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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Saint

January Reading Round-Up

Well, the month of January doesn't have a high standard to live up to in the fun stakes at the best of times but January 2021 was pretty bleak even for a month usually characterised by bleak, grey tedium. I had Covid, home-schooling blew all of my work goals to smithereens and we embarked on the dreariest phase of lockdown so far. I have rarely craved an escape to fictional worlds (many of them considerably darker and vastly more terrible than reality!) more. So, here are the books that transported me this month:

Polly Crosby

Told through the eyes of nine year old Romilly, this book creates a whimsical and idyllic setting with an unsettling undertone. Romilly lives with her father, an artist who puts her into a series of books scattered with clues to a treasure hunt which Romilly becomes increasingly convinced holds the key to her lost past. A compelling and haunting mystery with darkness and intrigue at its core. This is a beautiful and unique read.

Kate Sawyer

I was fortunate to receive a proof of The Stranding, Kate Sawyer's debut novel which is out on 24th June this year.

I am a huge fan of post-apocalyptic fiction and I was so drawn to the concept of this novel - a woman survives the end of the world by sheltering in the body of a whale and this book REALLY delivered.

It's powerfully atmospheric, intriguing and moving. I had tears in my eyes at the end and I wanted to stay in the world with these beautifully drawn characters. It charts the end of the world with hope, beauty and so much love.

Ashley Audrain

This utterly gripping novel tells the story of Blythe interwoven with the dysfunctional history of her mother and grandmother. When Blythe gives birth to her own daughter, Violet, she embarks on an uneasy and increasingly horrifying journey of motherhood.

"My husband Fox says I'm imagining it. He tells me I'm nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she's different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?"

This book arrived in the post on a Saturday morning and I finished it by lunchtime. I was physically incapable of putting it down! It's a visceral and completely devastating read.

Laura Purcell

Set in Victorian Bath, this eerie, haunting novel tells the story of silhouette artist, Agnes, who is driven to seek help from Pearl, a child spirit medium when Agnes' clients begin to die in violent and inexplicable circumstances.

I'm such a fan of Laura Purcell's other novels and this one is the best yet (if anything can topple The Corset for me...I just can't decide!) It's an unpredictable, atmospheric read with shades of Alias Grace (one of my all time favourite novels). I loved it!

Abigail Dean

A book which really lives up to the hype, Girl A tells the story of Lex Gracie, survivor of a childhood House of Horrors. I was apprehensive about reading this, worried about how harrowing the details were going to be, but Dean handles the upsetting subject matter with such deftness and sensitivity, for which I was truly grateful and blown away with admiration. Her characters are drawn with dignity and care and the focus of this story is one of hope and light shining through the darkness. I inhaled this book in one sitting - it's beautiful and compulsive reading.

Bethany Clift

A brutal virus wipes out humanity in a matter of days. One woman survives.

One of my most anticipated reads this year and I absolutely LOVED it. As I mentioned, I am a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction but when the survivors emerge from the rubble fully equipped with a range of useful survival skills, I am often alienated from the story. Not so with this funny but harrowing, unflinching and uplifting debut novel. It's Bridget Jones meets Stephen King in the shattered remnants of a ruined civilisation. From getting drunk in Harrods to running out of petrol in her stolen car on the motorway, the protagonist is relatable and thoroughly believable in the most extreme of circumstances. I could see the scenes unfolding as though they were on the big screen as I read; it's entirely cinematic. I cannot recommend enough!

Next up on my TBR list, I have another proof of a debut novelist that I'm very excited about this year! I've read the first few pages already and can tell it will be great!

Elizabeth Lee

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