Book Reviews

Rest and be Thankful by Emma Glass
The events of the past year have brought into even sharper focus the huge sacrifices made by those working in the healthcare sector.  This, the second novel by Emma Glass (herself a pediatric nurse), which was written before the pandemic unfolded, but has just been released in paperback, reiterates in the starkest terms the abnormal burdens which our doctors and nurses can carry even under “normal” circumstances.  The brooding and compelling narrative follows a young nurse’s harrowing efforts to keep on going whilst an ominous figure in black waits in the wings for the shocking finale…

Published by Bloomsbury; £8.99 

By Simon, March 2020

The Thursday Murder Club By Richard Osman
Richard Osman’s bestselling debut novel is an absolute joy to read from start to finish, and the ideal companion for the chilly days and nights still ahead of us. Set in a retirement village in Kent, we are introduced to Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Ron and Joyce – an unlikely group of friends who meet weekly to discuss and attempt to solve cold cases. Their meetings have remained purely in the hypothetical realm until a murder takes place in the village, and the friends spring into action to aid and often surpass the police in their enquiries. Osman’s customary wit soars through the novel, with his brilliant characterisation and compelling plot twists keeping the reader guessing until the very end. Hilarious, clever and often very touching, The Thursday Murder Club proves Osman to be a wonderful new voice in crime fiction.

Published by Penguin, £14.99

By Katya, February 2020

How Much of These Hills is Gold By C Pam Zhang
“What makes a home a home?” This question runs through the core of C Pam Zhang’s Booker-nominated novel, set on the sun-bleached planes of the American West following the Gold Rush. The answer is desperately sought by siblings Lucy and Sam, whose Chinese heritage makes them outcasts from the society into which they were born. They travel through the unforgiving wilderness of America with their recently-deceased father’s body on their backs, in the hope that burying him will find them roots in lands which have shunned them for so long. In devastating prose Zhang meditates upon ideas of identity and belonging, charting the journey of two children trying to find their place in a hostile world. This epic adventure tale asks whether home is something we find in ourselves, in others, or in the very earth which we inhabit.

Published by Virago £14.99

By Katya, December 2020

Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell One of our very favourite authors here at Book Stop,  Booker Prize nominated author David Mitchell has this time served up something quite different to his usual mind-bending metaphysical romps across space and time, with a wonderfully nostalgic and bittersweet tale of 1960s rock and roll.  Utopia Avenue form in 1967 and ride the tide of  social and sexual revolution to be on the verge of global success by late 1968.  On the way they encounter pretty much everyone in the business from John Lennon to Janis Joplin, David Bowie to Joni Mitchell, and for die-hard fans of the more familiar Mitchell genre there is also an intriguing metaphysical sub-plot referencing his earlier work and, in particular, the wonderful The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.  This book is a lot of fun, but also ultimately genuinely moving and, as always, Mitchell has much to say about life, the universe and everything.

Published by Sceptre ; £20.00

By Simon, October 2020

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
Tracking the experiences of 12 characters, spread over time and place but all linked together in some way, Evaristo defiantly unpacks and dissolves the idea of the ‘single story’ so often placed onto black people, women, those living on the poverty line and members of the LGBTQ+ community, amongst many others. Her characters are so startlingly real and complex that they each stand before the reader, refusing to become subsumed into any stereotype we might consciously or unconsciously hold. Evaristo masterfully covers topics of abuse, sexism, racism, homophobia and more, leaving the reader feeling both educated and frustrated by the way society has been constructed. Beautiful, powerful and endlessly insightful, Girl, Woman, Other is a fast-paced exploration of multiple stories, and is testament to how no person, culture or place can ever be reduced to a generalised narrative.

Published by Penguin; £8.99

By Katya, September 2020

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata Welcome to the weird and (occasionally) wonderful world of Keiko Furukura and her beloved Convenience Store. Marginalised by ordinary society, and following a confusing and at times problematic childhood, Keiko finds it difficult to find her place in the modern world, until she stumbles accross the Convenience Store.  In this delightful fable of contemporary human existence, Keiko, with the guidance of the bizarre and repulsive Shiraha,  must make a choice – between her place as a cog in the global corporate machine ( “my hourly pay covered the basic requirement to condition my body so it was fit to take to work”) and the perhaps equally oppressive social imperative created by others’ opinions and expectations. A marvellous Japanese novel which will get you thinking.

Published by Granta; £8.99

By Simon, June 2020

The Western Wind By Samantha Harvey Samantha Harvey’s novel of a 15th-Century Somerset village and an unanticipated death is an absolute treat. Following the investigations of the local vicar, John Reve, into the untimely demise of his friend Thomas Newman, this brooding, sombre novel set over 4 days in the lead up to Lent 1491 provides real insight into pre-Reformation rural England. As Harvey expertly explores the narrative in reverse, beginning with the events of Shrove Tuesday and working back to “the reveal” on the previous Saturday she also offers, through the story of the tormented and torn John Reve’s efforts to protect his flock, a fascinating and moving meditation on where lines are drawn between faith and superstition, belief in God and the Church, the “right” path and the good path.

Published by Vintage; £8.99 

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