Muddy Book Club: June’s best reads
Whether you’re heading for the sun lounger or the sofa, you’ll be needing a good book to get stuck into. Happily Muddy’s Associate Editor – and pro bookworm – Kerry Potter is on hand with her June doozies. Get thee to the bookshop, pronto!
Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett
Speaking of hits, Barnett’s debut novel The Versions Of Us (think One Days meets Sliding Doors) was a huge one in 2015, and it looks like this follow-up will be too – it’s the best thing I’ve read this year to date. One of those sprawling novels you get lost in, it unpicks the epic, thrilling, moving life story of Cass Wheeler. A reclusive Kate Bush-esque ’70s rockstar, she’s hiding out in her Kent country pile after a life-changing tragedy, pondering her past as she attempts to create a greatest hits album. The writing is so evocative, you’re there with Cass every step of the way, from rags to riches, from stage to hotel room, through the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll. And if you crave an encore, there’s an accompanying album; a collaboration between Barnett and singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams.
Party Girls Die In Pearls by Plum Sykes
Fancy something frivolous and frothy? This murder mystery from US Vogue writer Plum Sykes, set in the world of ’80s Oxford University toffs, is seriously camp (although I did keep worrying that David Cameron and Boris Johnson would pop up). Fresher Ursula Flowerbottom (yes, really), a rookie reporter on student paper Cherwell, is investigating the murder of fellow student Lady India Brattenbury, who she discovers dead, clutching a champagne flute on a chaise-longue (but of course). Whodunnit? Who cares really, but the wildly implausible plot and period detail (taffeta ballgown anyone?) are jolly good fun, old bean. Think Agatha Christie after a few too many G&Ts.
A Manual For Heartache by Cathy Rentzenbrink
In The Last Act Of Love, Rentzenbrink’s first book, she described the impact of losing her beloved brother, who was hit by a car when they were both teenagers. This one is less a memoir, more a guide to navigating grief, inspired by the hundreds of messages of empathy and support she received after that debut was published. It’s moving, wise, exquisitely written and – crucially – short, so if you’re struggling to focus, it won’t feel overwhelming. The etiquette guide to what to say – and not say – to someone in mourning is especially useful. It’s basically a hug in book form – one to shove into the hands of a friend in need.
The Dinner Party by Joshua Ferris
Joshua Ferris is a super-smart New York literary wunderkind but flies under the radar over here – if he’s new to you, this collection of 11 short stories is the perfect place to start. He ferociously skewers modern relationships and the mundanity of everyday life – the titular tale, for example, sees a couple bitching about their friends as they slave over the stove, preparing to host them for the evening. Why on earth do we make social plans that we don’t want to keep? This particular evening that doesn’t quite pan out as planned, however… If you like this book, next try his 2007 debut, Then We Came To The End, which is about the boringness of office life but is anything but boring.