January is a decidedly dire month; we're tired, broke and lamenting the post-Christmas slump but now is the time to enjoy doing the little everyday stuff like 'Making a 'Things That Will Make Me Happier' list and filling it with what makes you feel like the best version of yourself. For some, it's a body detox and jumping on the healthy food bandwagon, others find just being kinder to those around them releases endorphins a-plenty (it does and being nice doesn't cost a penny) and for the rest of us, or in this case, me, it's the thrill of books. A chance to enter a new world; that page-turner that sees you sacrifice sleep for just one final chapter.
Here are three of the best.
Little Deaths by Emma Flint
It's the summer of 1965, and one July morning in Queens, New York Ruth Malone wakes to find a bedroom window wide open and her two young children missing. They are soon found killed and she is the presumed suspect. The story was inspired by a real case and a crime similar in nature where blame was imposed on the mother. Ruth is watched, and judged, by everyone around her. And what starts out as a crime story is really a study of the treatment of women in 1960s America where Ruth, as a woman, is vilified for everything she does. For being a single mother, for wearing makeup, for having lovers, for not showing grief the right way - she's condemned before any possible evidence has been looked at. Evocative and beautifully written, this is one you'll stay up all night to finish.
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
This one divided me. This is the story of single mum Louise, who is horrified to discover that the attractive man she met in a bar is her new boss David. And it gets worse: he is married to the seemingly perfect Adele, who Louise slowly becomes friends with. This one has plenty of twists and turns - and that ending which some will love or loathe. It was so shocking that yours truly wasn't sure what to make of it but I wanted to see what you, dear reader, think about it all. Just don't skip to the end before you finish-this one only works if you take in all the details and buildup.
Bad Dreams and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley
It's been far too long since I read a collection of short stories that gripped me as much as these did. Hadley does what so few master - she writes about the ordinary everyday exceptionally well. The stories may seem simple but her observations elevate them to another level and each one draws you in. The opening sentence of the first story, An Abduction - "Jane Allsop was abducted when she was fifteen, and nobody noticed"-will have you hooked.