Spring is in the air. This means that your cosy throws can (almost) be put to one side as you take in the freshness of your surroundings – and maybe while an afternoon away sitting outside with coffee and a great book. Jennifer McShane has 10 of the best with recommended reads, all out this month.
The Familiars by Stacey Halls
It’s 1612 and Fleetwood Shuttleworth, mistress of Gawthorpe Hall in England is 17 and pregnant for the fourth time. Her husband anxious for an heir, she is devastated when she learns that her baby will not survive; and she will never conceive to a full term. She then meets quiet, eccentric midwife Alice Gray, who ensures Fleetwood she can help her deliver a healthy, living child. But when Alice is arrested for murder and swept up in a vicious witch hunt, all their lives are in grave danger. Painstakingly researched, this is an enthralling debut.
Zaffre, approx. €12.99, out February 7
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
This science-fiction fairytale about a mysterious epidemic putting inhabitants of a California community to sleep was hard to put down. It’s a virus; putting those affected into a deep sleep from which they cannot be woken. Panic spreads and dreams take over. Thompson deftly contemplates this dreamlike end-of-days scenario while exploring the everyday facets of life which make us human. “At first, they blame the air. It’s an old idea, a poison in the ether, a danger carried in by the wind.” This is one beautiful read.
Simon & Schuster, approx. €15.99, out February 7
I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella
Here we meet Fixie Farr, who has always been a problem solver, a friend in your hour of need. A favour for a handsome stranger results in a series of IOUs, from small chores to life-changing debts, and Fixie is faced with a problem she might not be able to fix – the intrusion of a life-long crush that comes back into the picture. She soon starts to realise she’s spending so much time trying to fix others, she doesn’t stop to consider if she should fix anything for herself. Warm escapism; a delightful page-turner.
Bantam Press, approx. €16.99, out February 7th
The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
Lee Miller arrives in Paris in 1929, leaving behind her life in New York and a successful modelling career at Vogue to pursue her dream of becoming a photographer. She soon catches the eye of renowned surrealist artist Man Ray and they embark upon a passionate and volatile affair. Things start to turn when Lee struggles to find her own identity amid his dominating personality. This is a fascinating novelisation about the pivotal early years of Miller’s life.
Picador, approx. €13.99, out February 7
In the Full Light of the Sun by Clare Clark
Inspired by true events, taking place in between the tempestuous wartime years of 1930s Germany, we three Berliners caught up in a devastating scandal. Emmeline, a wayward, young art student; Julius, an anxious, middle-aged art expert; and Frank, a Jewish lawyer who struggles to protect his family as the Nazi’s power begins to rise.
Connecting them all is a mysterious art dealer named Rachmann and a surprising discovery of thirty-two previously unknown paintings by Vincent van Gogh. Based on a true story, this is a beautiful and engrossing read.
Virago, approx. €16.99, out February 28
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce
Alison has it all. Loving husband and a growing career. But when she’s given her first murder case, slowly we see nothing is as it seems. Her client’s story is amiss. Alison needs to save her more than she realises. There are twists, turns and saying much more would only give them away. A brilliantly readable noir.
Wildfire, approx. €16.99, February 21
In the Deep End by Kate Davies
It takes Julia quite a long time to realise that love and sex don’t really feel like she thought they would. After a terrible one-night-stand accuses her of breaking his penis (yes, really), she meets Sam, a sexually confident woman who soon makes her realise she might have been looking for love in the wrong place. Unashamedly frank and funny, this coming-of-age debut should be on every woman’s reading list.
The Borough Press, approx. €15.99, out February 21
Wych Elm by Tana French
Toby is suffering memory loss after a violent home invasion when a human skull is found in an old tree in his uncle’s garden. But is Toby pretending not to remember or are his cousins trying to frame him for what happened during a long, hot summer ten years ago? French writes some of the best mysteries I’ve ever read; her attention to detail is always razor-sharp and only makes the plot twists all the more thrilling. One of her best.
Viking, approx. €15.99, out February 21
If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman
When Audrey is diagnosed with cancer, she’s determined to find a way to bring her warring daughters, Jess and Lily, back together even if it is the last thing she does. The two sisters have been estranged for thirty years, thanks to a family secret which tore them apart. This one is a love story and be warned, very much a tear-jerker. Jojo Myles also had great things to say about this – her fans should love it as much as she does.
Orion, approx. €14.99, out February 21
The Gift of Friends by Emma Hannigan
In The Gift of Friends, there are whispers behind closed doors, on the peaceful street of Kingfishers Road. Four women who live close by all have secrets; nothing is idyllic – they all have heartbreaks to hide. They soon realise that by helping each other, great things could be around the corner. It seems only fitting to mark the first anniversary of the beloved Emma Hannigan’s death with her piece de resistance; her final work and a truly wonderful gift to her fans.
Hachette Ireland, approx. €15.99, out February 28