Summer holiday reads
Summer holiday reads
Clapham author Julie Anderson recommends five great reads this summer
As holidays become a possibility, home or away, here are five books which you might like to take with you – a criminal debut comedy of manners, two thrilling and best-selling dramas, a haunting evocation of the Black experience in London and a new romantic mystery from a sure hand.
The Appeal by Janice Hallett (Viper, 2021)
A very modern take on the epistolatory novel, this very clever collection of correspondence and other documents puts the reader in the position of Charlotte and Femi, two legal juniors asked by their QC boss to read through all the evidence before challenging a murder conviction. There’s double dealing in small town Lockwood, during a charity appeal for money to help treat a little girl’s cancer, as seen through the texts and emails of members of the Fairways amateur dramatic society, their families and hangers on. Compelling, dark and, at times, deliciously funny, this is going to be up there when it comes to crime writing debuts of 2021 as much for its comedy of manners as for the mystery.
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker (Zaffre, 2020)
Already the deserved winner of the 2020 Crime Writers Gold Dagger Award, this is also short-listed for Theakston’s Crime Novel of the year. Set in Cape Haven, small town U.S. A., this is a tale, not just about a crime, but of how that crime, and others arising from it, resonate through a town and across the generations. Its characters are completely realised, from the portly and kindly Police Chief, ‘Walk’ Walker, to the rebellious and disturbed Duchess Day Radley, forced to shoulder more responsibilities than any child should. Found on the ‘crime’ shelves, this is actually a genre-busting, first rate novel which lives in the memory long after reading. At times it is horribly bleak, though ultimately it’s about love and what we do to protect those we love. It isn’t ‘all action’, but one wants to keep turning the pages anyway.
Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton (Penguin, 2020)
Another Theakston Crime Novel short lister, this novel unfolds, as the title suggests, across a short time span as a rural school is attacked. Outside, anxious parents wait in desperation, as a pregnant police psychologist tries to identify those responsible. Inside, the head master lies wounded as staff and children barricade themselves in the library, theatre, and classrooms. Emotions become more intense, everyone is afraid and the tension mounts. The crux of this novel is about decisions made by the besieged under extreme pressure, to choose good and take some risk, or play it safe and selfish. This is mirrored by the world and society outside. Very tightly plotted, very gripping. Lupton is usually found on the ‘literary fiction’ shelves, but this foray into crime thriller territory is a triumph.
The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka (Black Swan, 2021)
First published in 2020 and listed for a sheaf of awards, this debut novel by Brixtonian Amaka presents us with the impacts of violence and of love echoing down the ages. Narrated by a range of rich and very different voices, it seeks to capture some of the Black experience, from the ghost of the woman on the slave ship, through the lives of Michael in 1980s Brixton and Ngoni in Nigeria and then the UK and US. Damage is perpetuated, but redemption is possible. The writing is lyrical and passionate, with a shimmering, luminescent quality and the reader is drawn into the individual lives as well as seeing the generational changes. An unusual but rewarding and emotional holiday read.
Two Women in Rome by Elizabeth Buchan (Corvus, 2021)
The latest from Clapham resident Buchan is climbing up the best seller charts and has all her trademark elements. History – it is set, in part, in the 1970s Italy of the Red Brigades and explores the shadowy world of covert anti-communist politics; a cracking good story, including an unsolved and poignant mystery centring on a fifteenth century illustration to a Book of Hours; and two, very different, romances taking place in different times, as one English woman in Rome tries to find out what happened to another, seemingly friendless, compatriot who died decades before. The setting is beautifully realised. A perfect holiday read.
- Time & Leisure is hosting an online talk with Elizabeth on 28 July, as part of the Clapham Book Festival. Find out more about the festival here and sign up to the free event with Elizabeth here.
- Look out for more great events and interviews soon, including a spotlight on hugely talented SW London writer Rosanna Amaka.
Julie Anderson is currently writing Opera the third in the Cassandra Fortune series, following on from Plague (Claret Press, 2020) and Oracle (Claret Press, 2021). It will be published in 2022.