Dolly Parton’s fiction debut, mothers’ love and an antidote to Emily in Paris … Orna Mulcahy finds books to read this month …
Meet the Booths – settled in a cabin in rural America, waited on by slaves and supported by an eccentric absent father – a famous Shakespearean actor who descends occasionally to forbid the eating of meat and to exhume a dead daughter to say goodbye. BOOTH (Serpent’s Tail, €17.80) is the latest novel from American writer Karen Joy Fowler whose Booker shortlisted We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves reportedly sold a million copies. Stars rain down on the unfortunate heads of the Booth children in this glorious, alcohol-soaked family saga set against real events of American history.
Long live Margaret Atwood. At 82, the twice Booker prizewinner is relevant as ever with a new book of essays BURNING QUESTIONS (Chatto & Windus, €23.80) plucked from the last 16 years of writings. During that time, the world discovered that that her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale might not be fiction after all, and that the world was well on its way to setting itself on fire. Atwood’s writing is crystal clear and very engaging as her view takes in the rise of Trump, the tech boom, the pandemic, the loss of Ursula Le Guin, to name but some of the topics covered.
Singer-songwriter Dolly Parton has gazillions of record sales under her rhinestone belt but, hell, there’s a novel in there too, and now it’s out in the world, thanks to a collaboration with mega-bestseller James Patterson who has donated much of his wealth to independent bookshops. RUN ROSE RUN (Century, €23.80) is a breakneck read about Annie Lee, a 25-year-old singer who dreams of conquering Nashville if only she can let go of her hardscrabble past. A fast read that comes with its own songbook.
Jessamine Chan conjures up a whole new level of parental guilt and blame in THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD MOTHERS (Ebury, €15.50) in which hassled mother Frida leaves her baby at home and skips to the office, only to be picked up by the police. In the furore the follows, Baby Harriet is handed over to Frida’s ex, the annoyingly named Gust, now living with Susanna, while Frida is convicted for neglect by the State and duly punished. A chilling, believable read from Chan, a first-time author.
For his 17th novel, Patrick Gale plucks a fine kind of mother from obscurity – Laura, who single-handedly brought up the English poet Charles Causley. A laundress, Laura managed to make a home for her war-damaged husband, but her love was reserved for Charles, a gifted child and World War II naval coder who spent much of his life in the place where he was born, Launceston in Cornwall. MOTHER’S BOY (Tinder Press, €14.99) is a gentle read that skips over some of the harsh realities that would have faced Laura as a war widow taking in washing.
In REPUTATION (Simon & Schuster, €14.99) high-flying MP Emma Webster’s life takes a nightmarish turn when the body of a tabloid journalist is found in her home. Sarah Vaughan’s latest novel boils over with online abuse as Emma is accused of murder, even as her own daughter is embroiled in an online scandal of her own.
Lucy Foley follows her best-selling The Hunting Party with THE PARIS APARTMENT (Harper Collins, £14.99), a creepy tale set in an old Paris house with a horror in the attic. Jess has come to visit her brother, a journalist, in the swanky apartment a friend has loaned him, but now he’s disappeared, the apartment empty save for a bloodstained cat and a smell of bleach. It doesn’t take Jess long to find out that the other residents are lying and want rid of her. Meanwhile, the concierge knows all the secrets in this grisly tale that could be just the antidote you need to Emily in Paris.
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