A new novel set in the Second World War from Chris Cleave and more...

Posted on 21st April 2016 by Rob Chilver, Nina Pottell & Simon Savidge
Guest contributors Nina and Simon highlight some of their recent reads.
Book bloggers Nina and Simon recommend some of their recent favourite books.

Nina recommends:

I was delighted that today was the day for my guest recommendations as it's publication day for these treasures.

Sometimes books come along that I want to hug. Five Rivers Met On A Wooded Plain by Barney Norris is one. It's a wonderfully woven tale of five people whose lives are interlinked by an accident. Told from different perspectives including, a young teenage boy and an elderly man. It is truly one of the most beautiful books I've read, with such perfectly crafted sentences. Emotional and evocative, it's a book I read with my heart. 

The Last of Us by Rob Ewing is a stunning debut. Set on an island off the coast of Scotland it tells the story of 6 children who are the survivors of a pandemic. Rona is 8 and tries to hold together the group, and the belief that there must be other people alive somewhere, and that they'll be rescued. There is an unease and eeriness throughout the whole book that made me read massive parts of it holding my breath. A book that stayed in my head a long time after I'd finished it. If you are a Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel fan you will love this. 

I'm a huge fan of books set during WW1 and WW2. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave will be added to, amongst others, Wake by Anna Hope, Before The Fall by Juliet West, and, Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt as one of my favourites. Mary North signs up for war and rather than a position helping the war movement, finds herself teaching a group of children deemed too 'different' to have been evacuated from war torn London. Through her you meet Tom, Alastair, and Hilda. Spanning the war, Everyone Brave encompasses friendship, prejudice, class, love, and addiction, through the lives of these wonderful characters. Showing a London ravaged by war, it shows what life was like during this awful time. 

A big faux pas when travelling on public transport is laughing out loud, so beware if you read Lisa Owen's Not Working on your daily commute. I chuckled and guffawed the whole way through. We've all had those thoughts about what we're doing with our lives and whether we're in the right job. In Not Working, Claire decides to give up her job to pursue what it is she thinks she wants in life, except she doesn't know what that is. This book is funny, current, and very observant. Very few books are capable of finding such humour in every day life and Lisa Owens does this perfectly. 

If you're craving some sunshine, My Map Of You by Isabelle Broom is just what you need to ensure you book a holiday. Holly is 29 and stuck in a job she doesn't like and in a relationship she thinks might be 'right'. She receives a letter informing her that she's been left a house following the death of an Aunt she never knew. Fed up with her life in London she heads to Zakynthos where she discovers family secrets and truths. Making friends with Annie, the local bar owner, and Aidan the charming next door neighbour, the history of Holly's past falls into place and she finds out who she really is. With beautiful descriptions of Zakynthos this will transport you away.

Simon recommends:

I am a huge fan of characters who remain enigmas whilst telling their stories and with What Belongs To You Garth Greenwell has brought us not only two characters that remain mysterious yet compelling throughout, he has also created an ode to obsession. As the novel opens we follow our unnamed narrator, a middle aged American teacher now living in Bulgaria, as he goes cruising for sex in the toilets and meets Mitko, a young rent boy who within moments has become like a drug for our protagonist and we follow their relationship afterwards like a modern Greek tragedy.

There is much that is brilliant about this unflinching novel of lust, loneliness and desperation. Greenwell plays with us and our perceptions as we constantly question if this is love, obsession or just lust aswell as teasing us with which is the predator, the older man or the younger. There is also much more going on in the background, with Mitko, our narrator and Bulgaria’s pasts and there tensions all in layers under the main narrative.

The real star of it all is the writing both with the characters and their stories Garth creates but with his descriptions and underlying tensions and atmospheres. You wouldn’t think you could describe an opening scene set in an underground toilet as evocative and sensual but with Garth’s prose it is just that. What Belongs To You is concentrated brilliance, a short novel that packs an emotive and thought provoking punch.


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