Books

Four Satisfying Novels For A Sunday Afternoon

I need time alone the way other people need air.

(I also need air. I’m not a robot, contrary to popular opinion.)

From the beginning of February to the end of April, I did not have a single 24-hour period when I was alone the whole time. Frankly, I’m surprised I didn’t totally crack up, what with builders building and people staying and flying around Europe and conferencing and working and…

I needed a break.

Last Sunday I finally got back. There were no people in my house. The builders had finished building. And I had probably the most scar day ever.

I locked myself in my flat in total silence. I made a cafetière of coffee, which progressed into wine as the day drew on.

And I read four novels.

It was SO GOOD.

FOUR SATISFYING NOVELS

I recommend all four of these as weekend reads. I wasn’t disappointed by any of them, which is nice when you’re trying to have a satisfying day of reading.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls by Karin SlaughterKarin Slaughter is one of my fall-back authors to whom I return again and again, because I know roughly what I’ll be getting each time and I know it’ll be fun to read.

Pretty Girls is a cut above her normal work, though, and I’m a fan of everything I’ve read of hers so that’s saying something.

The story follows two sisters, Claire and Lydia, whose other sister Julia went missing in her late teens. Another girl has just gone missing, and both are concerned that her disappearance may be linked to their sister’s. On top of which, they’ve never found out what happened to Julia, and both are feeling the need for closure.

Lydia and Claire haven’t always had the best of relationships, not least because Lydia doesn’t like Claire’s husband. But familial bonds are strong, and they must set aside their differences and work together if they want to solve the puzzle.

Along the way, both women learn more about themselves and each other than they were expecting.

I really liked this book. It was one of those that had several passages I could relate to, and I kept stopping to write things in my notebook and take pictures for Instagram.

I love it when a book gives me that feeling – the Oh thank fuck, I’m not alone one. And Pretty Girls did this again and again, sometimes in passages that will be sadly relatable for the vast majority of women…

“It’s the truth. I’m sorry to be blunt about it, but girls don’t like guys who are doormats. Especially pretty girls, because there’s no novelty to it. Guys are hitting on them all of the time. They can’t walk down the street or order a coffee or stand on a corner without some idiot making a comment about how attractive they are. And the women smile because it’s easier than telling them to go fuck themselves. And less dangerous, because if a man rejects a woman, she goes home and cries for a few days. If a woman rejects a man, he can rape and kill her.”

I wish that were less relatable than it is. But having spent at least ten minutes the other day trying to get the fucking food shopping delivery man out of my living room while he stood threateningly close to me refusing to leave, begging for my number and asking if he could “try to change my mind” once I’d told him I was gay, while my heart thumped a warning rhythm in my chest, it’s a pretty damn relatable passage.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

And there are some that are perhaps less hard-hitting, but that still comment on the way society views women, and how they react:

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

And also some that make you stop and think about how we define people and why. How our definitions can change over time, and all of a sudden it’s too easy to find yourself being judged for things that only a short time before seemed praiseworthy. Especially when we talk about victimisation, and how quick people are to jump to conclusions about victims of crime. Female ones especially.

“[After her disappearance] Julia Carroll was no longer the selfless girl who volunteered at the animal shelter and worked at the soup kitchen. She was the strident political activist who’d been jailed at a protest. The pushy reporter who alienated the entire staff of the school newspaper. The radical feminist who demanded the university hire more women. The drunk. The pothead. The whore.”

As well as the searingly relatable passages, there are also the downright hilarious comments:

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

It is, in summary, a book that is gripping, fun and thought-provoking. Which is all you can ask for from a novel, really.

Buy Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter here.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire FullerThis one suffers from having a very similar cover to A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman, which meant I nearly didn’t buy it because I was standing in an airport scanning the covers before heading to my gate, and I assumed I’d read it already.

But I realised I hadn’t just in time to pick it up and add it to my carry-on before running off to catch a plane.

This one’s dark. Very dark, in places. But the pleasant kind of dark – the kind that’s interspersed with light.

It’s about Peggy, who is eight years old when her survivalist father takes her to live in a remote cabin in the woods in Germany, and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. For years she believes him, because why wouldn’t you believe what your own parent has told you?

But gradually Peggy begins to explore, and when she befriends a mysterious boy who lives nearby, she starts to understand that the whole world can’t have disappeared after all. Perhaps there is a world outside of her limited experience – there’s only one way to find out, but will she have the strength to leave the comfort of the known?

I enjoyed Our Endless Numbered Days because it can be read as a metaphor for a lot of things. From growing up in a cult and gradually realising that the whole world isn’t *actually* controlled by Satan, to just overcoming your own preconceived ideas about what the world might be like and learning to expand your horizons, the story brings hope that something more is out there to be explored.

There’s a nice twist at the end too, which I guessed long before it came up, but which was still delivered with a nice chilling dose of ice down the spine.

Buy Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller here.

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

Fishbowl by Bradley SomerI picked this one up purely because I needed a fourth book to make up two “BOGOHP” offers. It looked intriguing and it sounded quirky, although I didn’t hold out much hope for it, if I’m honest.

Well, I was wrong to prejudge it, because Fishbowl is quite a beautiful little book.

It’s a quick read that nonetheless covers a lot of ground – or perhaps a lot of sky?

The story is told from the perspective of a goldfish named Ian, who has lived in a fishbowl on the balcony of a 27th-floor apartment for most of his life. Now he’s bored of sharing with his snail tankmate, and when a rogue gust of wind suddenly blows away the items covering the hole in his tank, he makes a bid for freedom.

As Ian plummets down twenty-seven floors, he catches momentary glimpses of the people inside the apartments. We learn more about each of these people throughout the book, and gradually we come to understand how they ended up at the snapshot moment Ian sees as he flies past.

It’s artfully written, to the point where I found a couple of the stories – particularly the large lady in the red dress- quite moving. There’s something about grabbing a snapshot of someone’s life and then extrapolating backwards that makes you question your own assumptions about people, and wonder what that guy in the park outside your window does when he’s not exercising with a long elasticated rope against a tree.

Here, have a relatable passage from one of my favourite characters:

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

Definitely recommended if you enjoy books that make you look sideways at life.

Buy Fishbowl by Bradley Somer here.

That Girl From Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson

That Girl From Nowhere by Dorothy KoomsonAm I saving the best till last? I’m honestly not sure, since they were all so good, but That Girl From Nowhere was especially lovely.

It follows the story of Clemency Smittson, who was adopted as a baby and has no clues to her previous life except a mysterious box decorated with butterflies, which she slept in when she was very small.

Now an adult, Clem’s father has recently died and her long-term relationship has broken up. Needing a new start, she moves to Brighton, unexpectedly accompanied by her mother, with whom she has a fractious relationship at the best of times.

During the first few days, Clem uncovers something that might lead her to her birth family – but does she want to go down that path and let loose all the demons it threatens to unleash?

Dorothy Koomson manages to transport the reader directly into the mind of her protagonist. Rarely do I feel so utterly convinced by a character’s feelings, as if I know them well enough to predict what they’d do in any given situation.

Clem is the kind of character most of us can relate to: essentially, she’s just desperate for it all to work out, but she has no idea how to make that happen. While adoption and living in a multi-racial family aren’t things all of us can relate to, the concept of wanting to Sort Things Out and Have Your Shit Together is definitely something I think most people feel from time to time. Likewise, the feeling of Oh crap, I’ve opened this door and now it’s made my life even *more* complicated is certainly one that happens to us all.

That Girl From Nowhere is therefore the kind of book I’d recommend for anyone who enjoys reading books. You don’t need to love a particular style of writing or story trope; you just need to enjoy a good narrative, well told.

Buy That Girl From Nowhere by Dorothy Koomson here.

These are affiliate links, which means that if you buy the books after clicking on them, I will receive a percentage of the sale price. The books will be the same price whether you buy them through my links or by searching on Amazon. I did not receive review copies of this book, I bought them in the airport while I was waiting for my gate to open. All opinions are my own. 

5 thoughts on “Four Satisfying Novels For A Sunday Afternoon”

  1. I really wish this post happened before my trip to Bordeaux, when I was looking for some great holiday reads! These look like good books to sink your teeth into. My idea of luxury is sitting in bed, undisturbed, reading for HOURS – only getting up occasionally to grab snacks from the kitchen! I was at the LRB the other day and wanted every single title on their front table … now I’m adding these to my list.

    p.s. that encounter with your grocery delivery driver was absolutely frightening. Did you tell the company? I am always wary of these situations especially as they have my address and I’m afraid they’ll return for retribution if they get in trouble …

    Like

    1. They’re excellent, I definitely recommend them! And your idea of luxury sounds exactly like mine. My favourite days are those when I stay in my PJs and read all day. Not that it happens very often!

      The delivery driver was definitely creepy. I’ve actually had two like this recently – the first (from IKEA) was really awful, he asked for my number a load of times and when I said no, he said “I’ll just get it from the delivery sheet”, I told him not to, he left (eventually) and then called me three times. I didn’t pick up and I reported him to IKEA, they refused to do anything for four months and eventually grudgingly agreed to refund my delivery charge only when I kept pestering them.

      The guy this weekend (the one in the post) was from Ocado and he wasn’t quite so bad because I got him to leave after a while and he didn’t call me later. I told them and they were really good, and to be fair I’ve been getting deliveries from them for years and it’s the first time I’ve had any kind of problem.

      I’m worried about them returning for retribution too, but equally I generally decide it’s worth reporting them anyway, especially since I’m quite a badass (lol) and I worry that if I don’t report them, someone who hasn’t done combat training / isn’t good at saying no / is more vulnerable will end up in a worse situation.

      Ugh, creepy delivery people 😦

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s