What an incredible mix of reading I’ve had in April. First of all I reached a milestone of over 20 books read in a month. Something I haven’t managed since my university days. I’m thinking it needs to calm down a little in the weeks ahead. I’ve travelled from Ireland, to Orkney via Kenya, and from the 1940s to the present day and from a feminist manifesto to charming, uplifting reads. There’s is a thread through all of them though – strong female characters and an understanding of how life’s events, including trauma, affect women mentally.
The Imposter by Anna Wharton
Publisher: Mantle 1st April 2021
Chloe lives a quiet life. Working as a newspaper archivist in the day and taking care of her nan in the evening, she’s happy simply to read about the lives of others as she files the news clippings from the safety of her desk. But there’s one story that she can’t stop thinking about. The case of Angie Kyle – a girl, Chloe’s age, who went missing as a child. A girl whose parents never gave up hope. When Chloe’s nan is moved into care, leaving Chloe on the brink of homelessness, she takes a desperate step: answering an ad to be a lodger in the missing girl’s family home. It could be the perfect opportunity to get closer to the story she’s read so much about. But it’s not long until she realizes this couple isn’t all they seem. In a house where everyone has something to hide, is it possible to get too close?
The Source by Sarah Sultoon
Publisher Orenda Books 15th April 2021
One last chance to reveal the truth…
1996. Essex. Thirteen-year-old schoolgirl Carly lives in a disenfranchised town dominated by a military base, struggling to care for her baby sister while her mum sleeps off another binge. When her squaddie brother brings food and treats, and offers an exclusive invitation to army parties, things start to look a little less bleak…
2006. London. Junior TV newsroom journalist Marie has spent six months exposing a gang of sex traffickers, but everything is derailed when New Scotland Yard announces the re-opening of Operation Andromeda, the notorious investigation into allegations of sex abuse at an army base a decade earlier…
As the lives of these two characters intertwine around a single, defining event, a series of utterly chilling experiences is revealed, sparking a nail-biting race to find the truth … and justice.
Madame Burova by Ruth Hogan.
Publisher Two Roads, 1st April 2021
Imelda Burova has spent a lifetime keeping other people’s secrets and her silence has come at a price. She has seen the lovers and the liars, the angels and the devils, the dreamers and the fools. Her cards had unmasked them all and her cards never lied. But Madame Burova is weary of other people’s lives, their ghosts from the past and other people’s secrets, she needs rest and a little piece of life for herself. Before that, however, she has to fulfill a promise made a long time ago. She holds two brown envelopes in her hand, and she has to deliver them.
In London, it is time for another woman to make a fresh start. Billie has lost her university job, her marriage, and her place in the world when she discovers something that leaves her very identity in question. Determined to find answers, she must follow a trail which might just lead right to Madame Burova’s door.
In a story spanning over fifty years, Ruth Hogan conjures a magical world of 1970s holiday camps and seaside entertainers, eccentrics, heroes and villains, the lost and the found. Young people, with their lives before them, make choices which echo down the years. And a wall of death rider is part of a love story which will last through time.
The Metal Heart by Caroline Lea.
Publisher Michael Joseph, 29th April 2021
Five hundred Italian prisoners-of-war arrive to fortify these remote and windswept islands. Resentful islanders are fearful of the enemy in their midst, but not orphaned twin sisters Dorothy and Constance. Already outcasts, they volunteer to nurse all prisoners who are injured or fall sick. Soon Dorothy befriends Cesare, an artist swept up by the machine of war and almost broken by the horrors he has witnessed. She is entranced by his plan to build an Italian chapel from war scrap and sea debris, and something beautiful begins to blossom.
But Con, scarred from a betrayal in her past, is afraid for her sister; she knows that people are not always what they seem. Soon, trust frays between the islanders and outsiders, and between the sisters – their hearts torn by rival claims of duty and desire. A storm is coming . . .
Charity by Madeleine Dewhurst.
Publisher Lightning Books, 26th April 2021
Edith, an elderly widow with a large house in an Islington garden square, needs a carer. Lauren, a nail technician born in the East End, needs somewhere to live. A rent-free room in lieu of pay seems the obvious solution, even though the pair have nothing in common.
Or do they? Why is Lauren so fascinated by Edith’s childhood in colonial Kenya? Is Paul, the handsome lodger in the basement, the honest broker he appears? And how does Charity, a Kenyan girl brutally tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion, fit into the equation?
Capturing the spirited interplay between two women divided by class, generation and a deeper gulf from the past, and offering vivid flashbacks to 1950s East Africa, Madeline Dewhurst’s captivating debut spins a web of secrets and deceit where it’s not always obvious who is the spider and who is the fly.
The Seven Necessary Sins of Women and Girls by Mona Eltahawy
Publisher Tramp Press 26th April 2021
The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls identifies seven sins women and girls are socialised to avoid anger, attention, profanity, ambition, power, violence and lust. With essays on each, Mona Eltahawy creates a stunning manifesto encouraging women worldwide to defy, disobey and disrupt the patriarchy. Drawing on her own life and the work of intersectional activists from around the world, #MeToo and the Arab Spring, Eltahawy’s work defines what it is to be a feminist now.
Special Mention – The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor.
I have to mention this absolute joy of a book, now out in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Evie takes us all the way back to the 1960s and a Yorkshire village where her Dad runs a dairy farm. This summer Evie is waiting for her exam results, but Chrissie – her dad’s new girlfriend – doesn’t want her just laying round the house and reading. Chrissie is busy upgrading the farmhouse from all that wood and bringing in some modern Formica. Evie wants her Dad to see what Chrissie is truly like, but isn’t sure how. This teenage diary is hilarious, poignant and uplifting. It’s an absolute joy of a read.
Yellow Limited Edition Paperbacks available at Independent bookshops.
So that’s my monthly picks. Here are some other good picks from this month.