I'm an avid reader, a book hoarder, a proofreader... and a linguistic magpie (I borrowed that term from the queen of words Susie Dent).
Here is a selection of my favourite lockdown reads of 2020.
🇿🇦 You Will Be Safe Here is a deeply moving novel inspired by real events. These two connected South African stories, a hundred years apart, feel so devastatingly relevant to the world right now. This book has stayed with me long after I finished reading it. Powerful writing from the brilliant Damian Barr.
🌟 House of Glass by Hadley Freeman is a hugely compelling read about the extraordinary lives of Hadley’s grandmother, Sala, and her three siblings. It will take you from Picasso’s archives in Paris to Long Island and to Auschwitz.
💔 Girl is beautifully written by Edna O’Brien. Heartbreaking but you won’t want to put it down.
💚 The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames 💚
Everyone in the Fortuna family knows the story of how the beautiful, fiercely independent Stella – who refused to learn to cook and swore she would never marry – escaped death time and time again. Through her childhood in Italy and adult years in America, death pursued Stella. She was burned, eviscerated and bludgeoned. She choked, nearly fell out of a window and, on one occasion, her life was only saved by a typo.
🧛♂️ If you love the theatre, Victorian London and a hint of Dracula... Shadowplay is the book for you.
🌟 Joseph O’Connor is a brilliant storyteller and his writing is so beautiful. He captures the life of Bram Stoker (the Irishman who wrote Dracula) and his relationship with the most famous actors on the London stage – Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.
🔸 You’ll be transported from Dublin in 1876 to the atmospheric Lyceum Theatre and the streets of London in the era of Jack the Ripper. This book will take you back in time, to understand the inspirations that led to the creation of Dracula. 🧛♂️
🇺🇸 An American Marriage by Tayari Jones 💌
I loved this book. It’s beautifully written and packed with emotion. The story follows Celestial and Roy — whose lives are on the up, until a monumental event changes everything.
❤️ A moving and powerful book about love, race, society and family. The story is narrated by Celestial and Roy (in fact, much of this story is told through their letters to each other) and there’s a third narrator — their closest friend Andre. This means every character gets to speak for themselves. I really enjoyed that style.
I’ve actually put this in my book pile to read again... it’s that good.
A worthy award winner (Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019).
📚 Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters… mostly women, mostly Black. Bernardine Evaristo takes you to Newcastle, Cornwall, London, Oxford and Northumberland, via Barbados and Nigeria. I felt intimately connected with each character, which is no mean feat, considering how each story needed to be told, to include their views on sexuality, class, race and gender.
💛 It’s a magnificent read, filled with emotion and humour – Evaristo layers these women's voices beautifully. And she paints a vivid portrait of modern British life.
👍 I really liked this book and would recommend it to everyone. However, as a proofreader, I was distracted by the lack of punctuation. Evaristo uses commas but no capital letters to start sentences and full stops rarely appear. But other people found this style so unique and easy to read. 🤷🏻♀️
🙌 Winner of the 2019 Booker Prize.
✨💛✨ Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
For years, rumours of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark.
Abandoned at ten years old, Kya has survived on her own in the marsh that she calls home. A born naturalist with just one day of schooling, she develops an intimate knowledge of the surrounding landscape. Kya’s relationship with Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel are a real highlight. She is so young when her older siblings leave that she can’t even remember their names, but she has the birds and wildlife for company and learns to cook and grow vegetables.
Then the time comes when she wants to be loved. Drawn to two young men from town, who are intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself up to a new world.
A stunning debut novel about a young woman determined to make her way in the wilds of North Carolina, and the two men that will change everything.
I loved the beautiful, poetic writing style – Delia Owens clearly has a real passion for nature and wildlife (she used to be a wildlife scientist in Africa).
And I can’t wait to see how Reese Witherspoon adapts this! I can already picture Kya in the swamp surrounded by bullfrogs and fireflies. 🦀🦞🦐