28 Jul My Top Reads for July
July has been a busy month for me with not quite so much time for reading. As a tennis fan, I’ve been watching Wimbledon, and was lucky enough to get tickets this year, so I’ve been away to London, too.
But of course, I’ve manged to sneak in a few books!
As always, thanks to Netgalley, and to my fellow bookclub members for ensuring I step out of my comfort zone. I might never have picked up Confessions of a Forty-Something F**k Up otherwise.
Hope you enjoy my picks.
None of this is True by Lisa Jewell, Century, hardback
This was a brilliant thriller domestic noir! Alix and Josie, birthday “twins”, meet coincidentally on their 45th birthday. What follows is a masterpiece in menace as Josie persuades Alix to interview her for a podcast, and reveals the astonisihing story of her life. But how far can she be trusted? As she inveigles her way into Alix’s life, her influence becomes more malign – and soon there will be a price to pay.
Their story is so astonishing that a fictional Netflix is even making a documentary of it!
What a story. Both Alix and Josie were really strong, convincing characters, their lives skilfully portrayed in all their varying contrasts. The plot is well-paced, with each woman giving her version of events, interspersed by “Netflix ” interviews of the various people in their lives who have been caught up in their story – a ploy that makes the narrative feel very fresh and modern.
As you’d expect, there are plenty twists along the way as the story reaches its heart-stopping conclusion. This was a really good read, and exceeded all my expectations, which are pretty high for this author, anyway.
The Witching Tide by Margaret Meyer, Orion, hardback
In the seventeenth century, at the height of the witchhunts, midewife, servant and wise woman Martha is embroiled in the poweful witchhunts that are taking place in her village. Will she escape the charge of witchcraft, and be able to save her friends and mistress?
I have to give this book five stars for the quality of the writing – it’s a powerful portrayal of the hysterical witch hunts that took place in the early seventeenth century and feels so authentic in its depiction of a small community gripped by terror.
An air of the supernatural is added by the existence of the poppet, a small doll that may or may not have the capacity to harm or heal. left to Martha by her mother, a shadowy figure who met a tragic end.
I have to confess I found the story very upsetting – the suffering of poor frightened women (and men) accused by their neighbours and undergoing awful intimate searches and torture by people who were once their friends and neighbours was harrowing, and the cruelty of many of the characters – justified as they felt they were in doing “God’s work” – was distressing.
But it is definitely a well-researched and authentic story that needs to be told, with characters you’ll come to care about deeply.
Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up by Alexandra Potter, Pan, paperback
This was our bookclub read for this month – the theme was a happy book, and this certainly ticked the boxes for the brief. It’s a laugh-out loud account of a year of Nell’s life in London, where she’s licking her wounds after a failed engagement and the loss of her thriving business. Now living in a rented room in landlord Edward’s house, it seems to her that everyone else is living the dream with their loving husbands, perfect children and great careers. Fed up of #livingtheperfectlife Instagram posts she begins her own podcast to tell it how life really is for a single forty-something, warts and all!
This was certainly a fun story, but it also held those very important ingredients of genuine emotion and a strong, relatable character in Eve. There’s also a lovely dog called Arthur and a superb older lady, Cricket, who becomes Nell’s friends and guides her through life’s ups and downs in her own inimitable way.
It isn’t always happy – amid the hilarious adventures, there are some darker moments in the story which explores loss and grief along with its lighter themes, but it is a great read.
Fair Rosaline by Natasha Solomons, Manilla, hardback
Romeo and Juliet were star-crossed lovers, but what about Rosaline, the Capulet girl Romeo loved before he set eyes on Juliet? In an atmospheric retelling of Shakespeare’s play, the author paints a vivid and engaging picture of a passionate young woman in love with life.
When Romeo abandons her, it seems her destiny is the convent, but first she must try to save her cousin Juliet from the fate she fears awaits her.
What a fabulous retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Natasha Solomons plunges us into Shakespeare’s world, with all its motifs and poetic prose that mimics Shakespeare’s language, but is far more understandable.
The plot as it progresses is just as convoluted as any Shakespeare could contrive, with girls dressed as boys, messengers going here and there, just missing each other, poisons and antidotes, and dark secrets at the heart of it all.
But this is essentially a feminist story – the women of mediaeval Verona may be subject to the patriarchy, but some draw on their own resources of courage and loyalty. Rosaline may be a young girl, but she has the strength to deal with life’s challenges, the wisdom to see the truth, and the compassion to try to set things right for others, even if she cannot change her own destiny.
This is one for lovers and non-lovers of Shakespeare alike, a wonderful story in its own right, with an admirable heroine at its core. I loved it.
Check out the rest of my July reviews