Books of the month
Unusually this month, one of our featured titles is from the pen of one of the Waterstones family. Although now beyond the company fold, Cathy Rentzenbrink could once be found as a bookseller in our central London shops, almost legendary amongst us for her tireless bonhomie. Behind all that however laid a truly heartbreaking tragedy, now starkly and bravely revealed in our Non-Fiction Book of the Month, The Last Act of Love. Objectively it is a remarkable work and we're proud to be able to highlight it in this way.
Our Fiction choice has been a runaway hit in its native France and we're very much of a mind that lightning will strike again in old blighty; The Reader on the 6.27 is a delight and very much an anthem - like Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop - to the written word. The Girl of Ink & Stars, May's Children's Book of the Month, is a simply stunning debut we've been anticipating since we learned of its sale back in 2014. It's a physically gorgeous volume too.
By contrast, our Thriller this month is a resolutely uncompromising, impeccably-researched descent into the drug war hell of Mexico, and our increasingly-popular Rediscovered Classic is from the polymath genius of Michael Frayn and his 1967 Fleet Street treat Towards the End of the Morning, a book that on publication had everyone guessing as to which newspaper Frayn had so vicariously based the novel on; the smart money was on The Observer, something the author never quite confirmed.
Fiction Book of the Month
The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
‘All the characters have a close relationship with words - the words they read, the words they speak and finally the words of love. These words are the real cement of the novel.’ So says Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, author of possibly the most charming novel we’ve come across since Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore. Guylain is a commuter, trapped in a heartbreaking job in a book-pulping factory. But as he begins to rescue pages from the pulping machine to read aloud on his journey to work, he realises that his daily commute might just turn out to be his salvation, the key to a life of possibility and even love. Full of gentle, wry humour and peopled with a cast of vivid characters, The Reader on the 6.27 is a breath of fresh air on a very grey day.
Non-Fiction Book of the Month
The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink
1990. Matty: sixteen, clever, outgoing and with everything on earth to live for. Just weeks away from getting his GCSE results, Matty is struck by a car and left in a permanent vegetative state, never to walk or speak again. This book is the love that came before this event and what happens in the aftermath of tragedy. ‘Profoundly moving . . . This memoir is deeply affecting, I spent the last third of it in almost constant tears. Rentzenbrink offers a message of enormous hope for anybody who is going through loss, grief or trauma . . . She emerges from this unflinching memoir with dignity, strength and an enormous heart.’ – The Sunday Times
Children's Book of the Month
The Girl of Ink & Stars by Kiran Millwood-Hargrave
Welcome to Joya, an island of deep myth and magic. At its heart lies the Forgotten Territories, a walled-off wasteland of monsters and terrifying threat, knowable only to the very few. When Isabella’s closest friend abruptly makes for this forbidden land in order to clear her name, she finds herself in hot pursuit to save her, armed only with her father’s elaborate maps and her knowledge of the stars. In a book as physically beautiful as its writing, The Girl of Ink & Stars is a phenomenally confident debut for younger readers by an author with talent to burn. ‘The story holds you like a labyrinth and won’t let go.’ – Emma Carroll
Thriller of the Month
The Cartel by Don Winslow
The product of decades of research, knocking on doors and networks of contacts – The Cartel is literally a one-of-a-kind thriller. What James Elroy has called ‘The War and Peace of dope war books’, this blistering, panoptic thriller spent last year topping the charts in America, exploding myths and holding up a mirror to an ugly truth. Art Keller is a DEA agent, locked in a decades-long blood feud with the most powerful drug lord in the world, a man who has cost him everything; can Keller’s last wild stab at justice lower the final curtain? ‘I never intended to write The Cartel and I went in kicking and screaming to tell you the truth…’ - Don Winslow
The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Quantum physics, time travel and heartbreak conspire to make a summer Gottie Oppenheimer is unlikely to ever forget. Journalist Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s fictional debut is a properly moving tale founded on loss and one math-obsessed girl’s gradual understanding that time is not all it might seem. Still reeling from the loss of her grandfather, past, present and the future begin to coincide as Gottie – with the aid of the odd wormhole or two – begins to recognise what truly matters. The product of an intense publisher bidding-war, The Square Root of Summer is already being flagged as the most unique young adult romance of the season.
Towards the End of the Morning by Michael Frayn
Entropy stalks the halls of an anonymous London newspaper. John Dyson is a man with big dreams; steering a tiny, forlorn department known as ‘the drain’, he spends his days generating crosswords and duff filler, dreaming of a television career and a world beyond 1960s Fleet Street. When dreams become hilariously chaotic reality, the stage is set for probably the finest (and even today, eerily accurate) novel about journalism since Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. ‘…a cult book among the hacks… It does have more or less everything.’ – Christopher Hitchens, writing for The Guardian in 2005