Have any of you made a new year’s resolution to read more? Did you get a nice shiny new Kindle for Christmas which you’re excited to fill up with new books, or an Amazon voucher from an unimaginative Aunt? For me, January is the perfect time to curl up in bed and disappear into a world where it isn’t raining, the trains aren’t delayed and you’re not on a diet. If that sounds a bit like you, then these are a few titles I’ve enjoyed recently which I thought I’d share. No spoilers, I promise.
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
I have to admit, I was predisposed not to enjoy The Husband’s Secret. I started reading it at the beginning of a long train journey, and I felt from reading the blurb that it was going to be a bit overdramatic and clichéd for me. I was expecting, in all honesty, to be quickly distracted by the lure of my iPod and Candy Crush. Instead, six hours later I was in bed, finishing up the book (I read pretty quickly, but this is still unusual). Once I got into the book, I just had to find out what happened and I couldn’t stop until I knew. The Husband’s Secret opens with a mother of three, Cecilia, finding a letter from her beloved husband which states on the front that it is only to be opened after his death. The plot then switches to focus on Tess, a young mother of one who has just discovered that her husband has fallen in love with her cousin and best friend, before jumping again and introducing us to Rachel, a widow who cannot move on from the death of her teenage daughter many years ago.
Although there is a bit of dramatic suspense, the letter is revealed about midway through the book, which is when it gets really good. The character’s lives become evermore intertwined and people’s secrets comes to light. The ending, which so many books find so difficult to get right, is hauntingly perfect. It’s the kind of book you will think about long after you have finished reading it, and if you really want to get caught up in a story, I thoroughly recommend it!
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
I picked this up via my Amazon recommendations on a complete whim. I wasn’t convinced by the blurb – a Swedish translation about an old man who goes on the run? But let me tell you now, this is one of the best books I’ve read in years.
Allan Karlsson, about to turn 100, decides not to remain in his nursing home, but instead to climb out of the window. On a whim, he steals a suitcase, and ends up on a mad, daft journey, the telling of which is interspersed with the story of his unbelievable, impossibly entertaining life.
The story is clever, entertaining and genuinely funny, and the writing is beautiful in it’s simplicity. You can’t help but feel a real affection for the characters, Alan in particular. This is the kind of book you should read if you want to feel better about the world – it’s cheery and positive and it has quite a few things to say about how to be happy. I’ve already made my boyfriend buy it!
The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling
I’m a huge Potter fan (did I mention?) but I’m also a JK Rowling fan in general – everytime I read a newspaper article written by her I find myself heartily agreeing with it. I read The Casual Vacancy with some trepidation, however, because I’ve heard so many people say they found it disappointing. I, personally, am not sure why – unless they were expecting it to be another Harry Potter, which it quite patently isn’t.
Set firmly in an unseemly, gritty reality, The Casual Vacancy is based in the suburban town of Pagford, where the death of a councillor sets off a sequence of events affecting the entire community. In a way, it’s a sharp focus look at society in England today, from the noveau riche village inhabitants, to bored suburban wives, to suffering drug users on the neighbouring estate. It isn’t so much a story as a sequence of events, and yet I still read into the night to find out what happened next. JK Rowling has an amazing skill for developing characters and creating her own world – I could picture Pagford and its inhabitants perfectly, and their feelings seemed real and plausible. If you’re looking for another Harry Potter, don’t bother – but if you like excellent writing, a decent plot and a book that will make you think, give it a go.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
I’m adding this book even though I, personally, wasn’t hugely convinced by the ending, because the concept is so brilliant and the major part of the book is fantastic. Don’t read this when you have a lot to do in the evening, because you’ll want to finish it as soon as possible – it keeps you in constant suspense, and has some of the best twists of any book I’ve read in years. I absolutely challenge you to guess what’s going to happen after you’ve read the first chapter – and if you get it right, you deserve a medal!
Nick Dunne comes home on his anniversary and his wife, Amy, has disappeared. But why? Was she murdered? Was Nick involved? Will Amy’s diary shed any light on it?
As I said, the ending isn’t perfect, but it isn’t terrible, and it really doesn’t ruin what is an incredibly entertaining use of unreliable narration and suspense – definitely worth a read.
I'll leave it there for now! I'd love some recommendations if anyone's read anything good recently, or let me know if you've read any of the above and what your thoughts were!