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11 Brilliant books for a summer escape

BY Farhana Gani

1st Jan 2015 Book Reviews

11 Brilliant books for a summer escape

Vacation or staycation? For bedtime or the train ride? Books editor Farhana Gani has read and dissected these perfect summer reads and they are in turns essential, entertaining and informing. What will you read next?


by Curtis Sittenfeld


If you love Jane Austen, this is the book for you. The author of contemporary classics Prep and American Wife was given the mighty task to update everyone's favourite vintage classic and set it in the modern day. That's how Pride and Prejudice became Eligible.

This doorstopper surpasses the two celebrated reversions and resurrections Bridget Jones Diary and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies in the comedy stakes.

Mrs Bennet is cringingly snobby and dimwittedly racist and the dynamic between fitness freak Lydia and perpetual student Mary is refreshingly comical. Sittenfeld proves once again that when it comes to dialogue, she reigns supreme.


Out of Time

by Miranda Sawyer

Out of Time

No, this isn't a self-help book by a hugely respected journalist. But it IS about surviving midlife (whatever midlife actually means).

Miranda Sawyer's own mid-life crisis began with a sudden jolt when she was 44. She did some sums and realised she was pretty much at her own life's halfway point. Here, she ponders the reality of a confronting middle age “like smoke creeping under the door.”

Her provocative, inquisitive style makes her approach pretty close to the bone at times but always thoughtful and entertaining. This should be mandatory reading if you're in your 40s or beyond.


Keep You Close

by Lucie Whitehouse

Keep you close

Lucie Whitehouse's previous novel, Before We Met, gripped us well before chic noir—novels with twisting psychological storylines involving women—established itself with The Girl on a Train.

Marianne Glass falls to her death in a tragic accident. Her ex-best friend, Rowan, is suspicious and surreptitiously begins to investigate those amongst Marianne's family, friends and colleagues who would have gained from the brilliant and wealthy painter's death.

Whitehouse is a very clever writer and this book will shock and grip as the tension mounts and your suspicions seem to be realised.


The Exclusives

by Rebecca Thornton (debut)


This isn't just about female friendship and the dangers contained within, it's more like Donna Tartt's The Secret History meets Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep.

Best friends Freya and Josephine are at boarding school together and decide to play hard one night before knuckling down to study for the Oxford entrance exams.

The consequences are dire, friendships are destroyed, lives are changed and their futures are left hanging in the balance…



by Sara Pascoe (debut)


Sara Pascoe is without a doubt one of the funniest women on the comedy circuit today. Her style is distinctive—she approaches life from a very personal point of view and we laugh uncontrollably along the way.

She's applied this very same style, with lashings of charm, to her debut book. Animal is a fact-filled study of the human psyche asking questions about why we behave the way we do. 

It also happens to be an autobiographical feminist romp through our evolutionary history.


Not Working 

by Lisa Owens (debut)

Not working

If you're not trapped in the 9-5 office routine this is the novel for you. If you're trapped in the 9-5 office routine and fantasising about quitting, this is the novel for you.

Lisa Owens' heroine, Claire Flannery, has been described as a very modern Bridget Jones. It's not a man that she after, it's a job! Claire is funny, endearing and self-deprecating and her job-hunting sagas will strike a chord.

If you're looking for a new job Not Working won't help you, but it will make you laugh out loud along the way.


My Name Is Leon

by Kit de Waal (debut)

My name is Leon

Nine-year-old Leon is half black and finds himself separated from his beloved half-brother Jake (who happens to be white) after their addict mother abandons them. Jake is quickly adopted and Leon ends up in long-term foster care.

Leon doesn't entirely understand what has happened to his world and tries to restore it. Told from his perspective, this slim book is a big warm-hearted story of the true meaning of family.



by Jung Yan (debut)


This stunning literary novel is a page turner about family, belonging and making commitments you can live by.

Kyung Cho is a 36-year-old biology professor living in the US with his Irish-American wife and their young son in a house they can no longer afford. Although his Korean parents live nearby there is little contact.

Kyung's childhood was far from happy and he chooses to keep them at a distance. After a shocking act of violence, all their lives are changed dramatically and Kyung now faces the challenge of becoming a caring son.


Everyone is Watching

by Megan Bradbury

Everyone is watching

Described as a novel about the men and women who defined New York, Megan Bradbury's epic feels like a love letter to the city.

The stories of famous New Yorkers, including Robert Mapplethorpe, Walt Whitman, Edmund White and more—their lives, enduring works and personal perspectives—this is an intimate, elegant and sweeping novel of such depth and richness, you'll feel energised and rejuvenated by the power the individual has on the personality of a city.


The Middlepause

by Marina Benjamin

The Middlepause

If you're perplexed at finding yourself in the middle of your life whilst around you the world appears to be increasing obsessed with youth, living longer and looking younger, this book will restore your harmony.

Cutting through society's desire to keep ageing at bay, Marina Benjamin gives us a personal, clear-eyed and beguiling account of turning fifty and what it means to be middle-aged in the modern world. 


Ways to Disappear

by Idra Novey (debut)

ways to disappear

A famous Brazilian novelist climbs into an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar—and she vanishes.

When Emma, her American translator, hears of the disappearance she puts her own life (and eager-to-marry boyfriend) on hold and boards a flight to Rio de Janiero to find her beloved writer. If your summer is about escaping, Ways to Disappear will more than deliver.

Highly original, stylishly written surreal, hilarious and romantic, this is a mystery like no other.


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