The economy, the weather and what is being described politically as ‘the feel bad factor’: there has never been a better time to stay at home, switch off the television and read a good book. Given that over 60,000 copies have sold in the past week, it’s a fair bet that many are currently tied up (sorry!) with EL James’s S&M novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. But if this isn’t your thing, in this guest post, Karen Wheeler, author of Tout Soul: The Pursuit of Happiness in rural France suggests three other books that have created a buzz.
(And do scroll to the end for an invitation to a book reading in London.)
1 The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
The plot is deceptively simple: sixteen days in an overcrowded lifeboat and the deprivations and complex relationships that ensue. Rogan describes the shifting moods of the ocean so well, that you are almost reaching for the seasickness pills: ‘We plunged into the troughs and immediately, great walls of water slammed up against the limits of our vision.’ But much is left for the reader to decide. Is Mr Hardie, the sailor in charge of the lifeboat, a villain or a victim? And how reliable is the narrator Grace Winter, who reveals herself to be a fairly manipulative and ruthless young woman? A gripping read even if, ultimately, you do have to provide your own answers.
2 Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd
I’m not usually a fan of spy novels but I was immediately drawn into the first half of this book. Boyd paints an evocative picture of Vienna in 1913, where actor Lysander Rief has relocated to consult a psychoanalyst for a personal problem. Rief embarks on an illicit affair with a predatory young sculptress and then in the second half of the book, is sucked into a world of espionage and treachery. Not only does Boyd tell a good story – he’s just been commissioned to write a new James Bond novel – but he excels at describing interiors and there are some colourful descriptions of the fashion of the era.
3 The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Mabel and Jack, a childless fifty-something couple, have moved to the Alaskan wilderness to start a new life. One night they build a child out of snow. The following morning she has gone but they glimpse a small girl running through the trees. Based on a Russian fairytale, this is a rather bleak book, but the bleakness is beautifully described: ‘It was as if everything fine and glittering had been ground from the world and swept away as dust.’ It’s not the sort of book that you can’t put down but you do glide along on the beautiful prose and breathtaking descriptions of the frozen landscape.
Karen Wheeler will be signing copies of her latest book Tout Soul: The Pursuit of Happiness in Rural France at Waterstones, 193 Kensington High Street on Tuesday 8th May, 6.30 – 8.00 pm and would like to invite LLG readers to join her for a glass of champagne.