7 Great Books To Read This Month - The Gloss Magazine

7 Great Books To Read This Month

Orna Mulcahy finds fascinating books for February …

THE LAST TALE OF THE FLOWER BRIDE (Hodder & Stoughton, €19) is the first adult novel from best-selling American YA author Roshani Chokshi and it’s very good. A dark love story with a Gothic feel, it recalls the best, most luscious and frightening fairy tales where dogs had eyes big as saucers and princesses combed precious jewels from their hair. Narrated by two characters, The Bridegroom and Azure, each recounts their enslavement to Indigo Maxwell-Castenada, a billionaire orphan who grew up in the House of Dreams. It’s home to Aunt Tati who raised Indigo as a daughter and welcomes Azure as a second child, witnessing the girls grow so alike that she could tell them apart only by the temperature of their silky black hair. Azure’s hair was colder. But all of this is in the past, and, as part of his wedding vows to Indigo, The Bridegroom has promised not to pry. When they are summoned to Aunt Tati’s deathbed, the house begins to reveal itself, and the nature of Indigo and Azure’s deadly friendship. 

Dense London fog regularly envelops the characters in Tom Crewe’s brilliant first novel THE NEW LIFE, (Chatto & Windus, €19), a Victorian-era story set against the backdrop of Oscar Wilde’s 1895 trial for gross indecency. The fog allows, for one blissful moment, a kiss between the esteemed writer John Addington and his young working-class lover Frank, but Addington’s wife Catherine takes a dim view when he installs Frank as his live-in secretary, and agrees to co-write a book arguing against the criminalisation of male homosexuality. His co-author Henry Ellis, is a medic and writer who, through membership of The Society of New Life, is striving for a more just society through education, improved public health and equality of the sexes. His own marriage to Edith is a chaste arrangement in which they live apart, with Edith taking a lover, Angelica. While Henry broods on his unconsummated marriage and his own secret inclinations, Addington yearns to be free and is prepared to expose the lie of his own marriage. Crewe has written an intensely human, sympathetic story. Highly sexual scenes are cut with the everyday – dressing and undressing, frugal meals, cups of tea, the lighting of gas lamps and the stroking of dense Victorian beards. It’s simply one of the best books you will read this year.

Kathleen McMahon explores the damage a damaged parent can do in her much-anticipated fourth novel, THE HOME SCAR, (Sandycove, €15.70). Half-siblings Christo and Cassie, who live on different continents, are drawn back to the west of Ireland after a violent storm reveals an army of drowned trees from prehistoric times. It’s the very forest their mother had obsessed about years before and so it seems right to meet again in Galway where they spent a summer before their mother’s early death. Each has found some happiness – Christo in a cloistered English college, Cassie as an artist in Mexico, but the burden of their mother’s ruined life hangs heavy and immutable as the hardened stumps of the ancient trees they finally discover for themselves. 

IN ORDINARY TIME, FRAGMENTS OF A FAMILY HISTORY (Duckworth, €19), Carmel McMahon tells her emigration story, stitching in threads of Irish women’s history and the tragic lives of two of her brothers. McMahon landed in New York in 1993 with $500 and a modelling contract but soon took the familiar route of bar-tending jobs and cramped flatshares. Calls home were frequent – her mother always curious to know what New Yorkers were doing and wearing. Fur coats with sneakers? No! A job in the Whitney Museum could have been a dream, but McMahon was drinking heavily at that point and had to give it up. Later she worked as a secretary to a wealthy art collector, befriending the woman’s personal stylist Georgette, a hawk-eyed Frenchwoman who looked incredible for 80. All the while, McMahon is dipping in an out of Irish history, studying Jung, writing and eventually getting sober. The fragments of her New York life seem carefree alongside the shocking events endured by her family in this beautifully crafted memoir which left me wanting more.

Sarah Thomas has drawn on her own experience as a tutor to the super-wealthy for her debut novel QUEEN K (Serpent’s Tail, €19). Narrator Melanie is employed by Kata and her oligarch husband Ivan to prepare their daughter Alex for a posh English school. Alex is naturally brilliant and has no real need to be tutored but over the years, Melanie becomes a friend and confidante. With her parents too wrapped up in their own affairs – Ivan’s business and politics and Kata’s anxious social climbing – Alex is determined to be noticed. While Melanie longs for the trappings of wealth to obliterate her own sad childhood, Alex plots a terrible revenge aboard her parents’ superyacht.

In FLING (Macmillan, €16.90) Dublin couple Tara and Colin can just about remember a time when they were madly in love, but six years of marriage and three failed rounds of IVF treatment has snuffed out the spark. Which makes them perfect candidates for Fling, a dating app aimed at the unhappily married. When each hits a perfect match, you might guess what happens next but snappy dialogue carries the story along to a satisfying conclusion in this entertaining debut from Meath writer Joseph Murray.

Every generation needs its Becky Sharp, the brazen character crafted by William Makepeace Thackeray in his 1848 novel Vanity Fair and much copied since. Here she is again in BECKY (Picador, €16.90) Sarah May’s Succession-style saga in which orphan Becky wriggles into the newspaper-owning Crawley family and doesn’t stop until she reaches the boardroom. Becky is also inspired by Rebekah Brooks, Rupert Murdoch’s protégée who was the first female editor of The Sun. Set in the 1980s and 1990s, it rattles along very enjoyably, as talented Becky sucks up to celebrities and royalty then exploits them ruthlessly for her own ends.

Follow Orna on Twitter @OrnaMulcahy

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This