What We've Been Reading

What We've Been Reading - The Willoughby Book Club

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

Prophet Song

Prophet Song was 2023's Booker prize winner, and Paul Lynch's fifth novel (and first Booker win).

I don't often read prize winning books. I can fall into the trap of thinking they'll be too clever or experimental for me, so I'm sure I miss out on some fantastic titles because of it! 
Anyway, whether you love to keep abreast of prize winners or rarely touch them, take it from me, you NEED to read this one!

Set in a dystopian near-future Ireland, this is the story of an ordinary, upper-middle class wife and mother of four, Eilish, who is struggling to keep her family together against the backdrop of a society whose norms are rapidly unravelling.

Her husband, a trade union member, is investigated by the newly-formed GNSB secret police, and then disappears after attending a union protest in central Dublin. Her disbelief at the new reality in which she finds herself and her ties to family and her home are palpable throughout, and horrifyingly relatable.

The book is narrated in a tense style, with little punctuation and no paragraphs, which add to the growing claustrophobia and panic. The sense of a net tightening inexorably adds an urgency as it hurtles to it's conclusion.

I had read reviews of Prophet Song saying that the familiar setting of the novel brings the horrors that civilians are currently facing in Gaza, Yemen and Lebanon into sharp focus, and this is certainly true. I read this book in just two days, constantly wondering what choices I would make if I found myself in a similar situation.

Add this book to your lists for this year, you won't regret it!

(I also really like it's cover design: the jagged shapes and bold design work well with the creeping chaos and menace of the novel. His backlist titles have now been reprinted with new cover designs buy the same artist, I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.)

- Marianne


Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Sutanto 

Dial A for Aunties

Meddy, along with her mum and aunties have a wedding business together and are planning their biggest and most important wedding yet, when disaster strikes! Meddy accidently kills her blind date the day before the wedding, and they must try to figure out how to get rid of the body, before anyone else finds out, especially Meddy’s ex who runs the very prestigious wedding venue.

I really enjoyed this book! It was very funny, shocking and just downright stressful at some points, with a couple of twists thrown in. I took this on holiday with me and it really is the perfect holiday read and very easy to get in to, also. I loved the story, and the characters of Meddy and her aunts so much, that the 2nd book is on my list of books to read this year.

Full of twists, overbearing family members, murder, and a little bit of romance too, this is for anyone who wants a fun read! 

- Alisha


A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo 

A Scatter of Light book cover

Aria had different plans for her summer before start at MIT, but when topless photos of her are posted online, she’s promptly uninvited from her friends' plans and is sent by her parents to stay with her grandma for the summer instead.

Feeling angry, frustrated and dejected, she soon becomes distracted by her artist grandmother’s life and memories, but even more so by her gardener Steph Nichols, who Aria cannot deny feeling attracted to.

A lovely coming of age novel, full of family love, making mistakes, and loving yourself too. A Scatter of Light is all about how family, identity, art, and inspiration are woven together across generations. I read this very quickly and soon fell in love with Aria and her Grandmother, Joan, as they bond over Aria's life-changing summer. It’s very sweet, sad, and full of revelations for Aria.

- Alisha


Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie

Murder at the Vicarage

I was gifted a lovely hardback copy of this for Christmas, so I was looking forward to reading it. I have read a couple of Agatha Christie novels before but this was my first Miss Marple.

In the quiet, English village of St Mary Mead, Colonel Protheroe is found dead in the vicarage study. Miss Marple, the local gossip, can think of at least 7 people that had had a grudge against the victim and therefore could be the murderer. Inspector Slack is called in to investigate but it’s Miss Marple who finally solves the case.

I loved the setting of this book, a quaint little village, where everyone knows everyone. As usual with Agatha Christie books, there are a lot of suspects, conflicts between characters, lots of clues and little twists, and then everything comes together neatly at the end. They are always easy, non-offensive books to pick up on a Sunday afternoon.

- Chloe


Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa

Against the Loveless World is one of those books that once you've read it, you feel the need to immediately press a copy into the hands of the next person you encounter. It succeeds in being both sweeping yet intimate, furious yet humanitarian, despairing but remaining hopeful until the final page.
Nahr, a headstrong and passionate young Palestinian woman, born and raised in Kuwait to her refugee parents, has spent countless years in an Israeli prison. With nothing but her isolation and an occasional visit from journalists, Nahr proceeds to recall her life as she finds herself moving from Kuwait, to Jordan, and then on to her Palestinian homeland, as she becomes a seemingly unlikely revolutionary figure in a world that tries its best to defeat her and those she loves.
If you want to learn more about the Palestinian struggle, but sometimes find non-fiction a bit intimidating, I would absolutely recommend this. Despite the book's difficult subject matter, Abulhawa is a wonderful, poetic writer, who finds humour, warmth, and pathos in the darkest of moments. I am sad to leave the characters of Nahr, Bilal, Jumana, and the rest, behind. 

- Olivia


Bluets by Maggie Nelson


I don't really know how to describe this book. Is it poetry? A collection of thoughts? I'm not at all sure, but I loved it. It's a very slender meditation on the colour blue, and at the same time we're drawn into the world of the author's heartbreak following a relationship with 'The Prince of Blue,' as well as details of her friend, who has suffered a life-changing accident and is coming to terms with a vastly changed life. 

I loved the meander through the colour blue and blue in art and culture, taking in Joni Mitchell, Sei Shonagon, Yves Klein and so many more. It made me think more about my own relationship to blue which I find myself returning to again and again. I was also reassured as a collector of bits and bobs that Maggie Nelson confesses to collections of precious blue things, and wonders if she should have been born a bower bird. If this book is her bower it's very beautiful, and lured me in.

- Marianne

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