Summer books you should read

James Walton 24 July 2018

This month domestic scenes both familiar and strange reveal their secrets with a sparkling wit…

Why Mummy Swears by Gill Sims (HarperCollins, £12.99)

Gill Sims’s Why Mummy Drinks—still riding high in bestseller lists—has become one of the publishing sensations of recent years. Now main character Ellen is back with another funny diary of modern motherhood.

The book opens at the start of the summer holidays, with Ellen determined to keep her two children entertained. Like many of us, though, she’s hoping to do it largely by imposing her own pre-digital childhood on them. Unfortunately, 11-year-old Jane prefers watching make-up videos on YouTube to reading Anne of Green Gables; while Peter, 9, seems to find Enid Blyton less thrilling than online games. And even when, to Ellen’s relief, the holidays end, the reasons to swear—which she does both often and rather imaginatively—continue.

Luckily, so do her endlessly sharp observations on family life (although, even by the standards of contemporary literary husbands, Ellen’s is implausibly hopeless). As a result, almost every page contains at least one moment guaranteed to make any parents reading chuckle with recognition. Or possibly wince.


The Wives by Lauren Weisberger (HarperCollins, £12.99)

For most people, I suspect, the people in Lauren Weisberger’s latest book won’t be quite so recognisable. Not, that is, unless you happen to be a former supermodel married to a US senator who’s “six feet and two inches of expensively groomed masculine perfection”. Or a hotshot New York lawyer whose husband has just made such a fortune that you’ve retired to one of America’s richest suburbs. Or a glamorous PR consultant to many Hollywood stars. Weisberger made her name with The Devil Wears Prada and here she serves up another shameless romp through American high society.

The plot begins when supermodel, Karolina, is arrested for drink-driving in a vicious plot by that hunky husband of hers. She then calls in the other two main characters to help: Miriam the lawyer and PR woman Emily, whom Weisberger readers will know as the former assistant to The Devil Wears Prada’s fearsome Miranda Priestley—memorably played by Meryl Streep in the film. (Later in the book, Miranda herself gets a scene-stealing cameo.)

Revenge is duly taken—but the real, if slightly guilty pleasure of the novel is in its gleeful spilling of beans about what the rich get up to when we’re not watching.