Another round of ‘grown-up’ books, all published autumn/winter 2014 from established lady writers. Not that I have any bias or anything…
Sophie Kinsella – Shopaholic to the Stars
Shopaholic Becky is back – this time in LA, with a whole range of familiar characters in a zany new setting. The humour, voice, and social commentary are spot-on; the one thing that did irritate me was the cliffhanger ending. It’s really a ‘part one’ for the book out next year, which I wasn’t aware of, and makes it hard to assess the overall story (nothing is tied up by the end of it). Sigh.
Tana French – The Secret Place
As some people may be aware, I have a bit of a thing about boarding schools. This whodunnit is set in an exclusive girls’ boarding school in Dublin, the day after a mysterious note appears indicating someone knows who killed the charismatic boy whose body was found on the school grounds over a year before. The narration alternates between the young police officer investigating the case, who has his own fascination with the school and the privilege within its walls, and third-person recountings of the events leading up to the boy’s death. Twisty, turny, elegant. I loved it.
Jodi Picoult – Leaving Time
I have started reading Jodi Picoult with an eagle eye out for The Big Twist, and I did guess most (but not all) of this one about halfway through, which is always pleasing. The story revolves around Jenna, a thirteen-year-old whose mother Alice, an elephant researcher, disappeared ten years earlier; she enlists the help of a grumpy investigator and a disgraced psychic to help her find Alice. The dynamic between the unlikely trio works well, and the mystery is a satisfying one. It’s one of Picoult’s best books, and is also supported by two e-novellas (one focusing on Alice, one on the psychic) which are well worth checking out.
Marian Keyes – The Woman Who Stole My Life
I loved Keyes’s previous book, The Mystery of Mercy Close, so much that I was a little wary of this. Plus it seemed a little airy-fairy, possibly body-swapping… but then I quickly realised that it was a) not at all and b) magnificent. Stella Sweeney is in her forties, and her eejity ex-husband has just decided to give away all his possessions (causing an internet sensation). Her children are grown, now, with one married off and her son still at home and engaging in all kinds of wholesome behaviours like doing yoga (where has she gone wrong?). And there’s a lot that has happened in the past four years, which we start to hear more about as time progresses – the car crash and the narky driver, the mysterious illness that strikes her, the connection she makes with the narky driver (and neurologist), and the shift in her life that occurs when she becomes – upon recovery – a self-help author. I adored reading this, and, oh, it’s a cliche, but it manages to do that marvellous thing of both making you laugh out loud (slightly awkward, actually; read this on a train) and cry (also slightly awkward – may need to rethink reading venues).