What we've been reading in September

What we've been reading in September - The Willoughby Book Club

Crooked Tree  by Una Mannion

Judging the UK cover of A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion, you’d be reasonable to assume this is a run-of-the-mill thriller. However, it is actually an atmospheric, slow-burn of a novel. Set over the course of a stifling hot American summer in the 1980s, the novel begins with a singular event that causes later events to spiral out of control.

Told from the perspective of fifteen-year- old Libby, who lives with her siblings and emotionally distant mother, her younger sister Ellen is forced to exit the family car after a heated argument. When she goes temporarily missing and turns up hours later claiming to have been kidnapped, things take a darker turn.

This is a fantastic coming-of-age novel with plenty of American teenage nostalgia that would be perfect for a film adaptation. If you enjoy interesting family dynamics (think Celeste Ng), you will like this one!




 Akin  by Emma Donaghue

 The whole point of travel is to learn there’s no such thing as normal

 79 year old Noah decides to take a trip back to his place of birth in Nice, South France for the first time since he left when he was 4. He uncovers photographs of his mother during Nazi-Occupied France and wants to take them with him to uncover the mystery of why his mother stayed whilst Noah travelled with his father to America.

Noah reluctantly agrees to take his great nephew Michael under his wing and on his trip but they form an unlikely travelling duo; Noah, a retired professor with old fashioned values contrasts with Michael, a sullen pre-teen who is addicted to his phone.

Partly a tale of two people, two generations apart building a new story together and partly a mystery of the involvement of Noah’s mothers involvement in WW2 against the stunning backdrop of the French Riviera.

I was drawn to this book having visited Nice often and I always enjoy Emma Donaghue’s immersive writing. Whilst I enjoyed the location and the mystery element, I found myself drawn to Noah and Michaels relationship. Whilst opposites in character, they begin to build a friendship and learn new things because of each other. Emma Donaghue has written an authentic, humorous and poignant novel which I thoroughly adored.




Delilah Green Doesn't Care  by Ashley Herring Blake

Delilah Green is definitely my favourite release of 2022. So far at least. It balances the humour and sweetness of a romcom without ever feeling too cheesy.

Delilah is hired by her stepmother to photograph her estranged sister, Astrid's, wedding and unable to pass up such a big paycheque she reluctantly returns to her small town. Quickly sucked in to the two bridesmaids plan to break up the bride and groom, Delilah's plan to get in and out as fast as possible is reluctantly abandoned. Especially as one of the bridesmaids, Claire, is her long-time crush.

With all the fun and schemes of a 2000's romcom and some of the funniest and best written characters, I found myself loving the chemistry between them all. Especially Delilah with her spiky exterior and constant sarcasm. Interspersed with some really genuine and heart-breaking moments as we learn about Delilah and Astrid's childhood, the book perfectly balances the line between hilarity and serious.

It definitely left me wanting more, and I'm looking for to the release of Ashley Herring Blake's next book from the point of view of Astrid which is due in November!



We Had to Remove This Post  by Hannah Bervoets

Possibly the shortest read I've had for a long time, We Had to Remove This Post doesn’t disappoint. Recommended by a friend, I was intrigued right away fascinated by the concept, sharp and innovative Bervoets is a breath of fresh air.

This novel follows a group of young colleagues who work as social media content monitors. They review hours of violent and illegal videos for an unnamed company, believing they are still in control. Not allowed to mention who she works for, Kayleigh is exposed to conspiracy theories, rants and offensive photos and videos, having to evaluate the horror and hate on her screen.

Both shocked and repulsed at some of the things the group have to evaluate, I wasn’t sure how far the boundaries would be pushed, not believing I could feel more horrified. And was I wrong… watching the breakdown of her friends, her girlfriend Sigrid grows distant and fragile, her friends being to believe the very conspiracy theories they are meant to be evaluating, Kayleigh begins to wonder if the job is too much for them, believing she herself is still completely fine.

Though short, Bervoets book packs more than a punch. Depraved and disturbing We Had to Remove This Post left had me finish the book in one sitting – I couldn’t put it down!




The Beloved Girls by Harriet Evans

A family saga mixed with a bit of mystery. It starts with Catherine, who disappears the day before her wedding anniversary, and then draws you back to a tragic summer in her past.

It has everything I love in a book…split time-lines, different character perspectives, a big, grand house, family secrets…and a nice front cover too! I did have an idea part way through of what was coming, but it didn’t spoil the ending for me. The atmosphere and mystery still had me invested till the last page.

This is the first book I have read by this author but I will have a look at some of her other work after enjoying this one so much.


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