Meet the books that we are looking forward to reading over the coming weeks whilst staying at home, as curated by our Content Editor, Jen. An avid reader and writer, Jen is our go-to for brilliant book recommendations. If you’re looking to rediscover your love of reading or are in search of a real page-turner during this time, then let us get you started with our Reading List.
The Hunting Party
by Lucy Foley
Reminiscent of Agatha Christie in both plot and tone, The Hunting Party is murder mystery 101 and ticks all the boxes.
Set in an isolated luxury lodge on New Year’s Eve in the snowy Scottish Highlands, the plot follows a group of nine friends (each with a back story and secrets), two obscure guests from Iceland and three enigmatic lodge employees. It’s the perfect combination of characters to create just the right level of intrigue and suspense.
We are told in the prologue that someone has been murdered, then the narrative jumps between the present and back to the preceding few days to tantalisingly reveal the story. There are a lot of plates spinning, but the story never felt confused or cluttered. Lucy Foley skilfully uses multiple points of view to pace the story and add a pulse of suspense that beats loudly through every chapter.
The Agatha Christie comparisons are richly deserved; you know one of the characters is murdered but are kept guessing throughout as to who the victim is, let alone the murderer. What’s more, the ending throws up a few twists I was not expecting, which left me wishing it wasn’t all over when I reached the final page. This is a truly great and satisfying murder mystery that you need to add to your reading list!
The Flat Share
by Beth O'Leary
I just loved, loved, loved the story of Tiffy and Leon and was a more than a little sad when I'd finished this book. Romance is a pretty unread genre for me; but if it’s funny, clever, superbly written, and has something a little different to offer, I’ll give it a go. Safe to say, The Flatshare is all of the above.
Leon works nights and needs some extra cash, so decides to rent out his bed for someone else to sleep in at night when he’s not there. Tiffy has just broken up with her boyfriend and is still living in his flat. She urgently needs a place to live, sees Leon’s advert and takes him up on the offer. This leads to the unusual situation where they share a flat – and a bed – but are never in it at the same time, so don’t meet. Until they do. They communicate through notes left all over their flat and their relationship develops in a charming, old-school way. This being a romance, you obviously have an idea about where the story is going, but it’s how it gets there that makes this such a great tale.
What really sold The Flatshare to me was the wonderful characters, they are among the most memorable that I’ve encountered in a while. I connected with them as they felt like fully formed, genuine people. I encourage you to read The Flatshare just to spend a few hours in the company of Tiffy and Leon. You won’t regret it.
by Jessie Burton
Featuring a clever dual timeline plot, we are first introduced to Odelle Bastien, who moves to London from Trinidad in 1962 to pursue her dream of becoming a writer and poet. We are then taken to Olive Schloss’ tale, set 30 years earlier in Spain 1936, just as the simmering tensions of the Spanish Civil War are taking hold.
Olive – an aspiring and talented artist – moves with her glamorous but bored mother, Sarah, and her art dealer father, Harold, to a relatively isolated villa in Malaga. Siblings Isaac and Teresa Robles introduce themselves to the family and become intimately entwined in their lives.
In London, Odelle starts a new job as a receptionist in the Skelton art gallery, she is taken under the wing of her boss, the straight-talking Marjorie Quick. It's when Odelle encourages her love interest Lawrie Scott to bring a painting he wants to sell to the gallery – the evocative Rufina and the Lion - that things get interesting.
Burton’s descriptions of Olive’s paintings and Odelle’s poems are truly beautiful, both women have artistic talents and strong minds – I found the feminist theme of this novel, along with the intriguing plot, really appealing. The two stories are linked in more ways than is first evident and the prose is so beautifully written. Even though I had time to think about the likely way the story would develop, I can’t say I guessed correctly and that made the powerful, poetic ending even better.
The books on your list
We’ve also had some great recommendations from you, our Phase Eight community! Here are just a few of your suggestions that we’ve added to our list…