From Californian Hedonism to the Headlands of Devon
Presenting Our Books of the Month for May
May’s assembly of our Books of the Month greatness contains one of the most startling and assured first novels we’ve come across in recent years. You can read on to learn a little more about Emma Cline’s The Girls, but for anyone searching for that kind of creeping social claustrophobia Jeffrey Eugenides so brilliantly evoked for The Virgin Suicides, Cline’s cautionary, counter-cultural tale will hit the mark.
Fiction Book of the Month
‘Our love for each other boundless, the whole universe an extended crash pad.’
Our Fiction Book of the Month, Emma Cline’s The Girls, is probably one of the most unsettling and quietly suffocating debuts of its kind. It is 1969, in the heat of a Californian summer. Evie Boyd is like most other teenagers, ‘so attuned to attention’; she seeks other’s notice and life’s next bold step. The void is suddenly filled by the girls, a scattering of young women who are everything she is not, each utterly sure and at one with everything seemingly beyond Evie’s reach. Willingly, she begins to drop into their tranquilised circle, oblivious of the danger that sits so cruelly at its centre.
‘Emma Cline has an unparalleled eye for the intricacies of girlhood, turning the stuff of myth into something altogether more intimate… This book will break your heart and blow your mind.’—Lena Dunham
Non-Fiction Book of the Month
Television’s glowing adaptation of Gerald Durrell’s Corfu Trilogy , now enjoying its second series, has been a ray of light in the British gloom. Durrell, of course, was a novelist first and a biographer second and it’s fair to say that his books ran parallel to the truth rather than existed as a faithful record of account.
Our Non-Fiction Book of the Month, Michael Haag’s The Durrells of Corfu, goes some way to separate fact from fiction, throwing light on the circumstance of the Durrells’ exit from Blighty and unpicking the family’s complexities, from Louisa, their mother, very much a product of Empire and a woman who sought solace from widowhood in alcohol, to the wayward, self-destructive Leslie, who died many years later in relatively reduced circumstance.
The Durrells’ Corfu sojourn was actually relatively short, and Haag’s account throws into brilliant relief Gerald’s powers of invention to create a past rather closer to fantasy for a hungry, post-war British public.
Children's Book of the Month
Emma Carroll’s 2013 debut Frost Hollow Hall fitted almost hand-in-glove with what we are about as a bookseller. Written with clarity and sure of its purpose and place (both in its setting and its knowing nods to the novel’s literary legacy, everything from The Secret Garden to The Woman in Black), we understood Carroll’s ambition to create quality writing for children. Her books since have only confirmed this and we’re delighted to present Letters from the Lighthouse as our Children’s Book of the Month.
It’s winter of 1941 and evacuees Olive and Cliff are transported from a bombed-out London to the unknown wilds of the Devonshire coast. Their reluctant host is a curmudgeonly lighthouse keeper, Mr Ephraim, a man none too keen on the idea of children, evacuees or not. As Olive tries hard to prove her worth, exchanging letters from the lighthouse to the local village, she happens upon a message that changes everything - a message that seems to link her with her missing older sister Sukie.
Thriller of the Month
Not so long ago, Abir Mukerjee was immersed in, as he puts it, ‘a spectacularly dull career in finance.’ His entering the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing Prize transformed his fortunes, bagging a publishing deal with Harvill Secker that would ultimately result in our Thriller of the Month, A Rising Man.
Mukjerkjee’s intriguing stage is a Calcutta of 1919: the massacre of Amritsar is fuelling civil unrest and the murder of a senior British official is proving a potential flashpoint. Into this melee steps the wonderfully-drawn, morphine-addicted Captain Sam Wyndham, troubled veteran of the Great War and a man eager to pursue his new role within the Calcutta police. Joining him on this increasingly darkening case is the implacable Sergeant 'Surrender Not' Banerjee, and together they will be confronted by the most dangerous levels of the British Raj.
‘Highly entertaining… set in a Calcutta so convincingly evoked that readers will find sweat bursting from their foreheads.’ – The Daily Telegraph
Scottish Book of the Month
Meet Douglas Findhorn Elder. Life, it seems, has been a series of closing doors. His job, his girlfriend, even the care for his ailing father - now sequestered to a nursing home - are all in the past, his talents as a journalist increasingly made spare in the internet age.
Fates in James Roberston’s riotous comic novel To be Continued… change, however, with the unlikely entrance of talking toad Mungo Forth Mungo, who seems to be a manifestation of Elder’s inner voice: toad in pocket, the sometime journo sets off in search of the 100-year-old Rosalind Munlochy, a once-radical former MP who Elder has been charged with determining how she voted in the referendum. Booker-longlister Robertson effortlessly uses the form of this quest to create a deeply-knowing and razor-sharp portrait of a modern Scotland in the midst of unprecedented change.
‘Buried within are serious points about the stories we tell about ourselves, how history shapes our identity… In heartsore times we need more books like this.’ – The Guardian
As ever, it’s been our pleasure to root out these treasures and we’ll be back again with more superb reading.