CURL UP ON THE COUCH WITH THE EASON AUTUMN MUST READS …
The Eason ‘Sinéad and Rick Must Reads’ series is back with eight great page turners for autumn. As the evenings get darker, dive into the collection with street crime novel Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead, Irish family drama Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin or get to know Meg, the type of character that we love to hate in the thought-provoking The Fixer by Claudia Carroll.
You’re bound to find something gripping in the round-up below …
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
I have read and loved Colson Whitehead’s writing in the past where he has turned his hand to genres as varied as science-fiction, history, fantasy… is there any genre he can’t do? Harlem Shuffle represents another cracking turn for him, as this time he starts in late 1950’s Harlem with Ray, an ordinary guy running a (mostly) straight furniture store, but whose dad had a dodgy criminal past. Over the next five years Ray is dragged into various heists, hustles, and the darkest corners of the Harlem underworld by his cousin Freddie. Soon he’s dealing with crooked cops and two-bit hustlers as he desperately tries to keep his legitimate life and family separate from the shadier parts of the world that surrounds him. So full of style, atmosphere and larger than life characters, you feel as if you are there, in a time and place long gone, surrounded by people you might not want to know. I absolutely loved it.
Beautiful World Where Are You by Sally Rooney
With all the huge buzz around Sally Rooney’s new novel, I am sure you don’t need me to sell it to you, but I’m going to anyway! Alice, a successful young novelist who is somewhat disillusioned with the fame and attention, ends up on the west coast of Ireland renting a house after a breakdown, and stumbling into a date with Felix. Felix is local, works in a warehouse and at first glance, they are a couple who couldn’t have anything in common. Alice’s best friend Eileen is still in Dublin, working for a literary magazine, and getting back into a complicated relationship with Simon. Are any of them going to find happiness? I love Sally Rooney’s characters, and I thoroughly enjoyed Beautiful World Where Are You (not an easy thing to say for a book that you have anticipated for so long). I think it’s safe to say that if you loved Conversations With Friends and Normal People, then this is going to fill that Sally Rooney-shaped hole in your life very nicely.
Blank Pages And Other Stories by Bernard MacLaverty
Four years after Bernard MacLaverty’s much-loved novel Midwinter Break, he’s returned with a new collection of beautifully crafted stories set over various time periods, from Vienna in 1918, through to wartime Belfast – both in the 1940s and throughout the Troubles. Each of these wonderful tales are filled with small detail, strange jobs, domestic problems, and tiny moments of connection between strangers. For me in particular, ‘The End of Days’, which is set one hundred years ago, and which is about the painter Egon Schiele and his wife in the middle of the last global pandemic, is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read. Yes, mortality and death feature a lot here, but that doesn’t for a minute make this a dark or depressing read, far from it. I can think of no higher praise than it reminded me of Raymond Carver at his best. It’s easily the best Irish short story collection I have read in a long time, and I think you’re going to find many, many things to adore in it. I couldn’t recommend it more highly.
Dinner Party by Sarah Gilmartin
I hate revealing too much about a book I want you to read so let me be careful here. Kate lives in Dublin and her family gather on the anniversary of a death for a dinner together. We then flashback to her childhood back home, her relationship with her family and her mother growing up, and the unfolding story leading up to the event that causes that death. You might know Sarah Gilmartin as a reviewer from The Irish Times, she has effortlessly jumped the fence by crafting out a beautiful series of characters and lives for her fantastic debut. Her detail of everything from small sibling interaction to the bigger stuff in life is all spot on. It’s a novel of family, full of warmth, insight, tragedy, grudges, resentment, love, how to survive it all, and the complexity of returning “home” in all of its guises. Really sharp fine stuff. One of the best Irish debuts I’ve read this year.
The Fixer by Claudia Carroll
Claudia Carroll is one of Ireland’s best loved authors because of her witty, clever, and thought provoking novels. I think The Fixer is her best book yet. Meg Monroe is the type of character that we love to hate. She’s known as ‘The Fixer’ because she fixes people’s problems. From errant husbands to bad employees, Meg will make sure they get their comeuppance. She is a master manipulator who uses her sharp intuition and people reading skills to lure her targets into a false sense of security before she seeks revenge. Until now, Meg has never once found a case she can’t handle – but this all changes when her past suddenly comes back to haunt her. In Meg, Claudia has created a layered and complex character, whose difficult past has given her the ruthless drive to succeed and to make people pay for their mistakes. At times laugh out loud, but also at times quite sinister, this is a story that is guaranteed to keep you engaged and entertained until the last page.
All In by Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King is often cited as one of the best female tennis players of all time. In this frank, open, and honest memoir she details her incredible journey to find her true self. She also gives us a fascinating insight into her incredible tennis career, covering all the memorable events, from winning 39 grand-slam titles, up to her famous win against Bobby Riggs in the “Battle of the Sexes.” All In also gives us a candid look into Billie Jean’s personal life off the tennis court, as she delves into her sexual orientation and her activism. She describes just how difficult it was to be gay in the 1950s, and how it took her a long time to be open about her sexuality. She also reveals that an eating disorder has haunted her throughout her life and explores sexism in tennis and how she set out to change tennis culture. Billie Jean is a true icon of sport and has spent her life fighting for equal rights and inclusion in tennis and is a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights. I found her life story absolutely fascinating. You don’t have to be a tennis fan to enjoy this captivating memoir by a glass-roof-shattering sports star who has helped so many people along the way.
Your One Wild and Precious Life by Maureen Gaffney
Maureen Gaffney is one of Ireland’s most highly regarded psychologists, and has a huge following, both here and also internationally. In her new book, she explores the fact that we are all living longer, healthier lives and that it’s never too late to make changes to your career, life, education, or health. This generation of ‘middle-agers’ have different expectations then that of the previous generation. We no longer expect to remain in one career till retirement or to give up on love or adventure or intellectual challenge as we age. The world can be our oyster long into old age. But as exciting and liberating as this is, it is also unsettling and at times overwhelming. In Your One Wild and Precious Life Maureen digs deep into what she believes is a liberating life stage and tells us how we can adapt and navigate our way through it. What I loved about this book is that it helps you to re-configure your thinking and habits and take control over your future as you face into a new stage of your life. Fundamentally, it shows us how to change our relationship with time and not shuffle into old age but instead grab life by the hands and dance into old age. Maureen shows us how to make the most of the life we have and understand that a whole new and exciting chapter can await if we are up for the challenge. I loved it because it reminded me that you are only as old as you let yourself feel. We all have the ability to shake our lives up and make them more interesting and fulfilling.
Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Liane Moriarty’s (same surname, but no relation!) books never fail to engage and entertain and this is a completely immersive read. Once again Liane puts us in the centre of a family crisis. Joy Delaney and her husband Stan have done well in life. They have four grown up children and ran a successful tennis academy which they have just sold. They are now facing into comfortable retirement. So, when Joy Delaney vanishes into thin air everyone is shocked. Like all Liane’s novels, the book does a deep dive into marriage, parenting, sibling rivalry and the petty resentments that bubble beneath the surface of all families. When the police get involved in Joy’s disappearance, we begin to see the perfect family unravel. Liane is such a brilliant observer of people and their flaws. She skilfully exposes what it means to be human, the good, the bad and the ugly. I read this book in one day. There are so many surprising revelations and twists and turns that it kept me riveted until the very last page.
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