November is a wonderful time for reading. Dark evenings, wood fires and maybe a hot chocolate to sip. This month, literary editor Laura Lockington selects three books for you to enjoy that will have you puzzling over them long after you’ve finished reading
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Published by Sceptre) Longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize this is a fantastical, sweeping epic of a book that shakes and stirs the reader into a world unknown. Usually anything that smacks of magic realism has me running for the hills, or at the very least hurling the book across the room, but this had me hooked from the very beginning. The book tells the story of Holly Sykes’ life. As a teenager she ran away from home and a small kindness from a woman offering her green tea when she was thirsty in return for a promise of ‘asylum’ at a later date is the start of a journey that will leave you spinning. Decades pass before the debt has to be paid. This book completely dazzled me. The rips in the fabric of ordinary time and lives are a masterpiece of invention, and done so subtly and cleverly that it had me gasping with admiration. The time jumps in the book made me nervous for our future —I had to remind myself again and again that this was a work of fiction. A truly great read. Before The Fall by Juliet West (Pan) So often we read about the trenches, the bombs and the bloody fields of Flanders that made up the horrors of the supposed war to end all wars. But this book concentrates on the people left behind, struggling with day-to-day living while their loved ones are away. Hannah Loxwood lives in London’s East End and is trying to keep everything together while her husband is away fighting. When she takes a job (unheard of at the time) in a cafe she has glimpses of a new way of life. Hannah feels she has sacrificed her happiness to a husband who may never come back from the conflict, and that her ideas of ‘duty’ have come at a terrible price. And when she meets Daniel — thoughtful, intelligent, captivating — Hannah finds herself faced with the most dangerous of temptations. This book gives a real sense of how hard life was for women whose husbands were away at war. Through Hannah it feels like we are there, living her life day by day. This is a compelling read and one that will haunt you for some time to come.
Do you have a suggestion for our Book Club? Email editorial@ sandrpublishing.co.uk
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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Virago) This book is set in the 1920s, and all of society is feeling the pinch. Frances, who lives with her mother in a crumbling beast of a house in a genteel part of London, comes to the unhappy conclusion that they must take in paying guests (so much nicer than “lodgers”), and so enter Lillian and Leonard. It makes for an uncomfortable living arrangement: the mother moves bedrooms to the ground floor and there are awkward moments in the shared outside WC. Lillian (soon to become Lily) and her husband are of “clerk class” and Frances finds herself drawn into a friendship with Lily that has quite disastrous results. The devil is in the details here and the sexual tension and bloody aftermath build to a crescendo that will leave you reeling. I became entranced with Lily and yearned for Frances (who is a capable, independent woman) to break free of the ghastly trappings of middle-class life in Britain at this time.