With the lockdown and social distancing measures continuing in the UK due to the coronavirus, books are a welcome distraction. I read fourteen books in April (yes, I was rather surprised by that number as well) and below are my five favourite. Links from the titles will take you to my review.
Oh, for brighter times ahead when we can once again enjoy simple pleasures such as visiting an actual bookshop (like the one pictured right). You remember those, don’t you? Where you could pick up the books and look at them, chat to fellow book lovers browsing the shelves…
First up is The Far Field by Madhuri Vijay, one of the books on the shortlist for the Dylan Thomas Prize 2020. The author’s debut novel, it tells the story of Shalini, a young woman from Bangalore, who travels to a remote Himalayan village in the troubled northern region of Kashmir in search of a charming Kashmiri salesman who used to visit her childhood home. The book explores the unintended consequences of actions on others, in Shalini’s case, manifested in a quite devastating way.
Talking of literary prizes, my next pick is A Thousand Moons by Sebastian Barry, the follow-up to Days Without End which won The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction in 2017. Published by Faber & Faber on 19th March, it continues the story of John Cole and Thomas McNulty but told from the point of view of Winona, the orphaned Indian girl they adopted. I loved the distinctive and engaging narrative voice the author created for Winona and her resolve to take control of her life, drawing on the legacy of her mother and her Lakota heritage,
On to historical crime and The Figure in the Photograph by Kevin Sullivan, which was published by Allison & Busby on 23rd April. It’s set predominantly in Glasgow at the end of the 19th century, which the author vividly brings to life. A young man who has developed a pioneering photographic technique is drawn into the search for a serial killer who is stalking the crowded streets and tenements of the city.
Next a book by an author who has become a firm favourite of book bloggers and other readers alike – I Am Dust by Louise Beech. Published by Orenda Books on 16th April, I described it as a skilfully crafted combination of crime mystery and ghost story. To whet your appetite still further, it’s set in a theatre.
Lastly, a book which has received a lot of attention – and praise – from readers, literary critics and which is also on the shortlist for The Women’s Prize for Fiction – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. The book draws on the author’s abiding fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, and is a poignant portrait of a marriage, a family and the impact on both of the loss of a child.
What were your favourite books you read in April? Have you read any of my picks?
You can find details of all the books I’ve read so far in 2020 here with links to my reviews.