Orna Mulcahy discovers fraught situations and loyal friendships in eight books to see you through October…
Elizabeth Strout fans will be racing to get her latest book OH WILLIAM! (Viking, €14.99) in which the narrator of her 2016 bestseller, MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, is now a successful writer and alone after the death of her second husband. She seems to have an amicable relationship with her first husband, William, but when William has to confront disturbing events at home, the two find themselves thrown together once more. Expect deep thoughts on relationships, but no happy ending.
Snow, John Banville’s first mystery under his own name rather than that of Benjamin Black, introduced detective Inspector St John Strafford into a frozen Wexford landscape with a murdered priest in a big old house. Now, here he is again in APRIL IN SPAIN (Faber & Faber, €17.45), working with Dublin pathologist Quirke against superbly rendered characters such as cocky killer Terry Tice and enigmatic April who is not as dead as people imagined.
Dedicated to the women and children who suffered time in Magdalen laundries, SMALL THINGS LIKE THESE (Faber, €11.65) is Claire Keegan’s first book in over a decade and a reminder of what a superb writer she is. It’s 1980s Ireland and Bill Furlong is a fuel merchant with a family to feed. On a call to the local convent to make sure the nuns will have enough fuel for Christmas, he encounters a distraught woman trying to escape. The episode is a haunting reminder of his own past and one he can’t ignore.
Nigerian-American writer and photographer Lolá Ákínmádé Åkerström’s debut novel IN EVERY MIRROR SHE’S BLACK (Head of Zeus, €19.70) intertwines the lives of three black women in Stockholm – Kemi, a successful marketing executive who’s been headhunted by a company to sort out its diversity issues, ex-model Brittany-Mae who’s relentlessly pursued by Kemi’s boss, and Muna, a Somalian refugee who has lost everyone she loves but who is clinging on to her job as a cleaner in Kemi’s office. Each must find their way in a society depicted as more concerned with hygge than humanity in this hectic and ultimately extremely sad story.
Guardian columnist Lucy Mangan speaks to frazzled parents of a certain age in ARE WE HAVING FUN YET? (Profile Books, €19.70) in which Liz just wants some time to herself but can’t get it thanks to the endless demands of her two children and her mildly oafish husband who asks if there’s any chance she could have a light stroke to alter her personality but not harm her for life. She carries on, if only appreciated by her beloved cat.
Rosita Boland writes movingly and amusingly about the encounters that have shaped her life in COMRADES: A LIFETIME OF FRIENDSHIPS (Doubleday, €16.99) whether it’s with her kindly neighbours on her Dublin street, friends and would-be lovers from her flat-sharing days or friends that have been lost along the way. A gift of a book.
When Paula Sutton swapped her “running in heels” life in London for a rural Norfolk existence she did so with a lot of style that’s now distilled in HILL HOUSE LIVING (Ebury Press, €25.60). With almost half a million followers on Instagram, there’s a ready market for Sutton’s cottagecore lifestyle which revolves around the elegant Georgian house she’s renovated. There’s lots of advice and endless pictures of Sutton twirling in full skirts through her flower-filled home.
Finally, THE HISTORY OF THE WEXFORD OPERA FESTIVAL 1951–1921 by Karina Daly (Four Courts Press, €36) is a celebration of, in Colm Tóibín’s words, “a festival which specialises in the creation of pure magic”. Also, a festival that has to fight every year for its survival even as its international reputation has flourished. Daly details the operatic highs and financial lows in a book crammed with anecdote, ambience and great archive photographs. An unexpectedly entertaining read.
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