Sick as a dog all weekend, I managed to exceed my own PB for books read in a 48 hour period. Of that number, (11!) here are 4 I think you should add to your library.
1-3: The Wideacre Trilogy by Philippa Gregory.
These books are not new, and as such may already be familiar to some of you- I am sorry to be so late to the party. I however found them at the perfect time- they took me to a wonderfully juxtaposed world of pre-Industrial England, with attendant bucolic beauty, and intensely drawn malice, evil and madness. Wideacre is both the title of the first book and the focus of all three tales- a beautiful estate in Sussex owned by the ancient Lacey family. You meet Beatrice in book 1, a happy, headstrong, clever child so full of love for her father, the Squire, and Wideacre that she feels an almost metaphysical connection to home. Beatrice’s gender however works against her- as a girl, she cannot inherit Wideacre and the tumultuous and often times deeply shocking events of the next three books arise out of her fierce desire to make Wideacre hers by any means necessary.
These books are passionate and regularly cross the line into the taboo (warning, there is some full on incest in the first two books) but they are also wonderfully written and completely engrossing. This of course is to be expected from Philippa Gregory but the fact that these books were her debut makes her talent all the more inspiring. There are repetitive themes of family, roots, mendacity, weakness and feminism in this trilogy, which are examined extremely well and raised many a question in my own mind. I think most everyone will enjoy them, or should as Beatrice especially is possibly the best drawn literary anti-heroine I’ve ever read. Books 2 and 3 are a bit less satisfying: Book 2 has stronger magical/pagan themes and strays into historical romance territory and Book 3’s heroine, Sarah Lacey, is often inexplicably stupid, but these are the criticisms of a fan who has already sent “read this!” texts to almost everyone in her phonebook. It’s important I add that contrary to the way these books are often sold, they are not romances or chick lit.
Perfect for: all saga lovers, and for the sort of rainy, indoor weather we’ve been having here in Lagos lately (alternatively, they’re a great holiday read, if you’re more pleasantly located). Get into them.
4: The Girl With All The Gifts by MR Carey
The zombie genre has been done, done again, retooled, revamped, and rejigged almost to death. After World War Z, I decided enough was enough; I could no longer be surprised or delighted by a zombie novel and so, I was done with the genre. The Girl With All The Gifts however enticed me, and I gave it a chance. I should say it wasn’t entirely a leap into the void- an English degree from Oxford does not always an author make, but Carey has shone at everything he has put his hand to, whether it be comic books, graphic novels, prose or screenplays- so his bona fides and likelihood to satisfy were pretty much settled in my mind.
Anyway, with TGWATG, I was very well rewarded. Clear, clean prose telling a perfectly paced and evocative story, a fantastic heroine in the form of schoolgirl Melanie, and excellent drawn supporting characters. It also has surprising moments of humour, though not too many, and stirs up all the usual post-apocalyptic questions: what it means to be human, how far we ought to go to protect humanity etc. The ending was a bit rushed, but I blame a bad editor for that, as the concept of the ending was ideal for me.
Perfect for: anyone who likes dystopian/end-of-the-world fiction and it’s particularly important you read it before the movie comes out next year- they’ve cast Gemma Arterton as Miss Justineau, Melanie’s black schoolteacher and one of the strongest characters in the book. Get into it, asap.