Most evenings I can be found on a sofa, with laptop on lap, cat/dog at feet and tweeting sarkily (BGT, The Voice) or overenthusiastically (Homeland, Mad Men) about the telly, in a facsimile of Having An Actual Life.
But as I’ve had a rare burst of Proper Reading, instead of my usual modus operandi of falling asleep after two paragraphs with the bedside light on and a faint string of drool acting as bookmark, I thought I should come Over Here and post instead.
If you like thrillers, I can’t recommend Alex Marwood’s The Wicked Girls highly enough. It’s a smart, tense story that takes a female Johnson and Venables and picks up their lives 20 years on. It’s very good on human psychology and almost unbearably tense. It’s also terrifically humane. It’s out on kindle now, but in paperback very soon. Do read it. She deserves to be huge.
There is almost nothing I can add to the plaudits for Jeannette Winterson’s Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, so I’ll simply say read it, if you haven’t already. It’s beautiful and raw and makes you realise how little of what you read, fiction or otherwise, achieves any level of honesty at all. Astonishing.
Future releases to look out for: Jonathan Harvey’s All She Wants. This is a very original, very funny romp through the rise and fall of a northern soap star. It took me to a world I knew nothing about, and has the stamp of authenticity, given that Harvey is a writer for Coronation Street. This is his first novel. His next one, he says, is going to be darker in tone. I can’t wait to read it.
Later this year do order Lisa Jewell’s Before I Met You, which is (I think) her first dual timeframe book, and follows the life of a young girl on a mission in Soho, coming up against the foibles of the Primrose Hill set, and the linked life of a woman in the 1920s. I have expressed publicly before my admiration for Jewell’s way with character. In my opinion nobody in commercial fiction does original characters like she does. The delectable Sandy Beach (you have to read it) is a case in point here. Beautiful.
Other things I’ve read and enjoyed: Noah Hawley’s The Good Father, and the twin behemoths that are the Hunger Games and Game of Thrones series. In fact, the Hunger Games paperbacks are in official danger of falling apart, having been through every member of our family apart from the seven-year-old (and that’s only because we forbad him. He was DESPERATE. And keeps whispering ‘mockingjay” in a pleading manner as we walk past).
And talking of children, the seven year old and I have just read our way through David Walliams‘ entire oeuvre. I hadn’t honestly held out much hope for the first, Mr Stink, as there are few celebrity books that seem to stand out as actual books rather than extensions of the celebrity brand, but here I’ll make an exception. It was funny, quirky and made us both weep slightly embarrassed tears (“it’s, um, very dusty in here Mum, isn’t it?” “Yes, yes it is”). They also benefit from illustrations by the sublime Quentin Blake.
All I will say, is that if you have a young child who reads ‘older’, as Child#3 does, having to explain hospices (Gangsta Granny) to a tearful child over breakfast does slighty dim what was otherwise pure enjoyment. But that’s far from a criticism of Walliams.
I have a TON of new proofs (should that be prooves?) to read over the next few weeks, so if I don’t have a massive crisis of confidence over retaining my own voice in amidst everyone else’s quirky, compelling or unputdownable voices and throw them all in the garage singing lalala with my fingers in my ears, I will post again soon.
ps the only other thing I wanted to say (and I’m too overexcited to care if this sounds like a terrible swank) was that Marian Keyes told me yesterday that she loved Me Before You. Marian Keyes! When she tweeted me I was so star-struck I actually couldn’t type anything for 12 hours. I am 42.