What We've Been Reading: Seven Books We've Enjoyed in April

What We've Been Reading: Seven Books We've Enjoyed in April - The Willoughby Book Club

It's been another busy month at the Willoughby Book Club but of course there is always a little bit of time for reading between the rush of selecting and packing books for all our subscribers.

We all have quite varied reading tastes, but love nothing more than a good chat about what we've recently enjoyed. Here is a taste of just some of what we've been reading recently.


Hagstone by Sinéad Gleeson


I treated myself to Hagstone having really enjoyed Constellations a few years ago, and because I couldn't pass up a book with this title (or stunning cover!)


Set on an unnamed island off the coast of Ireland this is the story of artist Nell, who one day is commissioned to create a work of art for a mysterious community of reclusive women, the Inions, living on the island and providing a place of refuge and escape. 


This book felt like a checklist of things I love in novels: islands, art and purpose, and the push and pull of solitude versus community. It has a gradual creeping sense of dread which is amplified by a strange unexplained noise that echoes across the island at intervals, which seems to emanate from the landscape itself. This is dark, haunting, and I was gripped to the end. 


I loved all the art references, and that this book was dedicated to the much missed Sinead O’Connor. I think a second reading would uncover a wealth of references and hidden depths, but on this first read I just wanted to wolf it down. 

I really look forward to reading more fiction from Sinéad Gleeson in the coming years.


- Marianne


My Favourite Mistake by Marian Keyes


I have been looking forward to treating myself to this brand new Marian Keyes, and of course it didn't disappoint. 


We're back in the land of the Walsh family, this time with Anna Walsh as the focus, my favourite of the Walsh sisters.

We meet Anna as she begins to lose her taste for New York, her partner and her dream job. She takes the plunge and returns to Ireland to an uncertain career but to be close to family, but her PR skills are soon called upon to help out her friends who are creating a luxury retreat venue in Maumtully in the West of Ireland. We are quickly pulled into the tight knit location and cast of characters of Maumtully, as well as old contact Joey from Anna's past....


Of course this is romantic and warm, but with Marian Keyes this never equates to lightweight. There are plenty of undercurrents to grapple with: gentrification, ageing and misogyny, rural isolation, the pandemic and more.  


I timed reading this perfectly by saving it for a rainy Sunday, devoured with tea and fancy biscuits at my side. I feel as though Marian Keyes would approve. If you love her writing this will not disappoint, and if you don't, where have you been?


- Marianne



You Exist Too Much by Zaina Arafat

This powerful debut novel follows a Palestinian-American woman through vignettes as she struggles with life whilst trying to ignore her own deep-rooted trauma. This book is about love addiction, rehab and trying to be yourself despite contradicting ideas of how you should live and the need to feel a mother’s unconditional love.

It requires the attention and focus of a quiet room so you can absorb the story the book is telling you. The main character is incredibly destructive in her own life, and I had my fingers crossed the whole time, hoping she would have the power to break through her trauma and give herself a better life!

Even though it’s not a very long book, it really packs a punch whilst you’re reading and afterwards, the characters and story really stayed with me.

- Alisha


How to Kill a Guy in Ten Ways by Eve Kellman.

Following an assault on her younger sister on a night out for New Year, Millie Masters sets up a hotline, ‘Message M’, for any women who feel in danger at night. Millie soon realises that rescuing women from these men isn’t enough as they only go on to do it again and again. Millie has no other option but to put a stop to their predatory behaviour once and for all!

 It was far-fetched and full of dark humour, but so easy and enjoyable to read - and had me rooting for the serial killer all the way to the end! This book is perfect for anyone who enjoyed the Sweetpea series, Bella Mackie or Katy Trent.

-  Chloe


Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett

I read this after quite a heavy read and it was just what I needed. It’s perfectly heartwarming, funny, and full of magical creatures. The book follows Emily Wilde, a prestigious scholar and researcher of the world’s first encyclopaedia of faerie lore. Emily’s not the best with people, so when she arrives in the small town of Hrafnsvik, she has no intention of befriending the townspeople. Until, her academic rival, the dashing Wendell Bambleby arrives and creates a worldwind of his own. As Emily gets closer to learning about the most elusive of faeries – the Hidden Ones, she also has questions of who Wendell is and what he really wants.

I really enjoyed this and had a smile on my face quite often while reading it. It was fun to read the relationship between Emily and Wendell and see them get closer and for Emily to realise what her true feelings are. I haven’t really read many books about faeries, but I think this was a great starting point, and you can’t help but love a lot of the folk you’re introduced to. This was the first in the series and I’m really looking forward to picking up the second book and read more about Emily’s adventures with faerie folk.

- Alisha


Handiwork by Sara Baume 

This is a beautiful meditation on the act of creating, written by Irish novelist Sara Baume, as she considers the role of art, ritual, and practice in the everyday, as well as her relationship with her late father. It reminded me a lot of Amina Cain's book A Horse at Night: On Writing, which again combines elements of memoir with contemplative, philosophical vignettes.


I found this short read really inspiring, having started to dip my toes in a creative practice myself, so would recommend it to anyone who likes to think about the role of beauty in our daily lives.


- Olivia




How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Mbue 

Set in a fictional African country, How Beautiful We Were is a fantastic piece of contemporary anti-colonial literature that explores the collective stories of the village of Kosawa, which is being ravaged by the corruption of an American oil company, Pexton. Having exploiting the land and the people for decades, the children of the village are being poisoned by contaminated well water. When representatives of the multinational arrive to 'explain' away the rightful concerns of the community, things take a particularly interesting turn.

It's a rich, cleverly-narrated tale that serves to highlight the hollow core of capitalism, positioned in stark contrast to the outraged, communal voice of Kosawa. A brilliant read, which I'd thoroughly recommend to anyone!


- Olivia



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