What We’ve Been Reading

While we’re all excitedly planning our reading goals for the new year and patiently waiting for those highly anticipated releases of 2022 its also great to look back on those last few reads of 2021, bringing one chapter to a close while the next is already eagerly waiting for us.

Here are the last reviews of 2021 from Willoughby staff- we hope you all also had some time to read some great books to finish out the year!

Matrix by Lauren Groff

Matrix is the kind of historical fiction I really like: fiction that focuses on a very specific period and setting in history. For me, it creates a more intimate and tangible reading experience, which sometimes I lose when I read something more expansive in scope.

Most of the plot of Matrix is centred around a twelfth century abbey and the nuns who live, pray and work within it. The protagonist, Marie de France, is cast out from the French court by her unrequited love, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and sent to England to take up the post of Prioress at an impoverished and starving abbey. Marie is an unusual character for the time. She comes from a long line of formidable female warriors and is known for her great height and strength, which she uses to restore order and greatness to her new home.

We follow Marie and the nuns through the years and the challenges they face as they grapple with the violence and corruption of the outside world. It is a really interesting exploration of communal love, faith, desire, and medieval life and I’d recommend it to anyone with a curiosity for this relatively unknown period of history!


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Put the kettle on, grab some snacks and curl up on the sofa, you’re going to be there a while!

This was a Willoughby Book Club subscriber favourite of 2021, so I had to give it a go, and what an enjoyable ride it is.

A young reporter is requested to write a piece on iconic Hollywood star Evelyn Hugo prior to a sale of some of her showstopper dresses. What emerges is a tale of grit, manipulation and ambition, glitz and glamour. More than that it’s a tale of the pressures and costs of maintaining a façade under scrutiny. You’ll find yourself rooting for this flawed heroine as she takes on the world.


The Midnight Hour by Elly Griffiths

I have read all of the Ruth Galloway books but this is my first in the Brighton series.

Elly Griffiths always writes in a cosy, familiar way that makes it impossible not to get absorbed from the first page.

I enjoyed how all the characters were woven together and how they all had a motive which kept you guessing. The private detectives added something extra to the police investigation and I liked the magic/show-business storyline.

A definite five star read from one of my top authors. I have now bought the other five in the series to start from the beginning and I’m hoping they’ll be a seventh.


Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

I kept seeing this book reviews of this book, so l I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about. And let me tell you, it was definitely worth it.

Set during World War II Pino Lella, a normal Italian teenage boy, agrees to be part of the resistance to help Jews escape over the Alps following treacherous routes and risking his life.

In order to protect him, his parents decide to enlist him as German soldier. On a chance encounter with Adolf Hitler’s left hand man General Hans Leyer, he recruits him to be his personal driver. Whilst Pino is safer than being in combat, he witnesses so much destruction and death and realises he has to do something. He becomes a spy, reporting back crucial information about the Nazi’s next moves and Pino is happy to be fighting in secret. But what will the consequences be?

Its a incredible, rich story made all the better but the well written and vibrant characters. This book is perfect for readers who enjoyed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which is one of my favourite books so I definitely recommend this.


The Night Always Comes by Willy Vlautin

Willy Vlautin is one of my favourite authors, and his latest book didn’t disappoint.

Vlautin is the master of capturing the lives of people that are on the verge of falling between the cracks, shining the spotlight on society’s flaws and making us realise how vulnerable we all can be.

‘The Night Always Comes’ is mostly set over the course of one night and has elements of a noir thriller.  The main character, Lynette, is so vividly drawn that you can’t help but root for her, despite the numerous bad decisions and risks she takes.


I finished this book over Christmas and the characters have been living with me ever since!



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