To give a book at Christmas is something personal; thought and care goes into the tome hidden at the end of the stocking. Jennifer McShane recommends five worth giving this festive season.
The Christmas Party by Karen Swan (Pan, approx €9.99)
When Declan Lorne, the last Knight in Ireland dies, his two eldest daughters are dismayed to find that he has left the castle to youngest daughter Willow, who decides to sell it. Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, throws a party to celebrate, but it’s no ordinary gathering. A sparkling read.
Dark Enchantment by Dorothy Macardle (Tramp Press, approx €16)
When Juliet Firth finds herself in a small hotel in the French Alps, she quickly becomes immersed in local village life. But stories of superstition and sorcery become apparent as the townsfolk begin to focus on Terka – a woman who lives alone in the forest. Charming and immersive.
On Swift Horses by Shannon Pufahl (Fourth Estate, approx €14.99, out now)
This is a striking book, about the 1950’s American West, gambling and two intertwining love stories. We follow newlyweds Murial, Lee and Lee’s brother Julius whose lover is Henry. Murial, a waitress, secretly gambles and longs, as Lee does, for a life of freedom. A riveting debut.
Joan Smokes by Angela Meyer (Contraband, approx €8.99)
Set in the ’60s, an unnamed woman has arrived in a new city, calling herself Joan. She used to be someone else. She decides to be a smoker, this young woman who attempts to escape her demons by travelling to Las Vegas. An imaginative short story at 68 pages, this is a delight.
A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum (HQ, approx €10.99, out December 12)
In 1990 Birzeit, 17-year-old Isra prepares for an arranged marriage. She longs for romance and adventure despite her mother’s warning that there is no place for a woman but her house and home. Her family wants her outside occupied Palestinian territories but Isra sees only a life of servitude before her. Enthralling.