Well, it feels as though life has been on fast-forward for the past month, September was a blink-and-you'll-miss-it scenario, and so far October has been the same. However busy the month, there's always time to squeeze in a few minutes with a good book here and there. Here are some of the titles the Willoughby team have been reading recently.
Seven Steeples by Sara Baume
I loved this book, and I don't really know how to describe it. It's thoughtful, transporting, meditative... strange.
The story follows Bell and Sigh over seven years of their relationship, as they escape to a cottage in the far west of Ireland and gradually contrive to be forgotten. they settle into their home and life at the foot of a mountain from which can be seen seven steeples, seven standing stones and seven schools, but somehow never climb it, living their lives in a slowly decreasing orbit from their home.
I love the detail of this book, the flecks of spilt dinner, the bath mat that remains on the line, the gathered tumbleweed of dog hair and fluff, and how the author leaves so much unspoken amongst such richness. What are these people running away from? Why is so much unmentioned?
This is a strange, ghostly read that will stay with you for a long time.
Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson
Well, that was an utter delight! Having only read one Kate Atkinson title previously (Case Histories), I wasn’t sure what would be in store for me with her latest novel. I’m so pleased I picked it up though, as it was everything I needed for an autumnal reading sprint: a vibrant depiction of 1920s London, plotting and characters that are practically Dickensian, and a whole barrel of Atkinson’s trademark wit and energy laced throughout.
Following a cast of colourful characters in 1926, the story revolves around a notorious nightclub and her brood of children, as they navigate the underbelly of the capital in all its contradictions. Newly released from prison, Ma Coker’s underworld monopoly appears to be developing fissures. How will she maintain control of her empire when outside (and inside) forces are battling against her. When you throw a forthright police inspector investigating the murders of several young girls, a newly-rich librarian from York, and a runaway girl, into the mix, troubles inevitably ensue.
If you’re a fan of Sarah Waters, you’ll love this fantastically rendered tale of family, corruption, mystery, and the Roaring Twenties.
How to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie
I was recommended this book by a few friends but for some reason I wasn’t that keen on the sound of it. When I was given a free copy I thought I would give it a go…I’m SOOOOO glad I did.
The story follows Grace, in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. That doesn’t mean she’s innocent though, having murdered six of her family members and got away with it.
The inventive ways she plotted and executed the murders were so far-fetched and unbelievable but that made it all the more enjoyable.
I’ve heard so many mixed reviews about this book but I found the plot original, darkly funny and I loved everything about it.
The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna
Cosy and uplifting, this is for anyone who loves anything witchy, funny, and with a bit of romance thrown in. I really enjoyed this, it was cute and all about found family, which I love! You can’t help but love Mika and the rest of the characters, you want things to go well for them and I really wanted to know more once the book had ended.
Mika’s one of the few witches of the UK, who meet up secretly every three months in different places, to catch up and hopefully not cause any suspicion. With Mika catching the attention of a household looking after three witches, she finds herself teaching them how to be witches against her better judgement, along with settling and belonging somewhere for the first time in her life. But, with secrets eventually spilling out, will this jeopardise the home Mika has created at Nowhere House?
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune
After reading and absolutely adoring “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by TJ Klune I was very excited to dive straight into his next book. And while I still prefer The House in the Cerulean Sea, I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it lived up to my expectations of TJ Klune.
We are introduced to Wallace in one of the most awkward and difficult to read first chapters I have read as we sit through his heartless firing of a woman. The second-hand embarrassment is so intense only for him to promptly go and die at the end of the chapter. It really sets the tone for the rest of the book and lets you know exactly who Wallace was throughout his life. After attending his own lacklustre funeral Mei, his reaper, brings him to Hugo's teashop to learn to accept his death and move onto other side, to step through the 'whispering door' at the top of the stairs.
And so begins Wallace’s purgatory, a dead man who can’t leave the teashop without risking his soul and memories but also can’t bring himself to accept his death and move on. What starts as a grim and frankly depressing premise soon twists into the type of funny and heart-warming story that TJ Klune excels at. We get to experience Wallace fully embracing humanity and what it means to be alive while slowing falling in love with both life and the ferryman Hugo who is supposed to guide him towards his final and absolute death. It’s full of cosy, warm feelings associated with falling in love while being all too aware of the fact that Wallace is already dead. It’s too late and eventually he will also have to accept that too.
I love this book. While it’s not perfect book, it has an amazing perspective on death and what it means to be alive without being too heavy (and surprisingly it has a happy ending!).