Escape the dark winter evenings and get stuck into a good book this month – discover these recommendations from books editor Edel Coffey …
When Hilary Mantel died unexpectedly in September 2022, she and her husband were in the process of moving to Kinsale, Co Cork, both as a way of escaping Brexit and of reconnecting with Mantel’s Irish Catholic roots. But alas it was not to be. Mantel is best known for her staggering literary achievement, the Wolf Hall trilogy, but she also wrote journalism, from literary criticism for the London Review of Books (as selected in the 2020 collection Mantel Pieces) to film reviews, lectures and essays. This latest collection, A MEMOIR OF MY FORMER SELF (John Murray, €16.99), features various journalism, critical essays and her excellent Reith Lectures for the BBC. It can be read episodically in no particular order or straight through in chronological order but it is uniformly witty and clever, full of Mantel’s trademark intellectual mischief and humour. A wonderful gift that gives us the opportunity to savour Mantel’s brilliance a little longer.
One suspects that Mantel would have enjoyed the Wagatha Christie trial and the star of that show, Coleen Rooney, will publish her autobiography, MY ACCOUNT (Penguin Michael Joseph, €21), this month, detailing not only her side of the legal saga with Rebekah Vardy but also her life to date, including her marriage to footballer Wayne Rooney and her life as a mother to their four sons. In the public eye since the age of 16, Rooney has a unique perspective on fame, love and marriage, but it is likely most people will read this for the inside track on the High Court case that was the culmination of Rooney’s now-famous Instagram sleuthing to discover who was leaking her private stories to the press.
Dolly Alderton is best known as a former dating columnist and agony aunt for The Sunday Times. Her 2019 memoir, Everything I Know About Love, was a hit with millennial readers and was later adapted into a TV drama starring Emma Appleton, while her 2020 debut novel Ghosts was a Sunday Times bestseller. Her second novel, GOOD MATERIAL (Penguin Fig Tree, €15.99), follows a similar vein of life, love and relationships. As Andy’s girlfriend Jen has dumped him, he finds himself once more living with his mother and wondering where it all went wrong. But there are always two sides to every break-up. If you like Nick Hornby and David Nicholls, you’ll love this.
John Boyne’s WATER (Doubleday, €13.99) is the first in a planned quartet of novellas to be released every six months for the next two years. Water is the first in the series and tells the story of Vanessa, who has left her suburban life in Dublin seeking seclusion on an island. There she meets and gets to know the locals, while slowly revealing the story of her marriage, why her daughter is not talking to her and what happened to her other daughter, all of which made her flee her life back in Dublin. An intriguing story that resonates with details of contemporary life and Irish news.
Julianne Pachico’s JUNGLE HOUSE (Serpent’s Tail, €16.99) is one of the most talked-about releases this month and it’s easy to see why. Described as somewhere between Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go and William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies, this is an inventive story set in a gated community in the jungle in Colombia, where Lena lives with Mother. But Mother is not quite like other mothers, and Pachico slowly reveals how Lena has come to live here and what happened to her family. A highly imaginative concept novel for our AI age.
Marie Cassidy became a household name in Ireland as the state pathologist for 15 years. Over a 30-year career, Cassidy has performed post-mortems and observed the advancement of forensic science and the role it plays in criminal investigations. Who better then to write a crime novel? Her debut novel BODY OF TRUTH (Hachette Ireland, €15.99) tells the story of a Scottish state pathologist Dr Terry O’Brien who has moved to Ireland to work as the state pathologist, much like Cassidy did. The book opens with a detailed post-mortem scene: Cassidy’s vivid descriptions of these procedures add veracity to her story, while her colourful characters sets the reader wondering whether they bear any resemblance to real-life ones. The story follows the fate of true crime podcaster Rachel Reese, who had been investigating the unsolved murder of an Irish woman, when she is found dead in the Phoenix Park. Dr O’Brien, dissatisfied with the investigation, starts digging into the case herself in an attempt to uncover who might have wanted to silence the podcaster and who might be next on the murderer’s list. A refreshingly pacy and lean debut.
In my opinion, Michael Connelly is one of the best authors writing today. Categorised as a crime writer for his police procedurals and legal thrillers, he writes with the informed eye of the former investigative journalist and Pulitzer Prize nominee he is, so that his books read as commentaries on contemporary society as well as gripping crime stories. Connelly has written 38 novels, selling 80 million copies worldwide, and his Harry Bosch series and Lincoln Lawyer series have both been adapted for TV. His latest novel, RESURRECTION WALK (Orion, €16.99), sees him return to these two characters. Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller is back, taking lost-cause cases that he has very little chance of winning. When he agrees to represent a woman who claims she has been wrongly convicted for killing her deputy sheriff husband four years earlier, Haller drafts in former LAPD detective Harry Bosch to investigate the case for him. If anyone can find the flaw in the case, Bosch can, and Connelly uses this story to address the ongoing issue of police corruption in America.
Sometimes a book can act as analgesic and I tend to read Jilly Cooper in that way because I first started reading her books when I was sick in bed as a young woman and ever since have associated her novels with comfort. Now in her 80s, Cooper is still writing novels and this month she returns to her beloved/despised protagonist Rupert Campbell-Black, the showjumping cad who first appeared in Riders. In TACKLE! (Bantam, €16.99) Rupert is now in his 60s and looking after his wife Taggie who is being treated for cancer, when his daughter Bianca starts pressuring him to buy a football club so that she and her footballer husband can move home to England. As always with Cooper’s novels, an enormous cast of characters with delightfully Dickensian names (Midas Channing, Genghis Tong) takes you on a wild journey that guarantees pure enjoyment and escape for these dark winter evenings.
INVISIBLE THREADS (Beehive Books, €19.99) by travel writer and broadcaster Marguerite MacCurtin is a collection of essays on MacCurtin’s extraordinary trips across the seven continents. The essays are as much geographical journeys as they are explorations of the human condition and the “invisible threads” that connect us all – “The underlying impulse to reach out and connect transcends the barriers of race, language and geographical location.”