister, Hattie. They were close once, but that was before Melissa withdrew from the world. Now Hattie is determined to help Melissa turn a new page, even if it means reopening one of the most painful chapters of her life. All these years later, Hattie feels compelled to embark on a journey that will change both their lives forever, to find the child that Melissa was forced to give up when she was only a teenager in Ireland. Finding Ashley is a powerful love story of two strong, brave women turning loss into reconnection, and a family reunited.
So exquisitely haunting it hurts, Sundial slithers into thoughts to carve out a spot and make itself at home. Fearing for the future of both her daughters, Rob takes troubled Callie to her own childhood home in the Mojave Desert and revisits the past. I have been of fan of Catriona Ward since her debut Rawblood, each of her subsequent novels has become my new favourite, and that is most certainly the case here. Just reading the synopsis sent a shiver through me, I had to have this book! As I started to read, goosebumps shivered and skittered their way down my skin to declare just how special this was going to be. A quiet menace slipped past my boundaries to create a heightened sense of fear for what was to come. The smallest yet most vital of moments are created to tip feelings already in the balance. Trust is a scarce commodity, love though, love is more than evident as mother and daughter test their relationship. There is also a grace to be found, in the eloquence of words as they slice and then stitch to form the most vividly real and vibrant story. Sundial is an intensely dark and blazingly beautiful novel about the love that can hold us together, or shatter us into pieces. This stunning tale that hovers on a sharp edge of horror has been chosen as a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month, it will undoubtedly be one of my books of the year.
Hugest of huge recommendations from me for this bold, provocative, compassionate and thoughtful, yet real as heck debut novel. I adored the characters, plot, and writing, Kasim Ali is an author to watch. After falling in love Nur is welcomed into Yasmina's family, but after four years he can’t bring himself to tell his own that he’s even got a girlfriend let alone living with Yasmina. Love, it should be simple, but with outside influences so often isn’t. Kasim Ali zigzags through the years of the relationship, allowing you to see ahead of time, to feel the weight of the decisions taken. As the little pops of understanding were released Nur, Yasmina, and their friends and family slipped into my heart. The characters are finely drawn, the flaws, the imperfections all add credibility. This is just so easy to read, yet the bittersweet plot ensures a level of tension remains throughout. I cared so much for these characters I was genuinely fearful of what was to come. I thought the ending was perfect in every way, standing ovation time for Kasim Ali. Wonderfully stimulating yet subtly thought-provoking Good Intentions emotionally connects with heart and mind. I’ve chosen this absorbing and rewarding read as a LoveReading Star Book, and Liz Pick of the Month.
With an all-consuming plot and characters that feel vibrantly real, this is an engaging and eloquent novel. Emily travels home to New Zealand and finds herself living in her father’s past as well as the present as his health deteriorates. As Felix reveals details of a woman who went missing 25 years ago, Emily begins to fear for his future. There are two distinct sides to this story, both hitting with equal intensity as they begin to intertwine. The journey Alzheimers can take spears feelings, while the story of the missing women sits waiting, biding its time. The sense of place is vividly realised, and hovers, ever present. I love Charity Norman’s writing, I find myself exploring everyday situations with new awareness as she opens the unknown and gives it voice. This tale almost sits entirely within the circle of Leah and her father Felix and I felt as though I was watching them in person, experiencing their emotions alongside them. There was a feeling of inevitability as I observed them, I could feel their pain at the cruelty inflicted. There were times when the story was so quiet it actually felt as though it was yelling. And yet there is joy to be found, and hope too, as well as a reminder that the obvious isn’t always so. Remember Me is a touching, thoughtful novel even as it dances through memories with devastating results.
THE SUNDAY TIMES TOP TEN BESTSELLER From one of our greatest living writers comes a sweeping novel of unrequited love and exile, war and family. The Magician tells the story of Thomas Mann, whose life was filled with great acclaim and contradiction. He would find himself on the wrong side of history in the First World War, cheerleading the German army, but have a clear vision of the future in the second, anticipating the horrors of Nazism. He would have six children and keep his homosexuality hidden; he was a man forever connected to his family and yet bore witness to the ravages of suicide. He would write some of the greatest works of European literature, and win the Nobel Prize, but would never return to the country that inspired his creativity. Through one life, Colm Toibin tells the breathtaking story of the twentieth century.
They thought the killer had no motive. But these murders are not what they seem . . . On 15th June 1994, Travis Green - husband, father, upstanding citizen - walked through the streets of Hartstead and killed eleven of his neighbours. The last victim was little Cassie Colman's father. As the twenty-five-year anniversary approaches, Cassie tries to forget the past - even as her mother struggles to remember it at all. Then something hidden in her mother's possessions suggests the murders were not what everyone believes. Cassie can't stop herself from digging up the past. But someone will do anything to keep it buried . . .
MEET EVA MARTINEZ-GREEN, AN ONLY CHILD FULL OF QUESTIONS ABOUT HER BEGINNINGS. Between her emotionally absent mother and her physically absent father, there is nobody to answer them. Eva is convinced that all is not as it seems. Why are there no baby pictures of her? Why do her parents avoid all questions about her early years? When her parents' relationship crumbles, Eva begins a journey to find these answers for herself. Her desire to discover where she belongs leads Eva on a journey spanning decades and continents - and, along the way, she meets women who challenge her idea of what a mother should be, and who will change her life forever...
See me, see trouble Ronke, Simi, Boo are three mixed-race friends living in London. They have the gift of two cultures, Nigerian and English, though they don't all choose to see it that way. Everyday racism has never held them back, but now in their thirties, they question their future. Ronke wants a husband (he must be Nigerian); Boo enjoys (correction: endures) stay-at-home motherhood; while Simi, full of fashion career dreams, rolls her eyes as her boss refers to her 'urban vibe' yet again. When Isobel, a lethally glamorous friend from their past arrives in town, she is determined to fix their futures for them. Cracks in their friendship begin to appear, and it is soon obvious Isobel is not sorting but wrecking. When she is driven to a terrible act, the women are forced to reckon with a crime in their past that may just have repeated itself. A darkly comic and bitingly subversive take on love, race and family, Wahala will have you laughing, crying and gasping in horror. Boldly political about class, colorism and cooking, here is a truly inclusive tale that will speak to anyone who has ever cherished friendship, in all its forms.
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.