Best Books Wrap 2019 Jan to June

I’ve read some wonderful books so far this year, but I’ve made myself pick ten for this wrap. When I’ve lined them up it struck me how many I had actually bought myself, and of course it made me think of the accusation often levelled at book bloggers that they don’t buy books.

I can also say that the vast majority of books in this pile were on my radar thanks to bookish twitter. The books below are not ranked, but I have arranged them in the order that I read them!

When All Is Said by Anne Griffin

I bought this on publication day and just adored it. It’s the debut novel of Irish author Anne Griffin. The plot of this novel is so simple, yet brave, and perfectly written. Maurice Hannigan turns up to the hotel bar in his home town of Rainsford, Co. Meath, Ireland. He has five toasts to make to the five people he has loved the most in his 84 years on Earth. It’s a bitter-sweet read, which had me sobbing myself to sleep when I finished it! You can read my review here.

Once Upon A River by Dianne Setterfield

Dianne Setterfield is a master story teller, and I absolutely loved this Victorian gothic mystery set along the banks of the River Thames. There’s an ethereal feel to this novel – the writing is exquisite and entrancing. Once Upon A River is a novel to be savoured and enjoyed.

My review is here.

The Wych Elm by Tana French

I loved this book. It’s a complex, multi-layered murder mystery which will have you guessing the identity of the murderer almost to the end. It’s my first Tana French novel, and it certainly won’t be my last.

You can read my review here.

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins-Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six is a vortex of a novel. Thankfully, I was off work when I picked it up, as I was sucked in to the centre of this story, and couldn’t get enough of the characters. I found it it be a thoroughly enjoyable and ultimately uplifting book.

My review is here.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

This book was the winner of the Bailey’s Prize for Fiction (Women’s Prize) in 2016. I can only blame ‘book fear’ for preventing me from reading it before now. I have a strong interest in Irish writing, as does US based book blogger Rachel @paceamorelibri, and she mentioned in one of her blog posts how much she loved it. I decided to bite the bullet, and I am thrilled that I did. I think it has become one of my favourite ever books – it’s just brilliant. I’ve bought the sequel, but am employing massive amounts self control to pace myself, and not read it too soon…

Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

When I bought this book, I was in the middle of another one. I only intended to read the first page so I could get a feel for it, but that didn’t happen; I got sucked in! It’s a collection of essays by Emilie Pine, lecturer at UCD in Ireland, and is about major events in her life which have impacted upon her, like her struggles with infertility, her alcoholic father, her parent’s divorce, her teenage years and her life in academia. It’s the bravest and most honest book I have read in a long time, and one I want to push onto all of my friends. I can’t recommend it enough.

Things In Jars by Jess Kidd

Things in Jars is a wonderfully plotted Victorian mystery novel, bursting with beautiful sentences and turns of phrase that brought smiles to my eyes on many occasions. It is populated with a cast of colourful characters who are likely to stay with you long after you finish the last page. It was my first book by Jess Kidd, and I’m very excited about exploring her back catalogue. My full review is here.

The Doll Factory by E S Macneal

This book is a master class in historical fiction. It’s exquisitely written, carefully researched and wonderfully plotted. I was utterly enchanted, and felt as though I had been transported back to Victorian London around the time of The Great Exhibition. The characterisation was fabulous. If you’re a fan of historical fiction, you should definitely check it out – if you haven’t already!

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

A Modern Family Cover

I have read lots of Scandi noir books, but this was my first foray into (non-thriller) Nordic literature, and I was certainly not disappointed.

If you like character driven novels, this is one for you. A Modern Family offers intimate and insightful access into the minds of three adult siblings, focusing on the complexities of relationships, and the psychology of families. I absolutely loved it. My review is here.

The Red Word by Sarah Henstra

The Red Word Cover

The Red Word is the debut adult fiction novel by Canadian academic Sarah Henstra. It’s about many things, including feminism, fraternities, consent, rape culture and Greek mythology. It’s subject matter can be difficult reading at times, but it is such an important read. It is such a well-written and intelligent book. My review is here.

So there we go. Ten of my best books of 2019 so far…and the summer holidays are coming up. Time to get thinking about my books of summer, and those I will take away with me. Bookish problems!

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The Red Word by Sarah Henstra

The Red Word Cover

Length : 325 pages

Published : March 2018

Publisher : Tramp Press

My thoughts:

The Red Word is the debut adult fiction novel by Canadian academic Sarah Henstra. The words, ‘published by Tramp Press’ are enough to pique my interest in a book; an endorsement by Louise O’Neill will seal the deal! So what’s it all about?

The myths don’t have a clue what to do with women. They have nothing to say about us whatsoever. We need to build our own mythology.

The Red Word is about many things, including feminism, fraternities, consent, rape culture and Greek mythology.

The book is a first person narrative told from the perspective of Karen Huls, Canadian lifestyle photographer and one time student at an Ivy League university in the USA. In her home in Toronto, Karen learns that one of her university house-mates has died. Coincidentally, a pre-scheduled conference takes her back to her old stomping ground, and rekindles memories of events that took place back in the nineties – events which had a life-altering impact on Karen.

As her sophmore year opens, Karen ends up at a party one evening at GBC – Gama Beta Chi (also known as Gang Bang Central) – a fraternity house where the male students behave very badly. Mike Morton, one of the ‘frat boys’, recognises Karen from a class they both take, and they end up having drunken, drug-fuelled sex. The next morning, a dishevelled Karen regains consciousness on the lawn of Raghurst – a house which is lived in by a group of radical feminists. She has been looking for new accommodation and recalls an add they had recently placed looking for an extra house-mate. It had wanted:

Committed feminists only. Vegetarian/vegan/macrobiotic meal-sharing and Queer-friendliness a must.

Karen is surprised that Dyann, Marie-Jeanne, Charla and Steph want her as a house-mate, but she is equally thrilled. They quickly recruit her for their Women’s Studies lectures, lead by revered professor, Dr. Esterhazy, and Karen finds herself swept up by this new world of feminist ideology.

Meanwhile, Karen and Mike continue their relationship, and when she is not at Raghurst, she is at GBC, partying with the frat boys. As Mike and Karen spend more time together, she is given access to the most notorious fraternity on campus – one which is hated and detested by the Women’s Studies groups and the radical feminists she lives with. Karen sees something different in these ‘boys’, especially in Bruce Comfort, earthly Adonis and most-hated-male-of-all by her housemates; but regardless, Karen is drawn to him.

With a foot in both camps, Karen is unsure where her loyalties lie. A series of events unfurl, pitting both houses against each other, and testing everyone to their limits. Parties on both sides of the divide are forced to chose between what they believe to be right and wrong. The Red Word holds a mirror up to rape and consent, and what it reflects back is not a clearly defined image.

That is as much as I will divulge on the plot, as I certainly do not want to spoil this for potential readers. I will add is that this is a very clever, intelligent and well-written book. It will make you think, and deliberate and maybe even debate (if you read it as part of a book club). I finished it over a week ago, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since – I have a massive book hangover!

Over the past year, I have read lots of great books with links to Greek Mythology; I have only a lay-man’s knowledge of the myths, yet I still really appreciated the links in The Red Word. I would imagine an expert would garner even more satisfaction than I did.

The Red Word is brilliant, and if you are interested in women’s issues, it’s an absolute must. I can’t recommend it enough. It’s a book which I know I will re-read, and I imagine I will get even more from it the next time.

As always, thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this blog tour, and to Tramp Press for my gifted copy of the book.

(For the synopsis, scroll down.)

You can read more of the reviews from bloggers on the Tour. For a chance to win a copy of #TheRedWord, check out this post from Anne Cater

The Red Word BT Poster

Synopsis :

The Red Word asks a bold question: what if women weren’t content to wait for the next assault to take action? What if they got tired of the his-word-against-hers stalemates? Set against the sex wars of the 1990s and the birth of third-wave feminism, the result is a smart, dark, take-no-prisoners look at the extremes to which ideology can go.

As her sophomore year begins, Karen enters into the back-to-school revelry—particularly at a fraternity called GBC. When she wakes up one morning on the lawn of Raghurst, a house of radical feminists, she gets a crash course in the state of feminist activism on campus.

GBC is notorious, she learns, nicknamed “Gang Bang Central” and a prominent contributor to a list of date rapists compiled by female students. Despite continuing to party there and dating one of the brothers, Karen is equally seduced by the intellectual stimulation and indomitable spirit of the Raghurst women, who surprise her by wanting her as a housemate and recruiting her into the upper-level class of a charismatic feminist mythology scholar they all adore. As Karen finds herself caught between two increasingly polarized camps, ringleader housemate Dyann believes she has hit on the perfect way to expose and bring down the fraternity as a symbol of rape culture—but the war between the houses will exact a terrible price.

Sarah Henstra

Sarah Henstra Author pic 2

Sarah Henstra is a writer and professor of English literature at Ryerson University, where she specialises in 20th Century British Fiction. She lives in Toronto, Ontario.

The Red Word is her debut adult fiction novel.

No Longer With Us by Steve Cranshaw

Printed by Amazon

Length : 272 pages

Synopsis:

What happens when you die? A big, fat nothing. Or so Colin Wilkinson thought. Until one day, in the isolated basement morgue of St Theresa’s Hospital, the ghosts of seven cadavers lying in the body storage unit appear before him. Waiting to depart for the next life, the dead recount their fateful tales to the stunned mortuary technician. United by the timing and location of their demise, each death is distinguished by a different cause: Natural. Accident. Suicide. Murder. Initially terrified by the spirit encounter, Colin soon realises the visitants are just as incredulous as he is about their reanimation. How and when will they pass? And what comes next? Do any of the ghosts pose a real threat to Colin’s own life? Ultimately, his destiny may be just as uncertain as theirs.

My thoughts:

I was contacted by the author Steve Cranshaw to see if I would consider reviewing No Longer With Us.  I was intrigued by the synopsis, and  I have to tell you, I really did enjoy this book.

So what’s it about?

Colin is a technician in a morgue.  One fateful shift, he finds himself in the company of the ghosts of seven of the bodies in his care.  He is understandably spooked and shaken by the experience, but eventually finds himself interacting with them, and coming to care about them – or most of them at least!

The ghosts range from the young to the old, the good to the bad, and have all met their end in different ways: natural causes, road traffic accident, murder and suicide.  As the ghosts appear, one by one, they confide in Colin the details of their demise and share their regrets.  It’s not all a bed of roses and reminiscences though, as some of the deceased are shady characters, and Colin finds himself in danger as the novel progresses.

Steve Cranshaw has created a cast of well-observed, three dimensional characters who are written about with warmth, humour and tenderness.  His writing is witty and sharp.  This book deserves to be more widely read.

If you like character driven novels, this could well be one you will enjoy.

The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw

Publisher : Accent Press

Synopsis

There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on Earth…

The Space Between Time is touching and funny.  It’s a story of love, loss and discovering ourselves. It’s a book about growing up, the people we become and how, sometimes, we can look back at the past and remember things differently.

This uplifting and original story also offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

As part of Random Things Tours, I am delighted to share a Q&A with Charlie Laidlaw, author of The Space Between.

Charlie, welcome to my blog.  Let me start off with my favourite bookish question…

What are you reading? 

I’m rereading The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell.  It’s an affectionate look at the island and its inhabitants (human and otherwise) in the 1930s.  We went there last summer and visited the house the family first lived in.

But I’m also reading other books, with varying degrees of enthusiasm.  For some reason I can’t just read one at a time., and I often get half way through books and realise that I don’t care what happens to the main characters.

What was the first book you read? 

I’ve no idea what the first was.  But the first that really made an impression on me was Jennie by Paul Gallico.  A boy is transformed into a cat and forms a close friendship with a girl cat.  It’s both beautiful and tragic and was, perhaps, the book that first properly got me into reading.

Until then, everything in books was perfect with happy endings.  This jolted me because it was a book that didn’t have a happy ending.  It’s a bit like One Day, but with cats instead of people.  I would encourage anybody to read his books.

What book are you most looking forward to reading? 

 Strangely, the audiobook version of The Space Between Time.  I’m thrilled it’s being turned into an audiobook, and it will feel very strange to listen to my book rather than reading it.

Apart from that, Love Potions and Other Calamities (November 7th, also me!). A distant third would be Joanne Harris and The Strawberry Thief, the 4th book in the Chocolat series.

Favourite author? 

Too many to list.  Ernest Hemingway would be one, and perhaps the writer who got me thinking about trying my hand at writing. I would also to mention Fay Weldon and Joanne Harris.  But there are many, many others.

When did you start writing? 

I’ve been writing from…forever.  I wrote my first short story in primary school.  My first novella, written in my mid-teens, was a mystery set in England.  Luckily, I burned it before anybody could read it. I wrote my second in my later teens, and I still have that.  My third in my early twenties.  All were utter rubbish.  The angst of adolescence!

I then began a career in print journalism and, I suppose, that’s where I learned the trade.  Believe me, you have to learn how to write.  It’s not a gift that you’re mysteriously given; it’s a skill you have to learn and practice.

How long have you been an author? 

See above: forever.  It took me years to write my first proper book, and more years to find a publisher.  For most of us, the journey to publication is long and fraught!

My first was published in 2015, but that simply marks the year my first book could be bought.

What do you like about reading? 

I like reading that surprises me.  I like to find sentences that find new ways to express something.  I like finding a new writer whose style or voice is utterly distinct.  I read so that I can learn from other writers.  As I say, you have to learn how to write.  For me, it’s always being open to new ways to find expression or structure.

If a book is badly written, I rarely will finish it.  One exception was the Da Vinci Code.  Appalling writing but utterly compelling story.

If you had to describe yourself in a book title, what would it be?

Chocolat.  Unfortunately, I do rather like the stuff!  And, to repeat a previous answer, I’m looking forward to The Strawberry Thief.

 

Thank you to Anne Cater for inviting me along. The blog tour continues throughout June, so be sure to check out what the other bloggers are saying.

About Charlie Laidlaw

I’m the author of two published novels, The Space Between Time and The Things We Learn When We’re Dead.  You can find out more about my on my website.

Facebook Social Icon    @charlielaidlawauthor
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The Disappeared by Amy Lord

The Disappeared Cover (1)

Could there be a more appropriate time to read a dystopian novel set in Britain?  Amy Lord has come up with a clever premise for The Disappeared, by continuing the UK’s trajectory from 2008 onwards, and creating a bleak and terrifying Britain approximately twenty years on from where we currently are.  The foundations for her dystopian world started with the collapse of the banks, the introduction of austerity measures leading to the rise in social inequality, the increased support for right wing politics, the media whipping up anti-immigrant sentiment, then the inclusion of Brexit, and terror attacks on London Bridge making everything seem unnervingly realistic.  In Lord’s dystopian version of Britain, the army goes on to seize control and take over the running of the country.

For academic Clara Winter, the painful memory of her father’s disappearance when she was eleven, is seared into her memory, and has shaped the adult she has become.  Her father, Matthew Winter, was also dutiful husband, an academic and lover of literature and poetry – things which are banned by the Authorisation Bureau under The General.  Possession of certain books could get you arrested.  One fateful night, her father is abducted and ‘disappeared’, under the supervision of  Darius Jackson – one of the main players in the new regime.

As an adult, Clara follows in her father’s footsteps and becomes an academic, lecturing in literature, but only that which is approved by the regime.  Important books like 1984 and The Handmaid’s Tale are banned – those caught reading them risk being arrested and disappeared, just like her father was.

Clara falls in love with an older academic and historian, Simon.  Together, they lament the state of the country and their loss of freedom; Simon longs to lecture and teach the current generation about true history and not that which has been rewritten by the regime, and Clara wants to impart her love and passion of books.  Together, Simon and Clara decide to start their own rebellion, teaching the students about the true recent history of Britain.  What will happen if ‘Big Brother’ finds out?  Who can be trusted in this divisive and destructive time?  What follows is the tale of Clara and Simon’s fight , using books and knowledge to fuel their rebellion in an attempt to regain their intellectual freedom.

In the second narrative voice in the book, we are given insight into the mind of general Darius Jackson, the man who was in charge of the abduction of Clara’s father many years ago.  In a macabre twist, during Matthew’s abduction, Darius becomes obsessed with Clara’s mother, and sets about insinuating himself into her life, and replacing the man he forcefully removed from his home and and his family. This allows the reader access to a different aspect of the unfolding story.

I don’t read many dystopian novels, but there’s something about the current political climate that drew me to The Disappeared.  In this book, the future is terrifying (especially for a book worm like me!) and Amy Lord has successfully created a bleak and colourless atmosphere in her dystopian world which I hope never to experience in my lifetime!

As a book lover, I particularly enjoyed the sections in the university, and the passionate speeches delivered by Clara to her students.

Literature is not something that should be banned.  Why do we read?  Why do we write?  It’s not simply for entertainment.  We want to be able to understand something profound about ourselves, about the human condition.  We want to connect emotionally with people and situations we will never be able to encounter in our own lives.  Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world.  They give us a voice.  They are fundamental to our being.  We shouldn’t have to live without them.

Go Clara!

On the other hand, I really disliked Darius – but can’t imagine there will be many readers who like him!

The Disappeared is a very thought provoking read, which made me thankful for the freedoms that we have – let us never take them for granted.

Realistic, but hopefully not prophetic!

Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to be part of this tour, and to Unbound for a copy of the ebook for review purposes.  The tour continues until 16th June.  Be sure to check out what the other bloggers have to say.

The Disappeared BT Poster

Synopsis:

What if reading the wrong book could get you arrested?

In a decaying city controlled by the First General and his army, expressing the wrong opinion can have terrible consequences. Clara Winter knows this better than anyone. When she was a child, her father was taken by the Authorisation Bureau for the crime of teaching banned books to his students. She is still haunted by his disappearance.

Now Clara teaches at the same university, determined to rebel against the regime that cost her family so much – and her weapons are the banned books her father left behind. But she has started something dangerous, something that brings her to the attention of the Authorisation Bureau and its most feared interrogator, Major Jackson. The same man who arrested Clara’s father.

With her rights stripped away, in a country where democracy has been replaced with something more sinister, will she be the next one to disappear?

The Random Things Blog Tour runs until 16th June.  Check out what the other bloggers are saying about The Disappeared.

 

About Amy Lord

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from North East England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. She blogs about books, writing, travel and life in the North East at Ten Penny Dreams, which won Best Arts and Culture Blog in the Northern Blog Awards. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

A Modern Family by Helga Flatland

A Modern Family Cover

My thoughts:

I was thrilled when Anne Cater asked me to be part of this Blog Tour, as I had already detected waves of excitement on Twitter surrounding A Modern Family.  I have read lots of Scandi noir books, but this was my first foray into (non-thriller) Nordic literature, and I was certainly not disappointed.  If this book is a barometer of fiction from Norway, I really do want to read more!

If you like character driven novels, this is one for you!  A Modern Family offers intimate and insightful access into the minds of three adult siblings, focusing on the complexities of relationships, and the psychology of families.  I absolutely loved it.

Meet our Modern Family : Liv, Ellen and Håkon are the grown children of Sverre and Torill.  As the novel opens, they are on their way to Italy to celebrate Sverre’s 70th birthday.  As children, Liv, Ellen and Håkon were as close as most siblings, but they have grown apart.  This trip is their first holiday together for almost twenty years, and the first one with the extended family – Liv’s husband and two children and Ellen’s boyfriend Simen. The familiar and unfamiliar aspects of this situation causes lots of introspection.

Like many of us, Liv, Ellen and Håkon revert to their roles within the family when they are all together: Liv is the sensible and responsible eldest sibling, Ellen is the argumentative and opinionated middle child, and Håkon is the baby of the family.  Liv offers this insight as she is contemplating the Rome section of their holiday.

Two days is both far too brief and far too long a stay, I think to myself for the first time, and I see both my own little family, the one I created with Olaf – and the one that I’ve come from, with new eyes.

Structurally, the book is narrated in the first person, and divided into different sections, alternately focusing on Liv and Ellen, and with a final section on Håkon. From the three siblings, we gain a real understanding of the family, and how they work. This is a family of deep thinkers, where conversations and behaviour is analysed and dissected, lifestyle philosophies carefully considered, and mostly adhered to.  I really enjoyed the kaleidoscopic element to the novel, the way we could view the family from different perspectives, and really understand how the same conversation, and same occasion can be interpreted completely differently.

The parents, Sverre and Torill, are individuals who pursue their own interests but who present a united front for the family. In a speech on the occasion of Sverre’s birthday, Liv says:

Even though you are two very different individuals, you are a unit in our eyes, and each other’s.  The way you complement one another, the way you cooperate, the way you demonstrate the values of respect and love – all while giving each other necessary space – is something that I’ve always strived for in my own marriage.

Needless to say, Liv, Ellen and Håkon are ill-prepared for the news that their parents have decided to divorce.  Torill insists, “It’s not as dramatic as it sounds.”

In a family unit where roles are so clear, where traditions are religiously adhered to, where recipes are passed down through the generations, where family folklore is oft repeated and in-jokes are shared, the shattering of this unit might just be dramatic, despite what Torill thinks.

A Modern Family is the story of a family which finds itself changing.  For me, the joy and delight in reading this book was in getting to know the Liv, Ellen and Håkon – they are fascinating characters (if not a little too self-absorbed.)  I don’t intend to ruin your journey by telling you all about them – hopefully I might just whet your appetite for this book.

Thanks again to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me along, and to Orenda for a copy of the ebook.  I suspect I will be purchasing myself a physical copy for my ‘forever shelf.’

 

Synopsis:

The Norwegian Anne Tyler makes her English debut in a beautiful, bittersweet novel of rich insights and extraordinary perception, as a family drama creates a quiet earthquake…

‘The most beautiful, elegant writing I’ve read in a long time. If you love Anne Tyler, you will ADORE this’ Joanna Cannon

‘Absolutely loved its quiet, insightful generosity’ Claire King

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

A bittersweet novel of regret, relationships and rare psychological insights, A Modern Family encourages us to look at the people closest to us a little more carefully, and ultimately reveals that it’s never too late for change…

About the author

Helga Author Pic

Helga Flatland is already one of Norway’s most awarded and widely read authors. She made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Stay If You Can, Leave If You Must, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ First Book Prize. She has written four novels and a children’s book and has won several other literary awards.

He Is Mine And I Have No Other by Rebecca O’Connor

HIMAIHNO

Published by Canongate

Available in paperback

230 pages

My thoughts:

This story offers us a snapshot of the life of Lani Devine, fifteen year-old only child, growing up in small town Ireland in the nineteen nineties. Lani lives with her parents and Gran, following her stroke three years ago. Like most teenagers, Lani is self-absorbed and drowning in hormones. This novel is a poetic portrayal of teenage love, along with its accompanying angst and obsession.

The novel begins with Lani telling us about the boy she has become infatuated with, Leon, who visits the graveyard near her house every night.

I was frightened of him in a way – of his grief, his loneliness. He looked like the loneliest person on earth just then. I imagine he was the type of boy who wondered about things, as I did, who broke his heart wondering about things.

Lani’s feelings are reciprocated by Leon and they begin to negotiate the complications of a relationship in a time when social media didn’t exist. Meetings are orchestrated, letters are passed between the boys’ and girls’ schools, and Lani and Leon embark on something they feel the can cope with – but can they? Why are her friends making cruel jokes about Leon? Why is he not confiding in her, when she feels they are so close and connected?

Woven into Lani’s tale is the tragic story of the local industrial school – an ominous and foreboding building which Lani discovers has a link to her own family. Reading The Little Ones, written by her aunt Celia, makes her think more deeply about her Gran and her experiences as a teenager.

In Lani, Rebecca O’Connor has really encapsulated the heady rush and intoxication of first love. It brings back the angst and pain, which can seem crazy and nonsensical as an adult, but are the essence of life when you are fifteen and surrounded by adults who don’t appear to understand you.

I really enjoyed this short read, and was reminded of my own teenage trysts in the nineties. Ironically, I am embarking on this journey now with my own daughter, and am dreading its progression! Thank you to Canongate books for a copy of this beautiful book in exchange for an honest review.

About the author

Rebecca O Connor

This is Rebecca O’Connor’s debut novel.

Her poetry collection Well Sing Blackbird was shortlisted for the Irish Times Shine/Strong Award and she is the recipient of a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize (Poetry Review) and a New Writing Ventures Poetry Award (chaired by Andrew Motion).
Her work has been published in the Guardian, Poetry Ireland, The Spectator and elsewhere, and she was a writer in residence at the Wordsworth Trust.

She lives in rural Ireland, where she and her husband run The Moth magazine (offshoots of which include The Caterpillar, The Moth Retreat, The Moth Art Prize, The Moth Short Story Prize and the €10,000 Moth Poetry Prize).