Looking for reading recommendations to pack alongside your sunhat and sandals? Here are books you might enjoy, from classic thrillers to hot topics and romances, selected by Orna Mulcahy …
Main featured image: Photograph by Slim Aarons, via Jonathan Adler
UNFOLLOW ME (Poolbeg Crimson, €15.99) is Judith Cuffe’s print breakthrough, having previously published via Amazon. Eve Kelly would seem to have it all – a big country house, happy family, a million followers and her own studio where she can perfectly curate her look. But not everyone is buying into #BeliEve and secrets from her past threaten to bring the house down.
THE MUSEUM OF ORDINARY PEOPLE In Mike Gayle’s The Museum of Ordinary People (Hodder & Stoughton, €19.90) Jess has to find a home for a treasured set of encyclopaedias from her late mother’s house since they won’t fit in the apartment she shares with boyfriend Guy. Discovering a warehouse that takes in forgotten family treasures, she persuades owner Alex to turn it into a museum. Things get complicated when she falls for his enigmatic charms but all the cards fly up in the air when she discovers that her mother had a shameful secret life.
THE QUEEN OF DIRT ISLAND Donal Ryan’s The Queen of Dirt Island (mid-August, Doubleday, €16.60), is a short but powerful novel set in rural Tipperary between the 1980s and the present day. Don’t expect gentle nostalgia in the story of the husbandless Aylward women who can stand up for themselves against their useless, sometimes nasty relatives. The rock-solid relationship between Eileen and her mother-in-law, Mary, is at the heart of the story but fans will also meet characters from Ryan’s previous novel Strange Flowers.
RUN TIME Out in mid-August, Catherine Ryan Howard’s latest thriller Run Time (Corvus, €16.60), will have you glued to the sunbed. Actor Adele Rafferty is failing to make it in LA when she’s offered lead role in a horror/ thriller being filmed in West Cork. But something is offkilter on set and, when she wakes up to find the entire crew gone, Adele starts running for her life. The action moves back and forth between real time and the movie script itself which has young writers Kate and Joel weekending in a remote house in the trees, and has a gory ending. Howard skilfully draws the threads together, adding a dash of West Cork menace in a story that insists on being read at one sitting.
COMMON DECENCY Susannah Dickey’s Common Decency (Penguin, €16.99) is a delicious dark comedy with echoes of Elinor Oliphant. Lonely, bereaved Lily lives downstairs from glamorous teacher Siobhan who has a secret married lover. She barely notices Lily which is a big mistake because Lily needs watching, especially when she acquires a key to Siobhan’s flat.
YOURS, MINE, OURS Sinéad Moriarty keeps her finger firmly on the pulse of Irish life and her sixteenth novel Yours, Mine, Ours (Sandycove, €15.20) is all about blended family living. Anna has finally found happiness again after a long, bad marriage, but when she meets a seemingly perfect man in James, there are just four catches – two children apiece who couldn’t be less alike. Cue epic rows and bickering as their new family unit tries to find stability.
Vogue’s dating columnist Annie Lord has written a raw account of her own relationship breakdown in NOTES ON A HEARTBREAK (Trapeze, €16.60) that will strike a chord with anyone who loved and lost at a young age and grown up in the process. At first she revels in news about her ex’s sadness and failures while obsessively following him on social media but gradually they come to an understanding of what it is truly to have loved (and still love) each other.
FLOOR SAMPLE, A CREATIVE MEMOIR by Julia Cameron (Souvenir Press, €12.90) is an update of The Artist’s Way author’s 2006 autobiography chronicling her life as a writer and one-time wife of Martin Scorcese. From an Irish Catholic background, Cameron showed big promise as a journalist but blew her chances through drink and drugs. She recovered through writing (“and God”) and was soon helping others to get past their demons. Fans of her Artist’s Way programme include Eat, Pray Love writer Elizabeth Gilbert and Alicia Keys.
WITHOUT WARNING AND ONLY SOMETIMES Kit de Waal tells the story of her tough childhood with a Jehovah’s Witness Irishwoman for a mother and a dapper, bullying Caribbean father in her superb memoir Without Warning and Only Sometimes (Tinder Press, €14.99) to be published in mid-August. Growing up in Birmingham, Kit was the second child of five who watched their mother Sheila scrabble and scrub to make ends meet, while their father splurged on fancy clothes and shoes. Shamefully treated in school by sneering teachers and pupils alike, the children fared only slightly better with their grandmothers, a towering terror of a woman on their father’s side and a tight-lipped Irish landlady who was tough on her coloured (as they were then called) grandchildren. Beautifully told with not a shred of self-pity and much humour.
BOOKS TO TAKE YOU THERE
THE ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGEHOG (Europa Editions, €16.99) by Muriel Barber. Forget Emily in Paris and meet Renée instead, concierge of a posh Parisian building who is all but invisible to its rich residents. Little do they know that she leads a rich internal life thanks to her passion for art and music. When a wealthy Japanese man moves into the building, the stage the stage is set for some high quality romance.
SEX AND VANITY (Penguin €10.50), by Crazy Rich Asians creator Kevin Kwan, takes the story of EM Forster’s Room With A View and recasts it, this time on the island of Capri and in the Hamptons. On Capri to attend a wedding, Lucie Tang Churchill clashes with the ostentatious George Zao. But when Lucie meets him again years later, this time in the Hamptons, things have changed, and Lucie has to decide whether to follow her head or her heart. Dripping with sunshine and sea views.
KOLYMSKY HEIGHTS A hero to rival Bond or Bourne, academic Johnny Porter is recruited to infiltrate a mysterious Russian research station in Lionel Davidson’s 1994 Siberian thriller Kolymsky Heights (Faber & Faber, €11.70). Porter has to adopt a series of new identities to access the isolated station where a shattering secret awaits, but his only means of escape is across thousands of miles of ice. A stunning chase through the wilderness and a heart-stopping ending, make this one of the greatest thrillers of all time.
PACK THESE PAPERBACKS
MAGPIE by Elizabeth Day (4th Estate, €16) is a brilliantly twisty tale about a couple set on having a baby. Marisa is overjoyed to be pregnant with Jake and living in their new house together. But why is their lodger Kate being so intrusive and flirty with Jake? The truth is sinister and sad in equal measure.
There’s bound to be a movie in the works about Elizabeth Zott, the dynamo heroine of LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY (Doubleday, €13.99), set in California in the 1960s. Zott is a scientist whose brains and beauty are too much to bear for her male colleagues. Devastated by the loss of her soulmate, fired for being pregnant and unmarried, she finds her way onto daytime television where her chemistry-driven cookery show is a huge hit. Fast and fabulous.
In Sarah Gilmartin’s DINNER PARTY (Pushkin, €10.50) Kate prepares a feast for her family to mark a terrible anniversary. When the party implodes, she’s forced to recall how they got to this point and it all starts with Mummy, one of the most terrifying creatures you’ll meet in Irish fiction. The Guardian has compared it to a Tennessee Williams melodrama. Compulsive if you have a problem relative or two of your own.
LONG LAZY READS
A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW Not a new book but a perfect holiday companion, is Amor Towles’s A Gentleman In Moscow (Viking, €8.99). It’s the summer of 1922 and Russian poet and aristocrat Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the luxurious Hotel Metropole in Moscow – forever. Swiftly downgraded from his habitual suite to a cramped attic room, he descends to dine in the restaurant nightly, observing the hotels’ guests and staff closely while keep his impeccable manners intact.
THE MURDERS AT FLEAT HOUSE A posthumous novel from Lucinda Riley will please fans hooked on her multi-million selling Seven Sisters series. Riley died from cancer at the age of 56 last summer, but left behind The Murders At Fleat House (Macmillan Books, €16.99), her only crime novel dating from 2004. It opens with the sudden death of a pupil in a small boarding school in remote Norfolk. Tragic accident or something much more sinister? It’s down to high-flying Detective Inspector Jazmine “Jazz? Hunter to find out.
THE NIGHT SHIP Based on real life events but with dollops of pure imagination, Jess Kidd’s The Night Ship (Cannongate, €19.90) is set aboard The Batavia, one the most fabled vessels of the 17th century. A young orphan Mayken has the run of the ship as it sets sail for the East Indies. Centuries later, on a tiny island off the coast of Australia, another solitary child discovers her story.
Fans of Patrick Radden Keefe’s best-selling Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, and Empire of Pain will delight in ROGUES (Picador, €20.61) a collection of his best articles from the New Yorker dealing with crime and corruption in all walks of life – from wine forgeries to money, laundering and arms dealing.
There’s nobody better at investigating the food we feed ourselves than Michael Pollan who has written a series of books on modern eating habits. In his new book THIS IS YOUR MIND ON PLANTS (Penguin, €12.90) he focuses on the mind-altering powers of plants, three of the world’s most addictive products: opium, caffeine and mescaline. Giving up coffee and attempting to grow his own opium are just two of the lengths he went to explore the global dependence on feelgood, sometimes lethal, drugs.
PANDEMONIUM (Gill, €13.99) by Jack Horgan–Jones and Hugh O’Connell takes a deep dive into Ireland’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, charting the public health and political decisions that led the country through tough lockdowns and a slow recovery. Occasionally frustrating to read, but, all told, we did well.